I was casting about thinking over several things I might write about this morning when my friend Bob kind of made my decision for me. Bob wrote a post about the advantages of free market versus government managed economy and some of the comments he received absolutely blew me away.
I’m a bit older rhan most around here … I can clearly remember sitting with my mom and a map and the radio listening to the news from Korea every night. I particularly remember one night when the news came over the air that Joseph Stalin had died. I cheered and my mom scolded me for being un-Christian and rejoicing in the death of a fellow human.
One of the reasons I felt that Stalin’s death was something to be glad about was my already well formed impression of how evil and oppressive the Socialistic form of government was and I thought that perhaps Stalin’s departure from the scene might herald a positive change.
Well, it took longer than I thought but most of the former USSR countries are doing well with free market economies. It amazes me quite a bit today how my own US has changed over the past 50 years or so. The Federal Government is now deeply entrenched in areas where, in my opinion (and in the opinion of the authors of our Constitution) they have no business being. One comment I saw to Bob’s post particularly caught my eye. Someone asked, “Why is the government allowing all the prices to climb while our salaries stay the same”?
I have news along those lines … it is not the responsibility of a free government to control either prices or salaries. “That government is best which governs least”.
OK, so I have shown my colors, but don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start a revolution or even run for office (heaven forfend). In general I would win no points from Thomas Jefferson or from Thoreau (whos quote that is above). I’m a former government employee with a pension, actually, and I don’t advocate violent change.
But if you feel at all strongly about those sorts of issues, you have yet another reason to think twice about moving to the Philippines, long term. This is the land of “government at any cost” from what I have seen. And it is nowhere more apparent than in the interaction between government and the economy.
Bob’s post that I mentioned earlier had to do with the elaborate inflexible process of regulating “PUV” fares (Public Utility Vehicles) the common Filipino term for taxis and jeepnies. Buses, both ocal and long-haul are also technically PUV’s but their fares are set by another completely separate and just as convoluted process.
I suppose there is some valid argument in saying that there is justice in the government regulating jeepney fares because, after all, the fares might otherwise climb so high that poor people couldn’t use jeepnies to get to work. But if you have even the most rudimentary understanding of business and logic you can see the fallacy in that common argument. If fares climb so high that common folk can’t afford them, then those folk won’t ride jeepnies and drivers will have to reduce their fares until they are making a profit. It is amazing how many people never learned this kind of simple object lesson in ll their long education.
It is completely unnecessary for the government to intervene in this process, and in point of fact such government intervention insures that everyone, rich an poor pays more than the real value of a jeepney ride, because even if a driver wants to ‘hold a sale’ and carry people for less in order to fill his seats, the government takes away his right to do so … and someone has to pay all the bureaucrat’s salary as well
While researching some writing that I am doing on alternative energy ieas on my PhilFAQS.com site I found a company in Manila who already has a commercially viable all-electric jeepney on the road that not only runs almost 100% on solar energy, but will have zero polution. They claim they can sell it for less than a new conventional diesel smoker jeepney.
Will this work long-term? Is it economically viable? Danged if I know, and danged if we’ll ever find out. Why? Because for nearly two years now they are still waiting for the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the government ‘protector’ of all Jeepney drivers and riders, to give them permission to place it in revenue service. Why should they even have to ask any government permission?
Couldn’t be because the major oil companies and the government are in cahoots to insure the demand for diesel fuel doesn’t drop, could it? Naw, that can’t be, I promised no conspiracy theories.
Closer to home, three years ago a cousin by marriage, electrical engineering graduate and a pretty sharp young man, now in his 30’s, bought a franchise from a Chinese company to sell electric scooters and mini-motorcycles in the Subic Bay Economic Zone and surrounding cities. Cute little scooters, mass produced, well engineered, simple as a stone … charge them overnight like a cell phone, they run all day an 40 kph (way more than you can drive in the city traffic) and are a great source of transportation for the common man. Again, no direct fuel costs and absolutely zero pollution.
Never sold a one in two years. Went bust and is now working for someone else. Why didn’t he sell any? It wasn’t becuase they didn’t work … they are proven technology and actually work great.
They could not be registered to drive on public roads … because the Land Transportation Office license plate people will happily sell even a decrepit, smoke belching motorcycle a license plate as long as the owner has a title which states the vehicle’s engine displacement. An electric motor has no ‘displacement’, thus, no license plate. Appeal after appeal has been filed but after three years, no decision. Eventually the LTO will render a decision, but the business is gone … how can investors wait years with no return on thier investment.
And it’s clearly the job of the “government” to protect us all from unproven new technology like electric-powered non-polluting vehicles (which have been the road since the early 1900’s) isn’t it?
If you are into free markets and a free society, the Philippines might not be a happy place for you to live, believe me. If you like waiting and hoping and wishing for ‘the government’ to cradle you in their arms, come on over. You know ablogging freind of mine once was advocating a new government agency to regulate shopping malls charging parking fees in their own parking lots … “Free parking to be Mandated by the Government”. Wonder why I stopped reading that blog? ;-)