A good father went against his instinct and let his second son go out on his own, out of the protective confines of his (the father’s) world, into the world outside. He would not have done so, knowing how cruel and difficult it was to learn the pitfalls of life on this earth. But his second son was so much independent than his first, and he felt that he had imparted enough character into this one for him to survive on his own. So let go he did.
The first son, who followed his father’s footsteps, was successful in the beginning, running the family business as he was trained to do. When the good father died, however, he lost his bearing and could not make decisions. Instead of doing something in most business situations, he waited for something to happen. Eventually, he drove the business to oblivion. The second son, as it turned out, also prospered on his own, founding his own empire that lasted beyond his lifetime. The father’s fears about the second son turned out to be unfounded.
Now the above is just an anecdote, and half of it is fictional. (I am thinking of the defunct Wang Labs for the non-fictional half.) My purpose here is simply to illustrate that, in the trainable animal universe as much as the human one, once an offspring has attained enough character (good habits and survival instincts), it is better to leave that offspring alone to make his/her own decisions. It does not matter how much natural talent she has, once an offspring gains the freedom to decide and learn lessons on her own, her success is almost assured. Protecting the offspring, or getting involved in planning his/her future, only serves to ease the parents’ worries, but does not really help the offspring in the end.
Whenever we intellectuals talk about the welfare of people in our country, we are like parents. Our instinct is to protect and plan, and thereby control. The five-year plans we propose consist mostly of what the government can do to the people, not what control it can phase out in an orderly manner. We propose to have the government encourage, initiate, or even build industries, as if we have the magical powers to decide correctly which industries would be good. We believe, for example, that the export industries was what made Japan and Taiwan successful, so we decide on behalf of the people that the government must be active in favoring export industries.
My idea of government is that it should do NONE of these. It should focus on its proper role, and for me the proper role of government is summarized in the Bill of Rights, which fortunately is also part of the 1987 Constitution. It should respect and enforce contracts, it should protect individual freedoms, it should resolve conflict among citizens whenever it is called upon to do so. It should refrain from being too benevolent. It should follow the rule of law not only when resolving conflicts, but also to control itself.
Many have argued that that is what we have been doing in Pinas, that we have had enough freedoms, and it has not worked. Many of us just cannot understand how restrictions on foreign investment are a big drag, that the process for starting a corporation is too cumbersome, that business in itself is generally beneficial. I agree wholeheartedly that our immediate goal should be to change our Constitution, in order to remove restrictions on foreign investment. I can see the near-term benefit of increased job opportunities, but that would not be my long-term goal. My long-term goal is to increase economic freedoms: not just the freedom for individuals (and thereby also corporations) to accept foreign investment, but also to engage freely in any business that is not harmful to anybody. For example, some intellectuals would impose controls to direct investments to certain industries (as is the practice now). Such controls are not necessary. If I want to engage in an import business to satisfy the need for some imported product, I should be allowed to do that. Too many of us are against this because it would appear to be detrimental to local industries producing the same product. This is the instinct of intellectuals even in developed countries. If my import business prospers, there will be more such businesses, which can only benefit the people, because of competition. How can we determine that an import business is not beneficial? The people themselves determine that, by not buying the imported product. Too many of us would rather that the government decide, which then grants those in government enough power on the people. I wonder why it is difficult for most of us to see that by itself, this power over the people is corrupting.
If we freely allow imports, not just of capital but also of any commodity (just as Hong-Kong does), I predict that the prices of commodities would track international prices. This has already happened with the liberalization of fuel imports. Gas prices at the pump in Pinas now mostly track international prices, despite incessant complaints from the public utility industry. It will only remain a political headache if we continue to insist on price controls on jeepney and other public utility fares. In other words, liberalizing one industry is not enough, we have to liberalize across the board as much as politically feasible. This is why I have also concluded, independent of Mr. Orion Perez Dumdum, that our first immediate priority is to do away with practically all parts of the 1987 Constitution except the Bill of Rights.