Thursday, September 29, 2011

Freedom of Information Bill in the Philippines

Probably the most important bill in congress right now: a bill that seeks a more open and transparent (and ideally limited) government in the Philippines.

erin tanada manuel quezon
Representative Erin TaƱada and MLQ3

I attended the CMFR (Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility) Policy on the Freedom of Information (FOI). Many important people were there that day. Important in the sense that they all somehow had influence when it comes to any possibility of passing the Freedom of Information Bill (a sufficient one, meaning enhances freedom rather than limit it). People from the media, lawmakers and bureaucrats, lawyers, economists, and bloggers like me were in attendance.

The bill basically attempts to make the Philippine government open and transparent and gives individuals the power to audit or question all kinds of spending and policymaking. All spending and suppliers will be listed online for all projects. I do believe that before any other kind of major bill to be passed this one should be priority and must be enforced.

There are a lot of problems though with our lawmakers and bureaucrats over at the Presidential Communications Group who are trying to limit freedom instead of enhancing it. They include arbitrary fees, suppression of "classified" information, creation of a bureaucracy that will manage the transparency of government, and many others.

harry santos
Sharing my Two Cents during the Forum

Transparency is the first step, I believe, in limiting and minimizing the scope and size of government,  in getting rid of corruption, and in revealing the much needed pro-market reforms for the peace and prosperity of our nation.

It's funny how PNoy exposed to the nation how PAGCOR spent billions just on coffee alone during his SONA, has fought for Freedom of Information even back when he was just a senator, and now all of a sudden he doesn't even talk about it at all. MLQ3 avoids the question by saying it's all about "political timing". He was so big on anti-corruption back during the presidential campaigns. And now he combines his "anti-wangwang" rhetoric with continuing attempts to investigate the previous administration and that's it?

We need transparency now. This should be priority. PNoy's selling point during the campaign Kapag Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap is true. And to achieve that we need to have an open and transparent government with limited powers and spending capabilities.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The 4th Branch of Government: Who Controls the Media?

Remember when Jon Stewart exposed mainstream media's attempts to conceal Ron Paul's successful campaign?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2012 - Corn Polled Edition - Ron Paul & the Top Tier
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It's just funny that I was in 711 a while ago and saw Rick Perry on the cover of Time magazine. It's just so weird, especially for someone who's been watching closely into the GOP nomination campaign, for there to be this big hype of Rick Perry being the top tier from both liberal and conservative media.

Isn't that a form of massive global campaign? A propaganda of sorts lead by the media itself! Imagine, Perry's face on all coffeeshops, bookstores, groceries, not just the US but as I have said even in 711s here in the Philippines.

He wasn't even there during the first few debates. His voting records contradict the stuff he is campaigning for now. He's riding with the whole fiscal conservative "tea party" economics trend when really Ron Paul has been talking about these issues for a very long time now, even predicting many of the current problems the the US is facing.

I'm not really much on the conspiracy theories (well maybe a bit), but watching the whole campaign so far, sometimes it's so obvious that there are those in power who manipulate and orchestrate world politics and economics.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Anti-Planking Act of 2011 in the Philippines Proposed by Representative Winnie Castelo

So I wake up and 'Anti-Planking Act of 2011', proposed by Quezon city representative Winnie Castelo is still trending on Twitter (only locally now though). I figured this is a perfect time to expose the evils of giving the state the power to regulate lifestyle, prohibit personal habits and "victimless crimes".

The premise is that for as long you are not hurting anyone, for as long as you are not stealing or destroying the property of others, for as long as you are in your own property or the property of others who has given you consent, then there's absolutely nothing immoral about the act of planking.


For instance, there are those who expose themselves to potential danger by planking (like the guy on the photo above). But as our premise states, not only is he exposing himself to danger but also others. Plus, he is risking destroying the property of others. But these things are already illegal. The act of hurting others or destroying property is already punishable by law. To legislate specifically just for the act of planking is a waste of the time of our congress and of taxpayer's money.

Proposals like this one is a perfect opportunity for libertarians like me to expose what kinds of power we are giving to the state. In fact, it's times like these when the state exposes itself. It's the evils of a big brother or nanny state telling individuals what to do with their lives, bureaucrats imposing their will and values on others and having coercive power to do so. Plus, it contributes to wasteful and obviously unnecessary spending.

planking protest
Students "planking" as form of protest

In the representative's website, he goes as far as to regulate public protesting, which of course violates freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. Again, for as long as these student protesters are not violating the premises I gave above, there is nothing wrong with what they're doing.

winnie castelo
Representative Winnie Castelo

When we give them the power to regulate or prohibit acts on the grounds that they are dangerous then what's next? Skateboarding? Sports? Rock concerts? Eating in KFC? All these things pose a risk or danger in people's lives but again the more just and rational premise is mine and not the representative's.

"The parent in me" is what forced him, he says, to propose such a law. Well, let's assume that he has a kid who loves to do planking in dangerous places then that's not a state issue but a parental responsibility. It's similar to a parent whose kid gets into a skateboarding accident and then suddenly becomes an advocate of making skateboards illegal.
The parent in me tells me that this precedent in the case of this massive transport strike where militant street protesters who are students of various schools have to lie down or serve as ‘planks’ across the road to disrupt what should be normal traffic could just be very dangerous in the future. Life and limb are pretty much at risks here were unbelieving bus drivers or law enforcement authorities might just ram through these warm and living bodies rolled out on highways" - Winnie Castelo
Of course it's illegal to plank, stand, lie down, or dance in the middle of the road and disrupt traffic or put the lives of others in danger (as we've already established in my premise above). So why would the representative want to waste their time in congress debating such a useless bill?

Here's a great reference I was introduced to when I met up with fellow Filipino libertarians and French people researching about classical liberalism in South East Asia:

Walter Block's talk about his book Defending the Undefendable

The book is available for free here: PDF of Defending the Undefendable. It discusses similar topics about the state regulating lifestyle, personal habits, and acts with mutual consent that are deemed immoral by some. Naturally, it is assumed that the state has the power to regulate or prohibit them.

It is a popular notion that to initiate change you can "write to your congressman" which is now very possible because of social media. Here is the representative's twitter: @WinnieCastelo and his Facebook page. He's a Philosophy graduate from the University of the Philippines. Maybe we can talk some sense to him.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Couldn't Resist

Just got home from driving and doing some chores when I saw these on our kitchen table. And as the title suggests, I just really couldn't resist. I had to take a picture of myself with it.

harry leeks
Harry Leeks

I do entertain myself too much sometimes. I am very easy to please. Sometimes random vegetables are enough to make me very entertained. I guess it's also good for the readers to have a break from all the serious political philosophy and undying defense for liberty. So here's some electro and dubstep:

Harry Peaks

45 mins of awesome. If you follow me on Twitter you'll notice that I love listening to this guy's podcasts and playlists. I got many of my current favorite songs from him. I really recommend that you subscribe to his channel. I'm pretty selfish with my music so you're lucky I'm sharing them.

Support HarryLeaks by checking out Harry's other helpful blogs:
1. HubPages
2. Beating the Search Engine
3. Libreng Sabaw

A Introductory Libertarian Response to the Venus Project's Resource-Based Economy

First of all, I would like to begin by saying that I watched the Zeitgeist: Addendum more than two years ago. The reason I remember so well is because I know that I watched it before meeting Adrienne Nicole Bernal and remember that I even encouraged her to watch both Zeitgeist documentaries.

The first part of the documentary deals with fractional reserve banking system, the Federal Reserve, and fiat currency. What's interesting is that libertarians are against this as well. Libertarian Ron Paul who is now seeking the nomination of the Republican Party in the US for presidency actually wrote a book on abolishing the Federal Reserve called End the Fed. Here's just one of his many videos as he stands up against the Federal Reserve:

The second part of the documentary then moves on to criticize the CIA and the interventionist foreign policy of the US. It talks about different steps that the CIA does to install, fund, and topple different governments and dictatorships. Again, it's interesting that libertarians are against this as well. We are against big, powerful, and secretive governments. In fact, Ron Paul wants to abolish the CIA as well. Here's an interesting video where he talks about how the foreign policy of the US funded Mubarak's regime in Egypt:

I wanted to start by pointing out these things to show that there's so many misconceptions and misinterpretations about what libertarianism and free-market capitalism is and hopefully as I move on I am able to clear them up as well. Throughout this article I will be mentioning common arguments and misconceptions I encounter and try to give my libertarian perspective on the issue.

Profit is immoral?

Nowadays, people fail to distinguish between justly acquired profit and profit gained through force or fraud. There is absolutely nothing wrong from making a profit out of voluntary exchange, like between two mutually consenting individuals, for example. You cannot restrict people from trading or wanting to be rewarded for honest work, hard-earned skills, and innovative thinking.

What people usually refer to when they say 'profit is immoral' would be those acquired through force or fraud, through coercion or corruption, through cheating. Libertarians are against this. Why would I advocate cheating or corruption or coercion? Many people have already equated these words with "profit" thus immediately moving on to saying that free market capitalism is immoral. In an free libertarian society, there will be police and courts to deal with force and fraud. The rule of law will be enforced. People usually assume that free market means people will be allowed to kill each other (@_@).

What we have right now is a free market?

Nope. We are very very far from it. In fact, in the Philippines ranking in the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom, we are ranked 115th out of 179 countries. According to the index, Hong Kong is the world's freest economy and yet many libertarians will even argue that even Hong Kong, no matter how ideal it seems to be, is still very far from being called free market because of several issues. One of those issues is prohibition, a market regulation that seeks to regulate the behavior and preferences of individuals.

When people blame the "free market" what they usually mean is crony-capitalism or cronyism. This is when powerful [and greedy] elites control most of the industries and form relationships with men in power positions-gov't officials. Again, another interesting point is that libertarians are against this. In fact, crony capitalism is a product of bureaucracy and heavy regulations and of a strong state and weak market. Giving power to bureaucrats to intervene with the market will also give them power to favor their cronies. In a free and libertarian society, people will have to compete and provide innovative services in order to be rewarded and don't have access to tax payer's money and favors from powerful bureaucrats because plain and simple libertarians want to take away power from bureaucrats and give them back to individuals. What people hate is statism not free market.

So there is no free market. No matter how lawmakers call certain policies as "deregulation" or "antitrust" we are actually far from these things and they're just misleading terms that fuel the fire of making the concept of a free market evil or immoral. Bureaucracy, trade restrictions, unnecessary taxes that go to non-transparent government, and other red tapes are preventing market competition and hindering progress and creating more of the cronyism. The words "free market" concept has just been so misinterpreted in the public view that usually I would use substitute words like "voluntary exchange". So remember, cronyism bad, voluntary exchange good.

Aside from that, there's Keynesianism. The economic policy created by John Maynard Kenyes who has singlehandedly caused most of the world's problems and the economic crises in the US that started a few years ago (yes, it wasn't free market that caused the housing bubble, it was economic central planning and the federal reserve which again libertarians are against).

Peter Schiff, economic adviser of Ron Paul in the 2008
presidential campaign, predicts the housing bubble but no one listened

Peter Schiff got this kind of foresight by advocating the Austrian School of Economics. Just look at all the people thinking that Schiff is crazy in those collection of videos. Aside from that Ron Paul has long been predicting the economic crisis as well and not just that but many other things like the debt and spending and the blowback caused by the US foreign policy. Weird thing is that up to now, in spite of all the proofs and videos showing that they predicted these things so many people still refuse to listen to them.

A good introduction to Keynesianism vs Austrian School of Economics would be the PBS documentary Commanding Heights Battle for World Economy (torrents are available online), something that I always encourage people to watch especially those who argue against free market without knowing who Keynes is. I just think it's unfair to argue with people when they don't know about these things. Plus, Peter Schiff's book How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes is a good introduction on this issue as well.

Now, as my title suggests, this is merely an introductory article, much like a supplement of sorts. Something I can go back to, like a reference, in case I bump into similar arguments when finally writing a critique on the Venus Project. I can't really argue against it without clearing up these issues first. And there's just so much more that's lacking and not addressed. I actually planned to write this in early August when I discussed the Venus Project and the resource-based economy with a friend of mine. Problem was, I knew it was going to be too long and there was going to be so much I'm going to have to discuss in order to effectively show why I am advocating free market over the resource-based economy of Jacque Fresco.

I'm not sure when I can write about the next part. Maybe it's going to take very long again. I do feel it's my responsibility though to share the libertarian perspective regarding this issue effectively since many of my peers have very much the same misconceptions and are attracted to concepts like the the Venus Project.

There's actually many different kinds of libertarianism. There are even those that would probably have similar sentiments against property rights and trade like those left-libertarians. I haven't really read much about it but I've heard Kropotkin is a good place to read if you're interested. For as long as you are for voluntary societies and against the coercive state the it's really fine with me. Plus, there are even those libertarians like the objectivists who hate Ron Paul. So really, when I say the word "libertarian" then Austrian school or Rothbardian are some keywords that could help define the very core ideals I advocate. Although officially, I am a minarchist like Ron Paul.