The Capitalist Pig In Me

I’ve always been fixated on the notion that a man’s prosperity is directly proportional to how hard he works to attain such prosperity. In short, for someone who hasn’t inherited a trunk of gold from his ancestors, the only way to succeed is to work his butt off to acquire assets to proudly call his wealth. It follows that a democratic and capitalist society that promotes the virtues of individual initiative is proper and fitting , for such an environment offers a person the much needed latitude to explore his potential and the opportunity to pursue his dreams. Growing up in a capitalist society like Pinas where people had been brainwashed by the proverbial notion of the American Dream, I have seen how the value of government as a primary partner of prosperity diminish and the private sector being hailed as the true agent and purveyor of wealth and prosperity.

When I came to this country, I highly admired the right wing, conservative, pro-business political party agenda because of my unshakeable belief that a government must be run like a business. Working in the corporate world for sometime it was just natural for me to be influenced and blinded by the notion of productivity – less effort for more results, less expense for more profit – there could be no other way. I have survived the trials and tribulations of downsizing and became impervious of its social consequences, convinced that a company must be lean and mean and its loyalty to the almighty dollar the ultimate name of the game.

I lauded political parties that were favorable to businesses and disdained socialist leaning parties that subscribe to the belief that big and strong government is extremely essential, as if people’s lives depended entirely on it. I favored political parties that called for lower taxes and hated those that called for tax increases to boost social assistance programs. I hated the idea of people going on welfare and government subsidy because I never quite understood the concept. From the country where I came from, people never depended on the government for help. If you didn’t work, you didn’t eat – period. I was averse to the idea of my taxes going to those people who don’t work. Deep inside me, I abhorred freeloaders. Heck, if I break my back working to achieve my dreams and wants, why should I support these people who don’t move their butts to support themselves?

After so many years living in this country and witnessing the volatility of politics and the unpredictability of the economy on the global scale, I have come to appreciate more and more the imperfections of society and the unreliable mechanisms that govern it. The Enron imbroglio, the war in Iraq, the oil crisis, the sub-prime mortgage meltdown are examples of the dangers of the wealthy turning a capitalist regime into a plutocracy, distorting the balance of wealth and shattering people’s hopes for a bright future. The trillions of dollars written off by financial institutions all over the world in the sub-prime debacle had shrunk many people’s assets. Many lost their homes, their retirement, their lifetime savings. The root of all of these was the capitalist greed, the desire to amass wealth at every opportunity no matter how risky. Who do they turn to now for help? The government ?

I hated the socialist principles but it was Tommy Douglas, the leader of the first socialist government in Canada and North America for that matter, who introduced and implemented  universal public health care in Canada. It was the socialists who had the fortitude to think that the government must take care of its citizens when they get sick, that everyone, poor and rich alike must be given the same kind of treatment and more importantly, must not be burdened by medical expenses. In a way, the socialist agenda respects the fact that not we are not all equal, that there are the intelligent and not so intelligent among us, there are weak as there are strong, there are wealthy as there are poor, there are the motivated and the discouraged and those who lag must not be left behind and condemned for failing to make the grade.

I am gradually appreciating the virtues of socialism and the notion of a strong government that acts as a social safety net when everything else fails. I believe in the government being a primary partner to prosperity, not only as a universal health care giver and a donor to the underprivileged but also as a catalyst of progress. The capitalist pig in me still believes in prudent fiscal policy and reasonable taxation schemes for businesses and individuals alike. I would like to see an increased presence of socialists in the provincial and federal political arenas not as ruling governments but as strong opposition , to challenge and check the excesses of the capitalist majority agenda. Yes, I admit that I am gradually but cautiously understanding the wisdom of the socialist agenda on the pursuit of equal access and opportunity for all but I am not yet ready to turn into a socialist swine.

DOING BUSINESS IN PINAS

Back to capitalism now, how easy it is to start a business in Pinas ? A company that partners with global financial consulting firms to find out how the ease of doing business in 178 countries has come out with very interesting results. The company’s mission is to “provide objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 178 countries and selected cities at the subnational and regional level ” .

The measurements for the East Asia and Pacific region is not very encouraging for Pinas. In the overall ease of doing business ranking, Pinas is a poor 21 out of 24 countries. The detailed report also says that it takes 27 days to start a business in Taguig and almost twice as long, 52 days in Manila. In the measurements, Pinas was ranked 22 in starting a business, 16th in dealing with licences, 21st in employing workers ( I thought we have an oversupply of talent), 19th in protecting investors, 22nd in paying taxes, 17th in enforcing contracts, and 19th in closing contracts. The results clearly doesn’t bode well for investors and the government needs to do something to improve its efficiency in this area. The highest ranked in the ease of doing business amongst the 178 countries ? Singapore. What about Pinas’ worldwide ranking ? 133 .

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22 Responses

  1. I think I’d like to be a socialist. I’m in debt after a school loan and like anything for free 🙂

  2. things are pretty much status quo here in pinas. in fact, the situation has gotten worse. sigh.
    i wouldn’t mind paying taxes if i am able to utilise the benefits of it such as education, mass transportation and healthcare. but such benefits would remain a dream indefinitely. 😦

  3. “Yes, I admit that I am gradually but cautiously understanding the wisdom of the socialist agenda…” – Hmm, while some folks fell in love and toyed with socialism in their youth, you seem to be quite the opposite, heading towards it at the prime of your life, hehe. 😀

    As for Pinas ranking 133 overall… I’m not surprised. I remember when I was starting a business a decade ago, I was always seething at the thought of having to pay all those different “fees” as they call it, including that barangay tax, or whatever its called. Imagine, kung walang clearance sa neighboring barangay captain your business halts to a standstill. This brings to mind my recent post about Hanjin’s predicament in southern pinas, where several town mayors were acting like Mafia mobsters, asking for millions of pesos just to give a go signal to start construction of the shipyard, that in turn will provide jobs for tens of thousands of Pinoys… hay nako!

  4. Right now, I don’t care whether the country becomes capitalist or socialist as long as I see this poor nation prosper and become a giant in the region once again. The way things are going in Pinas, we’re apparently headed towards doom. Yay!

  5. I guess that there are advantages and disadvantages to both socialist and capitalist governments. People in socialist countries might tend to become lazy if everything, like education and even milk money are handed to them on a silver platter. However, I think that there is much to be said about universal health care as one sickness in the family could turn their lives around for the worse.

    On the other side, capitalist countries are also admirable because as you said, if you work your butt off, you could become prosperous. However, with those merchant-sharks preying on the less-educated, a lot of abuse is possible.

    Yes, whether socialist or communist, a strong honest government is essential for a country to develop and its people to become prosperous.

  6. We need a balance between the conservative and socialist approaches to government. An extremely conservative approach would truly lead to abuses such as Enron and the subprime mess. On the other hand, a government that’s all heart could lead to an ever increasing tax burden. In both instances, a government worthy of its name needs to be vigilant against all forms of abuses and malfeasance.

    As for the Philippines, I’ve always been of the opinion that the country lacks a clear sense of urgency when dealing with our economic problems. More areas within the economy need to be opened to foreign investors. We need a more competitive and open market economy. I no longer care if such move would be detrimental to the Filipino families who have reigned it over the economy for hundreds of years. We need a drastic and profound change to the way our economy works.

  7. i like the capitalist view.

  8. government should really be run like a business. but i always see it run like hell by the politicians.

    i also want the government itslef to be privatized to improve efficiency and transparency 😛

  9. Irrealis – can’t blame you. Perhaps you could ask the govt to forgive your loan 🙂

  10. Mari – semi-socialist countries have high taxation true but they’re almost covered for important expenses – hospitalization and in some Nordic countries, even college/university education so parang patas lang ang laban 😐

  11. Sngl – lately I have realized than in a capitalist country being run by the wealthy, an ordinary man’s assets can be gone in an instant when the so called private sector businesses where we invest most of our money collapse, just like Enron and the subprime debacle 😦 I have realized that socialism can deliver the much needed equilibrium in getting through life and on to retirement but there’s a sacrifice you have to make – be content and reduce your acquistiveness, aka greed 😯 I am amazed at the simplicity of people’s lives. Sometimes I feel they just need shelter, car, tv, play golf or hockey, go to the pub on Friday nights – really what ELSE do we need in life ?

    Einstein in his essay ” Why Socialism” said that in a capitalist country, people get education so they can work and enrich themselves. In a socialist country, they study because they would like to learn. Now that’s pretty serious observation which will make you think hard 😯

    Well, my theory why it is so hard to do business in Pinas is because of two things – the lagay system and the stranglehold of the rich and powerful families impose on those who want to compete with them 😦

  12. Abaniko – I agree with you 100%. As bad as it is today, if socialism provides economic relief to people across the board, then so be it. The ultra rich have too much money to go somewhere else anyways 😯

  13. Toe – you are right. There are those who abuse the system ( that’s what pisses me the most) but there are those who are deserving and I know of some and glad that the govt stepped in to help. In fact sometimes, some people of welfare are better off than those who work, believe me 😦

    Universal health care means that it is free and subsidized by the government through taxes people pay. This is the legacy that socialism had brought to Canada, that many today thank Tommy Douglas for his noble act of implementing it.

    Of course, honesty is to be expected – socialist or capitalist. There is always a tendency for people in office to abuse their powers. 😯

  14. Panaderos – agree with you bro,.Its a choice of free enterprise or high taxation. Canada incidentally is a mix of both. There’s 4 federal policical parties here that play tug of war with policymaking – conservatives, liberals, socialists and separatists 🙂 I think the US needs a socialist party to make politics more interesting 🙂

    The Pinas government sad to say is still saddled with bureacuracy and that’s historical in nature because the oligarchs have, since time immemorial, employed politicians to preserve their business interests. This is why corruption is extremely difficult to eradicate in the country because it is so strong in the higher levels of govt. 😦

  15. Richmond – capitalism is a much better alternative to pure socialism but you can have capitalism with a bit of it which is not bad 🙂

  16. Paetechie – privatization really helps if done properly because clearly, there are businesses that can be managed quite effectively by the private sector than the government. In most cases, the service improves and the cost is brought down. This is however an undertaking that the government can’t afford to screw up because the results will be truly disastrous !

  17. I believe in the government being a primary partner to prosperity, not only as a universal health care giver and a donor to the underprivileged but also as a catalyst of progress.>>> well said bw.

    I agree with Toe on “People in socialist countries might tend to become lazy if everything, like education and even milk money are handed to them on a silver platter.” maybe a balance will do.

  18. oh, it takes time to put up business here. business name. Dala ka ng maraming documents puntang SEC, then register business name sa DOT, minsan kung may kaparehos ka, magisip ka pa. Mahirap. They’ll tell you to come back minsan a few days or weeks after. Then BIR ka, then municipal or city government for business license. tagal!

    *i love your posts – it’s all thought provoking but got no time to type more sensible comments. pasensiya na muna at nasa bundok ako nakatira ngayon.

    hayaan mo malapit na akong magkaroon ng line. more time online! ha! 🙂

  19. monopoly and greed are just two of the cons of a capitalist country and Pinas is definitely no exception.

    based on my experience and line of work, i agree with you that it is easy to put business or commercial establishment here. a small capital is all you need. the success rate however ain’t that inspiring, for in the end, monopoly and greed will always come to the picture.

    great post again bw.

  20. Dong – when I came to this country, every child under 12 had what we called baby bonus,
    something like $33 a month and the cheque was sent to the mother, irrespective whether she made $20K or $200K a year. The policy was changed and the allowance was indexed based on total family income. Those in the high income bracket didn’t get the allowance but those in the lower income got more. I know a family with 4 children that gets $400+ a month after the change. In short, the govt supplemented their income to get them up to a level so they won’t end up in poverty. This is a situation where you must not fret that you lost something because someone else gains. Socialism’s philosophy is lifting the boat for all which can be a hard pill to swallow for those who believe in what you work for is what you get 😯

  21. Ipanema – I can imagine the bureaucracy that you are going through. Pinas is very much entrenched in the manual system and tons of document approvals have to flow all over the place. Things have improved a bit I hope because I remember the days when obtaining a mere birth certificate from the Bureau of Census was almost hell 👿

    Thanks. Just take your time and get back online when you have your DSL line or cable 🙂

  22. Lawstude – as always, abuses by people in power happens in any form of government. As they say, one of man’s greatest challenges is the effective use of power given to him 😯

    It is easy to start a small business in Pinas esp if it is part of the underground economy – i.e., services, buy and sell for example. Monoply is a common practice because even in small towns, no one can penetrate the market if the local government that is controlled by the local businessmen disapproves applications if not blessed by you know who 😉

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