Witness the recent upheavals in the Maghreb and the Levant. Young people who feel they have the right to a future by way of a job, and are not getting it. What made them angry, what was the trigger? Rising food prices, reflecting the rise in commodity prices around the world. We jealously guard our individual human rights of free speech, free association and the right to commerce. Note the word jealously. Now substitute the word selfishly. And it gets a whole new meaning.
Call us naïve, but rising prices, not only of food, is a natural process. As world population increases, demand increases and with climatic change and natural resource supply instability due to management incompetence, shortages were the result. The law of supply and demand rules. Prices go up, people become unhappy. Then angry. Then overthrow governments. Its called people power. Remember 1789, when the sans-culottes got angry with rising prices of bread ? They were told to eat cake ? The savagery and cannibalism that came after proved that changing governments is not always the solution because no government has control over human nature, Mother nature and the law of supply and demand.
Bring it on!
So tolls, oil prices, fares, energy, fuel, food prices are going to increase. Consumers, empowered by being called stakeholders, march on the street to demand price rollbacks and government subsidies become instant fodder to the sensationalist media. Its mob rule, just like the forum trolls who cowardly hide behind bogus names. Their anonimity gives an impression of numbers, but their opinions are not only an abuse, but an insult to everyone's freedom speech. Like bully boy protesters who want the world of business to conform to what they want despite all the mathematical proofs of the government and the people who put their hard earned money into the business of tollways, trains, oil drilling, oil refining, agriculture, food processing, food distribution, power generation, power transmission, etc. And lets not forget that these businesses borrow money from banks. For which they pay interest. Because the money belongs to millions of other savers, who turn out to be the People.
What ever side of the argument one belongs to, no one is taking away anyone's rights. If you don't find a consumer good not worth your money - tolls, train fares, electricity, jasmine rice - then go ahead, don't buy it. The market is full of substitute goods, because we are a free market economy.
There is no free lunch
High MRT-LRT fares? There's the smoky dirty ground level PUJ or the half empty buses. Or the illegal pedicabs, colorum FX and the illegal tricycles. Tolls too high? The tax payer funded national highway system beckons. These are practically free for the majority as BIR will tell you that only a handful of our population pay net income taxes. Food prices too high? Yes, difficult for the illegal settlers whose limited but free housing space, don't have a pot to plant veggies. But not in the provinces. Energy prices too high? Give up on the scandalous AM talk radio programs, mind numbing TV game shows, pirated DVD, etc. Yes, the law of getting what you pay for always applies. If the NCR is uncomfortable with rising prices, it doesn't mean the other 12 Regions should cough up a subsidy for NCR to maintain its lifestyle.
It doesn't end there. It takes off on a slippery slope. Software applications charge too much? Pirated is available. Cheating is now recast as resourcefulness, under the guise of the right to choose alternatives. Can't afford your dream cell phone? Buy the copy. Still too much? Steal the means to buy one or steal one. And more. And make a business of it. And when one starts stealing to get what one wants, the world is your oyster. Cellphones. Cars. Pension plans. Companies. National economies. This is the whole informal economy, with its own checks, balances, taxes and unwritten rules and accounts.
It then becomes a lucrative business. A business that becomes an entitlement. A jealously [or selfishly] guarded right. So now lucrative easy-come easy-go businesses will no longer tolerate competition as they see it as an encroachment on their oligopolistic right to get rich. They won't care about your right to free commerce. This is what keeps many a sclerotic dynasty in a position of power in many states, not only in the Maghreb and the Levant. Selfish, right?
Kill for the right
Yes, we all do have a right to be selfish. What we don't have is the right to impose on other people to unwillingly give to us what belongs to them. That's not fair. In the land of hometown mentality, the sense of fair play is observed only in the breach. So what's the difference between guarding our rights jealously and guarding our rights selfishly? Nothing really, as many are willing to die for or kill for such rights.
So when one doesn't like a toll/fuel/fare/tax/energy/rice price increase, go ahead, don't buy. Go ahead, look for like minded people, make a slogan, march arm and arm and chant in anger. Call for a boycott. Its legitimate. Its like negative advertising. Governments did that to newspaper and opinion makers. At one time, the country's biggest corporation was subject to a consumer boycott just because the new owners were accused of being crony of the oligarchy. Ten years and twenty five years respectively, the newspapers and the country's biggest corporation, owned by the same crony of the oligarchy are still around, bigger and better than ever.
What's the effect?
Boycott all they like, but they can't make us, who do not agree with them, to subsidize them. The government should value justice above the noisy protesters and their grandstanding grandees who care about their rights but want it at the expense of the rest of us, the silent majority. And we are not going to let mobs, forum trolls and cowards with assumed names to tell us what to do.