“The bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond. The bad economist sees only the direct consequences of a proposed course; the good economist looks also at the longer and indirect consequences. The bad economist sees only what the effect of a given policy has been or will be on one particular group; the good economist inquires also what the effect of the policy will be on all groups.”— Henry Hazlitt
- NOTE: This article was first posted on my old site on Oct. 30, 2010.
American Economist and journalist for the Wall Street Journal Henry Hazlitt distinguished between a “good economist” and a bad economist.
“There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: “In the long run we are all dead.” And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.”
Yes, there are popular economists in this country today who are ignorant or negligent of the proper concept of rights and freedom and recommend statist policies to serve the greater good.
In her October 23 column published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Filipino economist Solita “Winnie” Collas-Monsod clarified her stance on the Reproductive Health bill issue and family planning by labeling herself as “pro-life, pro-poor, pro-women”. She then supported this label by citing depressing statistics that depict the country’s socio-economic condition.
She wrote: “And therefore, like most Filipinos (average of 82 percent according to a Pulse Asia Survey, but ranging from 76 percent to 91 percent across all geographic areas and socio-economic classes), I am in favor of the government providing family planning information and services to those who want to be so informed and/or who want to either space or limit their children.”
Based on the aforementioned statement, Prof. Monsod believes it’s the duty of the government to provide family planning information and services only (my own word) to “those who want to be so informed and/or who want to either space or limit their children.” This means that those who are not interested in family planning would not be covered by the state-funded information and services.
Let me deal with Monsod’s opinion piece.
First, what is the proper function of the government and why is it very important to know this? Proper understanding of the nature and concept of government is the first step to establishing a free society. This is exactly what America’s founding fathers did, as they established a government whose powers are limited by law. This is why Thomas Jefferson said: “That government is best which governs least.” America started as a “limited government”, which is the political foundation of free-market capitalism.
What then is the proper function of government? Since the government holds a monopoly on the use of force, its only proper function is to protect individual rights. We need courts to protect our property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, and to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. We need the police to protect us from criminals and rights-violators. And we need the army to protect us against rebellion or foreign invaders. It’s not the role of government to provide the people with their basic needs. Proper understanding of economics tells us that the government is not a productive agency. It can only acquire wealth through taxation.
Second, it’s very important to know and understand the proper concept of rights. A “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. That in order for man to act freely and independently, he must have freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men. However, our Constitution offers a distorted, perverted concept of rights as it warrants the people’s right to “something” that others produced or made possible through their personal, independent efforts. Does a right mean we are entitled to government welfare programs and services? If that’s the case, that means that we are entitled to the fruits of the productive labor of others through a state-imposed “redistribution of wealth.” (Click HERE for fuller discussion about this issue).
Monsod: “Why does adopting this stance make me pro-life? Because it will reduce the shockingly high maternal mortality rates as well as infant/child mortality rates (the probability of which increases when the mother dies) in the Philippines. Why shockingly high? Only consider: 4,100 maternal deaths occurred in the Philippines in 2000, as compared to 2,500 for all the developed regions combined (Europe, United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand); and 2,740 maternal deaths in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam combined, whose total population is twice that of ours. Is that shocking enough?”
Monsod may be one of the most popular economists in the country, but with all due respect I disagree with her definition of “pro-life”. Her statement suggests that it’s “pro-life” when the government provides what women need. Does this mean that those who are against her view are anti-life? So when the government provides life-sustaining services to people that’s pro-life? However, it seems that this economist is merely looking at the effect of a given policy on one particular group. But what about the effect of this statist policy on all groups, as well as its long-term impact on our society as a whole? Yes, as an economist Monsod can quantify the maternal deaths and even the current economic status of this country by presenting statistical data, but one cannot quantify the loss of individual and economic freedom as a result of any statist policy. That if you’re against the idea that the government must provide free housing, you’re an anti-housing.
Perhaps what Monsod is trying to say is, if you oppose government food programs like food stamps, you an anti-food. That if you’re against the idea that the government must provide free housing, you’re an anti-housing.
French philosopher and legal theorist Claude Frédéric Bastiat expained this statist mentality over 100 years ago. Bastiat wrote:
“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
MONSOD: “Why will it reduce the mortality rates? Because of the more than 11 maternal deaths a day (4,100 a year divided by 365 days), it has been found that up to half can be prevented by reducing unintended pregnancies through family planning (the rest by skilled birth attendance and access to emergency obstetric care). Of the 39 infants who die per thousand live births, it has again been calculated that given the 1.71 million live births registered in 2004, at least 7,800 infant deaths a year could be prevented through proper birth spacing.”
This statement somehow confirms Rep. Edcel Lagman’s highly fallacious poverty-overpopulation connection. Is Monsod trying to suggest that her distressing statistical data that somehow reflect the worsening level of poverty in the country justify the establishment of “big government” or welfare state? Yes, whether she knows it or not, she’s in favor of more government spending and more state controls and regulations, because these are the logical consequences of a publicly funded family planning program. As a well-respected economist, is there no alternative to solve the problems she’s talking about? It is very clear, based on her analysis, that the government is the only solution to some social problems. This simply confirms that Monsod is not an advocate of individual freedom and capitalism, but of government controls and welfare statism.
MONSOD: “Is that pro-life enough for the reader?”
NO! Pro-life doesn’t mean welfare state (or even a lower level of welfare state). Pro-life is pro-freedom, pro-individual rights. The concept of pro-life should not clash with the concept of individual rights. As stated, the government has no money. Its only source of revenue is taxation. As an economist, Monsod should be very much aware of the consequences of any statist or welfare-state policy. Every nanny state policy has an impact on individual rights and economic freedom. Hong Kong is so economically successful in that its government doesn’t have to worry about spending too much on public health care because of its high economic freedom, which is the very source of its success. As a highly schooled (not educated) economist, Monsod should be one of the first to know that the best alternative to public health care is free-market system. Instead of favoring government-funded family planning, she should be promoting the virtue of free-market capitalism. (Click HERE for my complete argument on the issue).
The truth is, her stance is anti-life, anti-poor, and anti-freedom. We study economics to better understand the most practical and moral means for the survival of man. Economics is not to be governed by statistical data, graphs and numerical valuations of different economic indicators. It is the study of human action, and humans are not pre-determined beings. Family planning, or the RH bill, is not merely an economic issue; it’s primarily a philosophical and moral issue. Those who are very much worried about human suffering and poverty should seek to discover and understand their cause. The French founders wrote in the French Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen, that “ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments.” This is why we should understand the proper concept of rights. The only social system that can save this country from worsening poverty is not welfare-statism, but capitalism—and the only solution to overpopulation, which is not even a problem, is to reject the morality of altruism, the concept of statism, and embrace reason, individualism, and a philosophy for living on earth. (Click HEREfor my complete argument on the issue).
MONSOD: “Next: How does being in favor of access to family planning information and services qualify one to be pro-women? Well, aside from the fact that at least five women’s lives are saved per day, there is the matter of maternal morbidities (illnesses associated with pregnancy and childbirth) which, by the way, are the top cause of female morbidities. The maternal morbidities in the Philippines (circa 2005) were estimated to be 400,000 (compared to, say, the next highest cause of female morbidity—ALRI and pneumonia—of 329,000). And again, it has been estimated that up to 200,000 maternal morbidities could be prevented through effective family planning.”
According to this statement, when one supports “family planning information and services that serve women, then one is “pro-women.” Of course Monsod is talking about government-funded information and services. If this is the case, why not make the government the provider of people’s needs. Definitely those who support this proposal would have the ‘right’ or audacity to label themselves as “pro-everybody”, “pro-people”, or “pro-collective good”. Need is not a claim on slavery. Again, tragic statistical data do not justify the country’s advance to welfare-statism. It is impractical, neglectful, ignorant, or even immoral to suggest that we need more government controls and roles when these are in fact the very reason why this country is moving toward complete economic disaster.
MONSOD: “Finally: Where does the pro-poor factor come in? Again, empirical bases. According to the National Health and Demographic Surveys (NHDS—conducted quinquennially) the poor bear the brunt of the maternal and infant mortalities, as well as the maternal morbidities. The poor have the greatest need for family planning services. How can one know this? Per the NHDS, women in the lowest wealth quintile (20 percent) have a total fertility rate of 5.2 as against their wanted fertility rate of 3.3. Compare this to women in the highest wealth quintile whose total fertility rate is 1.9 as compared to their actual fertility rate of 1.6.”
According to this statement, when one supports government programs that address the condition of poor people, one is pro-poor, perhaps without taking into account the consequential loss of individual rights and economic freedom. Any empirical basis founded on a particular segment of a whole and disregards economic principles must fail. Again, Monsod, whose stance is founded on “empirical bases”, asserts that the only way to solve problems pertaining to dismal condition of women and population is to up the level of the country’s welfare-statism. The problem with her empirical analysis is that it rejects other indispensable variables, such as the nature of government, the proper concept of rights, and rational economic principles. Again, many countries are poor because their governments disregard and do not respect economic freedom and individual rights. (Click HERE for my complete argument on the issue).
MONSOD: “Now then, let me also say that I am a practicing Catholic, and I am against abortion, as are most Filipinos; which is again why we are in favor of family planning. We know that a very large percentage of unplanned pregnancies in the Philippines end up in abortion, which in turn contributes to maternal mortality, etc. etc. as discussed above. Better to prevent conception than to having an abortion performed.”
This, I believe, is the very foundation of Monsod’s analysis. One can assume that Monsod’s stance on family planning is a refutation to the Catholic Church’s arguments against the RH bill. But even the Catholic view against family planning must fail. The only valid and most proper argument against this anti-population bill must be grounded in individual rights and freedom. The RH bill is unconstitutional and immoral because it violates individual rights. (Click HERE for my complete argument on the issue; my comment on abortion).
MONSOD: So how many Filipino Catholics are in favor of family planning information and services? Let’s do the math: 82 percent of Filipinos (Pulse Asia Survey 2008) are in favor; 19 percent of Filipinos are non-Catholics (2000 Census). Assume that all of the non-Catholics are in favor of family planning. That leaves 63 percent (82 minus 19) of the Filipinos who are in favor of family planning are Catholics. Which means that 78 percent of Filipino Catholics (63 divided by 81) are in favor of family planning.
One cannot oppose the altruistic RH bill on religious grounds. The religionists are not making any sense by basing their opposition on biblical dogmatism, while the blind apologists of the bill rely on pragmatism, altruism and mysticism. (Click HERE for my complete argument on the issue). Today the issue of population control in this country is widely seen as the battle between the anti-population mystics who support an altruist legislative proposal and the religionists, who tied their arguments to Biblical grounds. Unfortunately, none of the opponents of this legislative proposal—the Reproductive Health Bill authored by socialist representatives in Congress—offered a proper, rational argument to counter the assumptions of the anti-population cultists. This is the reason why the RH bill debate is gaining more supporters than opponents—and this is also the reason why this country is moving toward complete collectivism. (Click HERE for my complete argument on the issue).
MONSOD: Instead of trying to prevent Filipinos from using artificial contraceptives, the Church hierarchy should offer an attractive alternative like the SDM. Better a carrot than a stick anytime.
The Catholic folks are not the only ones who oppose the RH bill. There are people like me who reject this anti-population proposal simply because we don’t believe it’s the role of the government to redistribute wealth or to provide state-funded information or services to a particular group of people. I fully support family planning and the use of artificial contraceptives, but I reject the idea that the government must provide them to those in need.
What we believe:
We believe that everybody in this country has a right of choice. That is, we all have the right to do whatever we want to do with our own body.
We believe that the state or the government has no right to use force or compulsion against any sector or group of individuals in our society. The only role of the state/government is to protect individual rights.
We believe that government intervention and welfare-statism are evil, which must be rejected. There should be no redistribution of wealth or forcing or sacrificing of certain sectors (e.g. businessmen and health care providers) of our society to serve the common good or the public good.
We believe that everybody has a right to act (not to something). That is, every couple or individual has the right whether or not to practice family planning or use contraceptive methods. We believe in the use of contraceptive methods, family planning, etc. so long as these are not dictated to or forced by the government through statist laws or edicts.
We believe that every individual is responsible for his own body.
We believe that “separation of church and state” is inviolable and must be respected, and that every religion (e.g. Catholic Church, Islam, INC, etc.) has the right to practice its religious doctrines and traditions as long as these do not violate or disregard man’s rights and freedom. And like most communists and statist groups, religions or religious institutions have the right to influence their own people, and that this right must not be curtailed or abridged by the government.
We believe that “rights” or “individual rights” do not clash with each other. We have a right to practice free speech so long as it does not violate the rights of others. We have a right to live, but this does not give us any additional right to force others to provide us food, shelter and clothing. We all have a right to seek any kind of medical treatment, but this doesn’t mean that doctors or health care providers must be coerced by the government to provide it for free or at reduced rate.
We believe that man is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others.
We believe that no individual or group must be sacrificed or immolated by the state or the government in the name of common good or public interest.
We believe in this individualist motto: “LIVE FREE OR DIE!”