The Demonstration Effect
One of the social phenomena we learned in economic development is called the “demonstration effect.” Broadly described, it refers to public motivations when engaging in economic activity, whether it is a choice of products to consume or spending patterns, as it is in flows of investment.
Call it “aspirational” as marketing specialists describe—consumers buy a product or service because they have seen it used or patronized by others in a socio-economic class they aspire to one day be part of. In fine, the class or group they aspire to be part of “demonstrate” to them.
The same demonstration effect may likewise affect how our people these days view the kind of society we live in. Our people (or most of them, particularly the non-senior citizens) now aspire for a society similar to those they have been exposed to, either as an overseas Filipino worker, a traveler, or even through the information highway. In recent years, with the exponential increase in social media usage, this demonstration effect has become more pronounced.
Through the eyes of our OFWs, which they recount to their kin and friends back home, they see a polity where things work, where rules are followed, where laws are not made to be broken but are strictly enforced. And they marvel at the quantum leap in progress achieved by the kind of polity where law and order is a given.
The Filipino diaspora, now almost four decades old, even longer when we look at the Filipino communities in North America, has created a clear demonstration effect on the minds and aspirations of family and members back home. If things work in Singapore, or Hong Kong, Europe, some affluent Middle Eastern countries, and elsewhere, what is it in the Philippines back home that is not working?
Eventually they realize that it is the breakdown of law and order, that it is the utter lack of discipline, the lack of national purpose which hobble the path for meaningful growth, and a development where everyone has his share of benefits.
And examining further, the overseas Filipino discovers that in these countries, it all began with the right kind of leadership.
Thus, we see Filipinos from all walks of life, here and all over the world post in their Facebook pages a growing clamor for a different kind of leadership come 2016—leadership that is proven in terms of experience, competence and character.
There is another component to this demonstration effect. Our people see that in the countries where progress has grown through the years, there is a realized egalitarianism, where being a citizen or a resident entitles one to the same benefits and quality of services as the rich and upwardly mobile enjoy.
On a trip to Italy last year, a long-time Filipino resident there shared his experiences with us. Sure, Italy is not exactly a model of efficiency and great wealth such as Germany or Switzerland, he explained, but here, when you get sick, the public hospitals are world-class, and everything is chargeable to public health insurance. Education is free, although books can be expensive, but it is not like the public school system in our country, said he, where unless your kid excels in class, a public school education is looked down upon even for entry to the State University. Honest toil gets you somewhere, he said. The guy was a driver for mostly Philippine tourists who rent a van to travel all over Europe, and acts as an excellent tourist guide as well. Without tips, he earns the equivalent of some P180,000 a month. Can you imagine a driver getting even a third of that in this country, and not having to worry about getting quality education for his children and health care for himself and family? Sure the taxes are high, but you get back your money’s worth. Back home, he says, the VAT is just about the same, and the income taxes are even more regressive, but what do you get in return?
The demonstration effect has produced a citizenry more awake to the realities of a world without borders, and compare how life has become back home. Predictable growth and social development versus a “brokedown” society and unending deterioration in the quality of life.
In 2016, during the campaign that Filipinos here and abroad will follow keenly, and when they finally cast their choice of the next leader, this phenomenon will truly engage their minds and hearts.
Candidates for public office who think of poor voters as “command-driven” and peddle the same old promises the “trapo” way, treating the Filipino voter as unintelligent fools who can be hoodwinked by money and machinery, will have their comeuppance after May 9, 2016.