Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Status quo: The state is winning . . . and the elite class too

“Church v state in the Philippines’ war on drugs: The state is winning,” The Economist, 11th May 2017.

“The church hierarchy has been slower to speak out, but is finding its voice at last . . . Yet at a time when the political opposition is divided and self-serving, few expect the church to fill the breach. Not even its own leaders think it has the moral authority it had in 1986, during the People Power Revolution, when Cardinal Jaime Sin was able to call upon Filipinos to take to the streets to protect the leaders of the army, who had broken with Marcos.”

Self-serving opposition? What else is new? In the vernacular, it’s called “weather-weather.” In other words, beyond tyranny is us, “status quo is us”!

The writer just visited a market where his Eastern European friends are doing business and at the tail end he led them through a familiar drill: his visit comments and the agreed next steps with the team on the ground. To express its gist, he can’t say it any better than a McKinsey article: “In today’s rapidly evolving landscape, leaders face a continuum of possibilities: build an ecosystem, use someone else’s platform, stick to one’s linear-value-chain knitting, or fashion some combination of the above. Navigating this crucible ultimately comes down to asking hard questions about a company’s sources of differentiation and positional advantage, and placing all options on the table, even if that means disrupting or cannibalizing one’s own business.” [The global forces inspiring a new narrative of progress, Ezra Greenberg, Martin Hirt, and Sven Smit, McKinsey Quarterly, April 2017]

It's called lateral thinking, not linear and incremental thinking. It is called solid, aggressive growth not incremental growth. “Pwede na ‘yan” has no place in a highly competitive, globalized world. But it starts with reality, and it means asking the hard question, where are we – honest-to-goodness? And it calls for benchmarking and, clearly, dynamism.

That is easier for a private enterprise to pursue? Of course, but let’s look outward, to China. “Behind China’s $1 Trillion Plan to Shake Up the Economic Order,” Jan Perlez and Yufan Huang, The New York Times, 13th May 2017.

“The massive infrastructure projects, along with hundreds of others across Asia, Africa and Europe, form the backbone of China’s ambitious economic and geopolitical agenda. President Xi Jinping of China is literally and figuratively forging ties, creating new markets for the country’s construction companies and exporting its model of state-led development in a quest to create deep economic connections and strong diplomatic relationships.

“The initiative, called “One Belt, One Road,” looms on a scope and scale with little precedent in modern history, promising more than $1 trillion in infrastructure and spanning more than 60 countries. To celebrate China’s new global influence, Mr. Xi is gathering dozens of state leaders, including President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in Beijing on Sunday. It is global commerce on China’s terms.

“China is making calculations that the benefits will outweigh the risks.” 

That China demonstrated how it can be done – from dirt poor begging for Western money and technology to economic power – in our lifetime should give us pause. Singapore is too small, we said to pooh-pooh the miracle they pulled. Now, China is too big? What is the common denominator? Us, status quo is us! Tyranny is us!

Evolution and development. If it isn’t obvious yet, the blog hasn’t tired discussing Darwin and evolution and development – and the reality of extinction for organisms that don’t pay heed.

China will make mistakes – the repertoire, from rookie mistakes . . . and . . . beyond. And it is not new to them that empires aren’t evergreen. We love to talk about Spain, being once our colonizer, and the writer and family has Spain on top of their favorites with Italy – given the warmth of the people and, of course, great food and wine. But where is Spain today compared to Germany, for example?

Put another way, our current portfolio and make up of enterprises – from subsistence farming to oligarchy – cannot be cast in stone. We think they are, and why we can’t attract a trillion dollars in FDI like Singapore.

And consider, Trump has backed away from labeling China a currency manipulator. “China and US reach agreement on beef, poultry, natural gas,” Martin Crutsinger and Jill Colvin, Associated Press, ABC News, 12th May 2017.

“Beijing will open its borders to U.S. beef, while cooked Chinese poultry is closer to landing on American supermarket shelves under a U.S.-China trade agreement.

“Trump administration officials hailed the deal as a significant advance toward boosting U.S. exports and closing America's trade gap with the world's second-largest economy. U.S. trade experts offered a more muted assessment, calling the agreement a modest fulfillment of past assurances made by China.

“Among other things, the deal enables U.S. companies to export liquefied natural gas to China. It will also lower long-standing barriers that have affected matters ranging from agriculture to the operation of American financial firms in China.”

It is not a perfect agreement and, indeed, it is but a modest fulfillment of past assurances made by China. Evolution . . . development . . . 

What is a “no-no” is to stop evolution and development like our elite class want to keep to our tyrannical culture? It was not politically correct but Hillary was on to something when she said the word, “deplorables.” Or listen to the former UK Prime Minister. “Tony Blair calls for people to ‘rise up’ against Brexit.” [BBC, 17th Feb 2017]

Of course, globalization is still evolving and developing. “Essentially, the problem with globalization is a mismatch of the economic intergenerational aspects of economics versus the short-termism that we see in the political decision-making process. Put another way, politicians are basically very rationally courting and catering to their national electorates and will always very rationally want to protect their voters. But as a consequence, they can never have a global interest as the priority, because ultimately [issues] will be decided in terms of their political opportunities based on national agenda.

“Although there are many reasons to pursue globalization [if we believe] it can lift all boats. The problem is, the only way that you can have effective globalization is if you have global institutions who oversee the aspects of the key pillars of globalization—trade, capital flows, and immigration. [Globalization’s ongoing challenge, Rik Kirkland and Dambisa Moyo, McKinsey&Company, May 2017]

But the journey in pursuit of truth cannot end. “Pope Francis told a group of astronomers that scientific questions about the universe and its origins sometimes clash with theology and spiritual beliefs, but he encouraged them to continue their quest for knowledge and ‘never to fear truth.’” [Pope urges scientists ‘never to fear truth’ despite theological clashes, Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service, USA Today, 12th May 2017]

Yet our elite class don’t want to hear about shuttering the status quo? Parochial and insular; hierarchical and paternalistic; political patronage and dynasties; and oligarchic. That when all is said and done, a culture of impunity.

Consider how the Rockefeller family has evolved: “Rockefeller Fund Takes First Green Stake in Pivot From Oil,” Jess Shankleman, Bloomberg, 27th Jul 2016.

“The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the foundation divesting from the fossil-fuel industry it helped create, took its first direct stake in a renewable energy company in a move meant to bolster the fight against climate change.

“The opportunity is huge and for us it’s just absolutely in the sweet spot of what we’re trying to do with our impact investing,” Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, said.

“Heintz said the Rockefeller investment is in line with the family’s history of pursuing new ideas. John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil more than a century ago, was also developing cutting edge fuels when he began investing in oil production at the end of the 19th century. He wanted to displace whale oil, Heintz said.

“I’m absolutely convinced that if he were alive today he would understand this dynamic and he would be on the cutting edge of investing in the clean energy economy because he knows that’s where the world is going next.”

Do our elite class know where the world is going next? Could they care less? Status quo – that nurtures tyranny – explains why we're the regional laggard and then some . . .

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

No comments:

Post a Comment