Saturday, March 03, 2007

Beyond the American model

mlq3’s prodigious insights are truly valuable for anyone desirous to gain a deeper understanding of the current Philippine political landscape.

Those same insights also confirm the perception by many, myself included, that Philippine politics remains a copycat of American politics, an awful copy however. Let me explain.

While Republicans have a more market-oriented philosophy than Democrats who favor government regulation of the economy, there are many instances where Republicans and Democrats echo each other’s platform. The reason for this is that Americans are either estranged ideologically or they find themselves at the Center, in which case the personalities of the individual candidates matter. Nevertheless, voters are at least presented with some threshold policy alternatives.

In the Philippines, major political parties are still highly ideologically identical; hence, electoral debates are mainly focused on the candidates’ personalities, stage histrionics or forensic skills rather than on substantively differentiating public issues framed by party ideology.

To illustrate, comparison can be drawn from the forthcoming presidential elections in France this April where the issues are being framed not merely along the usual Left/Right spectrum but between the “social democratic model” of Segolene Royal of the Socialist Party and the “Anglo-Saxon model” of Nicolas Sarkozy of the ruling Gaullist Union for a People’s Party, indeed still a choice between two opposing political telos.

Commenter cvj has once reflected on the same phenomenon in the context of Latin American politics that has brought to power Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Brazil’s da Silva, Nicaragua’s Ortega, Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, Argentina’s Kirchner, and more recently Equador’s Correa, not to mention the close call from Mexico’s Obrador and Peru’s Humala. Perceiving that the discourses of the National Democrats and Akbayan are bordering close to tedium, there’s been seen the need for them to go through some sort of repackaging in the Latin American brand. Indeed, this indicates the economic policy options of the Philippine government may not be as “limited,” the “globalized world” notwithstanding.

Not as the end goal, but as a means to attaining the common good, I believe business leader and philanthropist Washington Sycip is espousing Confucian authoritarianism even as national artist and social thinker F. Sionil Jose has once advocated the staging of a revolution to address the problems of the country, foremost of which is mass poverty. Neither of them is known to be a communist ideologue, it should be pointed out.

On the other hand, I have seen the political statements of strong 2010 presidential timber Mar Roxas as a potential trigger for the emergence of a sharper ideological realignment along the government and market discourse over the control of the so-called commanding heights that in British politics defines more or less the laissez-faire agenda of the Conservative Party and the social welfare program of the Labor Party.

I have noted that Mar Roxas has evinced his state-interventionist bent as a congressman at least as regards the Retail Trade Liberalization law in which he was accused of inserting protectionist clauses. As DTI secretary, Mar threatened to withdraw Philippine membership from WTO upon the contention that Philippine tuna has been subjected to tariff discrimination by the US in favor of the Latin American package. It was a gutsy move by a former Wall Street investment banker, I thought, which may bear out a capability of tinkering with some “grand economic policy.”

The ideological debate was boldly taken further by CBCP in its pastoral letter of July 10, 2005. “The people mistrust our economic institutions” the letter said, “which place them under the tyranny of market forces whose lack of moral compass produces for our people a life of grinding dehumanizing poverty.”

I believe the political envelope can be pushed beyond the “limited” enclosure that the Washington Consensus has imposed upon our class of political “midgets,” to borrow a popular tag overused in Philippine blogosphere, to allow considerations of even grander politico-economic policies.

Here’s what I am thinking, if I may. Aside from the Latin American route, there appear three others by which to attain a thorough makeover of Philippine political economy: 1) the Sycip model (or the China, or in some respects the Hamiltonian model) which places economic modernization and efficiency as the condition sine qua non for meaningful political reforms, and where political and bureaucratic structures adapt to economic imperatives; 2) the DJB model (or the First Iraq or the photocopy model), the liberal developmentalism installed by the Americans in the Philippines at the turn of the last century through the cloning of the American system as the normative state, or the imposition or transplantation of the rich nations’ political habits, practices and institutions such as the American constitutional government and the so-called rule of law; and 3) the People Power model (or the French revolutionary model) which is bottom up or people-powered transformation where reforms are written on a slate free of bias toward the so-called normative model.


Blogger cvj said...

I am not sure if the Sycip model means Mao+Deng i.e. equality first, then market reforms or just Deng (without Mao) i.e. authoritarian capitalism without breaking up the oligarchy, in which case it is not really the China (or Vietnam) model, but the Philippine elite's self-serving version of it. From my reading of Sycip's article, it seems to be the latter.

March 04, 2007 5:45 AM  
Blogger manuelbuencamino said...

Trade or the exchange of goods and services is probably the most fundamental form of human interaction.

Consequently, we should focus on Free and Fair Trade, emphasis on Fair.

I think most social inequities and their adverse political consequences come from the inability of many to earn an honest living because trade is neither free nor fair anywhere. In other words, the playing field is not level.

Equal access to education, health, etc. in a society where there is political transparency, freedoms, etc. is the great leveller.

Let's pick those parts that enhance equal opportunity from the models you identified and maybe we can produce a model everyone will emulate.

March 05, 2007 12:49 PM  
Blogger engineerOFW said...

Hasn't the People-Power model demonstrated itself several times already with today's Philippines the end-result?

Are you suggesting some romantic notion that reality has belied?

March 29, 2007 1:38 AM  
Anonymous said...

Well, I don't really think it may have success.

October 26, 2011 2:13 PM  
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