• The new allure of federalism

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    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    IF federalism is the only key to developing independent, strong-growth regions (or states) with the firm determination to chart their own edicts and policies—and defy the federal government if need be—so be it. It is about time we move into that direction and support Mr. Duterte’s call for a shift to a federal form of government.

    If we have to tear down the old institutions, let us have that resolve and political will. What have we reaped from these institutions anyway other than heart-breaking stories of failure, corruption and incompetence. A calibrated, thoroughly studied shift to a federal form of government will lead to the development of strong states that the world needs right now.

    And by strong states, I am looking at the California model. And why California?

    Most Filipinos will always say “show me the money.” And here the data is awe-inspiring. California, if it were an independent country, is somewhere in the range of the 6thor 7thlargest global economy with a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion. It has been consistently on the list of the 10 largest economies in the world. Even the reign of the Terminator failed to terminate the growth trajectory of California. It contributes 13 percent to the overall US GDP.

    A market capitalization of $20 to $30 billion is not unusual for 10-year-old companies in the Bay Area techno hubs. The technology companies that changed the world, and the change is across all continents, had mostly been incubated here. The combined value of Apple, Google and Facebook is enough to buy dozens of small countries in the world.

    We have not covered the inordinate influence of Hollywood on the world.

    The large economy and the non-dependence on the federal government allow California to chart its own destiny, defying when it can, the federal government. That streak of defiance is now magnified many times over with the rise of Donald Trump, the 45thPresident of the US.

    There are two major Trump planks that California has vowed to oppose and oppose with passion and funding. These are immigration, an issue that reverberates domestically, what with the Filipino TNTs in that state, and climate change, which, like immigration, is a universal issue.

    California, as a whole, has vowed to fight Trump on his avowed plan to crack down and deport undocumented immigrants, and Filipino undocumented immigrants would have no other place to be in the US right now except California and New York City, the sanctuary areas. LA, the city that hosts most of the Pinoy undocumented immigrants, has set aside a $10 million fund to help those facing deportation. This is the state where police chiefs have vowed to exclude “status” when checking on people. There will be no stop-and-ask zones for undocumented immigrants.

    The bigger battle with Mr. Trump, a climate change skeptic, is over climate change. While Mr. Trump wants out of the Paris Accord on climate, California is a global leader on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and on the cap-and-trade program. Jerry Brown, the governor, who was a pioneer on environmental issues, was at the lead of the Under 2 MOU Initiative, a coalition for climate change signed by state and LGU representatives from 33 countries. Mr. Brown says climate change skepticism is an existential challenge on the planet.

    The state is likewise a leader on vehicle emissions.

    This is the best part.Governor Moonbeam, the quirky Mr. Brown, likes to taunt and mock the new President.

    Having a strong region like California and a governor like Governor Moonbeam, which can assert their own policies and like to assert them, are reasons enough to consider the shift to a federal form of government.

    Why are strong and fiercely independent states/regions imperative in this day and age?

    If a democracy is conned into voting for a tyrant masquerading as a populist, only strong, financially solid states can provide opposition to that tyrant. A clash between states’ rights and the federal government may be the result. But with the rights of states guaranteed under the structure of a federal government, the strong states can outfight and outwit that tyrant.

    Strong states predisposed to assert their prerogatives can offset the reduction of federal-funded programs on research and development by endowing their public universities with both money and the human resource (scholars and scientists and researchers) needed for vigorous work in the R & D fields. Tyrants normally abhor science and facts and their antithesis is a knowledge-based society.

    Tyrants normally reject racial diversity and openness and in that area of protecting diversity, strong states could play major roles.

    They can serve as sanctuary areas for the harassed and the persecuted. And this is probably the noblest function that they could perform–-be in the service of humanity.

    The battle is not to the strong. The race is not to the swift. Of course. But big, wealthy states with resources to expend and with the grim determination to fight will be always better at battling tyrants than less endowed ones.

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