Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bureaucracy in the Private Sector; Citizen Initiative to Social or Political Issues

I talked to my friend yesterday about this tricycle flyover that can ideally fix traffic in the Concha Cruz / Alabang-Zapote intersection and will also make public transport (taking trikes) more efficient. I don't think it's ever been done before. But you know we have a lot of engineers, architects, and designers and I'm sure people can make it happen. I should probably make a 3D rendition of the flyover concept to give you a better idea but then it's gonna be real hard to model Concha Cruz and I'm lazy.

A part of the responsibility here is in the officials that BF elected. BF is a huge village and I'm sure they do have a lot of revenue. The only spending I see useful as of now is the hiring of the perimiter guards. I don't think they even bother fixing problems in the main roads. Everything else inside including lighting, most roads, and security is provided by a smaller sovereign territory or the villages within the village (inception).

A part of the responsibility is also in the TODA, a voluntary association of tricycle owners common here in the Philippines, who should lobby the BF officials to try and make solutions for this. If the issue of traffic is taken care of then they will have more profits and lines wouldn't be as long; more profitable and more efficient.

A part of the responsibility is in the residents as well. Aside from petitioning the officials they elected, maybe they should care more about the election process to begin with. Also, be more informed about the local village constitution, rules, regulation, or any sort of private law they have. Maybe people shouldn't irresponsibly just park on the side of roads? Maybe traffic rules should be more enforced and there should be more (if there are even any) security inside the village not just on the perimeter? Maybe spending should be audited? I don't know, but that's for the residents to decide. 

I got very interested in this topic because my village all voluntarily donated to build a catholic church on our park (which is, technically, public property or commonly owned by residents of the village). I have nothing against churches at all but then from a more pragmatic point of view, how I wish we just spent all that money to buy a firetruck and train some of the guards to know how to use it. We spent millions on a small building or venue to exercise freedom of religion and freedom of assembly only for a select sector of the village (the catholics) even when surely there are some residents of other christian sectors or probably even entirely have a different religion. I would prefer for homeowners associations officials to be secular. And again, a firetruck or ambulance could have been more practical. Ayala Alabang and Southvale (by Daang Hari) have their own firetrucks. 

My father always tells me his story of how he lost his old house through a fire. It's very tragic and I just think it's more practical for us to have our own firetruck and not rely on the public sector. With traffic and all, it'll probably take a public sector firetruck a really long time to get here.

Or it doesn't even have to be a firetruck. Maybe better security? Equip our guards with night vision or infrared cameras (I saw a bunch on Amazon that aren't that expensive; definitely cheaper than building a church). It's an exaggeration but it is true that we almost always ignore utilizing technology when it comes to governance.

I also like the humps in Ayala Alabang now, how they took out the humps on the side on the other side of the intersection where it's not really needed at all and just wastes gas and time. They also have strong enforcement of traffic rules. But it's not just their big revenue that makes them so efficient, it's the way this revenue is spent or managed. If we can make our own villages more transparent and democratic, through competition and innovation, we can eventually be just like Ayala Alabang or even better.

I guess this reflects our view, from a micro-level awareness of sorts, of governance as a whole. Our country can have better roads, better management of money, transparent spending, firetrucks (hehe), etc. 

Flood in Roxas Boulevard

This post was actually inspired by this photo I saw on Facebook. Much like my trike flyover idea above (no matter how stupid it might sound), if you have ideas on solutions to this flooding problem or to any of our social issues, you should petition your government and tell them your ideas about it. The problem is redundant bureaucracy though, of course. I'm not really sure, like for that flood, if you're supposed to go to DPWH or maybe to the city planner or whatever. I heard it's the city planner's responsibility (no official confirmation on this though). So maybe if you have ideas on how we can solve the flooding problems, maybe try and contact them.

Or better yet, write about it on your blog, share it on your social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.   We've seen how powerful these tools are in changing governance and public policy. Maybe your idea will go viral. Maybe your idea will get noticed by our bureaucrats and politicians. The concept of "writing to your congressman" has changed. Right now, you can contact most of them on Facebook or Twitter and your message can be seen publicly if you wish.

What do you think? Me, I'm just a dude who wants a firetruck in his village.

Happy 100th Birthday Milton Friedman!

I have referenced his videos and literature a couple of times in this blog. He's really such a brilliant man, in my opinion, and such a master of rhetoric and debate. Take the classic Milton Friedman's Pencil I talked about in a previous post. Or maybe how he referred to migration as "people voting with their feet" or the market dictating where there is peace and prosperity.

I love how he explains the false assumption that bureaucrats or politicians given authoritarian power will act benevolently or in public interest. This typical sentiment that we need some sort of iron hand and restrictions on liberties in order for there to be development and progress. This is also something I have touched on a bit on my post about the Libya Civil War.

The Free to Choose (1980) is surely a big influence that has shaped my love for libertarian ideology. Regardless of the man's differences with other libertarians, he really was able to give a strong case on free enterprise and liberty while he was still alive. I don't think we can just discredit a person because you disagree with him on one or two point. Milton Friedman helped spread libertarian ideology or, at least in the strictest sense, libertarian-leaning policies.

It's quite fitting that I'm writing about Hong Kong for this blog I'm working on for work. Milton Friedman loved Hong Kong. The first part of Free to Choose is actually about Hong Kong, if I remember correctly. And it's true that this country remains to be the most economically free in the world (despite of authoritarian mainland China's vague sovereignty over this territory).

But yeah, just wanted to say happy birthday and have some sort of tribute post in this blog.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Peter Schiff and Nigel Farage — are libertarians psychics?

Here's Peter Schiff, a libertarian, Ron Paul's economic advisor during the 2008 presidential campaign, predicting the recession and the housing bubble. A video I have posted perhaps too many times on this blog hoping that even one single person could watch it and make him/her rethink the typical approach or supposed science to economics.

Below is a video of Nigel Farage warning against the whole Euro crisis that is happening right now. I've blogged about this several times (see Nigel Farage Prredicts Euro Crisis).

As unfortunate as it may seem, the fall of the euro seems to be a victory for the liberty movement, in my opinion. People only believe in those who tell the truth when it's already too late. That's just something that's been so consistent with history.

Take the example of how it's so funny how even Bernanke or Krugman can't agree on policy. It's just so arbitrary. How much do we increase the money supply in order to fix all these problems? What should the interest rates be? Markets decide these things. It's all very organic and natural and to think otherwise is the pretense of knowledge.

It's so much more apparent in the eurozone, of course, being that they manipulated interest rates for different nation states all without considering the complexity of the demands of the market. Again, a pretense of knowledge. How do you take all those complex factors, some even unthinkable such like the decisions and preferences of individuals, and think that it is all manageable and could be centrally planned by a group of unelected bureaucrats who are supposed experts? 

And it's not even conspiracy theory that the quasi-private Federal Reserve's directors and policymakers come from the big banks who are "too big to fail" or those who were bailed out like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and others. It's just all facts. Cronyism is apparent, and the discretion of these unelected quasi-private "experts" create policies that affect the whole world's economy.  

And yet people still blame the US recession and housing bubble to the "free market" when quasi-private institutions like the Federal Reserve get to manipulate the money supply and interest rates. How si that free market? How is that "too deregulated that's why it failed" kind of policy?

And I understand, as most classical liberal authors have warned, it will be almost impossible to argue the libertarian position. Aside from the fact that I don't think they actually intend to do wrong (motive is not what I question here) because this is how most of us have been trained to think, it's more of the semantics as well.

Just think of words like "inflation" and how we have been trained to think it has all to do with prices when really that is just a consequence.

Many times I don't even care about how many people actually read what I write (although Blogger stats and AdSense dictates that people actually read these things I write), but mostly I would just wish people would watch the videos I post and then maybe they can be compelled to research more for themselves. The pen is mightier than the sword, many say, and even if I can change even just one person's mind about politics and economics, I am already satisfied.

Many people now know about Ron Paul because of this blog. Many people now know that there is the Austrian School of Economics and not just the mainstream Keynesian mythology. Many people now know more about fiat currency and monetary policy. It is just my deepest hope that at the end of it all, even if my readers don't really read every single paragraph I write, maybe they will Google more about what I'm talking about and maybe they can learn more about it themselves.

And yes, I would love for our nation to have libertarian-leaning policies, of course. I know I write in this blog because I find poverty and violence all so heartbreaking. And most people have this motive, I understand. So it is not really the motive that is in question. No, I don't want people to die or be unemployed or not be able to buy medicine or have 8 children they can't feed. Through research, discussions, and debates, I just realized that the solutions of the political philosophy that I have learned to love is the most moral, practical, and efficient of all.

I don't mind being discredited, really. I just continue writing because I see that there is demand for it (a market indication that I am doing something people seem to be interested or intrigued about). And again, even one mind, you perhaps, my dear reader right now, can somehow see some truth in what I am writing.

And many times I try to mention that "this is how we were trained to think" to most Keynesians, fellow libertarians, and even those opinionated intellectuals who have their own form of folklore economics and I think it's just the definition of words that becomes a problem like, again, "inflation" or maybe "commodities" (which I find weird because they are naturally just goods and/or services traded regardless of the stock market which is just something that people speculate on and doesn't really have a  direct consideration about the actual utility or potential in a product or a business). 

I understand there is more for me to learn most especially with Keynesianism. Often I am accused of just reiterating the rhetoric of other libertarians or Austrian school people without really understanding the religious fiction of John Maynard Keynes.

Yeah, I'll continue tomorrow, maybe. I'm gonna sleep now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Your Resident Blogger is Now Employed (What does gold have to do with libertarianism anyway?)

It's really so exciting and flattering when I was contacted to meet for a career opportunity related to libertarianism. I was lucky enough to have been able to pass several job interviews before that but had to turn them down due to different reasons (distance, wage, boring work, etc.). Buti na lang matigas ang ulo ko (it's a good thing I'm stubborn). I didn't settle.

Is it something you love to do? Is it something you believe in? Some people say these are some qualities that will lead to a successful and fulfilling career.

Yes, I love the work that I will be doing. Aside from making sure that the operations of our company are all going well, my task is to write about libertarianism, Austrian school of economics, Ron Paul, monetary freedom, and many other things that I have been writing about here in this blog: principles that I have learned to love and things that I am very much passionate about.

Yes, I believe in our company and what we do. We are involved in trading and storing precious metals like gold or silver. Many people have asked me, "What does gold have to do with libertarianism or Ron Paul?" It goes to show how very little people know about the truths on the current financial system and  our monetary policy. And I believe that what we are doing in our company contributes in making people aware about these things.

In the US, Ron Paul has been a strong proponent of restoring the gold standard and auditing/abolishing the Federal Reserve. He even recommends competing currencies, something that Hayek also advocated. In the European Parliament, Nigel Farage has been warning against artificial interest rates, printing of fiat currency, and the inevitable collapse of the Euro. Most of the time no one listens to them. Many times, people even laughed at them and discredited their philosophy. But as more and more of their predictions come true, people are starting to wake up and libertarians are definitely growing in number.

Here are several articles I've written before on gold, monetary policy, fiat currency, etc:

Yes, libertarianism has a lot to do with gold and precious metals. Monetary freedom is one of our biggest advocacies. Historically, economic law and the market has always dictated that gold has the perfect qualities to become currency or legal tender.  Even though most people understand that gold is a "hedge against inflation," it's quite obvious that they know very little about what really causes inflation and what really gives value to our current money which is merely paper fiat currency.

I believe in what our company does. I am very excited and optimistic about the future.

Hayek and Mises hanging out, very smooth in their tuxedos
"The gold standard alone makes the determination of money's purchasing power independent of the ambitions and machinations of governments, of dictators, of political parties, and of pressure groups." - Ludwig Von Mises

Monday, July 16, 2012

President Noynoy Aquino 2012 SONA (State of the Nation Adress) Poll

The GMA network decided to create a poll on Facebook on the topic of what issues people think Noynoy Aquino should be prioritizing and discussing during his state of the nation address. Here are the results as of 10:40 am, July 17:

GMA's Facebook poll about SONA 2012

I obviously answered Freedom of Information Bill, something that Noynoy himself advocated back when he was in congress and senate but somehow has become silent about it now. It's interesting that very little people are voting with me on FOI in this poll. I have always argued that before any sort of government expansion (which I find inevitable anyway) we should at least put constraints on the government, make it transparent and accountable to the people (see also Freedom of Information Bill in the Philippines).

It seems that the biggest concern of the people right now is the Panatag Shoal conflict with China. I have discussed my position on this issue before (see My Two Cents on the Spratly Islands Conflict). I do hope that the president, as commander-in-chief of our military, decide to take a path similar to my proposals in that article.

Employment comes next. The thing here is that less government and not more of it is what we need for job creation. A liberalized market is very attractive to both local and foreign investors. We should minimize red tapes, abolish redundant permits, fees, and requirements, lower taxes and tariffs that burden both big and small businesses. What we need is economic freedom and according to the index of economic freedom we rank 107th out of 179 countries and that's really bad (source) and if we want prosperity for our country then we need to rethink the role of government and implement pro-market reforms.

The next is education. Of course, we all believe that having educated people means more opportunities and prosperity. I just don't think that giving the State monopoly on this industry and authority to dictate mandatory curriculums only contributes to the decadence of education in our country (and in the world for that matter). Surely, PNoy will be talking about the whole K-12 implementation and how this will revolutionize education in our country. My position though, as always, is to have a transition from this monopolized system especially in the public sector by introducing school choice through school vouchers and charter schools, and in the private sector by deregulating this industry and giving choices back to the schools and the parents (see also My Two Cents on K-12 and Public Schooling).

Then we have the controversial RH bill. Of course, as the kind of libertarian I am (socially liberal but fiscally conservative),  I am always wary and critical of giving money and power to government and creating new bureaucracies. I also don't think that the RH bill will necessarily alleviate poverty, if that is the goal of its advocates. Again, I believe that economic freedom and limited government is what we need for prosperity. My position on this is not based on any sort of religious beliefs by the way, as most of the anti-RH bill people seem to be. I've always wanted write about this and expound on my position and maybe I will soon. Again though, why not prioritize the Freedom of Information Bill first so that citizens have the right to question government spending regarding this issue (see also Why Not Be as Passionate in Fighting for Transparency?)?

Then there are those who think Dolphy's crowning as a national artist should be discussed. I really don't mind. I just don't think it's so much of a priority with so many social issues facing our country for the president to focus on talking about that in his SONA. There are even more answers on that poll like PNoy's love life or something like. And the sad part is I don't know if that's a joke or some citizens actually want to hear about that during the SONA.

Corona was also brought up. It's interesting how people become so politically active only when it's trending. Now it's as if no one remembers. It's all like a TV show really. From season 1 that showed the whole fertilizer scam, to season 2 that showed NBN ZTE scandal, to the PCSO corruption, to Katrina Halili's personal videos. After that, it was sad to see that someone even committed suicide (that general dude and GMA's former energy secretary or something). And then the recent season finale where the chief justice was impeached. It's all a show, really. And we all just forget eventually until a new story comes up and becomes trending again. It's a circus, really.

Every year I always tell myself I won't watch the SONA because I know I'll just be frustrated but I always end up watching anyway. So yeah, maybe I'll be tweeting realtime reactions. Follow me on Twitter: @harryinitiative to be updated about it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Eurozone, Gold, and Monetary Policy

I follow @KitcoGoldQuotes on Twitter and it gives me hourly updates on the spot price of gold and it seems that gold is on the rise again. Since that time that I posted my article on Investing in Gold in the Philippines, the price of gold has gone up about a 100 dollars per ounce. With continuous Eurozone bailouts, buying of debt, and increasing money supply, I don't see any reason for the price of gold to go down or for the value of paper money to go up.

Nigel Farage Slams Van Rompuy and Barroso

The whole crisis in Europe is very reflective of the accuracy of the Austrian School of Economics on things like business cycles and fiat currency. It's interesting how people continue to discredit these ideas in spite of the staggering proof. They still want artificially low interest rates and continuous authority to manipulate it. They still want to print more money. They still want deficit spending. And, surprisingly, there are still people who think that the Euro will provide stability in spite of all the failures in their objectives and predictions.

In my post about Nigel Farage predicting the euro crisis, you'll see that it's almost as if many of them don't hear what Farage has been saying all this time. It's like they're pretending to be deaf or to have no memory whatsoever that Farage has been warning about a crisis just as this one. On the video above, you'll see that Van Rompuy and Barroso are afraid to admit that all their predictions were false while Farage's were all spot on. It's so unreal.

I also think that everyone is so focused on the euro that it's also become a distraction from looking at the dollar in the same way. The deficit of the US is ridiculous and to continue accepting that the dollar is the world's reserve almost makes no sense (see also The World is Losing Faith in the Dollar).

And the governing class will never admit to all these failures. We even saw David Cameron very favorable of the EU (I really used to like him before he became prime minister and I thought he was a principled man but turns out he's just like any other establishment politician). They can't admit the failures because they are so scared that the whole world will lose trust in the current system and start researching for themselves what's really going on. They will continue to support ridiculous concepts like this European Union dream or the fiat currency dollar as the world's reserve. They're far too invested in it that they can't fold anymore.

It's good that these ideas are starting to pick up in the mainstream though with people like Farage and his UK Independence Party gaining momentum and credibility.

Monday, July 2, 2012

My Two Cents on K-12 and Public Schooling

Switching to the K-12 will surely increase the quantity of schooling but not necessarily the quality. This has always been my concern about it. Perhaps we should focus more on modernization and access to technology and the internet instead of adding years of more of the same.

Peter Norvig talks about the 100,000-student classroom at TED

The internet is already changing the way we communicate and learn and eventually will become more accepted as a necessary part of education, perhaps more than the traditional classroom setting. Nowadays, one small tablet can store up to thousands of books and lecturers from all over the world can teach those a thousand miles away.

The problem is that schooling is monopolized by the State and there are no incentives for the schools to innovate or provide a better service. To introduce more competition, I favor school choice perhaps through school vouchers or charter schools. Anything at all to transition from the monopolized system.

Of course, it's more complex than that especially here in the Philippines. Many children in the provinces have to hike for miles through mountains and jungles just to get to a school. These areas will surely benefit from modernization and access to internet. There's really a lot of study that needs to be done about this but surely adding a few years of more of the same won't make schooling in these areas necessarily better quality.

The government should also abolish tariffs and taxes on laptops, tablets, and eBook readers. All this does is prevent competitive prices. They should also further deregulate the ISP industry and allow for easier entry to the market for new players (see also Why the Internet is Slow in the Philippines). Minimizing red tapes and taxes in this industry will allow for players to expand access to more areas.

There should also be no burdens on private charity schools. Requirements, redundant permits, fees, taxes, and red tapes increase the costs of those in the private sector who want to provide free or affordable schooling. Maybe we can give tax exemptions and other incentives to those in the private sector and even foreign investors who will start charity schools.

I just really don't understand how adding a few years to schooling will change anything if it's more of the same anyway. I'm sure there's a lot of other factors in this K-12 system that I am not aware of yet and I'm sure this was thoughtfully studied and researched but whether it will improve the quality of education is yet to be seen. 

I personally believe that choices, competition, modernization, and reliable access to the internet are the things that will provide better quality education.

Just my two cents.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Why It's Okay for Ron Paul Supporters to Support Gary Johnson

In an interview with Jon Stewart, the first thing he mentions is that back in 2008, when Ron Paul asked for his endorsement, he readily gave it. This is because he wants to appeal to the Ron Paul supporters. He knows that his campaign will be way more effective if he gets the passionate and enthusiastic supporters of Ron Paul.

Gary Johnson on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

When asked about not having a fighting chance with Obama or Romney, he even agreed and said that all he wants is 15% in the polls. And this part, in my very strong opinion, IS VERY important! If he gets at least 15% in the polls, he will be given a chance to be with Obama and Romney during the presidential debates. This is something that has happend before when Ross Perot joined in the debates against H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton as an independent candidate.

I understand the importance of the RNC in Tampa and even the whole delegate wars we've been having. I understand the the Republican establishment must see that their neocon days are over and people want liberty again. I've even been blogged about these issues several times. 

But the only audience we'll ever have in the RNC would be those who already support Ron Paul and the misguided conservatives. In the US presidential debates, the audience will be the whole world. News about it will be reported all over the world in print, in newspapers, and online. We have to focus on getting a voice that will represent libertarianism in that kind of massive venue.

A friend of mine and fellow libertarian even sent me a link of Gary Johnson's interview in the Robert Wenzel show (see How Libertarian is Gary Johnson) where he was criticized for his economic and philosophical influences. The host of the show made it clear that it's actually hard for most libertarians to like Milton Friedman, someone Gary Johnson believes had influenced him a lot. I understand the point of the host. Even Jeffrey Sachs pointed out that Milton Friedman was pretty much statist (an issue I addressed here: Why Jeffrey Sachs is Mistaken About Libertarianism).

But all this reminds me of how cult-like the Objectivism movement is. When you don't believe in the same philosophy as them even when you're for the same policy or outcome, they will instantly shun you. And I can relate so much because there was a time when all I knew was Milton Friedman as well. There was a time when I didn't even know about the Austrian School of Economics. On a moral level though, I agreed with libertarian policy, you know, like that stuff in Ron Paul's platform.

So that bottom line is in the platform and in the talking points that will be discussed in the debates. Even during the Republican debates, it was already so hard to differentiate Johnson's positions from Ron Paul. He wants to bring home the troops, end the war on drugs, cut spending and balance the budget, audit the Federal Reserve and possibly even go back to commodity-based currency, free trade, and many more. Imagine giving the whole world an alternative on these issues during the presidential debates.

And even for those in the libertarian movement who are against political action, the point is that we've already established that he's not even going to win. He just wants to present alternative solutions to the left/right paradigm that the world's been exposed to. This is actually more of an educational action that a political one. Not to mention that the joining in the debates is one of the main reasons that Ron Paul became very popular thus education so many people all over the world about libertarianism and the Austrian School of economics.  

Another real problem is that Ron Paul doesn't want to run as a third-party candidate and Gary Johnson is already running as one. I really don't understand that because he's already ran for the Libertarian Party back in 1988. And with his strong poll scores and hardcore supporters, 15% would be really easy to get. I remember as Rasmussen poll before that showed Ron Paul at 41% over Obama who got 42%. But again he's been clear about not running.

I just think it would be so interesting for Gary Johnson to be able to debate with Obama and Romney. It'll be so refreshing to have that alternative voice in such a mainstream and global venue.