Celebrity matters – Part II – or why we pay too much for electricity

I promised to write about celebrities who matter when I wrote about those who don’t.  Along the way, I found a celebrity who can help explain why we pay too much for electricity.

He called it the pearl of the Orient.

Let me first make clear who is a celebrity.  In law, a celebrity is synonymous with a public figure, one whose life is “of interest” to the general public.

But who is the general public?  We have an idea, and the way to a good definition is to consider that celebrity is something involuntary.  It is imposed on you by the rest of the world.  In short, a celebrity cannot seek privacy outside his/her home.  Conversely, one whose life is essentially uninteresting won’t make it for the asking.  Perhaps he must do something really silly, but that’s freedom, and still the world has to wake up to it.

When does a celeb matter?  In my earlier post, I said a celeb doesn’t matter if he/she doesn’t “move me” at the personal level.  Hence, a celeb who moves me matters.  Their outputs are usually intellectual property and therefore have the nature of public goods, which means that we can’t get enough of what they offer. I suspect my list will also move other people but on that there’s no guarantee.

In making up the list, I added a second criterion.  The celeb must be one likely to influence others to do the right thing.

The list is highly subjective if only because “the right thing” is also subjective.   Anyone who feels excluded should either blame me for being somewhat arbitrary, or try a little harder but not too hard.  TH is passé.

Here’s my list:

  1. Comedians who poke fun at public figures.  I would single out Willie Nepomuceno.
  2. Bloggers who may be viewed as “organic” because they’re free of the GIGO and SEO syndromes that clutter the web.  Ellen Tordesillas or Angela Stuart-Santiago is an example.
  3. Op-ed writers with fresh perspectives: Conrado de Quiros and Ambeth Ocampo are examples.  Those with stale perspectives should perhaps go quietly.
  4. Tycoons and economists who favor competition.*
  5. Supreme Court Justices whose dissents eventually became doctrine. Notable here is Claudio Teehankee, Sr. (see the  Javellana vs. Exec. Secretary case).  My guess is that eventually we can include Justices Antonio  Carpio and Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
  6. Rene Saguisag
  7. F. Sionil Jose
  8. Jose Diokno , aka Ka Pepe
  9. Ninoy Aquino.  There’s an autobiography/history of sorts from a 1981 speech he gave.
  10. Jose Rizal (although I’m sure he would gladly share this spot with Apolinario Mabini).
* Such tycoons must not be thought of by their fellow tycoons as favoring competition.  So it’s not easy to tell who’s on my list.   But I’m sure there are some, and we should thank them quietly for that.  It’s an amazing thing to imagine that the good guys can do the Washington (DC) wink-and-nod routine.

Most economists favor competition, unless they’re hired by monopolies or oligopolies.  I would single out economist Raul Fabella, who has studied competition policy in the Philippine setting.  Fabella says that US-style anti-trust won’t work because of weak governance, but we can still promote competition through free trade and a welcoming environment for foreign investment.

Unfortunately, the Left and the self-annointed “nationalists” have to some extent succeeded in promoting protectionist trade and investment policies, supposedly to keep the Philippines for Filipinos.  This, however, gives abnormal profits to local big business.  Perhaps this is good for the local stock market, but it also explains why we pay too much for electricity, telecom services, domestic air travel, etc.

Photo credit:  Wikimedia.org


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