Sunday, December 16, 2007

The middle class and the rule of law

I was expecting to see retirees and middle aged guys when the boss told me I should show up for the Entrepreneurs’ “networking night” in Greenhills. That was last Tuesday, the second day in my new job. But I was surprised to see young boys and girls in 20s and 30s, many of them barely out of college. And my goodness, they were all talking about “doing business’ and making money! In my time, we were all about “social engineering,” “social change,” and revolutions as if we knew what we were talking about.

Is a new ethos taking over? I hope so. It’s about time. If we want the country to move faster into the lane of progress (whatever that means), we should have more entrepreneurs in our midst. And its not only because of its positive economic impact, its also because the growth of the middle class is the surest path to political stability. Fareed Zakaria in “The Future of Freedom” said so. Francis Fukuyama (in his “The End of History”) said so. And of course, they are not the original guys to have said so. It was Aristotle who theorized about this long time ago. And I guess, the reason is simple: the middle class, especially the entrepreneurs have a stake in stability and order.

Why? Consider this: if you are really rich, filthy rich, if you are an oligarch, you don’t really need “the rule of law.” In fact, you want the law (or rules) to be opaque so that you could buy it anytime when it suits your end. And the really poor, those who have nothing, don’t care much about the law, the rules, either because they don’t have a stake in the system. Sometimes they have to bend the rules to maintain their existence. Or at least, that’s what some of them think.

But when you are a budding entrepreneur with a little money, you have a stake in the system. Yet you can’t afford to buy the bureaucracy, so you desire for proper societal rules to work for you. You want to be protected from predatory actions of the super rich and the protection from those who will rob your of your wallet. You desire order, stability, transparency, predictability, and fairness. And these are foundations, the values, of a functional liberal democracy that we crave for.

Hmmm, seems like I got an interesting job here.


Anonymous said...

Its undeniable - democracy needs an expanded middle class. Everybody claims to be the champion of the marginalized, but the marginalized do not really need someone to speak for them; if they become part of the middle class, they can well speak for themselves.

Unfortunately, an expanded middle class is bad news for politicians like Binay who solely rely on squatters. The poor in Makati who benefited by that city's free education are simply replaced by a new set of squatters. Ever wonder why squatters seem to be always present in Makati, despite the 20+ years reign of Binay there?

Dave Llorito said...

this is a very good insight. thanks. and its not makati alone; its all over.