Bernardo M. Villegas
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Why the Filipino Nation Failed (Part II)

           Acemoglu and Robinson help us understand the great damage done by the Marcos era to inclusive political and economic institutions through the dictator's usurpation of absolute political power and the centralization of economic resources among his cronies.  Instead of a virtuous circle leading to more inclusive political and economic institutions, a vicious cycle was set off by Marcos:  "The virtuous circle works through several mechanisms.  First, the logic of pluralistic political institutions makes usurpation of power by a dictator, a faction within the government, or even a well-meaning president much more difficult, as Franklin Roosevelt discovered when he tried to remove the checks on his power imposed by the Supreme Court, and as Sir Robert Walpole discovered when he attempted to summarily implement the Black Act.  In both cases, concentrating power further in the hands of an individual or a narrow group would have started undermining the foundations of pluralistic political institutions, and the true measure of pluralism is precisely the ability to resist such attempts.  Pluralism also enshrines the notion of the rule of law:  the principle that laws should be applied equally to everybody--something that is naturally impossible under an absolutist monarchy..."

          Acemoglu and Robinson make reference to another aspect of the virtuous circle:  inclusive political institutions support and are supported by inclusive economic institutions.  Thanks to the higher rate of literacy made by investments in public education and the widespread use of English, for example, numerous low-income workers in the countryside are able to liberate themselves economically from the clutches of the traditional feudal lords by migrating abroad as overseas workers, thus attaining economic independence for themselves and their relatives to whom they send remittances.  As they acquire more economic independence, these millions of OFWS and their relatives are able to vote more independently for their local leaders and no longer have to sell their votes to the highest bidders.  This is a case of inclusive economic institutions ultimately resulting in inclusive political institutions.  This can partly explain the demise of some political dynasties in the provinces in the May 2013 elections.

          As a final example of positive feedback and virtuous circles, Acemoglu and Robinson cite the role of a free media:  "Finally, inclusive political institutions allow a free media to flourish, and a free media often provides information about and mobilizes opposition to threats against inclusive institutions, as it did during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century (in the U.S.), when the increasing economic domination of the Robber Barons was threatening the essence of inclusive economic institutions in the United States."  These observations explain why the Marcos dictatorship exerted all effort, fair and foul, to control media channels and why the Chinese communist party still exercises strong media censorship, especially of the internet. Given the more independent media in the Philippines today, one can be optimistic that the current campaign against corruption of the Government of President Benigno Aquino III can be sustained even under a new leadership beyond 2016. 

          This very cursory survey of the theory behind the book Why Nations Fail was intended to demonstrate the value of putting together historians, economists, political scientists, cultural anthropologists and philosophers, among others, in a multidisciplinary attempt to understand the process of what is known as inclusive growth or more comprehensively integral human development, i.e., the development of every man and the whole man.  The Center for Research and Communication is committed to making full use of the teaching and research resources of the University of Asia and the Pacific to answer the oft-repeated question:  Can we sustain the  favorable economic conditions brought about by the governance reforms under the Aquino Administration?  We can give an affirmative answer to this question if our joint research will show that our present leadership is focusing on making our political and economic institutions more inclusive.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.