Dialectics of Democracy – BusinessWorld Online


Like countless other people quarantined by COVID protocols, I sought solace in, among other things, auditory stimulation. Those of us with more educated hearing found it in e.g. Rachmaninoffs 2nd Concert piano or Bach’s joints. I rather sought it in the more accessible air of my generation. Among them is John Denver’s lovely tune “Perhaps Love” with its eternal comfort for all ages.

But while one can get lost in one’s own strongly, but perhaps unconsciously, photoshopped personal past, one cannot ignore the sometimes unpleasant realities of the present.

On May 9, Filipinos go to the polls to elect a new president, among others. Will we get a renewal and catharsis that democratic elections were originally intended for, or will we get even deeper division and resentment? Putin’s war in Ukraine rages with thousands of innocent lives destroyed or wiped out. The price of oil and gas is rising with higher food prices, more hunger and poverty in tow. Net foreign direct investment (DFI) remains in decline (16% in January), while commitments on foreign investment to PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) fell by 94% in February 2022, increasing all of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Ministries of Finance) DOF) cheerful forecast for inflated DFI response to the CREATE and PSA (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises and Public Service Act). The economy has shrunk and the burning question is which of the candidates can construct the best rebound.

Easter Day saw social media scream about the macho laggards in the May 9 presidential race that advised VP Leni, the strongest of the persecutors – with a preference rating of 24% and rising – to stop. The craziest mentality on screen! As expected, the wrinkled artists came into force the days after: “Not me,” said the cat, “I was not on the podium.” “Not me,” said the dog, “I was not even in the room.” “I will not apologize for a rhetorical return,” the goat said.

For, as everyone knows, worn-out wisdom suggests the exact opposite. Nicolo Machiavelli (Prince) once advised that the best strategy for also-running is to gather around the second strongest to prevent the strongest from enslaving everyone else. Gathering away from the best challenger is just a favor with the front-runner, who was certainly happy to know who his real friends are.

For not all tributaries are created equal. Winning favor with the strongest can result in a higher caste river, a taxman perhaps, demanding tribute from lower caste rivers and becoming rich in crumbs that are deliberately misplaced. A tributary collector for the overlord is not a small reward for playing into the overlord’s design. Benedictos, Enriles, Floirendos, Cojuangcos and Lucio Tans did really well as tribute collectors to dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Subsequent regimes were either unable or unwilling to punish Ka Ferdie’s bloodsuckers. As a national artist, F. Sionil Jose (may he rest in peace) once expressed it with utter toxicity: “This is what hurts us all – we do not expel them, we do not punish them – no, we anoint these pests instead for .” It seems that we have once again embarked on our infamous tradition of anointing pests: number crunchers maintain that the vote on May 9, in the absence of catastrophic events, will hand over the presidency to someone whose only claim to fame was a conviction for tax evasion. He keeps his mother knowing what he wants to do other than protect his family and re-inherit his father’s inheritance. Then, according to the old saying, “The apple does not fall far from the tree,” instead of punishing, he may well reward his father’s centurions with a funeral in Libingan ng mga Bayani. It will in death reunite that which in life was a glorious brotherhood of plunder and lies.

Democracy is strange in that way: it sometimes commits suicide. People can vote freely to put on their shackles. In 1932, the voters of the highly educated democratic Weimar Republic handed over the mantle of power to Adolf Hitler and his governors. It was democratic suicide. “Uncle” Adolf ran with the scepter into the unimaginable horrors of death, destruction and the gas chambers. In 2017, the world’s so-called democracy bastion, the United States, the public voted freely to hand over the scepter of power to Donald Trump, who only narrowly, by the grace of God or pure luck, failed to construct the execution of American democracy.

In our case, cold players insist that the May 9 election will leave the presidency to a convicted tax evader, one who from his father has the genes to make the whole country his personal tax-free tributary and from his father. mom to turn the judiciary into an umbrella holder, a little personal bling can get autocrats to match! A Filipino running like hell? But if the vote is reasonably clean, his presidency, like that of Hitler or Putin, would be The voice of God.

One might object: “But true democracy is based on voters making decisions on the basis of truths and not untruths.” Such an objection is profound. That was the underlying assumption of the Condorcet jury’s statements in political science about voting: a constituency with more than 50% of the power to decide correctly will turn any autocrat into a decision-maker (The voice of God); but the opposite is also true: a constituency with less than 50% competence will be beaten in decision-making by any average autocrat (the voice of the devil)! Voters will also have to wear the famous Rawlsian “veil of ignorance”: a temporary loss of memory for individual, family and class-based benefits. Almost impossible in a time of “fake news” and “echo chambers”!

For who determines truths from untruths in the post-truth era? Democracy pays homage to the diversity of thoughts, lifestyles and values. Contradictions have to arise, as Kenneth Arrow (1950) reminded us before the age of the Internet. Modern human coexistence survives in a form we call “truth apartheid,” whose motto is “to each one’s own truth.” Thus “cancel the culture.” And apartheid always presupposes that “Gentiles” can be abolished. Putin has his truths and thus his abolitionist pagans; Qi Jin Ping has his. Biden has his. If we subject these competing “truths” to a pure global one-man-one-vote tournament, Xi Jinping’s “truths” would probably win. It is no different if we choose results (economic growth and poverty reduction) over process (one-man-one-vote) as the criterion.

In the dialectic of democracy, truth is intangible, if it exists at all. To Pontius Pilate’s question “What is truth?”, Jesus Christ answered with a deafening silence. It seemed like a query too difficult even for the divine. What is democracy? I prefer to record my own silence through the lyrics to John Denver’s “Perhaps Love”.

“For love is for some as a cloud, for some as strong as steel. For some a way of life, for some a way of feeling. And some say that love holds fast, and some say to let go. And some say love is everything and some say they do not know it. “

Replace “democracy” with “love” in the lines of Denver, and we have, to my limited mind, a dialectic of democracy as good as any.

Raul V. Fabella is a retired professor at the UP School of Economics, a member of the National Academy of Science and Technology and an honorary professor at the Asian Institute of Management. He gets his dopamine fix from cycling and caring for flowers with his wife Teena.

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