Posted by: mensab | May 18, 2008

Governing the government

Everytime the oil prices hike due to deregulation, the government’s excuse is that the price is set by the market. With that, it can do nothing about it. So why then we have a government that does nothing on matters that directly affect us all? I am reminded by an old article of mine written seven years ago.

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“Whenever the powers of government are placed in anyhands other than those of the community – whether those of man, of a few, or of several – those principles of human nature which imply that government is at all necessary imply that those persons will make use of them to defeat the very end for which government exits.” (James Mill, An Essay on Government)

If a government says it can do nothing on matters of national effect and concern except invoking a law that is clearly anti-people, what can it do for itself to save from extinction?

Everytime Shell, Caltex and Petron otherwise collectively known as the Big 3 raise their prices of oil almost simultaneously, the straight-faced reason is that they are losing money separately yet similarly. And the government watches on the sideline with its eager helplessness and (mis)understood the incomprehensible price incrases in the midst of a crisis without a sly attempt to liosten to the cry of the people – where we are taught the sovereignty of the government resides.

Are the oil companies really losing money? According to Rep. Ernesto Herrera of Bohol, they are NOT. On the records filed by these oil firms with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), they by and large profited to a jolting Php 18.6 billion with Shell having P7.45 billion; Petron, P6.54 billion; and Caltex P4.64 billion. However, they claim that these profits actually reflected very modest returns compared to 1996 when the oil industry was not yet deregulated.

Oddly, the Deparment of Energy that is monitoring the oil industry has nothing interesting to say to the people except defending the activites of the Big 3. It is understandably welcome for the oil firms to have a spokesperson from the government itself, being a sentinel of the welfare of the people supposedly. It looks like the government is willing to pay for the sins of the Big 3 disposing  its truest nature and service to the “people” – the people it knows all along, former colleagues, friends, relatives, affluent, and the masses (in no particular order, I suppose).

As Rousseau in the Social Contract would state emphatically, “nothing is more dangerous than the influence of private interest in public affairs, and the abuse of the laws by the government is a less evil than the corruption of the legislation..” Save the Herrera’s expose on the “modest profits” of the Big 3, the Congress is in a way nurturing the stifling situation by sitting on a bill that will eventually amend the Oil Deregulation Law and foster competition which the law intends. In the bill, the creation of the National Oil Exchange which will bid the national oil needs from the lowest bidder among the international oil traders will tremble the oil cartel of the Big 3 on its bending knees, cutting its clout in the government. They will be forced to low down their prices to win the bidding and be able to continue supplying the oil needs of the country. On the recent oil price hike, the Speaker of the House nonetheless has threatened inexpediently the Big 3 of the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law if they continue acting like a cartel. Where has the speaker been all this long as he is the only soul left unconvinced of the cartel? He needs a little dose of history of the oil price fluctuations of the Big 3 that require no further inquiry to resolve the existence of a cartel.

In the globalizing world, the national govenment is being run over by the mighty capital of the transnational companies such as the Big 3. It is left unconditionally powerless and insignificant in the moneyed world without borders. Couples with the government’s thrust toward industrialization and globalization, these transnational companies suggestively assume the token seat of power – the government. And they are gaining ground to hold on to the seat as long as the actual owner wills it.

Do we?

The great Rousseau reminds us that people that would always govern well need not be governed. Essentially, democracy promotes people’s active participation in the decisionmaking of the state. The government – let it rule for the end of common good.

In the first proposition of Kant in the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, he writes “that an action, to have moral worth, must be done from duty.” Now the people ask, how about inaction?

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