The philosopher Father Roque Ferriols once spoke slightingly of the pedagogical value of debates. He wondered aloud (or so I remember; it happened a quarter of a century ago, in a classroom at the Loyola School of Theology) about requiring debaters to defend a position chosen by flipping a coin; how can this method help one find the truth, he asked.
Well, I don’t know about that, but I can think of one more limitation: debates, especially the kind conducted in writing, have the tendency to simplify, well, most everything: the issues, even the arguments.
Consider my latest attempt to engage Manolo in our cult-of-the-market/myth-of-the-state debate. I started out with many good intentions: I wanted to define terms even more tightly, talk about common ground, dispute certain assertions that were made based on a different reading of points I had raised, and so on and so forth. Instead, I ended up merely substantiating my original thesis, that Filipinos are in fact not yet market-oriented enough, with two examples.
I’m including the post in its entirety here, because the WordPress format Inquirer Current uses seems to be asleep. It is well past midnight.
Oil and water
I’m glad Manolo brought up the example of the Oil Prize Stabilization Fund. With deregulation now in place, the consuming public (a phrase I hated on sight, when I was editing copy in an economics think tank, but which even I must admit has its uses) has learned to contend, or at least to accept, “market forces” at work. Yes, as Manolo pointed out, some subsidies are still part of the mix, but by and large it’s the market that now dictates pump prices in the Philippines.
But does this partial success —- and I think it must be considered a success, because the government no longer needs to run up an enormous bill merely to cushion the public from oil price fluctuations —- mean that the public no longer sees a role for the government in oil price setting?
Last Saturday, I saw the usual man-on-the-street interviews the TV networks run when presenting an economic story; in this instance, the story was about a new increase (an average of 50 centavos) in oil prices. The various people interviewed for their reaction had the usual things to say: a number of them, however, complained that there was no adequate advance notice. The increase took them by surprise, they said; they should have been warned in advance.