I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Professor Mahina for his clarification of his theoretical framework of Ta-va social theory. The basis of the approach is clearer to me and its limitless applications on social issues in general. I am particularly impressed with its originality and unique Tongan blend. I wish to briefly discuss some elements of the approach and move into small economic extension of it.
Realism vs. Rationalism
I have always considered myself a realist because I do accept that reality is not limited to our human senses. I recall a question posed by my philosophy professor that if a fruit falls from a tree in the forest and no one is there to observe it, does it mean necessarily that this event did not occur? My answer to that question was of course no.
Dr. Mahina’s exposition caused me to re-evaluate the logical sequence of some theoretical framework I have encountered in economics that are fundamentality based on idealism and rationalism such as Marxism amongst others. This is not to say that these rationalistic approaches are ineffective in helping us understand the world because each approach in its own right, whether it be rationalism or realism, has its own place in academia. A broader problematic issue for economists, on the other hand, is operationalizing social theories into a workable empirical framework. This brings me to ask a more specific question in the context of Ta-va social theory relative to specific current and historical economic issues in Tonga.
Economics of Tonga’s Leadership
One such area that is an interesting issue in Professor Mahina’s discussion is the section on Ta-va social theory and Queen Salote. I agree whole heartedly that Queen Salote “understood some of the basic tenents of the theory,” and that understanding would have therefore placed her in a position to be more in tune with Tonga’s political climate. Under her leadership, the interaction between the government and the people of Tonga can be characterized by social obligations with “reciprocal social obligations;” tauhiva was at the center of that relationship.
The recent industrial dispute showed the social decay in this important part of our society that government workers and people in general openly defied the government. This act of defiance could be argued was an embodiment of years of oppressive leadership and complete disregard of the current leadership to tauhiva that it is a two-way social obligation maka fetoliaki; such that if the Kingdom becomes King unto himself, to borrow from Professor Mahina, then the people will see no reason to maintain any reciprocal obligation to the King and his Kingdom.
Frontier Production Function
This is an important part of Professor Mahina’s discussion because it is possible to measure the economic cost of this failure using a production function approach. Such study would ask questions like “Is Tonga…s economy operating efficiently and optimality? Where are we now relative to the frontier production function and what economic policies responsible for where we are now? What realignment of Tonga’s current resources to position herself in a sustainable economic growth. It is possible to develop a model of Tonga’s optimal production frontier based on our best years of economic development and ask the question? What would have happened if we maintained the same growth rate?” We would then compare that to our current economic position that everyone would agree is stagnated at best. If we do a simple regression analysis of Tonga’s economic growth rate comparing time periods of our last four monarchies, it would undoubtedly show that the real net growth of Tonga’s economy under the leadership of Tupou I would be our frontier to which other time periods can be compared against.
Tonga Still Ruled from the Grave
Although, Tupou I was a bloody warrior first then statesman second, he was a brilliant policy maker. His policies not only caused milestone economic development in his time, but even into our time. He was simply way ahead of his time.
Such policies to sub-divide estates for nobles and allocation of land to commoners were brilliant appeasement moves to stop potential uprising. This was essential to ensuring a future thriving economy that can only be done through political stability. His policy on state and religion won the hearts and minds of the people. His policy to force all Tongans to plant coconuts everywhere was far reaching ahead of his time that we still benefit from it. His everlasting impact on our current state of economy was creating our constitution that spelled out how he wanted Tonga to be governed after he passed to the grave. Some elements of that constitution have done tremendous good for Tonga, but some have outlived its usefulness. Such elements of that constitution is its rigidness and inability to adapt to a changing world, such that it has not become a living document. This is to say that the constitution does not change to meet the governance of a changing world, rather we must adapt and change to meet its pre-determined parameters set forth by Tupou I.
If we examine Tonga’s current political economy more carefully, we would see that Tonga is very much ruled from the grave. Taufa…ahau Tupou I still has threads from Pulotu dictating our current state of affairs and our economic progress. One way to prove this notion is to simply ask any crown minister what is it that dictates any policies he brings before the house and cabinet. He will tell you it is first to conform to rules and procedures that most of which were ratified by Tupou I.
Thomas Monson Uata
Las Vegas, Nevada
Uatas [at] juno [dot] com