By: Summerson A. Macasarte
St. Thomas More School of Law and Business
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “If a man does not have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness.” This may sound astounding but this, without a doubt, is true. What then is true liberty?
Much has been said on the right to life, liberty or property. Jurists emphasized the hierarchy of these rights with the right to life being the preeminence and the right to property being the least. However, majority missed the reality that these major rights intertwined with each other. To say, they are inseparable and portray a twin-relationship with each one. For instance, a family composed of 6 members. Will they be able to enjoy their right to life if in a day their resources are only sufficient for a 3-time meal without any allowance for the next day or for leisure? Absolutely “No.” Truly, life is more than breathing. It is beyond having a full stomach. In contrast, it is about realizing an individual’s potentials and capabilities. Thus, the concept of “Liberty and Prosperity.”
As retired Justice Artemio Panganiban said: “Truth is eternal and limitless; that truth is not bound by sovereignty, or territory, or ideology, or legality. And that truth is this: humans need both justice and jobs; freedom and food; ethics and economics; peace and development; liberty and prosperity; these twin beacons must always go together; one is useless without the other.” Simply, liberty and prosperity are twins. One is not without the other; one is the soul and the other is the body.
Remarkably, even our Constitution advocates such. Section 5, Article 2 on the Declaration of Principles provides: “The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and the promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.” Section 9 of the same Article also provides that the State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, provide full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.” Section 11 of the same article provides that the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights. However, what then is “dignity”? What is its scope? Can it be achieved with the predominant existence of poverty? Nay! Quoting a renowned author of a political law book: “Section 9 derives from the premises that poverty and gross inequality are major problems besetting the nation and that these problems assault the dignity of the human person.” What a strong statement. Therefore, it is a necessary conclusion that “Liberty and Prosperity” are twins, to be exact “siamese,” that removing one from the other would kill both of them.
The question now would be, “How to downsize poverty, if not eradicate, to achieve real liberty?” The answer lies in engaging a correct economical paradigm. And that is, as worded by the retired Justice Panganiban, “to unleash the entrepreneurial genius of people by granting them the freedom and tools to help themselves and society.”
Confucius once said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Justice Panganiban expounded, “to save a fisherman from destitution, we must help him learn how to fish more effectively. We must educate him in the skills needed to catch more fish efficiently, assist him in acquiring a boat, allow him the freedom to sail the vast oceans, and teach him the techniques to market the fish he catches.” This illustrates the principles of the mentioned correct economical paradigm. This is related, if not identical, to the so-called “Market Economy System.”
By description, the “Market Economy System,” is one in which economic decisions and the pricing of goods and services are guided solely by the aggregate interactions of the country’s individual citizens and businesses. In this type of economic system, there is little government intervention or central planning. Here, the government allows wide latitude for businessmen and workers, and producers and consumers to interact and decide among themselves what they seemed best in the situation. However, that is not to say that the government is totally unconcerned about the affairs of the economy. Government intervenes but only when it is necessary and only at a minimum degree. The “Central Planning System,” on the other hand, is one in which the economy is preplanned by the government and does not allow wide freedom for the people to decide and interact with each other. Here, the government decides what to produce and how much of each kind and how to allocate its resources. The so-called “Central Planning System” was proved by history to be not effective by the collapse of the countries that followed such, for instance the former “Union of Soviet Socialist Republic,” or “USSR.” The economic failure was manifested itself by a significant slow-down in the production forces which led, at the end, to stagnation. Prior to its fell, USSR’s average growth rate of industrial output declined from an average of 7 percent (7%) in the 1960s to 4 percent (4%) in the 1970s and to 2 percent (2%) in the 1980s. Its average GDP growth rate also fell from 7 percent (7%) in the 1960s to about 5 percent (5%) in the 1970s and barely 2 percent (2%) in the 1980s. At the same time, serious shortages of consumer goods developed and the phenomena of technological backwardness and low quality of production intensified. The mentioned economic failure can be attributed to the fundamental incompatibility between the requirements of the growth economy and the functioning of a centrally planned economy. (http://www.inclusivedemocracy.org/journal/ss/ch6.htm)
In a market economy, the market forces are competitively free to secure the degree of concentration which is necessary for growth, unlike in the central planning system. This system of economy was developed by classical economists such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Jean-Baptiste Say in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is justified by the fact that protectionism and government intervention tend to lead to economic inefficiencies that actually made people worse off. Astonishingly, the success of the market system is not without precedent. To name a few, China, and South Korea. As explained by Justice Panganiban, China was previously the prime promoter of the central planning system; however it became the second most powerful economy in the world by the leadership of Deng Xiaoping who led China to the unparalleled economic prosperity by unleashing the entrepreneurial ingenuity of the Chinese under his “One-Country-Two Systems” philosophy. He further explained that South Korea came from an unwanted economic ruin because of its being separated from its nearest kin, the North Korea; nevertheless, it astoundingly rise from said misfortune by its reliance on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Korean people. It built on their private initiative as well as on the notion that innovation, creativity, freedom and hard work would enable them to conquer their poverty, provide for their family’s well-being and attain influence. On the other hand, North Korea, because of its indifference toward market economy, sunk into the pit of poverty failing to realize what South Korea has achieved.
Successfully establishing the above premises, the question now poses on the constitutionality and legality of the said “Market System.” The Constitution itself, Article 2 and Section 19 thereof is instructive. Said constitutional provision provides that “the State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourage private enterprise, and provides incentives to needed investments.” Clear indeed is the recognition of the fundamental law of the land that the State recognizes that not all forces in the market can be efficiently addressed by it. In contrast, it needs the partnership of the private sector to effectively carry out its mandate, i.e. to promote the common good. However, the concept of “social justice” is constantly lurking in the minds of many that it continuously haunt them making them think that the idea of “market system” is incompatible with the principle of “social justice.” The decision of the Supreme Court in the land mark case of Calalang vs. Williams 70 Phil. 726 (1940) sheds some light on the issue. The Supreme Court defines the concept of “social justice”, thus:
“Social justice is neither communism, nor depotism, nor atomism, nor anarchy, but the humanization of laws and the equalization of social and economic forces by the State so that justice in its rational and objectively secular conception may at least be approximated.” It further explained that “social justice means the promotion of the welfare of all the people, the adoption by the Government of measures calculated to ensure economic stability of all the component elements of society, through the maintenance of a proper economic and social equilibrium in the interrelations of the members of the community, constitutionally, through the adoption of measures legally justifiable, or extra-constitutionally, through the exercise of powers underlying the existence of all governments on the time-honored principle of salus populi est supremo lex.”
Truly, social justice does not import “communism.” Neither does it prohibit the free play of the entrepreneurs in the economy. As a matter of fact, it is directed to the promotion of the welfare of all the people by affording them not just the basic necessities in life but by also addressing all factors in the economy which are but ingredients to a holistic liberation.
The collision of these two opposing forces, “market system,” on one hand and “social justice” on the other is further addressed by Article 12 of the Constitution. Section 1 of the said article, under the title “National Economy and Patrimony” expressly provides thus:
“The goals of the national economy are a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income, and wealth; a sustained increase in the amount of goods and services produced by the nation for the benefit of the people; and an expanding productivity as the key to raising the quality of life for all, especially the underprivileged.”
Clearly, the Constitution does not only mandate the “equitable distribution of wealth” upon which the principle of social justice is founded. It also mandates the “sustained increase in the amount of goods and services,” which may be achieved through the employment of the “market system,” or “by the unleashing of the entrepreneurial genius of people by granting them the freedom and tools to help themselves and society.”
Still, fears are invading in some minds about this system. These fears may already be apparent or still imaginary. An example of this would be on the possible abuse on the rights of workers. Another one is the possible deterioration of our natural resources if wastes from the entrepreneurs’ operation are not properly disposed. Also, the possible violation of the rights of our indigenous communities if their lands are allowed to be occupied. Lastly, the evil effects of monopoly and possible manipulation in the prices of goods and services in the economy. These are but few fears which are undoubtedly not without any basis. Nevertheless, the “market system” of economy is not without any counter measure.
Let it not be said that the “market system” advocates no government intervention in the economy’s affairs. What it only advocates is just minimal interference and not total absence of intervention. The State under this system brings every players (producer and consumer, entrepreneur and laborer, etc.) on fair grounds. It ensures that laborer gives the right quality of services due to the entrepreneur and that the latter, on the other hand, affords the right amount of wages and benefits to the former. The State also ensures that the basic inviolable rights, i.e. right to life, freedom of religion, etc. of the people are not trodden down; cultural and ancestral rights are guarded; and protection to our country’s natural resources are guaranteed. The State remains the head of the economy; therefore, fears on possible abnormalities such as monopolies and price manipulations are not beyond control.
The question now would be: “Up to what extent should the government interfere with the affairs of the economy?” The answer would be simple: “Only to the extent of protecting its sovereignty, and the people’s basic rights such as right to life, liberty, property, freedom of religion, right to self-determination, etc. and only when it is necessary.” This criteria should be the basis of every branches of the government in performing its mandate. The legislative must not prejudiced the poor for the rich nor the rich for the poor. The executive must implement the laws fiercely without regard to any class in the society. Lastly, the judiciary must interpret the law not deviating from it according to the letter and its spirit. Not just the letter for it is not the letter that killeth but the spirit that giveth life. Neither the spirit alone otherwise it would tantamount to judicial legislation. Let it not be forgotten also that the citizens of our country has a role in this system and that is to be fearless to adapt change. The need for change is in our fundamental law itself bearing in mind of course the fundamental rights of everyone. It may not be pointed out now with particularity. However, if someday those specific provisions of the Constitution is identified to be a heavy load on the road to true liberty, then it is but proper for all citizens to consent change.
This way to true liberation is indeed not an affair of one man. This involves everyone. However, since some are still in the shackles of fear with this system, educating the people is a very important task. Everyone can help in removing the misconceptions of this so-called “Market System.” The writer humbly believes that he can help educate the poor as well as the rich. He can help serve by leading the people away from the extreme left of “communism” and the extreme right of “Pure Market System” as this system is neither the two. He can teach and he can impart these. That will be his contribution.
There are extremes in the world and that the “Market System” is neither one. That people fight for liberty but liberty includes prosperity. What then is true liberty? It is liberty with prosperity and the “Market System” is its way.