The Long View: The lion and the fox

The Long View
The lion and the fox
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:37:00 12/27/2009

DIZZYING CHANGES IN POLITICAL allegiances have everyone wondering what they are all about and, more importantly, what they say about the leaders whose tents are suddenly expanding to include those who’d been trying to destroy those tents in the first place. In a nutshell, if politics is addition, is it worth the price?

Machiavelli, who has a reputation for being amoral, famously wrote, “It should be understood that there are two types of fighting: one with laws and the other with force. The first is most suitable for men, the second is most suitable for beasts, but it often happens that the first is not enough, which requires that we have recourse to the second.”

And here enters one of his most famous pieces of advice: “Since it is necessary for the prince to use the ways of beasts, he should imitate the fox and the lion, because the lion cannot defend himself from snares and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. Therefore, it is important to be a fox in order to understand the snares and a lion in order to terrify the wolves.”

This is particularly true of the presidency which confers power on those who seek it, to the extent that its seekers are often prepared to do anything and everything to obtain that power. And yet, in and of itself, obtaining that power enables marvelous things, not least the opportunity to do good. But neither can the presidency be achieved by one person nor its powers be effectively wielded by going it alone, thus the need for coalitions, for constituencies. But with either of these comes the inevitable need to compromise as each follower, each ally, joins the effort with different motivations and priorities in mind.

A candidate, therefore, even if possessed of a moral compass that guides all his public actions, must be like the lion and the fox. Elections are just points that, together, form the line of a public career. A candidate, both in seeking power and wielding it once elected, must have an idea of the direction in which the line of his political career is headed. Will it stop dead, because the leader has reached a point where he deems compromise impossible? Should impossibility even be in a leader’s political vocabulary?

Writing in Slate, Bruce Reed observed, “In recent years, the political world has come to dismiss principled compromise as an oxymoron.” Reed pointed out that the late Ted Kennedy showed “that it is possible to stand one’s ground and still seize every chance to make steady progress. . . Kennedy never had a problem summoning his followers to the ramparts one day and negotiating on their behalf the next.” The party faithful loved him for it; his political foes respected him for it.

As the Washington Post in its obituary pointed out with regard to Ted Kennedy: “He collaborated with a Republican president, George W. Bush, on education reform; with a Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), on immigration reform; and with an arch-conservative senator, J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, on major crime legislation.” Kennedy was able to do this because he never lost focus on who he was fighting for, which enabled him to pursue working at times with those he usually spent time fighting against.

He condemned Bush for the Iraq War but would not let his condemnation condemn children who could be aided by educational reform. He bitterly opposed Republican efforts to roll back public benefits but embraced McCain, a Republican stalwart who shared his social justice aspirations for immigrants. He was one of the leading lights of civil rights legislation but worked with an unrepentant racist, Thurmond, on making criminal laws more responsive to the poor and those traditionally disadvantaged in securing legal protection.

Returning to Reed’s commentary, here’s this gem: “Ted Kennedy was as steadfast a champion of his beliefs as the Senate has ever seen, but he always understood what too many in Washington forget: Every cause is better served when principle takes a seat at the table, and no cause moves forward when its champions walk away.” This is the human aspect of politics that those too focused on self-righteousness forget.

Kennedy, writing in Newsweek near the end of his life, said of his lifelong obsession with health coverage: “I long ago learned that you have to be a realist as you pursue your ideals.” For example, to the critics of his health plan who kept projecting its costs, he asked: What are the costs of inaction? You must move forward, even if inching along most of the time; but prepared, always, to seize the day, especially if, over time, you become more convinced of the rightness of your cause.

And yet, change is a funny thing: in refusing to compromise, you might forestall it forever, yet if you compromise too much, don’t you risk watering it down so much that it becomes meaningless? Kennedy seems to have pondered this question and came up with an answer that in the end gained him the respect of friends and foes alike. Change must be pursued relentlessly, but with an eye to incrementally achieving results as much as trying to achieve spectacular successes.

This reminds me of one of my favorite stories concerning Dominic Savio and Don Bosco. Obsessed, to the point of neurosis, with sanctity, Dominic Savio started putting sand in his soup for self-mortification. Don Bosco cheerily but bluntly disabused the young boy of the notion that this was either genuine piety or that suicide was a wise path to Heaven. If you want to live a life as an authentic witness to ideals, it begins by avoiding the temptation to be so self-righteous as to end up self-destructively neurotic.

Ted Kennedy said of his brother, Robert: “He should be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.” Not alone, but in the company of others.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

38 thoughts on “The Long View: The lion and the fox

  1. “A candidate, both in seeking power and wielding it once elected, must have an idea of the direction in which the line of his political career is headed.”-mlq3

    Once elected, and the wielding of power is directed by voraciousness and insatiable greed for personal wealth, as in the present case, then the country has nowhere to go but to the gutter.

  2. “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.” Martin Luther king

  3. Unlike the “first generation” reforms covering macroeconomic and fiscal policy which spread the pain across the entire population and were accomplished by elite technocrats, the second generation ones involve dismantling benefits to special interest groups and will be accomplished by a professional mid level bureaucracy.

    This is because it will involve reforms in institutional settings covering the funding and delivery of education and health care, the improvement of judicial and tax administration for starters. Then there is the area of grains and asset reform to provide the right incentives for agricultural production, and anti-trust, competition, SME credit and industrial relations reforms to foster investments.

    All of these require careful negotiation with political actors and their economic backers. The question here is how will the “prince” muster the muscle of the lion to limit resistance from these detractors and how will it harness the intelligence of the fox in crafting its policies? Will the civil society groups form a necessary counter force to those opposing reform? Will they provide the administrative capability in lieu of an allegedly corrupt and ineffective bureaucracy?

    All of this of course assumes an Aquino victory in 2010. The Villar platform calls for a review of the first generation reforms to begin with. And there is no assurance that once these reforms are effected, that they would lead to immediate results, which might lead to disillusionment amongst its proponents.

  4. Pilipinas needs to grow the economy if it wants to provide better to its citizens. Just think of these statistics. Pinas GDP-per-capita is $3,300.00. Thailand’s is $8,400;
    China is $6,600.00.

    Pilipinas — there is not much there to rob from Peter to pay Paul.

  5. Thailand in the 80s and China represent two countries that although characterised by corruption as evidenced by their low scores in global governance indicators have been able to fashion institutions compatible with their local socio-political structures that promoted rapid grow and as a result overtook the Philippines.

    The governance reform agenda attacking corruption is basically a panacea. It may not necessarily address the development problem if it is not accompanied by institutional development that is consistent with local culture and norms. There is yet very limited knowledge on how to do that which is something I discuss here:

  6. Instead of foxes and lions, call a spade a spade when justifying Noynoy’s Dances with Trapos and Oligarchs, which actually, is trapos and oligarchs of the same feather, dance together.

    Pointing that out is not “self-righteous as to end up self-destructively neurotic”. Rather it is the right thing to do given that there are better options.

  7. “The governance reform agenda attacking corruption is basically a panacea. It may not necessarily address the development problem if it is not accompanied by institutional development that is consistent with local culture and norms.”

    would we have been better of if there were no senate investigations on ZTE broadband,north rail southrail, jueteng,etc.????

    let us zero in on jueteng SOP,once suggested that legalization of jeteng can solve many problems.
    So hat it would be consistent with culture and norms then the cabo, the kubrador should be retained including their transactional relationship,and the only thing that makes it legal is that it is taxed and is regulated.
    You mentioned institutional refrom,how can it fit in the mix?


    this is my first vist that I saw a comment from you.
    you have been consistent in your views with regards to Noynoy ;however in this case that dancing to the same tune with the oligarchs because he is of the same feather is a short sighted observation rather than a bird’s eyeview(since we are speaking of feathers)
    I have no problems reading your views regarding platforms,but I think downplaying Noynoy based on dancing with the Oligarchs I say again is shortsighted.

  8. Back to Cusp.

    BTW I meant better off.
    (I was never good in spelling in the blogosphere comment boxes)

    Institutional reforms,development economics,governance and not focus on corruption.

    You mentioned Thailand and I remember people saying before we have the same level of population with them now we outnumber them by the millions. I remember people saying that they just learned to grow rice from us.

    They too have oligarchs, they too have corruption now is about religion?
    They too have a muslim minority but instead of having a catholic majority they have buddhists.
    Religion is not the answer why they and most of their neighbors can outpace us in rice growing it is because of that river that they do have and we don’t. So it is also about geography.

    So there is no single solution because there is more than a single problem.

  9. Karl, of course I did not mean to suggest that we would be better off without senate investigations into alleged corruption. My point was that the presence of corruption alone does not prevent countries from developing as in the case of the countries I mentioned.

    This is because in those countries corruption was used either to thwart welfare reducing regulations and red tape or were used in conjunction with a coherent industrial strategy as with the chaebols of Korea and keiretsus of Japan.

    The collusion of bureaucrats who are more powerful than the politicians (a result of their unique culture and history) with their state sponsored industrialists was an indigenous development strategy consistent with local customs.

    I am not saying either we can transplant that into the Philippines (our bureaucrats do not have a cohesive strategy and are not as highly regarded or as powerful for one). We will need to scope out our own strategies.

  10. With respect to Bong Vicente’s comment about dancing with trapos and oligarchs, the Congress is no longer dominated by a monolithic bloc of landowners or compradors (this according to the PCIJ).

    Thus it would be possible in this context to press for certain bills of national importance which serve the public interest by negotiating with these diverse groups of interests.

    As for Noynoy being a bird of the same feather, while it is true that he hails from one of the oldest political dynasties and a landowning family to boot, it is ironic that he should be identified with the more liberal market philosophy, as his nearest rival, Villar who represents the professional, entrepreneurial class of the “new rich” should be positioned as a protectionist candidate.

  11. Thanks Cusp.
    I am inclined to agree with your comments above.

    i just tried logging in using google,facebook and yahoo I still have to decide which one to use probably I’ll stick to google)

  12. Logged in as nick daw. but I am Bert. naliligaw na ako. this is just a test. if this failed, then I’m lost. sorry folks.

  13. Change must be pursued relentlessly, relinquishing on some facets is often necessary and can be correctly ONLY IF a leader knows what are his top five or ten priorities. When such leader knows these top priorities, lo and behold one has the beginnings to enunciate platforms and principles, maybe, because “…becoming president like my father” is ambition, not platform.

    “Becoming president because my immediate friends and business colleagues urge me to run” is whatever-it-is, but it is not platform, either.

  14. Erap, NoyNoy, Villar, Gibo, Jamby – I suppose because they are all shaped by the nature of Pilipinas politics — campaign alike. They stress personality-oriented reasons why they are running for malacanang-2010 — entitlement, “encouragement” from business colleagues and friends) and “personal agenda” of “…to follow the footsteps”. What they intend to do if elected — top 5 legislation, top 5 government projects, platforms, plans for governance — are presented as afterthought).

    People are being led to believe that there will be changes — on taxes, on rice self-sufficiency, on dealing with China or Saudi Arabia — while putting zilch effort to articulate what the changes are going to be.

  15. to nick: WordPress-engine of “quezon-ph” allows you to change your alias back to Bert. Just go to top of box when you enter a comment : to this line, and click on your name. It opens up the panel to do edits.

    Logged in as nick . Logout »

  16. Let us all remember that GIBO, ERAP and most specially GORDON were all Marcos puppies. THey never joined our struggle for democracy during the dictatorship, and in fact collaborated, in sinister, notorious and corruption-filled manner, with the strongman and Mrs. Imeldefic. Villar on the other hand, just sat in one corner and we still do not know if he was a crony or another puppy of one crony.

    In effect this is another AQUINO vs. Marcos. Unfortunately for the late dictator, he has so many proxies in the arena. And we really don’t know how could his side of EVIL win back the presidency.

    It is a blessing that upon Cory’s death, a shining star of HOPE in the person of Nonoy rose to the occasion. Otherwise, balik na naman tayo sa nga TUTA ni MARCOS.

  17. That’s an angle — a vote for NoyNoy is a vote for Cory.

    “Shining star” won’t be accepted by some Pinoys-in-Pinas, e.g. by Pinoys-in-Pinas sensitive against the Aquino stance on farmer-issues, agrarian reform, tax policies and job-creation.

  18. And another angle ——- A Vote for Noynoy will be a vote against Marcos’ puppies. Don’t you agree ?

    I disagree that Cory fared badly on issues mentioned. On agrarian reform, she distributed the most number of titles to farmers. On jobs, NLRC was notoriously pro-labor. Labor had their hey days during Cory’s time. On Hacienda Luisita, “farmers” who picketed his house in Times Street were obviously “planted” by Gibo as evidence showed ( ha-ha )….Tax increases were never a policy during Cory’s time. No VAT. No E-Vat.

    Not a bad angle either — A vote for Noynoy is a vote for Cory’s legacy —FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY.

  19. NEDA is readying the new medium term development plan for the incoming government in 2010. (Philippine Star dated December 24, 2009.)

    Whomever gets to be President is bound to follow this policy platform set by the Washington Consensus and followed dutifully by our bright boys at NEDA.

    That is why Villar said baliwala ang mga platform platform diyan.

    Naka salang na ang polciy framework sa neo-liberal paradigm. Hence the call for good governance since they blame the weak institutions for the fact that the paradigm does not work.

    I also wish does who post data qualify them. Simply posting GDP per capita using PPP is completely misleading as this is simply a theoretical tool for classifying forex valuations. It is not accurate and practical.

    The country needs a president who will dismantle this paradigm mix.

  20. If a candidate can not even show a platform, how else can we expect actions and policies? Given arguendo that the President’s hands are tied when it comes to the economy, there are other aspects that should be covered by a platform eg.,health, peace and order, national patrimony, agrarian reform, foreign policy. education, etc… Therein, he should tell us what he is going to do or what his plans are.

    A candidate who spends billions of pesos for his commercials, but apparently what he says in those commercials are not covered by a platform because he doesn’t have any, will really have a hard time earning my vote.

  21. “Whomever gets to be President is bound to follow this policy platform set by the Washington Consensus and followed dutifully by our bright boys at NEDA.”

    So what is wrong with the so called washington concensus:

    according to rodrik the so called consensus can be summarized as follows:

    “Stabilize, privatize, and liberalize” became the mantra of a generation of technocrats who cut their teeth in the developing world and of the political leaders they counseled.[3]
    —Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard University

    So far we have tried privitization and liberalization, di para satin kaya di umubra. The privatization of the water utilities in metro manila has yet to show results and so does the liberalization of “gas dealers”.We ried liberalization in the banking sector with zilch results.

    Now let us not talk about stabilization.
    but what will the next admin do?

    This is important to the discussion of the bureaucracy.

    Even Japan, known to maintain a humongous bureaucracy has decided to privatize its postal service .

    We just have just raised the salaries of the government employees,the police, the soldiers and we know it is not enough.For 2009 we spent almost 430 billion for personnel services alone.
    Imagine if we decide to nationalize some more?
    our budget will be just for services:
    personnel services and debt services estimated to be almost 950 billion.

    It is so easy to downplay the so called washington concensus.
    what do we do economic nationalism?

    even the US cannot do that, most of their services and manufacturing are outsourced and it will stay that way no matter what Obama promises.

    Now with the recent sea tragedies,do we stop importing second hand or third hand vessels or do we build our own.Aboitiz who builds small vessels chooses to import second hand vessels for its passenger ferries. There must be a reason aside from bowing to the washington consensus.

    like high interest rates,high cost of doing business,lack of technology,lack of infra just to name a few.we already know that we don’t have money.

    These are what I hope the next leaders consider.

  22. Politics should be about shifting allegiances not because of convenience but because of policy differences. We saw these even in the passage of health reform in the united states. The bill does not contain anything about expanding the coverage of medicare or about creating a public option to compete with private health insurance. Liberals in the US seem to view that Obama was a sellout on this one but as pointed out by some liberals, Obama never did want these two important provisions. He said he wanted bipartisanship on healthcare reform. People ought to have read the fine print that republicans are against healthcare reform and conservative democrats wanted a benign reform. In the end, the republicans still voted against the healthcare bill but without first injecting their “killer” amendments and the conservative democrats voted for it with the understanding that those contentious provisions of medicare expansion and public option would be left out. Now was this because of political wheeling and dealing that instead of reforming healthcare private insurance now has benefited from it through the provision which now mandates all americans to buy from private insurance? Yes, absolutely, but it’s also because there is a consensus among those in Washington to support corporate interest. That’s a huge disjunct from the increasing trend among the populace to support progressive policies.

    If you don’t want private armies, vote for people who will say it and stake their political careers on it instead of voting for people like Gilbert Teodoro who has practically opposed dismantling CVOs (civilian volunteer organizations)and expect he’ll be tough on private armies.

  23. CVO’s are not intended to be private armies. The operative word is — outsourcing. The CVO-organizational schema is for such people to be auxiliaries to the regular AFP and PNP forces. Some of the military functions are outsourced to the CVO’s – CVO’s have less responsibilities and less benefits (in particular, no retirement).

    But Pinas has only a small amount of money for command and control. Result — command and control of CVO’s are bastardized.

  24. A lot of confusion in the responses to this post stems from a lack of specifics about the players involved. So let’s break it down:

    1. I believe Manolo is assuming an Aquino “prince”-edency. Why else would he be concerned about the lion and the fox given that the other players are already known for their wheeling and dealing capacity.

    2. His pontifications about compromise I believe are addressed to the civil society groups that have for the first time entered into a partisan campaign to support a candidate in the person of Aquino who they believe will support their reforms.

    3. In calling for a “principled compromise”, Manolo is trying to prepare these operatives for the inevitable, for instance, agreeing to insertions of pork in their portfolio by Congressmen in exchange for having their appointments confirmed or for having their budgets approved or proposed bills passed in Congress.

    4. Such compromise supposedly allows the next admin to put its foot down on essential pieces of policy reform. The question is, what are these? I believe it would have to be on budget questions, such as taking on the local tobacco interests and refusing to grant further tax perks to special economic zones that are providing a cover for smugglers. Without sufficient revenues, the govt will have no means of pursuing major reforms in service delivery and governance.

    While engaging with Congress in this fashion, the next administration should also try to reform some of the institutions that give rise to the questionable deals in the first place. In other words, it should try and fix the system while at the same time working with it. In doing so, it will have to make it in their interests to change. A difficult task for anyone.

  25. Upn,

    to borrow kris aquino’s line everytime a contestant answers correctly: May tama ka.

    Dep of eduction daw ang pinakamalaking allocation for line agencies ,kung di hiwalay ang mga agencies ng mga uniformed services natin (dnd,dilg,dotc)they could easily outrank deped for the largest budget allocation of a single line agency.

  26. CVOs are Private Armies. If were looking for private armies in the sense of contractual professional hitmen trained in combat for private purposes we won’t find much of them unless you look for Blackwater in the country (and there were Filipinos contracted under Blackwater during the Iraq war). CVOs are private armies in the sense that aside from legitimate duties “outsourced” (By the way, administration of some prisons in the US are outsourced to private contractors and they are deemed private in that general sense as the case with CVOs) they also earn their keep through other means. It is not a coincidence that LGU executives influence the selection of CVOs and more often than not they choose people loyal to them.

    Take for example the case of the Ilaga and the Barracuda in Mindanao during the 1970s. Both groups depicted as brigands and thieves and sometimes as vigilantes were often composed of militiamen, soldiers and policemen of a particular faith or ethnolinguistic group. It wasn’t just coincidence that the Barracuda group rarely attacked Ali Dimaporo’s (then governor of Lanao) supporters or properties.

    The bigger problem with prvate armies though is that they are seen as an important cog in the anti-insurgency problem. This stems from state weakness in addressing rebellions hence they have to “outsource” the anti-insurgency campaign so to speak. It was funny what the government ultimately said about weakening the hold of warlords in Mindanao. It spoke of making them irrelevant and diminishing their power base in the provinces. Yet, the government most especially Gilbert Teodoro, appointed heir to the LAKAS regime, has been mum on eradicating private armies most especially those in the private armies who also serve as members of the CVOs or the AFP. Its like saying we’d get rid of the druglord but we’ll keep the drugs. But it is understandable to maintain the CVOs and “reform” the private armies as well. One can do that by maintaining the CVO itself but elminating from private armies full time private contractors only and keeping members of the private armies who are dual CVOs and privateers. Now, why is that so?

    Well, it would be easier for government to regulate privateers who are also CVOs since they would have some power of them. The full-time privateers on the other hand, cannot be regulated because they are under the full pay of warlords. Hence, by eliminating the full-time privateers, which is already being done by many warlords not just in Mindanao, warlords can justify maintaining a standing army for the purposes of combating rebellion. The government keeps their “outsourced” (read: private) militia force and the warlord gets to enjoy the services of these force whenever they are free from anti-insurgency campaigns and so long as the violence and atrocities they commit do not exceed the tolerance level of the desensitized populace (something like 3 to 10 deaths at a time). As keenly observed by Rep. Teddy Locsin in an interview with ANC, warlords in the south were shocked by the acts of Andal Ampatuan because they went beyond the bounds of tolerable violence. It was simply because the governor used the absolute power he had for absolute violence. But if you do have absolute power, wouldn’t you act with absolute impunity?

  27. For me a compromise is tolerable. We can’t always have what we want unless a consensus exists that supports a particular policy. In the usual cases where it doesn’t exist, attention has to be paid to what is promised and making sure they don’t compromise on the essence of what was promised. So assuming a candidate says he will focus on education by increasing its budget by 30%, he can compromise on the percentage of increase or even compromise on the attention and actually pays more attention to a different issue, so long as he doesn’t compromise on the substantial increase of the education budget to the effect that the increase doesn’t appear enough at all.

  28. As the year ends, can’t help musing about what the wise man Henry David Thoreau had said; “The best government is less government”, or something to that effect.

    Perhaps it’s true, but only to the simple citizens, like me for example. The bright and the smarts can have no problem adapting to the complexities. While me, I’m groping in the maze simply just trying to re-acquire a lost ID. heheh.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR, mlq3! HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!


  29. A quote from Niccolo Machiavelli from The Prince:

    “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things; for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order; this lukewarmness arising partly from the incredulity of mankind who does not truly believe in anything new until they actually have experience of it.”

    A happy new year to all.

  30. Who has it said, a wise man? (or a dumb?), that: “Ïf it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” 😀

    Yeheeeey, WELCOME 2010!


  31. Cusp @ 01/01/2010 9:17 am – does that means that Machiavelli believed that it’s easier to be conservative than progressive?

    A former senior partner of mine, Noli Santos, once told me that it is more glamorous to be a progressive than a defender of the status quo that’s why he’s been one.

    Don’t you think Machiavelli’s perception in the regime of tyrannical princes is a bit anachronistic in the age liberalism?

  32. In the USA, lawyers reflect the politics of their customers. A lawyer who is a defender of individual liberties like the right to buy a handgun once a week or more, small government, low taxes and that people (not government) should be responsible enough to save for their own retirement — that lawyer will attract Republicans as clients. A lawyer who quote-unquote “is progressive” meaning for raising taxes to give more scholarships to Muslim students, for reduce the rights of parents to choose the curriculum for their children so that all students go through public schools which bans Bibles, for more regulations to protect USA jobs by imposing higher duties on made-in-China or made-in-Africa products — Democrats. That is the caricature of USA lawyers.

    Some, though, do know their laws and help foreign corporations buy up distressed USA companies to save the local jobs.

  33. Funny thing about “conservatives” is that they never really are conservative. They argue for smaller government when that government means establishing a single payer health care system, expnding medicare, increasing the budget for aid to the poor but on the other hand call for increase in government when it means military spending, bailing out corporations rather than the people, and suspending civil liberties under the pretense of national defense. We’ve heard the argument of “tax cuts” which in Republican newspeak really means cutting taxes for those who can pay them many times over and doing nothing for those who barely can. Of course the term “conservative” cannot really be applied to those who claim to be conservative. The same with the term “liberal”. 80% of the republican party is not conservative; much of it is really right wing tea baggers, radio talk show conspiracy theorists, and corporate lobby groups. The same with the Democratic Party. These terms “conservative”, “liberal”, and “progressive” do not have the same meaning as we people who live outside the US attach to these words.

    It’s always easier to be a conservative since it really means standing for traditional values (whatever those values may be for a particular society). After all, standing for longtime proven values is what conservatism truly stands for. The problem with it though is when those values no longer work. Hence, the conservative begins to look like a philosopher fiddling with concepts stuck in the clouds never really having a grasp of what is happening on the ground.

    As for the progressive, the quintessential reformer, his case can only succeed where conservatism fails. And in cases where reform is no longer sufficient, he is to choose between the path of reforming or revolutionizing. It is really harder to be a progressive but you can always be a conservative while also being a progressive as the case with many people.

  34. I do not think it was Machiavelli’s intention to dissuade princes from attempting to establish new orders, but for them to do so while taking into account current political and economic realities (his imprisonment being a cautionary tale against trying to push too far).

    There is a reason why things are the way they are, i.e. why there is hardly any money in the public coffers for anything beyond our civil servants’ salaries, why our tax effort is so low, why the country has to rely on off-budget loans to fund long term infrastructure requirements. It suits the interests of those who fund political campaigns and their hangers on.

    That is why our politicians are concerned little with the business of platforms, policies or budgets. They are more concerned with paying off their patrons (by giving them access to off-budget resources) and being perceived as “pro-poor” (by engaging in ill-targeted subsidies) to maintain social cohesion and political stability.

    Any so-called “progressive” attempt at reform by introducing Western style democratic rule of law and property rights system (otherwise known as the governance agenda) will be faced with serious constraints and falter unless it focuses on building limited capacity aimed at providing safety nets to the poor while enabling the productive sectors of society to keep their rents and removing the most destructuve forms of rent capture by non-productive agents.

    Unfortunately, corrupt politicians have been more effective in the past at doing this. The whole contention of one camp which MLQ3’s sentiment seems to represent is that an honest person can be just as effective at this while introducing newer and better political and institutional arrangements that improve on previous ones. Let us hope that they are proven right in that regard.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.