Liberty without order

Yesterday marks the second year since the untoward deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers of the PNP that were sent to calm rebels MILF-BIFF encounter in  Mamasapano, Zamboanga. This year, on a similar vein, amidst ongoing Miss Universe pageantry around the islands and another news of Filipino OFW execution this time in Kuwait, we hear of the shocking circumstances surounding the death of a foreigner (South Korean) on our shores allegedly in the hands of police inside police headquarters too. Regardless if it’s politically-motivated by the opposition or just plain murder, killing of foreigners by police is a big blow to the country’s image. These things make us look inconsistent and furthers the ill repute given to Filipinos. Where’s our native values of hiya (shame) and dangal (honor) in the context of pamilya (family) ie. the Filipino nation as one family? Isn’t it that ang sakit ng kalingkingan ay dama ng buong katawan (pain in the little finger is felt by the entire body)? Remember the handling of the hostage incident involving Chinese tourists and it’s subsequent impact on then President Noynoy and the country on the whole? What do these tell of law and order here? How could we look the international community in the eyes and convince them “it’s more fun in the Philippines”? How could we walk around proudly as ” world class” Filipinos when there are these things piggy-backing on our backs? How could we make the leap forward as a country to reckon with when we’re so busy, in thought and deed, stabbing each other on the back? These events are not about loss of public trust and respect on any one individual or entity rather they’re more of a mirror to the sorry pattern of Philippine governance: just when peace, order,  growth, reforms basically are taking off things suddenly appear from nowhere pushing the country back a hundred years. We’ve never fully taken off. This is our sad repetitive story.

Hello, Philippine civil society what say you to these? But we don’t hear from the sector often and loud enough at least on such topics, on the premise that “we don’t do politics.” Ah.

Some insights from Samuel P. Huntington in Political Order in Changing Societies may help in polishing that outlook:

The most important political distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government… The United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union have different forms of government, but in all three systems the government governs. Each country is a political community with an overwhelming consensus among the people on the legitimacy of the political system… These governments command the loyalties of their citizens and thus have the capacity to tax resources, to conscript manpower, and to innovate and to execute policy. If the Politburo, the Cabinet, or the President makes a decision, the probability is high that it will be implemented through the government machinery.

In all these characteristics the political systems of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union differ significantly from the governments which exist in many, if not most, of the modernizing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. These countries lack many things. They suffer real shortages of food, literacy, education, wealth, income, health, and productivity, but most of them have been recognized and efforts made to do something about them. Beyond and behind these shortages, however, there is a greater shortage: a shortage of political community and of effective, authoritative, legitimate government. “I do know,” Walter Lippmann has observed, “that there is no greater necessity for men who live in communities than that they be governed, self-governed if possible, well-governed if they are fortunate, but in any event, governed.” Mr. Lippmann wrote these words in a moment of despair about the United States. But they apply in far greater measure to the modernizing coumtries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where the political institutions have little power, less majesty, and no resiliency–where, in many cases, governments simply do not govern.

In the mid-1950s, Gunnar Myrdal called the world’s attention to the apparent fact that the rich nations of the world were getting richer, absolutely and relatively, at a faster rate than the poorer nations. “On the whole,” he argued, “in recent decades the economic inequalities between developed and underdeveloped countries have been increasing.”… A similar and equally urgent problem exists in politics. In politics as in economics the gap between developed political systems and underdeveloped political systems, between civic polities and corrupt polities, has broadened. This political gap resembles and is related to the economic gap, but it is not identical with it. Countries with underdeveloped economies may have highly developed political systems, and countries which have achieved high levels of economic welfare may still have disorganized and chaotic politics. Yet in the twentieth century the principal locus of political underdevelopment, like that of economic underdevelopment, tends to be the modernizing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

With a few notable exceptions, the political evolution of these countries after World War II was characterized by increasing ethnic and class conflict, recurring rioting and mob violence, frequent military coups d’etat, the dominance of unstable personalistic leaders who often pursued disastrous economic and social policies, widespread and blatant corruption among cabinet ministers and civil servants, arbitrary infringement of the rights and liberties of citizens, declining standards of bureaucratic inefficiency and performance, the pervasive alienation of urban political groups, the loss of authority by legislatures and courts, and the fragmentation and at times complete disintegration of broadly based political parties…

What was responsible for this violence and instability? …it was in large part the product of rapid social change and the rapid mobilization of new groups into politics coupled with the slow development of political institutions. “Among the laws that rule human societies,” de Tocqueville observed, “there is one which seems to be more precise and clear than all others. If men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions is increased.” The political instability in Asia, Africa, and Latin America derives precisely from the failure to meet this condition: equality of political participation is growing much more rapidly than “the art of associating together.” Social and economic change–urbanization, increases in literacy and education, industrialization, mass media expansion–extend political consciousness, multiply political demands, broaden political participation. These changes undermine traditional sources of political authority and traditional political institutions; they enormously complicate the problems of creating new bases of political association and new political institutions combining legitimacy and effectiveness. The rates of social mobilization and the expansion of political organization and institutionalization are low. The result is politival instability and disorder. The primary problem of politics is the lag in the development of political institutions behind social and economic change.

For two decades after World War II American foreign policy failed to come to grips with this problem. The economic gap, in contrast to the political gap, was the target of sustained attention, analysis, and action. Aid programs and loan programs, the World Bank and regional banks, the UN and the OECD, consortia and combines, planners and politicians, all shared in a massive effort to do something about the problem of economic development. Who, however, was concerned with the political gap? American officials recognized that the United States had a primary interest in the creation of viable political regimes in modernizing countries. But few, if any, of all the activities of the American government affecting those countries were directly concerned with the promotion of political stability and the reduction of the political gap. How can this astonishing lacuna be explained?

It would appear to be rooted in two distinct aspects of the American historical experience. In confronting the modernizing countries the United States was handicapped by its happy history. In its development the United States was blessed with more than its fair share of economic plenty, social well-being, and political stability. This pleasant conjuncture of blessings led Americans to believe in the unity of goodness: to assume that all good things go together and that the achievement of one desirable social goal aids in the achievement of others… In American thinking the causal chain was: economic assistance promotes economic development economic development promotes political stability…

If political decay and political instability were more rampant in Asia, Agrica, and Latin America…it was in part because American policy reflected this erroneous dogma. For in fact, economic development and political stability are two independent goals and progress toward one has no necessary connection with progress toward the other. In some instances programs of economic development may promote political stability; in other instances they may seriously undermine such stability. So also, some forms of political stability may encourage economic growth; other forms may discourage it…

With the Alliance for Progress in 1961, social reform–that is, the more equitable distribution of material and symbolic resources–joined economic development as a conscious and explicit goal of American policy toward modernizing countries. This development was, in part, a reaction to the Cuban Revolution, and it reflected the assumption among policymakers that land and tax reforms, housing projects, and welfare programs would reduce social tensions and deactivate the fuse of Fidelismo. Once again political stability was to be the by-product of the achievement of another socially desirable goal. In fact, of course, the relationship between social reform and political stability resembles that between economic development and political stability. In some circumstances reforms may reduce tensions and encourage peaceful rather than violent change. In other circumstances, however, reform may well exacerbate tensions, precipitate violence, and be a catalyst of rather than a substitute for revolution.

A second reason for American indifference to political development was the absence in the American historical experience of the need to found a political order. Americans, de Tocqueville said, were born equal and hence never had to worry about creating equality; they enjoyed the fruits of democratic revolution without having suffered one… This gap in historical experience made them peculiarly blind to the problems of creating effective authority in modernizing countries. When an American thinks about the problem of government-building, he directs himself not to the creation of authority and the accumulation of power but rather to the limitation of authority and the division of power. Asked to design a government, he comes up with a written constitution, bill of rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, regular elections, competitive parties–all excellent devices for limiting government… Confronted with the need to design a political system which will maximize power and authority, he has no ready answer. His general formula is that governments should be based on free and fair elections.

In many modernizing societies this formula is irrelevant. Elections to be meaningful presuppose a certain level of political organization. The problem is not to hold elections but to create organizations. In many, if not most, modernizing countries elections serve only to enhance the power of disruptive and often reactionary social forces and to tear down the structure of public authority. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men,” Madison warned in The Federalist, No. 51, “the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” In many modernizing countries governments are still unable to perform the first function, much less the second. The primary problem is not liberty but the creation of a legitimate public order. Men may, of course, have order without liberty, but they cannot have liberty without order. Authority has to exist before it can be limited, and it is authority that is in scarce supply in those modernizing countries where government is at the mercy of alienated intellectuals, rambunctious colonels, and rioting students…

In a society with only a few social forces, one group–warriors, priests, a particular family, a racial or ethnic group–may dominate the others and effectively induce them to acquiesce in its rule. The society may exist with little or no community. But in a society of any greater heterogeneity and complexity, no single social force can rule, much less create a community, without creating political institutions which have some existence independent of the social forces that gave them birth. “The strongest,” in Rousseau’s oft-quoted phrase, “is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right and obedience into duty.” …but if the society is to be a community, the power of each group is exercised through political institutions which temper, moderate, and redirect that power so as to render the dominance of one social force compatible with the community of many…

In addition, a complex society also requires some definition in terms of general principle or ethical obligation of the bond which holds the groups together and which distinguishes its community from other communities… The obligation is to some principle, tradition, myth, purpose, or code of behavior that the persons and groups have in common. Combined, these elements constitute Cicero’s definition of the commonwealth, or “the coming together of a considerable number of men who are united by a common agreement upon law and rights and by the desire to participate in mutual advantages.” …Yet there is also a third side. For attitudes must be reflected in behavior, and community involves not just any “coming together” but rather a regularized, stable, and sustained coming together. The coming together must, in short, be institutionalized…

The institutions are the behavioral manifestation of the moral consensus and mutual interest. The isolated family, clan, tribe, or village may achieve community with relatively little conscious effort. They are, in a sense, natural communities. As societies become larger in membership, more complicated in structure, and more diverse in activities, the achievement or maintenance of a high level of community becomes increasingly dependent upon political institutions. Men are, however, reluctant to give up the image of social harmony without political action. This was Rousseau’s dream. It remains the dream of statesmen and soldiers who imagine that they can induce community in their societies without engaging in the labor of politics…In fact, this atavistic notion could only succeed if history were reversed, civilization undone, and the levels of human organization reduced to family and hamlet.

Historically, political institutions have emerged out of the interaction among and disagreement among social forces, and the gradual development of procedures and organizational devices for resolving those disagreements… “Conscious constitution-making appears to have entered the Mediterranean world when the clan organization weakened and the contest of rich and poor became a significant factor in politics.” The Athenians called upon Solon for a constitution when their polity was threatened by dissolution because there were “as many different parties as there were diversities in the country” and “the disparity of fortune between the rich and the poor, at that time, also reached its height.” …The reforms of Solon and Cleisthenes were responses to the social-economic change that threatened to undermine the earlier basis of community. As social forces become more variegated, political institutions had to become more complex and authoritative. It is precisely this development, however, which failed to occur in many modernizing societies in the twentieth century. Social forces were strong, political institutions weak. Legislatures and executives, public authorities and political parties remained fragile and disorganized. The development of the state lagged behind the evolution of society.

Political community in a complex society thus depends upon the strength of the political organizations and procedures in the society. That strength, in turn, depends upon the scope of support for the organizations and procedures and their level of institutionalization. Scope refers simply to the extent to which the political organizations and procedures encompass activity in the society. If only a small upper-class group belongs to political organizations and behaves in terms of a set of procedures, the scope is limited. If, on the other hand, a large segment of the population is politically organized and follows the political procedures, the scope is broad… The level of institutionalization of any political system can be defined by the adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence of its organizations and procedures. So also, the level of institutionalization of any particular organization or procedure can be measured by its adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence.


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