Osmosis

Local communists and other rabidly anti-American elements claim that American influence on Filipino culture is so pervasive but subtle that we ourselves are not aware how most of our personal decisions are symptomatic of a culture vanquished by imperialist America. Never mind that “imperialist America” is a vaguely defined term because for communists, anything capitalist is imperialist. Such terms can never be defined precisely owing to the communist’s view that even word definitions (nay, language itself) are influenced by one’s material condition.

The process whereby one culture influences another does occur, but it certainly does not conform to Marxist theory. First, there has to be osmotic pressure in order for the process to even start. Osmotic pressure exists when one society is clearly superior to another, so that the two different levels of societal evolution create a potential difference. For example, we can say that the United States is a superior society not in one outward aspect but many: it has the most powerful military in the world, it leads in commerce, it has the highest concentration of gold in the world, it has the most successful technology companies, and so on. China was similarly superior during the centuries before Christ came, so that Japan was highly influenced by China in most of its early history.

What’s most interesting about the intellectual osmosis between China and Japan is that in this particular case the process was highly selective. In other words, rather than imitate just the external ramifications of Chinese superiority, the Japanese made a conscious and deliberate adoption of Chinese culture, politics, and commerce.

Like the Japanese in much of its history, I think we Filipinos have to be selective in what we adopt from American thinking, or American politics and culture. By this I do not mean that the government ought to select what we adopt by law: the intellectuals should be vanguards in this regard, outside of the power of government to coerce.

For example, with regards to the arts, it saddens me to see dance and song shown daily on Filipino TV that are clearly influenced by the American style. I see little originality; and things like hip-hop and rap imitated here are just pure copies. Even fashion is similarly influenced: I can’t imagine how some pop music bands and dancing teams can bear to wear jackets in this hot and steamy weather just so they look like their American counterparts. In architecture, we are similarly blindly influenced: I can’t stand to live in my rental place because it’s as Western as it can possibly be: all walls are solid concrete, designed such that the place is uninhabitable without air conditioning. I would much prefer designs with open walls, which is most appropriate in this tropical climate.

Intellectually and ideologically, it saddens me to see that, we are influenced more by the Democrats (liberals) than by the Republicans (conservatives). In this we are very much like the people of India with respect to the British: Milton Friedman observed that because socialism was prevalent in England at the time of India’s struggle for independence, socialism has become part of the Indian psyche until today. At the time of our struggle for independence, we were similarly influenced by American liberal ideals of equality of outcome and other socialist concepts.

As an example of liberal influence, the current Philippine constitution (1987) requires that the State “protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology”. This vague provision which clearly resulted from an environmentalist influence has been judged inoperative by no less than the Supreme Court.

As another example of liberal influence, I would have very much wanted to reform the 1973 constitutional concept of property rights which is that of a “stewardship” (an untenable Christian Social Justice idea) rather than that of full-pledged, inalienable, primary rights protected by the constitution itself. Alas, this stewardship concept has remained in the 1987 constitution. Property rights are therefore subordinate to the “common good”. This has far-reaching consequences: like Robin Hood, the government is given the power to grab land from one citizen to another under the so-called “land reform” laws; land titles are not sacred documents, but can be revised according to one’s influence in any local office of the registry of deeds; squatters are given almost equal rights to land they occupy as the original owners; land price depends as much on the defensibility of its title as on its physical location; and other sad results.

Excessive regulation is another liberal influence in the Philippines. I have just started to setup a local corporation to do business. The contrast between the American process for corporations and the Philippine process is night and day: I spent less than an hour to fill up a form and less than $200 to setup a corporation in Washington state; while here in the Philippines I have spent countless hours talking to a lawyer and drawing up the necessary papers and complying with SEC reguirements, and I am just starting.

I have several unanswered questions about the Philippine process for setting up a corporation:

  1. Why does the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have to be involved at all? In the U.S., as long as a corporation does not sell its shares to the public, SEC registration is irrelevant. In the Philippines, SEC involvement centralizes the administration of all corporations, and thereby increases red tape.
  2. Why does the SEC require a minimum investment with respect to authorized number of shares and subscribed number of shares? This basically amounts to price control of startup shares. No matter how innovative an idea as reason for setting up a corporation, the same price is given: from the most mundane corporatization of real-estate assets to the most high-tech of startups. This removes the incentive to establish startups for highly innovative ventures. It also expands the power of the SEC over banks, because banks are being used to enforce the minimum paid up capital requirement.
  3. Why can’t I start a corporation by myself? Why are four other incorporators required? Why not six? Why not ten? What’s special about the number five, the minimum number of incorporators required? This rule is so arbitrary that it defies any explanation. In the U.S. any person of legal age can establish a corporation by himself.
    Both the minimum capital requirement and the minimum number of incorporators required make it highly improbable that a corporation based on new ideas is formed in the Philippines: no Microsoft, no Intel, no Google, no Facebook, or even Baidu for us.
  4. Why is the SEC also in charge of naming corporations? The SEC requires that corporate names are unique nationwide. The SEC website features a name registration facility that’s supposed to check for name uniqueness, among other things. This name registration is required, and it comes with a small fee. However, it doesn’t seem that the uniqueness facility works. I reserved the name “Centerus Cebu”, and paid for it at a local bank. I checked on my reservation, and the name did not appear as a reserved name under my account. I tried reserving it again, and the system allowed me to register the same name again.
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About ctapang

I am a Software Design Engineer. I have just abandoned the huge army organized to make .Net programming the one dominant programming system. I now program in Typescript which (surprise) is also from Microsoft. Aside from my day job as a programmer, I am also involved in a movement (http://correctphilippines.org) to correct the Philippine constitution. It's an ambitious undertaking in itself, and there's no guarantee that improving our constitution will improve things. However, one thing is certain: if we don't establish a rational constitution, we will continue on our path of self-destruction. What kind of government is best? For me the best government is that which governs the least. We need the government not because it can provide for us but because it keeps us from running into each other. The proper function of government is that of a traffic light: it prevents us from bumping each other, but it does not tell us where to go.
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One Response to Osmosis

  1. The Filipino says:

    Great points about the inexplicably cumbersome process of incorporation in the Philippines!

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