Cooperate or Collapse

Caricature; wit and humor of a nation in picture, song and story (1911) (14782806795) The latest research has looked into the causes of societies failing or collapsing more extensively than ever. This could help in finding out how to fix Philippine society. Why Nations Fail (link to blog) by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson as well as Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (link to Wikipedia) by anthropologist Jared Diamond are the strongest works on this matter to date. Wikipedia (link) summarizes the reasons for societal collapse as follows:

Common factors that may contribute to societal collapse are economical, environmental, social and cultural, and disruptions in one domain sometimes cascade into others. In some cases a natural disaster (e.g. tsunami, earthquake, massive fire or climate change) may precipitate a collapse. Other factors such as a Malthusian catastrophe, overpopulation or resource depletion might be the proximate cause of collapse. Significant inequity may combine with lack of loyalty to a central power structure and result in an oppressed lower class rising up and taking power from a smaller wealthy elite. The diversity of forms that societies evolve corresponds to diversity in their failures.

Damage to Culture

A lot of things point to the Philippines as a society that has already collapsed in the past. Rizal and others have written extensively on how the fabric of society was damaged by the encomienda system, “producing a race without a mind and without a heart” according to his milestone work “The Philippines, A Century Hence“. Get Real Philippines, while being exaggerated and pro-dictatorial in its conclusions, has indeed described phenomena similar to those in James Fallows’ “A Damaged Culture” (link). One of the most damaged cultures is that of the Ik (link):

  • an ethnic group numbering about 10,000 people living in the mountains of northeastern Uganda near the border with Kenya…
  • were displaced from their land to create the Kidepo Valley National Park and consequently suffered extreme famine. Also, their weakness relative to other tribes meant they were regularly raided. The Ik are subsistence farmers who grind their own grain…
  • The Ik people live in several small villages arranged in clusters, which comprise the total “community”. Each small village is surrounded by an outer wall, then sectioned off into familial (or friend-based) “neighborhoods” called Odoks, each surrounded by a wall. Each Odok is sectioned into walled-off households called asaks, with front yards (for lack of a better term) and in some cases, granaries.
  • Children by age three or four are sometimes permanently expelled from the household and form groups called age-bands consisting of those within the same age group. The ‘Junior Group’ consists of children from the ages of three to eight and the ‘Senior Group’ consists of those between eight and thirteen.
  • No adults look after the children, who teach each other the basics of survival. However, it is not certain whether this practice is typical Ik tradition or merely triggered by unusual famine conditions. Joseph A. Tainter proposes this fragmentation to be an artifact of the dire circumstances where each person must depend on their own resources alone to find food and the age peers band together primarily to protect themselves from older stronger children who would take their food.

Much worse than the batang hamog that Karl Garcia mentioned in the past article, showing that there are degrees of damage to culture, much like there are degrees of how one can burn oneself. There is a study by the anthropologist Turnbull which is controversial, but does summarize the worst aspects of what happened to the Ik as follows:

“There is no better or more heartbreaking example of the alienation of the human capacity to love than the story of the Ik tribe of Uganda. Colin Turnbull in his book Mountain People documents how Milton Obote nationalized traditional hunting lands as national park for European tourists, and prevented the Ik from hunting in their traditional hunting grounds. After a couple of generations of starvation conditions, the Ik, originally a cooperative, child loving tribe, became a group of selfish cruel people who don’t trust or help anybody.

Subsidiarity, Solidarity, Humanity

are the three aspects of a functioning society that Manong Sonny has mentioned. Karl Garcia in the previous article on serving the community and the environment has looked at how to build some degree of subsidiarity and solidarity – thereby increasing humanity in the long run – at the barangay and municipal level. This is the bottom-up approach, but I think one must add:

  • the state has to protect communities against impunity, i.e. armed violence. Lumad communities in Mindanao even organize their own schools, I have read, but are often prey to impunity.
  • the state has to make its basic services more accessible to communities. Not force people to go to different offices. Have extension offices in regions, municipalities, even in barangays.
  • the state has to develop more of a service-oriented mindset. This is hard in a country were not even banks are truly service-oriented yet. It would be less of a foreign body for the people.

Negosyo Centers, Justice on Wheels mentioned by Karl, pilot projects with courts working in Filipino like I mentioned are ideas like this. The popularity of both Binay and Duterte rests mainly on their having implemented citizen services at the local level. Even if they made their workarounds. I suspect that the principalia, the native chiefs whom the Spanish coopted to help rule, often made workarounds for their respective villages and were loved by their people if they did for their benefit. Hated if they insisted on implementing often impracticable Spanish laws to the letter.

The Polder Model

The Dutch have polders (link) and each community is in charge of not only warding off the sea, but managing its own natural resources and keeping things clean. Dutch water boards (link) are among the oldest democratic institutions of the country, democracy in its best form being people cooperating for their common interests. In the case of the water boards these are the interests:

managing water barriers, waterways, water levels, water quality and sewage treatment in their respective regions.

In the Philippines it could be making sure mountains are reforested (link) or at least planted with crops like moringa (link) and disaster mitigation. This is one level above the community level that Karl has mentioned in the previous article. Communities that are in the same zone could be encouraged to form alliances to ward of ecological collapse, mitigate natural catastrophes and increase agricultural productivity, possibly even allow for ecotourism. This is regional. The Dutch polder model (link) is also used to describe cooperation and balance of interests at a national level:

The Dutch polder model is characterised by the tri-partite cooperation between employers’ organisations such as VNO-NCW, labour unions such as the Federation Dutch Labour Movement, and the government. These talks are embodied in the Social-Economic Council (Dutch: Sociaal-Economische Raad, SER)… During the postwar period, the Catholic, Protestant, Christian, social-democratic, and liberal parties decided to work together to reconstruct the Netherlands, as did unions and employers’ organizations. Important institutions of the polder model, like the SER, were founded in this period… ever since the Middle Ages, when the process of land reclamation began, different societies living in the same polder have been forced to cooperate because without unanimous agreement on shared responsibility for maintenance of the dykes and pumping stations, the polders would have flooded and everyone would have suffered.

In the Philippines, the system of warring barangays worked well for a long time. But there were only about 4 million people in the country around 1800. Today there are 25 times as many people. History I have read mentions that landownership, for example, hardly mattered in the old Philippines because there was always enough new land to slash and burn, then leave after a while to regrow the forest. Now there are hardly any forests left. The population when Marcos rule ended was almost three times that of when Magsaysay’s plane crashed. Now there are nearly twice as many Filipinos as in 1986. Even if what they say is true that the Philippines could export rice during Marcos days, the present population and the land do not allow it anymore. The countries of the Mekong delta can produce rice more cheaply and in larger amounts. Time maybe to look at the Dutch way, people of the sea, survivors of calamities. Cooperate – or collapse.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 14. April 2016

35 thoughts on “Cooperate or Collapse


    Cacique Democracy
    Wednesday, December 26, 2012
    Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
    “Let’s set aside culture and return to the colonial history of the Philippines and how it influenced institutions. One of the most influential analyses of this is due to the political scientist Benedict Anderson, whose 1988 article in the New Left Review “Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams” laid out a theory of the political economy of the Philippines. Like Fallows’s article (which we discussed here) , Anderson’s was written in the wake of the People’s Power Movement that had ousted Ferdinand Marcos. Everyone was trying to come up with forecasts for where the Philippines was going. Fallows’s answer was: nowhere, because, he argued, the real problem was not Marcos but Filipino culture. Anderson’s answer was also nowhere, but from a very different perspective.

    As we noted in our first post on the Philippines, though the country was a Spanish colony and even shared the same specific institutions as Spain’s American colonies, there were important differences. There was little settlement by Spaniards, and as a result the Church essentially ran the colony. They invested little in education, and at the time of US occupation probably no more than 5% of the population spoke Spanish. In the 19th century after the collapse of the Spanish empire in the Americas, commercial restrictions were gradually lifted on the Philippines and a non-Spanish economic elite, often of Chinese descent, emerged. They gradually acquired education and spearheaded the nationalist movement that ousted the Spanish shortly before the US invasion. Yet the behavior of the US administration was to turn this elite into a real oligarchy.

    First, they expropriated about 400,000 acres of land that had been church estates and auctioned it off. It was the elite that had money to buy this land.

    Second, right from the beginning they staffed the administration with locals, but these were positions that the educated elite was best placed to fill. In addition, meritocratic criteria were not applied for recruitment into this administration, so the oligarchy could easily dominate them, as Anderson puts it:

    Here is the origin of the ‘political dynasties’ —among them the Aquinos and Cojuangcos—which make Filipino politics so spectacularly different from those of any other country in Southeast Asia.

    Third, they introduced elections first at the local level for provincial governors in 1902, then for the lower house of the legislature in 1907, then a bicameral assembly in 1916, and finally for the executive in 1935. Though this sequencing of elections, with local ones coming first appears like a good idea in the abstract, in practice it allowed the newly entrenched oligarchy to dominate local politics and then to build on the skills they honed at this level to capture the successive democratic institutions that were opened up (albeit with a very restrictive property franchise).

    As a result of all of this, from the start the Philippines was a captured democracy, even if the elites who were doing the capturing were different from the elites of Latin America — they owed their power more to the way the US had structured their colony.

    Nevertheless, elite dominance had the same effects in the Philippines as in Latin America — most notably extractive economic institutions and poor economic growth. After independence in 1945 they maintained this dominance. Indeed, the first serious attempt to break it was by, none other than, Ferdinand Marcos who after his election in 1965 introduced marshal law and suspended the constitution in 1972. He then ruled in this fashion until ousted in 1986 by Corazon Aquino and People’s Power.

    Marcos went down in history as a run-of-the-mill kleptocratic dictator, but actually there was more to it than that. If you read his 1974 book Notes on the New Society of the Philippines you’ll see that his diagnosis of the root cause of the problems of the Philippines is precisely that it is dominated by an oligarchy. So, Marcos justified his policies by the attempt to break the oligarchy’s control over the economy and the polity!

    And why was Anderson so pessimistic in 1988 about the future of the Philippines?

    Precisely because, though he did not consider the Marcos dictatorship a success, it was followed after 1986 by the return of the oligarchy. So Anderson argues:

    the truth is that the President, born Corazon Cojuangco, is a member of one of the wealthiest and most powerful dynasties within the Filipino oligarchy… Her marriage to Benigno Aquino, Jr., at various periods Governor of Tarlac and Senator, linked her to another key dynasty of Central Luzon.

    So People’s Power overthrew the dictator Marcos in order to reinstate the oligarchy….”


    300 Years in the Convent, 50 years in Hollywood
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012
    Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
    “James is currently in the Philippines researching extractive institutions with Pablo Querubín. This is the first in a series of joint blogs by the three of us about the Philippines through the lenses of Why Nations Fail.


    Over the past 50 years one of the most extraordinary economic developments has been the rise of East Asia. This started with Japan after World War II, to be followed by the ‘Asian Tigers’ Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, and after that Malaysia. Even Indonesia was doing well for a while, and in fact, it managed to squeeze into the World Bank’s much cited 1992 report on the East Asian Miracle.

    But all East Asian economies have not been miraculous. Take North Korea for example. One of the most puzzling economic failures has been that of the Philippines since independence from the US in 1946, which also started with very similar levels of income per-capita to South Korea or Taiwan in the 1950s.

    Those prone to the fallacy that particular countries leave particular immutable institutional legacies in their colonies might have thought that the Philippines had all the institutions to succeed. The US had built a democratic legislature and congress, they built schools and educated judges, and they implanted English as a national language that some social scientists have linked to economic success.

    What with this and important linkages to the US market, for example a sugar quota which moved from Cuba to the Philippines after the Cuban Revolution, the country looked like it ought to have been set for success.

    Yet the Philippines was not in the World Bank’s report

    Digging deeper, we will see that this is not a surprise. Though the Philippines is in East Asia, its history is very different from other East Asian countries. Reflecting on Philippine colonial history, Stanley Karnow in his book In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines characterized it as being “300 years in the convent, 50 years in Hollywood.”

    By this he meant to convey the impression that the Philippines had languished under colonialism, hidden in the convent and entertained by Hollywood, while the world had dramatically changed.

    It was first colonized by the Spanish in 1565, though the great mariner Ferdinand Magellan had visited the islands in 1521 where he has been killed on the island of Lapu-Lapu (Mactan) near the modern city of Cebu. The key economic institutions that the Spanish used to control and exploit the indigenous peoples of the Americas, like the encomienda, were also used in the Philippines but there were important differences. For one, there were few Spanish settlers and the governance of the islands was left to the Church. Moreover, large parts of the archipelago, particularly the southern island of Mindanao, were never controlled by the Spanish until the 19th century and maintained de facto independence.

    We met Mindanao in Why Nations Fail where we showed how the expansion of the Dutch East Indies Company had reversed development among the sultanates of this island. Though in the 17th century the Spanish ruled in Manila or Cebu, the Sultan of Maguindanao was still independent. (Such enduring independence was not unknown in colonial South America. Soon after the early conquest of Chile, the Spanish lost control of the south of the country to the warlike Araucanian and Mapuche Indians who were not conquered until the second half of the 19th century.)

    Spanish colonialism was cast off in 1898, only to be replaced by US colonialism that lasted until 1946. Like many post-colonial experiences with democracy, that in the Philippines collapsed in 1972 with President Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law. His viciously kleptocratic regime was finally forced from office by a popular revolt in 1986. Now all that most people recall of this regime is the 3,000 shoes of Marcos’ wife Imelda (800 of which are now on show at the Marikina Shoe Museum in Manila).

    On the surface this seems very different from the trajectories of other East Asian countries and the obvious explanation is the different colonial history. The Philippines is just a Latin American country stuck in East Asia, with Evita replaced by Imelda. Right?

    In the next few posts we will dig deeper into the roots of poverty in the Philippines and discuss some of the explanations that have been produced to account for it.

    But first it is worth noting that the fact that the Philippines was on a par in terms of income per-capita with South Korea or Taiwan in the 1950s says little about what the long-run economic prospects of the societies were. Many other countries with radically different underlying growth prospects, such as Ghana, had similar income levels. All were emerging from long periods of colonialism: South Korea and Taiwan from that of Japan, the Philippines from that of Spain, and the US and Ghana from that of Britain. In nearly every non-settler colony, colonialism had the effect at best of trapping the country in amber. There was no chance of institutional change or structural transformation. Little chance of indigenous innovation or adaptation to a changing world. At independence, living standards often bore little relation to the long-run prospects for economic growth.

    But what then were these differences that led to such poor economic growth in the Philippines? And how come they got stuck with Marcos rather than President Park or Chiang Kai-Shek?”


    Marcos versus Park  

    “As we noted in our last post, there is a far more charitable account of the Marcos dictatorship after 1972 in the Philippines than brought to mind by Imelda’s 3,000 pairs of shoes. 
    Marcos himself argued that the move to autocracy was needed to discipline the oligarchs and discipline them he did.
    The Lopez family was one of these. Before martial law Marcos had Fernando Lopez as his vice president as part of a strategy to co-opt the oligarchs. But after 1972 Marcos discarded him and expropriated his assets, sugar estates, media empire and power generating plants. He cowed the rest of the sugar oligarchs into submission. He also centralized the state and embarked on an attempt to promote industrial exports.
    In these strategies and aspirations Marcos was quite similar to Park Chung-Hee in South Korea. Park rose to power in a coup in 1961 and one of his first acts was to arrest and lock up business oligarchs on the grounds that they were “illicit profiteers”. Park similarly abandoned the attempt to keep himself in power through elections in 1972, just as Marcos did. He also famously launched an ambitious export-driven industrialization plan.
    The difference between the Marcos and the Park experiences, however, is that while the latter was a huge economic success, the first collapsed into an orgy of rent seeking and looting of the state. Why the difference?
    This takes us back to the history and in particular the history of the construction of the state. As we saw in our previous post, the state in the Philippines was built from the bottom up in a way which facilitated its capture by the oligarchy. This captured state was highly patrimonial, largely lacking meritocratic recruitment and promotion of the bureaucracy for example. Appointments were made on the basis of political criteria, for example, ability to help win elections.
    The history of the state in South Korea was very different. As Peter Evans pointed out in his seminal book on comparative economic development, Embedded Autonomy, the Korean state developed by Park was able to tap into a rich history of meritocracy dating back to an examination system which the pre-colonial Korean state had adopted from imperial China. Both Park and Marcos tried to build the state, but they worked in the context of very different historical legacies and contemporary politics. In Korea, land reform had obliterated much of the traditional elites.
    Ultimately, both Park and Marcos attempted to launch what we call “extractive growth” in Why Nations Fail. This was a success in Korea but not in the Philippines because Marcos did not have the type of state that was capable for generating economic growth from above. In Korea, Park was able to create hard budget constraints, and credible rewards and punishments for economic success and failure. Marcos had no such option with his captured patrimonial state. Perhaps the looting started because he realized that Korean style industrialization was not an option in the Philippines (though in fact there is evidence that it dates back to the 1960s).
    All that being said, as we also point out in Why Nations Fail, even Korean growth could not have been sustained without the transition to inclusive political institutions and away from Park’s authoritarian regime.
    But equally importantly, the Philippines experience also suggests that extractive growth is not even a transitory option for countries lacking the type of centralized state that Park inherited and strengthened.”


    Political Dynasties in the Philippines  

    “In our discussion so far on the Philippines we have seen how the political system was captured by an oligarchy whose consolidation was greatly facilitated by the way the US set up their colony. Marcos tried to break the oligarchy, but he failed and indeed if anything, as Benedict Anderson pointed out, the oligarchy surfaced after 1986 even more powerful than ever.
    The clearest manifestation of the oligarchy in the Philippines and how it impacts politics is the existence of political dynasties. Now you’d be right in noting that every country in the world has political dynasties. The US has the Bush dynasty, the Kennedy dynasty, Colombia has the López family, the Lleras family and the grandfather of the current president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, was president between 1938 and 1942. Winston Churchill’s son was even a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party in Britain.
    But the extent to political dynasties in the Philippines is off the chart compared to any other country in the world. 60% of congress-people elected in 2007 had a previous relative who were also in congress. To give some sense of how high this is, the analogous figure in the US was 7%. In roughly half of the 80 provinces of the Philippines the governor is related to one of the congress-people.
    This family run government is not a new thing in the Philippines and it dates all the way back to the US creation of democracy. In the first elections the US organized, to be eligible to run you had to come from a set of elite families recognized by the Americans, called the principalia. This was one of the ways in which the oligarchs had a huge head start and incumbent advantage became the way of life in the Philippines. This has led to very long-run family advantages. For instance, in the province of Leyte, a member of the Veloso family has been either a congress-person or the governor since 1916.
    How is it that these families perpetuate themselves in power even today? For one thing, being a member of a political dynasty massively increases your probability of being elected to any political office. For instance, if you are from a political dynasty and run for congress, you are 22 percentage points more likely to get elected relative to a non-dynastic candidate. This effect is even larger, 40 percentage points, if the dynastic candidate currently has a member of the family in some political office.
    But this correlation could mean many things. Maybe rich families with large landholdings or wealth or some specific talent form dynasties and it is not really the dynasty that matters but these characteristics correlated with the formation of a political dynasty. For example, Ted Kennedy came from a dynasty of rich Bostonians with a strong interest (and success) in politics. But perhaps, it wasn’t that his father was a senator or his brother a president that made Ted Kennedy likely to be elected, but his family’s wealth or other characteristics of this ambitious family.
    To tackle exactly this issue Pablo Querubín in his research “Family and Politics: Dynastic Persistence in the Philippines” compares non-dynastic political candidates who just win office, to those who just lose (either dynastic or non-dynastic). The idea with this “just win office” strategy (or as it is called, the regression discontinuity strategy) is that this approximates a situation where the candidate who won did so “almost randomly” relative to the candidate who just lost (think of a coin toss determining whether a candidate with exactly 50% of the vote gets one more vote or whether his rival does). This in particular should ensure that whether one of these just winning candidates didn’t do so because of their special talents or wealth relative to candidates who just lost it.
    What Pablo finds is that those who win in these circumstances are 4 times more likely to have a future relative holding political office. This suggests that, given other institutional and political features of the Philippines, just holding office, other things equal, is enough to help create a political dynasty.
    All this means that it may have been the initial conditions that the US imposed that shaped which political dynasties form, and perhaps even the origins of the power of political dynasties in the first place.”


    Wala na ngang wangwang dati bumalik pa.

    No more “wang wang” in the Philippines?  

    “For several weeks now we have been discussing the long-run history of development in the Philippines and its legacy for the present, why the Philippines failed to become a “Tiger economy” and how contemporary politics is riven by dynastic control and clientelism? Is there a way out?
    There is some hope that the answer to this is yes. In his inaugural State of the Nation address President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino noted:
    Do you want the corrupt held accountable? So do I. Do you want to see the end of wang-wang, both on the streets and in the sense of entitlement that has led to the abuse that we have lived with for so long? So do I. Do you want to give everyone a fair chance to improve their lot in life? So do I.
    The expression “wang wang”, derived from the blaring sirens of politicians’ and elites’ cars urging common people to get out of the way so they can come through, is commonly used in the Philippines to refer to the syndrome of corruption and lack of accountability of elites which plagues politics in the country.
    Now there is some irony in President Aquino, a fourth-generation politician of a distinguished political family, spearheading a campaign to clean up Filipino politics and reduce corruption and elite-control.
    It was the assassination of President Aquino’s father in 1983 that led to the social mobilization and the People’s Power Movement, which ended the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 and catapulted his mother Corazon into the presidency.
    President Aquino’s mother failed to eliminate wang wang because she had to spend a great deal of time fending off military coups and in order to regain some stability in many ways facilitated the re-consolidation of dynastic power (and perhaps dynastic politicians aren’t always the best ones to end the elite control).
    But the military is under civilian control now and her son is trying to make a transition towards a different society. Can he do it? Does he really mean it?
    President Aquino’s strategy appears multi-faceted. Part of it is to greatly expand a conditional cash transfer program CCT) and Community Driven Development (CDD) programs which deliver money and resources directly into the hands of poor people. The CCT program has been specifically designed to make sure that it is not hijacked by clientelistic politicians. To target the program to the poor, the government undertook a household survey to objectively identify who was poor and in the process cleared off the pre-existing list of “poor people”, hundreds of thousands of people who were incorrectly labeled poor for the sake of transferring patronage to them.
    But can such a system actually break the grip of political patrons on local politics?
    It might. As we argued in our discussion of the collapse of the Christian Democratic political machine in Naples in the 1970s, the construction of car factories which brought higher paying jobs was critical in making poor people autonomous from political bosses and vote buying machines. But the Naples example also suggests that organization was important too. It was crucial that the Christian Democrats were not able to control who got jobs at the car factories and the communist Italian trade unions made sure they could not. So the CCT program in the Philippines may loosen the grip of political bosses, but probably it needs organization for poor people to identify and articulate an alternative, better vision of how public good should be allocated.
    The evidence in the Philippines also suggests the power of organization. Though, as we have seen, politics in the country is typically clientelistic, there is interesting variation.
    Local politics is very different from the norm in cities of Naga and Cebu. Both feature reformist mayors and a local politics focused on public good provision and politicians competing on their track record.
    In our field work in Cebu, we met with local organizations of poor urban people who actually endorsed different candidates. Before local elections they invite the different candidates to come and address them, and then they grade them according to different criteria. Once they have picked the one they think is the best, they work for this person’s election. This situation does not lead to a different type of clientelism simply targeted at the organized groups, but a different sort of politics. As one lady said to us:
    if you sell your vote, you don’t get any services.
    So vote buying is out, services and public goods are in.
    When we asked where all this organization came from, we were told it was a direct legacy of the People’s Power Movement which had overthrown Marcos. People had organized to fight for the end of martial law and the dictatorships and after the return to democracy they had stayed organized and used this to try and get the new democratic institutions to deliver.
    The situation in Naga is similar there though spearheaded by a reformist mayor Jesse Robredo, who tragically died in an air crash last year. But just as in Cebu, when you dig into the Naga case you see the power of organization. This has been done by Maria Teresa Melgar in an unpublished 2010 PhD Dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (“Constructing Local Democracy in Post-Authoritarian Settings: A Comparison between Porto Alegre, Brazil and Naga, the Philippines”). Just as in Cebu, the transition away from clientelistic politics in Naga has been spearheaded by intense social organization which has striven to stop clientelistic political practices and demand services and public goods.
    What is unclear however is why the legacy of People’s Power was so strong in these two places but not elsewhere. It is also not clear if CCT on its own can create organization independently or in conjunction with CDD.
    Some CDD programs have actually been designed with the specific aim of bolstering the organizational capacity of communities. But in this they seem to have failed, as exemplified by an attempt in Sierra Leone studied by Katherine Casey, Rachel Glennester and Ted Miguel. The failure in Sierra Leone seems to have been mostly because the program was designed without a real theory of what the political problem was in the first place they were trying to solve.
    How to build effective organization and what Robert Putnam called “social capital” in his seminal Making Democracy Work in order to combat clientelism is something that the Aquino government will have to learn, and fast given that he is term limited when his presidency ends (actually the terminology of social capital was coined in the 1970s by the Brown economist Glenn Loury, but it was Putnam who popularized it and made it the centerpiece of his innovative theory of politics).
    So why is it that we and the Filipinos should pin their hopes of such fundamental institutional change on a dynastic politician? There are a couple of answers, and of course one of them is wishful thinking. But more seriously, it probably has something to do with the fact that this particular dynasty is also deeply interwoven with the People’s Power Movement, which has brought down Marcos and has turned, as we have just explained, into a force towards making the Philippines a more inclusive society. More speculatively, it may well be that the political power of dynasties is a double-edged sword. That power, by shielding them, enables many politicians to fill their pockets and increase the dominance of their families. But it also enables a few, with the vision and the courage to do so, the elbow room to attempt real change. Time will show whether this more optimistic interpretation is on target, and if so, whether such an attempt can actually succeed. “


    A Damaged Culture?  

    “That’s what James Fallows said in his 1987 article in The Atlantic was the problem with the Philippines. According to this hypothesis the difference between the Philippines and South Korea in 1960, say, was that the former had a bad culture, while the latter had a good one, or at least one that was consistent with economic growth. For every country that is poor, there is normally a commonly cited cultural explanation of why it is poor, resting on some dysfunctional aspect of national character or religion, and Philippines is no exception to the rule. Therefore, let’s take the bull by the horns and get this explanation out of the way.
    Fallows starts his argument by stating:
    The countries that surround the Philippines have become the world’s most famous showcases for the impact of culture on economic development. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore—all are short on natural resources, but all (as their officials never stop telling you) have clawed their way up through hard study and hard work. Unfortunately for its people, the Philippines illustrates the contrary: that culture can make a naturally rich country poor.
    Yes it is right that people in Japan, for example, study and work hard. But the economic growth of Japan was certainly not due to culture. As we note in Why Nations Fail, Japan was a very poor feudal society lacking a modern state until the 1860s when a political revolution created new institutions that set it on the path to modern economic growth.
    This growth was in fact relatively modest until after World War II. Then in the wake of military defeat and the US occupation, Japanese society shifted in a radically more inclusive direction. There was agrarian reform and the break up of the big industrial cartels, the Zaibatsus, and there was a new constitution that helped to create a much more inclusive political system. A broader distribution of political rights went along with a powerful central state whose famous agency, the MITI, played an important role in encouraging investment and steering the post war economic growth. Where is Japanese culture here?
    Having asserted that East Asian success is due to good culture, Fallows goes on to argue:
    It seems to me that the prospects for the Philippines are about as dismal as those for, say, South Korea are bright. In each case the basic explanation seems to be culture: in the one case a culture that brings out the productive best in the Koreans (or the Japanese, or now even the Thais), and in the other a culture that pulls many Filipinos toward their most self-destructive, self-defeating worst.
    But have the prospects of South Korea always been bright as Fallows claims ? Were the economic prospects of North Korea, which shares the same Korean culture of course, not just as bright until the economy became enmeshed in collective ownership and central planning which destroyed incentives and opportunities? As we discuss in Why Nations Fail, this example is telling. North and South Korea had the same culture when they were divided but very different institutional structures were created in the South. It is of course not culture that explains South Korea’s success but institutions.
    Fallows does approvingly quote the analysis of Benigno Aquino, whose assassination launched the People’s Power Movement in the 1980s which finally ousted Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and whose son is the current president. It goes like this:
    Here is a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor… . Here is a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy. Here, too, are a people whose ambitions run high, but whose fulfillment is low and mainly restricted to the self-perpetuating elite.
    This description of the problems of the Philippines could apply to any run-of-the-mill Latin American country, but how does culture come into the picture exactly?
    In the end Fallows’ argument boils down to something remarkably like that proposed by Edward Banfield in his famous book about the south of Italy The Moral Basis of a Backward Society, which we briefly discussed in this post. Here is Fallows’ version:
    Filipinos pride themselves on their lifelong loyalty to family, schoolmates, compadres, members of the same tribe, residents of the same barangay. … But when observing Filipino friendships I thought often of the Mafia families portrayed in The Godfather: total devotion to those within the circle, total war on those outside. Because the boundaries of decedent treatment are limited to the family or tribe, they exclude at least 90 percent of the people in the country. And because of this fragmentation—this lack of nationalism—people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country I have seen.
    He goes on to give examples of how Filipinos fail to care about any public goods, throw their food wrappers in the street and refuse to cooperate to the benefit of society.
    It is a bit hard for us, though, to see how this adds up to a cultural theory of what Benigno Aquino was pointing out.
    Fallows does argue that these cultural traits were intensified by Spanish and US colonial rule, and the sense of “dependency” and passivity that they inculcated. Yet it is a bit of a mystery how exactly dependence is related to the family-centric behavior he noted above.
    In reality everyone in every country of the world trusts their family more than people outside their family. As Victor Nee and Sonja Opper show in their recent book Capitalism from Below, the great manufacturing boom that started in China in the 1980s was primarily driven by the private sector. The Communist Party did not provide institutions, so Chinese entrepreneurs built them themselves, for example by using reputation and existing trust relationships to enforce contracts. But contracts are easier to enforce with your kin and it is easier to lend money and be sure you’ll get it back if you lend to kin. Thus strong kin relations did not inhibit this crucial stage of Chinese capitalism, they facilitated it.
    As for littering, standard economics suggests that individuals are very bad at efficiently dealing with public goods or public bads, which is where the state comes in. The Philippines certainly has had a very different state than Japan and South Korea, and as we will argue in our next post, this seems a much more plausible part of a convincing story of the path of economic development in the Philippines than building it all (or attempting to   build it all) on culture.
    There undoubtedly are cultural differences between the Filipinos and the Japanese, for instance. But the striking thing about Japan is how it modernized while preserving its rich and unique culture. Our guess is that the Philippines can do the same.”


    August 10, 2006 at 11:14 am (UTC 8) Link to this comment
    Please note that we have certain myths about the formation of democracy especially since we are basically a colonial construct.
    The evolution of democratic governments most especailly the American form went through the foundries of history. Struggle and demands of freedom. Below are exerpts from Lincoln’s first inaugural address. It clearly shows his briliant mind and devotion to duty, God and nation as he saw fit to carry out. He clearly declares that war is a political necessity if forced upon the government. At the tinme of his inaugural a few states had already seceeded from the Union. He was desperately still trying to win them back. Personally he was against slavery but :

    …..”I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

    …. “Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:
    Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.”

    “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I can not be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

    “The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have referred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves can do this if also they choose, but the Executive as such has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present Government as it came to his hands and to transmit it unimpaired by him to his successor.

    “Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with His eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people.”

    “By the frame of the Government under which we live this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and have with equal wisdom provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance no Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.”

    “My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new Administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.”
    “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.”
    “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”


    Based on the value of gold today based on DJB’s piece on the cost of building Kennon Road today would be $2.6 billion. Gold costing between $650-$700 an ounce.

    It is surprising that most people do not see the evolution of the original Jeffersonian Democrats to today and the evolution of the Hamiltonian Republicans to today’s Republicans. Hamilton was also a banker. The bank that he established still exists today in New York City. He set the foundation for the industrialists of the U.S. The Civil War was more about trade than slavery. The rapidly industrializing North versus the agricultural South. The industrialists funded Lincoln’s war. Lincoln’s first act was to prevent trade between the South and England and Europe. He imposed a blockade in New Orleans and all ports. Confederate money soon became worthless. No trade no gold. He continued the dirigist policy set up by Hamilton. Mercantilism and industrial policy guided by a national monetary system separate from Europe and England. It was Hamiltons idea of a national central bank that was formally initiated by Wilson in 1913. And strengthened by FDR in 1934 making it part of his government’s semi-command of the U.S. economy.

    Most people debate about capitalism without realizing that capitalism is a social format like feudalism before it. Adam Smith saw the benefits of free land and free farmers in America. Everyone could have land. That was the basis of the agricultural revolution that propelled the U.S. to becoming number 1. Then the timing could not have been more perfect. Technological inventions started with the cotton gin in America then the steam engine in England then trains then the mass production of iron into steel through the Bessemer process. America actually never went through a feudal system. That is why they hate kings. America was democracy only for those farmers, tradesman and traders who were white and owned property. Everyone else had to fight for the right to vote. From being the farmers the sons and daughters later on became the labor force with the immigrants for the industrializing America. It was that labor force that later became the mass base for Jefferson’s Democrat. FDR institutionalized the union movement and till today there are many Republicans including the Bush’s who insider FDR to be a commie. LBJ finally freed all blacks with the signing of the Civil Rights Act and moved FDR’s ideas even more left with his Great Society policies. The biggest battle upcoming will be about universal healthcare and access to higher education by the vast majority in the U.S.

    Keynesian though actually saved capitalism from collapsing. It actually requires a nation state to accomplish this. But it still does not solve the inherent aspect of capitalism – overcapcity.

    It is so funny that many people point to Marxists who they believe are against capitalism. It actually is a social format that will occur when an economy evovles from agriculture to the industiralization process that will eventually even industrialize the agricultural process. Marx did not like the capitalists. But he liked the industrial revolution as this was going to free man from the toils of physical labor. His greatest error was in not realizing that the means of production is the human being. The amazing capacity of humans to create and change the universe. It brought with it the dangers also of destroying the world as we know it.

    The basic problem that remains with command economies is simple. Initiative and innovation for the common good. Is technology for all humanity to benefit from or do we leave it to natural selection. Power can always be abused as when rtechnology is used to destroy human life on a scale unseen before. Hitler’s Germany industrialized the genocide of people. His brand of national democratic socialism. Stalin did it too and so did Mao. The white man did it on every continent including the Philippines to educate the savage.

    Unfortunately there will be more commas and stuff that happens under the different brands for rationalizing (realativism). “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is one such brand. “Globalization” is another. Competitiveness another.

    The genuis Intengan recently complained that the Philippines is a ‘dysfunctional patriarchal liberal democracy.’ A feudal liberal democracy is a contradiction in terms and in substance. It is oxymoronic. Morons would not know the difference. He takes great pains to avoid using Marxist sociological terms like feudalism. The present Pope had to be corrected when he related the Theology of Liberation to Marxist dogma. Marx was never an economist and should not be seen as one.His field was sociology and his ideas on that are most compelling as with Darwin. Darwin was about natures food chain and evolution being dependent on factor endowments and Marx was about the human food chain and the effects of technological advances on the food chain. Please note that when food becomes scarce even humans will eat each other.

    Today so far two economists in the person of Robert Samuelson and Brain Arthur with the former Marxist Alvin Toffler say that we are seeing a new stage of development apart and substantially different that started with the industrial revolution. Toffler calls it the Third Wave. Samuelson simply calls it the next stage of capitalism.


    those who believe in natural rights, the fruits of labor is property. Land is the means to acquire it in organized agricultural societies. Who owns the rivers and the seas?

    Why will land be titled to a select few. The idea that the lucky sperm club members should own and control lands beqeuathed to them is a sacrilege.

    Because most of these countries first developed their trading outposts first and later reverted back to agricultural/industrial development by command to change an event in history.

    Their natural evolutionary process of climbing up the ladder of development was inverted. Trading entrepots imposed by outside forces.

    That process of trading entrepots like Manila, Cebu etc. neglected the agricultural sector. So you have two social formats. Manila which is more integrated with its premeir colonial master while the rest of the agricultural sector lies moribund and stuck in primitve means of accumulation of the surplus. We sell crude resources in exchange for finished goods. If we were a country of 10 million people we could very easily ravage most of the islands for survival like we have already done.

    While the accumulation of exporting resources (forrests)have seriously depleted the natural reservior of the country and now reverting back and trying to “modernize” a carabao rain fed agricultural system is more problematical.

    Case in point; In the U.S., it is the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers that has the responsibility over all the rivers and waterways of the U.S. The natural erosion that occurs when rains bring with it top soil and rivers have to be continuosly silted. That silt is then redeopisted over acres of farms as it carries with nutirents of the soil.

    Here in the Philippines the loss of arable land is continuing and the process of water depletion is contuing. It is allowed to wash into the oceans.

    More progressive countries have very strict land use laws and follow this very strictly as land has a social function anbd economic function.

    There is one philosophical reality that Adam Smith came out with before Marx. The value of eveything (price) is dependent on the labor value used in its creation. That is the foundation of property.

    In all economies you have labor divided into the productive sectors and the unproductive sectors. The agricultural and industrial sector are the productive sectors while the service side is the unproductive sector. Again this is based on Adam Smith which Marx carried forward.

    When Smith and later Marx referred to the productive forces they were referring to the productive sectors of the economy.

    It is the labor valued expended that creates the natural price of things. Then these creations are then sold in the market for the market price. The fight ensues over that surplus generated. Who owns most of it and who shall preside over the sharing. That creates the eternal conflict between the workers and the one who owns the means of production.

    The artisan class were to become the members of the proletariat. They are the builders. Your modern day engineers and scientists. It is they who will later move to reintegrate the agriculture sector into raising the productivity of growing food.

    They will literally move mountains and create new rivers and systems of irrigation.

    The wonders of China during the early pre-industrial years is they constructed like the Romans before them engineering works to create irrigation systems for their farmers.

    But here in the Philippines the trading mindset which was imposed by the colonizers created a nation of traders/bankers. No builders. Hence the Philippines except for the rice terraces have no engineering landmarks built by man. Till today this mindset for trading still remains. We export our productive labor since there is no labor market for them.

    That is not an accident. That was deliberate policy. That is precisely the policy imposed by the British in the colonies that was America and India. The U.S. fought a civil war becuase of that clashing policy. Gandhi and Nehru led that fight for economic autnonomy that led to political autonomy from the British.

    The entire basis for measuring GDP is based on labor value added. The key is labor prodcutivity through the use of capital equipment. But it is precisely productive labor that also built the machines. Once again the artisans, engineers. If a country does not utilize its own labor to create that kind of productive value then the country will not go anywhere.

  10. From RHiro

    March 21, 2007 at 11:34 am (UTC 8) Link to this comment

    Why the Philippines remains poor? You cannot trust the economist (typically exemplified by GMA) method for accounting. It is all theoretical.

    Our total external debt in 1985 was $26.6 billion. As of 2004, it has more than doubled at $60.55 billion greenbacks. (caffeine sparks blog)

    On top of this figure, the figure (unknown) for foreign direct investments which are also an obligation due from domestic households for capital repatriation and profits.

    As part of the financial system worldwide the government through the BSP guarantees the availability of foreign currency for this. Hence the domestic public sector debt is slightly larger than the total foreign debt. (All foreign debt whether private or public is part of the sovereign debt.

    After the debt crisis in the eighties and again during the 90’s ideas on a Soverign Debt Restructuring Mechanism was proposed by Jeffrey Sachs and former Treasury Secretary O’Neill. Corporations are allowed to seek bankruptcy protection. Countries should be given the same privilege. Unfortunately they chose debasing currency as a solution.

    They simply inflate the debt. Government ratios for total debt to GDP is based on using inflated GDP numbers. I hope people don’t get hernia’s trying to think about this.

    The acceptable inflation (debasing) standard for this year by the BSP is 4-5%. Depending where households are on the standard for the CPI that standard could be undervalued or overvalued for most. Most of all debasing currency is compounded thereby multiplying the pain.

    Notes from the NSCB:

    “Well, put simply, the CPI does not measure the average increase in your expenditures, whether as an individual or a family or a household! It was never meant to!”

    “Now, if you really want to compute the average monthly increase in your own individual consumption, you must use the basket of commodities that you normally consume, which will naturally differ from the NSO basket. You must take out hair shampoo from the basket, for instance, if there is nothing to use it on! You also must use weights that reflect your own consumption pattern – meaning that if you love food, your weights must show it! Depending on your chronological perspective, your CPI basket might include expenses for internet cafes; but if you had been a fan of Carmen Rosales and Rogelio de la Rosa, your CPI might include ballroom dancing fees for your favorite Attorney and ten different vitamins, valued of course at 20% discount, a privilege which, even those from Forbes Park and Ayala Alabang conscientiously (consciencelessly, some of my friends would sermon) avail of.” Dr. Romulo A. Virola
    Secretary General, NSCB

    “When national debts have once been accumulated to a certain degree, there is scarce, I believe, a single instance of their having been fairly and completely paid. The liberation of public revenue, if it has ever been brought about at all, has always been brought about by bankruptcy; sometimes by an avowed one, but always by a real one, though frequently by a pretended payment (in a depreciated currency)….. When it becomes necessary for a state to declare itself bankrupt, in the same manner as when it becomes necessary for an individual to do so, a fair, open, and avowed bankruptcy is always the measure which is both least dishonourable to the debtor, and at least hurtful to the creditor”
    Adam Smith (Canaan 2000, Book V, Chapter III,pp.466 and 468)

    Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become ‘profiteers,’ who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.
    Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.
    · Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919) John Maynard Keynes


    Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson for writing a wonderful book about the role of institutions in shaping why countries are rich or poor. The book’s limitations, repeated now in their letter, are that they dismiss the roles of all other factors, especially geographic factors. That’s because of their oversimplified view of geography’s effects; their criticizing the straw man that geography explains everything (it doesn’t, and it’s not an alternative perspective but an additional perspective); and their failure to explain the origins of good institutions themselves.

    The first point of their four-point letter is that tropical medicine and agricultural science aren’t major factors shaping national differences in prosperity. But the reasons why those are indeed major factors are obvious and well known. Tropical diseases cause a skilled worker, who completes professional training by age thirty, to look forward to, on the average, just ten years of economic productivity in Zambia before dying at an average life span of around forty, but to be economically productive for thirty-five years until retiring at age sixty-five in the US, Europe, and Japan (average life span around eighty). Even while they are still alive, workers in the tropics are often sick and unable to work. Women in the tropics face big obstacles in entering the workforce, because of having to care for their sick babies, or being pregnant with or nursing babies to replace previous babies likely to die or already dead. That’s why economists other than Acemoglu and Robinson do find a significant effect of geographic factors on prosperity today, after properly controlling for the effect of institutions.

    Second, Acemoglu and Robinson deny that characteristics of a natural resource determine whether it’s a curse or a blessing. But characteristics of diamonds and oil notoriously promote corruption and civil wars more than do characteristics of iron and timber.

    Third, geography has had a big effect on modern prosperity through permitting local ancient origins of agriculture, in turn permitting sedentary life and social complexity. While sedentary life and social complexity did develop before farming in a few exceptional cases, Acemoglu and Robinson’s assertion that as a generalization it is conventional wisdom among archaeologists will be news to archaeologists. Acemoglu and Robinson misquote me in saying that I claim the Fertile Crescent to have been the only area where local agriculture could have arisen. Of course not: instead, I cited agricultural historians who showed that the Fertile Crescent was the only such area in western Eurasia; my book Guns, Germs, and Steel discussed at length how local agriculture also arose in at least eight areas outside western Eurasia. Acemoglu and Robinson are correct that the timing of the Neolithic Revolution doesn’t account for prosperity differences within Eurasia today; it “merely” accounts for about half of prosperity differences today around the world as a whole.

    Finally, as readers may quickly confirm for themselves, it is indeed a fair characterization of Acemoglu and Robinson’s book to say that their theory is as if institutions appeared at random. Although their letter describes institutional variation today as a systematic outcome of historical processes, much of their book is actually devoted to relating story after story purportedly explaining how institutional variation developed unsystematically and at random, as a result of particular events happening in particular places at critical junctures.

    • Thanks Karl for this opinion from the other maestro… Jared Diamond..

      I also hope Romeo Encarnacion from at some point gives his comment on this in addition to Bill. echoes

      “Wala tayong magagawa.” It’s the wife’s most dreaded response to a question she would matter-of-factly ask when in the Philippines – for something as simple as an information. And which Google translates to “helplessness.”

      Does the sense of helplessness come from the acceptance of “destiny”? The blog has referenced Rizal’s genius for seeing through the fraud personified by Padre Damaso. But that’s over a century ago!

    • Irineo, Karl..I aave read all Jared Diamond’s book and Why Nations Fail.. Diamond is an anthropologist who did most of his field work in Papaua New Guinea…. Acemoglu & Robinson are economists..It is natural that they disagree…

      The interesting thing is that Diamond’s hypothesis is just that – a hypothesis as we do not have primary sources for any of the societies that he discusses as collapsing : eg. Easter Island..

      In my opinion economic growth and prosperity come from inclusive growth…There are countries which have very similar resource bases but very different economic & social characteristics. Compare Argentina and Australia..They both originate as colonies dependent on raw unprocessed agricultural exports..But they have had very different fates politically and economically..Why ? The answer lies in the political institutions that in Australia’s case fostered inclusive growth since 1945.And which promoted prosperity & wealth for an elite until 2001 in Argentina…

      Now what about the Philippines ? Well the original Spanish ‘economic model’ was completely disinterested in the prosperity of the Indios..And the friars and monks were only interested in the ‘fate of the souls of Indios’..And once baptised they become subjects of the Spanish kings and had to pay tribute..and so effectively poorer ..Added to that the Indios were not allowed to defend themselves from outsider Moros attacks….Duhhhhh ?

      Net impact the Indios were preyed upon by Moros and impoverished by the Spanish…(But at least they went to heaven not hell when dead or so the priests say..Me I am dubious )

      Abaca & Sugar were early export crops after the 1830’s..Coconuts became a growth crop later on. But really nothing changed at the Indio village level : grow rice and a few veggies & fruits and work to pay tribute & support the church..

      The real money earned from exports stayed inn the cities where the elites lived : Spanish & mestica with a trickle of foreigners..It was not inclusive growth & prosperity.

      Post 1946 : and most of the foreigners are sent home or only allowed to stay as guests not the governing elite..But local elite famillies replaced them and did what the foreigners had shown them how to do for 300 years…In that context is Marcos a surprise ?Probably not.

      Post EDSA : now it is OFW’s and BPO’s : and for the first time a very different economic process is happening..Money, wages, on a mass scale for ordinary folks…And a new middle class is emerging out of that process…I think it is far more inclusive than anything that happened before it.So pray it does not aborted by a major down turn in the Middle East or in the USA or Europe

    • There are a number of articles on Easter island that seem to draw upon primary sources:

      The deforestation of the island was not only the death knell for the elaborate social and ceremonial life it also had other drastic effects on every day life for the population generally. From 1500 the shortage of trees was forcing many people to abandon building houses from timber and live in caves, and when the wood eventually ran out altogether about a century later everyone had to use the only materials left. They resorted to stone shelters dug into the hillsides or flimsy reed huts cut from the vegetation that grew round the edges of the crater lakes. Canoes could no longer be built and only reed boats incapable of long voyages could be made. Fishing was also more difficult because nets had previously been made from the paper mulberry tree (which could also be made into cloth) and that was no longer available. Removal of the tree cover also badly affected the soil of the island, which would have already suffered from a lack of suitable animal manure to replace nutrients taken up by the crops. Increased exposure caused soil erosion and the leaching out of essential nutrients. As a result crop yields declined. The only source of food on the island unaffected by these problems was the chickens. As they became ever more important, they had to be protected from theft and the introduction of stone-built defensive chicken houses can be dated to this phase of the island’s history. It became impossible to support 7,000 people on this diminish ing resource base and numbers fell rapidly

      After 1600 Easter Island society went into decline and regressed to ever more primitive conditions. Without trees, and so without canoes, the islanders were trapped in their remote home, unable to escape the consequences of their self-inflicted, environmental collapse. The social and cultural impact of deforestation was equally important. The inability to erect any more statues must have had a devastating effect on the belief systems and social organisation and called into question the foundations on which that complex society had been built. There were increasing conflicts over diminishing resources resulting in a state of almost permanent warfare. Slavery became common and as the amount of protein available fell the population turned to cannibalism. One of the main aims of warfare was to destroy the ahu of opposing clans. A few survived as burial places but most were abandoned. The magnificent stone statues, too massive to destroy, were pulled down. The first Europeans found only a few still standing when they arrived in the eighteenth century and all had been toppled by the 1830s. When they were asked by the visitors how the statues had been moved from the quarry, the primitive islanders could no longer remember what their ancestors had achieved and could only say that the huge figures had `walked’ across the island. The Europeans, seeing a treeless landscape, could think of no logical explanation either and were equally mystified.

      This Filipino article mentions some primary sources:

      Mo’ai ang tawag sa RN sa mga dambuhalang rebulto ng kanilang mga ninuno. Ang mga moai ay tinatayang ginawa pa pagitan ng 1250-1500 mula kay Kristo(MK) (Fischer 2005, 33) o 1000-1500 MK (Bahn at Flenley 2003, 115). Ang mga sumusunod ay mga datos na kinalap ng may-akda sa Museo Antropológico Padre Sebastián Englert sa RN: 887 ang pangkalahatang bilang ng mga moai = (a) 397 na inabandona sa mga quarry na karamihan ay nasa mga libis ng Rano Raraku, kagaya ng quarry na makikita sa gawing itaas sa bandang kaliwa; (b) 92 na inabandona sa kalagitnaan ng pagdadala sa mga ito mula sa mga nasabing quarry papunta sa mga dambana, na tinatawag doon na ahu (Fischer 2005, 31); at (c) 288 na nadala at/o naitayo sa mga ahu. Ang mga moai na nakatayo sa mga ahu sa dalampasigan ay palaging nakatalikod sa dagat at nakaharap papaloob ang tingin sa mga lupain. Ang posisyong ito ay tila baga upang paalalahanan ang mga nabubuhay na sila ay palaging minamasdan at pinangangalagaan ng kanilang mga ninuno. Nagbubuhat ito sa sinaunang relihiyon ng mga Austronesyano kung saan itinatangi ang mga yumaong ninuno. Laganap ang pagtatangi sa yumaong ninuno sa Austronesya (tingnan ang Larawan 33 hanggang Larawan 43). Ang Rano Raraku ang pangalan ng crater lake (rano = lawa) sa bundok na ito, na dating bulkan. Ang rano ay kogneyt ng ating ranao o lanao (cf. ang Maranao/Malanao, na pinangalan din sa lawa doon). Si Raraku ay pangalan ng isang anito nila sa RN (Bahn at Flenley 2003, 114) (Larawang kuha ng may-akda)…

      Dahil sa pagkakakalbo ng kagubatan (tingnan ang Larawan 40, 41, 43, at 44), nagkaroon ng matinding kahirapan. Mula dantaon 15 (Salazar 2006, 112-114), naging napakalubha ang kalalagayan: “Deified ancestors… had comprised the most important cultural baggage of Easter Island’s settlers. But these ancestors had obviously failed to protect the settlers’ descendants from ecological disaster, famine, dangerous foreigners, pandemics… The island was dying, and drastic new measures were needed. Or so judged the ruling matato’a [mga mandirigma] who, convinced that a single deity could save the island, at this time advanced ancient Makemake — who came to incarnate Tangaroa, Tāne, Rongo and Tu‘u in one” (Fischer 2005, 57).

    • Sorry Irineo..There are no primary sources on Easter Island..I have Clive Ponting’s book at home in Oz.

      He is extrapolating on archeological evidence and the myths & stories passed down by the few remaining Easter Islanders to Europeans ship visiters. That is he is using second hand sources…

      Jarred Diamond does the same but at least he went there for a while to investigate..Ponting did not.

    • – this is an interesting book I just found out about searching for Ponting…

      In this book, Jan J. Boersema reconstructs the ecological and cultural history of Easter Island and critiques the hitherto accepted theory of the collapse of its civilization. The collapse theory, advanced most recently by Jared Diamond and Clive Ponting, is based on the documented overexploitation of natural resources, particularly woodlands, on which Easter Island culture depended. Deforestation is said to have led to erosion, followed by hunger, conflict, and economic and cultural collapse. Drawing on scientific data and historical sources, including the shipping journals of the Dutch merchant who was the first European to visit the island in 1722, Boersema shows that deforestation did not in fact jeopardize food production and lead to starvation and violence. On the basis of historical and scientific evidence, Boersema demonstrates how Easter Island society responded to cultural and environmental change as it evolved and managed to survive.

    • Ummmm.I do not know that text Irineo..And so cannot really comment in an informed way..

      However Diamond’s central idea about the collapse of Easter island ‘civilisation’ is an interesting one..And only one example that he presents in his book

    • I mentioned and compared Australia & Argentina earlier..

      But I forgot one key way that the 2 countries differ : migration policies..
      Argentina has a very open immigration policy welcoming people from all over the world no matter what skills they have or capital they bring with them. In fact people wanting to enter Argentina from the EDSUR bloc of South America can do so without a visa or request for permanent residence.

      So there are a lot of homeless immigrants from African countries and from Bolivia, Venezuela, Columbia and Paraguay and in the past Brazil…Schooling is free and so is medical care in hospital so there are significant attractions…

      Now this is inclusive.But I suggest that Argentina has imported poverty and also put a cap on wage increases.

      By contrast Australia has a rigorous screening process for all applicants who put in to migrate or even enter the country. ( There is no race or gender or discrimination now. ) It focuses on skills needed in Australia, business migrants, and then permits some limited numbers of family re-union and refugees. And immigrants who are convicted criminals committing crimes with a sentence of more than 12 months in jail, after their time in jail are deported.

      As a consequence of this exclusive immigration policy there is not much ‘importing of poverty’..And this helps ensure a more inclusive Australian society with higher wage rates and a significant incentive for immigrants to not commit crimes.

    • Of course there are folks in Australia who do not like this immigration policy. I read that the Greens Party propose increasing intake of refugees to 50,000 a year from the current level of 12,000..

      Idealistic idiots in my opinion. And not likely to have any impact in Australian politics as a result


    “The major thesis of Acemoglu and Robinson is that economic prosperity depends above all on the inclusiveness of economic and political institutions. Only a functioning democratic and pluralistic state which guarantees the rule of law is able to exploit the ideas and talents, which are spread among the whole population of a nation. In extractive systems (autocracies) however, entrepreneurs and citizens have no incentives to invest in and work on innovations, which are necessary to create prosperity, because the ruling elites are afraid of creative destruction. Creative destruction would fabricate new groups which competed for power against ruling elites. Hence, elites would lose their exclusive access to the economic and financial resources of a country. The authors bring in the emergence of democratic pluralism in Great Britain after the Glorious Revolution in 1688 as being decisive for the Industrial Revolution as an example as well as the fall of the Soviet Union.”
    We have A NEDA full of geniuses,but the question is are they supported economically by our government.
    One issue of a disagreeable NEDA chief then out he or she goes.This has happened time and again.

    The leaders of our institutions get changed to often, it is useless to stay 30 years in a government agency without tasting the top.
    Well some say it s ok,because the top is reserved for poltical appontees,and theybwould not know what to do without them.

    Systemic corruption,from Customs to BIR,to land titling,etc,etc.

    Cooperate or collapse.

  13. Prior to our rapid urbanization,fsome forner hacienderos became real estate moguls.
    They convert their agricultural lands to subdivisions to escape land reform.

    The farmers always want a big family,because they always think the more children,the more will look after the farm.
    But laws divide that land when owner dies to all heirs,so that will only leave a flower pot size of a land to each children.

    So to hell with farming,go to the cities to find a new life.
    Hard times came,no jobs and there is nothing to do but drink and have babies.

    There are other stories of why our population exploded.
    Some say we are nit really over populated,just too much on the urban areas.

    Some say without the over population,we would not get billions of Dollars in remittances.

  14. In the movie Allegiant they tried to kill the adults and remove the memories of the children, so they can train them from scratch.

    We do not need that to happen,not here,not anywhere.
    Do we really see irreperable damage to our very diverse culture?

    • Every culture has sustained some degree of damage in its history. In the case of the Iks it is like a third-degree burn, the only solution is probably to have them adopted by others. The Filipino case is like a second-degree burn in some places, a first-degree burn in others – a real-life second degree burn can heal quite well.

  15. we should give up on rice profuction,let Vietnam and Thailand lord it over the rice production.

    We should concentrate on other crops.

    Urban farming and vertical farming should also be our option.

  16. On cooperation.
    Some places with no CCTVs are compensated by vigilant citizens using their phones to capture crimes on video.
    They also do it to report the news like in bayan mo ipatrol mo.

    Watching out for others or pananagutan sa isat isa is the best form cooperation out there.

    Of course our bayanihan culture,online or offline is still there.

  17. Irineo, great capture for our social radar. As usual.

    Some notes –
    on Davide: 1) must keep study speed about uneven agriculture; its agronomics, especially supply-demand of specialty crops; infrastructure; what initiatives to maximize, what to optimize; what to do about soil health renewal and upkeep, for example 2) object-areas for further study: the Cagayan Valley; its demographics are fast changing, viz Tuguegarao & Ilagan; also wind-farms

    on Laguna de Bay and Taal Lake: maybe it’s time to create water authorities for husbanding their hydrologies

    • (PiE pls place this reply pair under your entry)

      Laguna Bay & Taal Lake, cont’d: Pretty soon spillway from the tributaries of Marikina River must be optimized for freshwater utilization and feed to Laguna de Bay; same will be true for the Norzagaray system feeding the future communities/agriculture of the eastern Central Plains – bright future, I think;

    • I can’t move replies within a thread – I can only move comments to another thread which I haven’t done in ages as the discussions manage themselves.. is about how this matter has progressed in all the years, worth looking at.

      It is quite clear who privatized (Ramos, Arroyo), who centralized (Marcos, Arroyo) and who used BUB from 2013 to provide potable water to many regions.

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