Articles – Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com Free political commentary for the dissenting South African Thu, 07 Dec 2017 14:39:33 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 https://i2.wp.com/rationalstandard.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/cropped-RS-Logo.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Articles – Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com 32 32 94510741 Reviewing Maimane’s 6-Point Plan to Fix SA’s Economy https://rationalstandard.com/reviewing-maimanes-6-point-plan-fix-sas-economy/ https://rationalstandard.com/reviewing-maimanes-6-point-plan-fix-sas-economy/#comments Thu, 07 Dec 2017 14:39:33 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6958 Mmusi Maimane has presented a 6-point plan of what he thinks will help fix South Africa’s economy. Maimane is typically schizophrenic on policy, jumping between support for a liberal free market on some occasions while positing a racial socialistic order on others. What follows is a point by point appraisal of his 6-point plan and […]

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Mmusi Maimane has presented a 6-point plan of what he thinks will help fix South Africa’s economy. Maimane is typically schizophrenic on policy, jumping between support for a liberal free market on some occasions while positing a racial socialistic order on others.

What follows is a point by point appraisal of his 6-point plan and an overall evaluation of the policies themselves and their ramifications.

1. State-owned entities

Maimane has rightfully condemned state-owned entities, stating:

“They are haemorrhaging public money and delivering dismal services at exorbitant prices.”

He argues that non-strategic state assets need to be sold, with the strategic enterprises being reformed to cut down on corruption and incompetence.

As a whole, this is a good point. State enterprises are a drain on the fiscus and cannot surpass the private sector as sustainable and high performing producers. Privatisation will go a long way in reducing negative government spending, corruption and the capacity for state capture.

I would, however, like to know what “strategic” means. If it means that the Army shouldn’t be privatised, then that is fine – but if it means that the state should still have a monopoly on Lenin’s ‘Commanding Heights’, then Mmusi still has a long way to go.

2. Remove red tape

Maimane wants to cut red tape that prevents job seekers, especially young job seekers, from finding jobs. Labour regulations and union interference makes finding a job almost impossible.

While non-specific about how far he is willing to go here, I am very much in favour of this point. We need to make employment viable in this country, and deregulation is the only way to do that.

3. Empowerment

On current government empowerment schemes, Maimane says the following:

“The current system has been used as a mechanism for elite re-enrichment and corruption. It imposes a heavy regulatory burden on businesses and raises the cost and lowers the quantity of service delivery to the poor. We want companies’ greatest contribution to be to society in general, not just to the elite.”

Empowerment is racist and is used merely as a tool to hide corruption behind ‘restitution’. But I fear that Maimane still thinks that some form of race-based appointment is necessary and virtuous. This is definitely not the case in reality.

On the face of it, his condemnation of empowerment projects is good, however.

4. Make SA open for business

This section starts great, with Maimane arguing that we do the following:

  • Reduce corporate taxes
  • Abolish exchange controls
  • Remove trade barriers

This is all in an effort to attract investors to provide much-needed capital for the economy.

Where this heading falls short is Maimane’s argument that a wealth tax and estate tax are more preferable to redistribute wealth, and don’t scare investors.

No, wealth tax will scare off investors. Investors don’t like having their money stolen just because they have it. If Maimane was serious about attracting foreign investors, he would support South Africa becoming a full tax haven, with a minimal flat-rate tax.

Redistribution itself is fruitless and unjust exercise based on the false principle of equality before desert. Any tax aimed at achieving it is an illegitimate tax.

5. Be tourism-friendly

Yes, we do need to make travel to SA easier. But we must also make it safer. I’m sure Maimane will agree that we need to solve our crime so to not scare away even more tourists. Making it easier to arrive will not help matters if nobody wants to arrive.

6. Zero tolerance for corruption

“Corruption is destroying our nation and we need to signal a zero tolerance attitude henceforth,” says Maimane.

Well, yeah. Not much to argue about here. Except that zero tolerance is sufficient to minimise corruption. Corruption follows any organisation that involves a lot of power and a lot of wealth. The key to minimising state corruption is minimising the state.

You can’t loot the treasury if there is no treasury, after all.

The government is too entrenched in our day-to-day lives. And as corruption is an inevitability of government involvement, this means that our society corrupts. Thus, minimise the state and you minimise corruption.

Conclusion

Overall, this plan isn’t bad. It presents quite a few common sense free market solutions to South Africa’s woes – the right solutions. Its only pit-falls are that it may not go far enough and that I don’t think Maimane is truly behind it. Maimane’s policies tend to flip-flop, and he has stated his distaste for liberalism in the past. If the DA truly supports this plan, it will be an improvement, but I’m not holding my breath.

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According to Government, ‘uBuntu’ is Marxism Dressed in African Clothing https://rationalstandard.com/according-government-ubuntu-marxism-dressed-african-clothing/ https://rationalstandard.com/according-government-ubuntu-marxism-dressed-african-clothing/#comments Mon, 04 Dec 2017 20:13:56 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6933 In a recent newspaper advertisement of government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, the health department wrote the following in support of its implementation: “Currently due to rising costs of medical care, medical aid schemes have introduced several options which exclude a range of cover for the patients. Further more,many [sic] people exhaust their funds in […]

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In a recent newspaper advertisement of government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, the health department wrote the following in support of its implementation:

“Currently due to rising costs of medical care, medical aid schemes have introduced several options which exclude a range of cover for the patients. Further more,many [sic] people exhaust their funds in the scheme as early as June and they are without cover for the rest of the year. In other words,they [sic] are covered for sa long as they are not sick.

Not anymore. NHI will give cover to all, in line with the Ubuntu principle: from each one according to his ability, to each one according to his needs.” (my emphasis)

For those unfamiliar with the highlighted portion in the above quote, it is a slogan popularized by the founder of modern socialism, Karl Marx, in 1875.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to their need” is based on the fallacy that in a communist society, such abundance of goods will be produced that everyone’s needs and material desires will be fulfilled. Everyone is merely expected to contribute as much as their own capacity allows, but will get in return whatever they need, freely.

Those who understand basic economics, of course, know this is nonsense. The post-scarcity society envisioned by socialists is impossible, and even if it were possible, it wouldn’t make a difference to human relations. Socialism’s, and apparently now uBuntu’s, essence is compulsion. Liberty’s essence is voluntaryism: Do as you please as long as you don’t violate the same right of others.

With all the talk of ‘African solutions for African problems’, and the developing ‘Afrocentric’ criticism of South Africans adopting ‘foreign’ ideas and narratives now needing to be ‘decolonized’, the health department’s statement above is particularly amusing. We have long known that these same critics of so-called ‘Western’ ideas, who to no end proclaim that individual liberty and economic freedom are inherently incompatible with the ‘African context’ and the ‘African philosophy’ of uBuntu, are merely socialists who think their disastrous ideology will work in Africa.

Karl Marx was born in Germany and died in Britain, having lived his entire life in the West. His ideological influences and predecessors were all non-African. Now that uBuntu has been confirmed to merely be Marxism dressed in localized African nationalist rhetoric, surely the next step is to also bin it in the battle of ideas?

To the extent that its proponents want it infused with public policy, all the various conceptions of uBuntu are fiercely opposed to the notion of a society based on voluntaryism, peaceful cooperation, and liberty. As a matter of governance, it should be rejected.

National Health Insurance will be unaffordable and if tried, will seriously hurt our fledgling economy. The quality of South African healthcare will need to be compromised across the board, for no reason other than to satisfy the ideological desires of Aaron Motsoaledi and the ruling party. Going ahead with this disastrous scheme simply because uBuntu apparently requires it is suicidal.

Those who seek to practice uBuntu should do so within the comfort of their own homes and communities, and leave those of us truly committed to a way of life founded on interconnectedness, voluntary community, peace, and freedom, alone.

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Tsvangirai and the MDC Need To Shape Up in Zimbabwe https://rationalstandard.com/article-mugabe-needs-title/ https://rationalstandard.com/article-mugabe-needs-title/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 12:17:23 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6929                                             “The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils Himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world…” Alfred Lord Tennyson I could not help but think of these lines from Tennyson’s poem, Morte d’Arthur, as I watched events unfolding in Zimbabwe. It was a day not very many Zimbabweans […]

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                                            “The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfils Himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world…”

Alfred Lord Tennyson

I could not help but think of these lines from Tennyson’s poem, Morte d’Arthur, as I watched events unfolding in Zimbabwe. It was a day not very many Zimbabweans will ever forget and a day very few of the old folks imagined would happen in their lifetime. Robert Mugabe resigned.

Many people in the country and the diaspora were elated. There was dancing and jubilation in the streets of Harare and Johannesburg. It was an end of an era and a dawn of a new one and people just could not restrain themselves in excitement and revelry. Those Zimbabweans who are in South Africa were saying that they were going back home.

President Mugabe, who started serving as Prime Minister in 1980 when the President was the late Canaan Banana, has been at the helm for the past 37 years. He later changed the Constitution and did away with the office of the Prime Minister and replaced it with an executive president. Ironically, it is the same ZANU-PF which on Sunday dismissed him as president of the party that nominated him as their candidate for next year’s election. If he were to stand he would set a new record as the oldest head of state at 94 years of age. However, as fate would have it, the old codger grossly miscalculated in firing his deputy president, the wily Emmerson Mnangagwa. There could be some truth in the allegations that the firing of Emmerson Mnangagwa was the brainchild of Grace Mugabe who is not averse to the post herself which was for short while vacated by the former. It would seem that Grace Mugabe has her husband’s number and ZANU-PF honchos believe that she might be leading the old man by the nose. Hence the decision the party took on Sunday to sack both the old man and his wife and the minions around the President.

What the current crisis in Zimbabwe and around Mugabe also reveals are two factors which constitute the main thrust of this article. I shall start with the first one.

Robert Greene, in his book, The 48 Laws of Power, says that know who you’re dealing with and do not offend the wrong person. President Mugabe seems to have been oblivious of this fact in dealing with Mnangagwa. The latter is akin to the biblical Joab who was King David’s right hand man and did all the dirty work that the King wanted done. Mnangagwa has done most of the dirty work that Mugabe wanted done (he is said to have been prominent in the 1985 Matebeleland massacre and the suppression of many activists fighting for human rights) and also has endeared himself to the army. How President Mugabe could have failed in bringing him closer defies logic. The man is too dangerous to be let loose and true enough, no sooner was he dismissed that the army staged the soft coup. Mnangagwa, the previously-sacked deputy, will be President until new elections are held around July 2018.

The second point is the power of the party in asserting its authority over an individual. It is a universally-accepted truism that no individual is bigger than the party even if that individual may have formed the party. The party will always outlive the individual. Somehow Mugabe behaved as if he is the party and the party’s fortunes were inextricably linked to him. In kicking him out, ZANU-PF reasserted its authority as an entity with a life of its own. Indeed, if truth be told, the crisis that ZANU-PF finds itself in can hardly be said not to be self-inflicted. One has reason to believe that Mugabe was led by the party to believe that he is some kind of a deity.

The hero-worshipping or personality cult around Mugabe has hardly helped a country which has morphed from a breadbasket after independence into one of the poorest in the world. It should not escape our attention that ZANU-PF has its eyes on next year’s election and the crisis is more an internal factional fight than a clamour for democracy. This seemingly adroit move of offloading excess baggage in the form of Mugabe and his cronies is meant to paint a rosy picture about the party. It is tantamount to saying that the problem is Mugabe, not the party. In pulling off this fast one on the opposition, and, I daresay, an unwitting public, ZANU-PF has proven that it has not been long in the business of politics for nothing. The opposition, and to a certain extent, the public, was caught with their pants down, and have to follow a programme initiated by the very party that they are meant to oppose.

Morgan Tsvangirai, who was in South Africa for health reasons, suddenly recuperated and was on the next plane to Zimbabwe. One should hardly underestimate the health benefits to some politicians of the imminent departure of President Mugabe. However, it was a tad disappointing to note that Tsvangirai does not seem to have a programme as to what he wants to do, except to call for free and fair elections. That is too obvious and doing so does not mean his party has a programme. One would have expected his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, to be hard at work preparing for next year’s elections.

Alas, the party, just like its leader, seems to have been indisposed.

They have to snatch the advantage back from ZANU-PF and show the Zimbabwean public that the former gave rise to Mugabe. More than that, the MDC has to be able to convince the public why they should vote for them. It’s not so much that they may be unlike ZANU-PF, but the critical thing is to show who they are. Can they pull the country out of the economic doldrums which ZANU-PF and its policies have plunged it? Will they reintroduce the rule of law in the country and root out corruption? These are some of the questions that should be uppermost in many a Zimbabwean’s mind when the euphoria over the resignation of former President Mugabe has subsided.

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Is South Africa A Failed State? https://rationalstandard.com/south-africa-failed-state/ https://rationalstandard.com/south-africa-failed-state/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2017 20:42:33 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6898 Most of us have asked ourselves and others this question before. Is South Africa on the verge of becoming, or is it already, a failed state? To examine this question we need to set forth a theoretical framework. Typically, a failed state is thought of as a government that has lost all meaningful ability to […]

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Most of us have asked ourselves and others this question before. Is South Africa on the verge of becoming, or is it already, a failed state? To examine this question we need to set forth a theoretical framework.

Typically, a failed state is thought of as a government that has lost all meaningful ability to function. It can no longer extract taxes, enforce the law, enact or implement legislation or undertake any of the other actions of government. Classic examples of failed states are Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These countries have bodies that claim to be governments, but are too ineffective to be seen as real governments.

I am not a fan of this definition of a failed state.

The reason is that it implies too many functions for government. If a government is a failed state because it fails to deliver welfare checks, does that mean states that never had welfare are failures from the word go? Some would probably say that they are.

But I would not. States aren’t defined by all their actions. They are defined by an essential function which should define if they are succeeding or failing. All other acts are supererogatory at best, and a waste of resources at worst.

This function is the protection of its citizens from internal and external threats. This is most commonly manifested in the maintaining of an armed forces and law enforcement.

Among all states across the globe, this is a common unifying factor. It is also an historical factor for the creation of the state as an entity. The forerunners of states formed because communities settled down and needed to protect their now-stationary assets and homes. Armed men rose to power to fill this role.

The role of the state has shifted, but only in accordance with this key function. New roles and functions have appeared – such as zoning, planning and road building. But above all these, defence has remained the crucial function of government.

It is in this regard that South Africa may reveal itself as a failed state.

Reliable crime stats in South Africa are hard to come by. Trust in the police is dwindling, leading to reduced official reporting of crime. Even without taking into account all unreported crimes, the stats are still shocking – with a murder rate of 34.1, over 49 000 reported sexual assaults in 2017 alone, and much more.

Living with crime in South Africa is a crushing experience. We turn our houses into forts. We can’t enjoy our times out. We have to be constantly vigilant. And even then, there is the constant looming fear that we will lose our possessions and loved ones.

A common requirement for being a government, posited by Max Weber, is that a state must have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. ‘Legitimate’ is a bit of a petty addition. One could argue that any country is a government because only one group claims to be legitimate in its use of violence.

Rather, we should measure the success of a state’s security by its relative ability to stop crime and defend the country from attackers. While our government has succeeded at the latter, it has sorely failed at the former.

Gangs dominate much of our cities. Law enforcement are non-existent even in high rate paying suburbs, much less in rural and poorer areas. This is not the state of a successful country.

Some cite SARS and South Africa’s efficient taxation as a reason why South Africa is not a failed state (this is not even the case anymore, as revealed in The President’s Keepers by Jacques Pauw). But tax without providing an essential service in return is just looting. Governments are marauders by their very nature, but at least some put up the pretense that they are giving something in return. In South Africa, we are looted without any compensation.

In Frans Cronje’s recent book, A Time Traveller’s Guide to South Africa in 2030, one of the scenarios which he posits as a future for South Africa is that we will isolate ourselves into enclaves. The government will no longer exist in any substantive form – rather being made up of a few blatant patrimonialists suckling from the final bit of wealth left in the country.

Suburbs will be walled and look after by their own security. Townships will be completely conquered by warring gangs. Rural areas will come under control of ‘traditional’ leaders.

The scary thing about this prediction is that, to anyone who has been paying attention, it sounds very plausible – if not already happening.

Already, we rely mainly on private security for our protection. Walled communities are a common occurrence. More and more, we realise that we cannot rely on government and turn to our communities and the private sector for solutions.

South Africa still has a police force and military – for now. But trust in this waning force is collapsing. Society is based around trust. When nobody is willing to work with the state anymore, it will have truly failed. We are fast approaching such a scenario.

So, while South Africa may not be a failed state just yet – it is on track to become one. Any policy maker who wants to address this needs to take proper action to address South Africa’s fulfilment of its proper function: The security of its citizens. No welfare checks, misguided education spending or parastatal bailout is going to make South Africa any more of a successful state when its citizens are held hostage by criminal warlords.

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The End of Marxist-Mugabetarianism https://rationalstandard.com/end-marxist-mugabetarianism/ https://rationalstandard.com/end-marxist-mugabetarianism/#comments Tue, 28 Nov 2017 22:38:21 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6937 Written by: Peter Bismark The 37 year old Baobab government led by the Marxism-Leninist, President Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), ended in a deal to allow for a transition and election in 2018. Mugabe is considered by many as a father of the revolution, to the extent of naming his […]

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Written by: Peter Bismark

The 37 year old Baobab government led by the Marxism-Leninist, President Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), ended in a deal to allow for a transition and election in 2018.

Mugabe is considered by many as a father of the revolution, to the extent of naming his own son Nhamodzenyika (which translates to “the suffering country”). One cannot tell if that name could have made Zimbabwe to have suffered under his regime. There’s an adage that goes, “a good beginning makes a good ending”. But in the context of “Mugabetarianism” (a newly-coined political philosophy; this is the first time it is used publicly on this platform), this statement is a fallacy of hasty generalization. Another favorable quote from Abraham Lincoln that, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”, depicts the leadership Mugabe administered. This expounds that good leaders often don’t make for good leadership. Many coined names of his leadership deportments have been credited to his administration, including “Mugabeism”.

As a Marxist-Leninist, Mugabe embraced universal social welfare in his dictatorship. With education, public health and Mugabe-directed social services, he faced unending challenges with low productivity bringing in a resource-cursed economy. Government’s inability to adequately fund public health in 2014 forced and denied many the access to good healthcare, and most public hospitals went understaffed because of frozen public sector employment. Nearly all rural public schools were closed. Mugabe’s education programme saw the attenuation of teachers due to poor salaries and bureaucratic release of funds for smooth operationalisation of educational activities. Even though Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa, the educational sector’s welfare assistance killed the gene of success.

Marxist-Leninism, as a stamped-out name for communist-socialism, and its accompanying welfare system and economic planning, antagonises the market forces of demand and supply. Its element of communist wages was made possible in Zimbabwe, according to ones’ dexterity and intensity of work at work place. Between 1990 and 2000, the living standard plummeted. High inflation and the abandoning of its currency in favour of four other currencies scared investors, deforming the economic genotype of Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s opposition to colonialism and imperialism became popular, directing the blame for every economic, political and social challenge at the West.

The country has deposits of minerals and other natural resources of value that could have made the citizenry prosperous with the right ideology in governance and trade.

Mugabe’s absence in governance until a new democratic election will hopefully wash away the Mugabetarian ideology that uphold anti-imperialism, economic dictatorship and frowns on internationalisation, breeding economic insecurity. Revolutionaries must be backed with the right ideology that allows individuals to create wealth for themselves through voluntary exchange determined by the market. The end of Mugabe is not the end of poverty, welfarism and unstable micro-economic indicators, but the end of Mugabetarianism.

Author: Peter Bismark is a policy research analyst at the Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation in Ghana.

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Zimbabwe: A Lesson in Economics for South Africans https://rationalstandard.com/zimbabwe-lesson-economics-south-africans/ https://rationalstandard.com/zimbabwe-lesson-economics-south-africans/#comments Mon, 27 Nov 2017 08:57:46 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6912 After the new Zimbabwean President’s inauguration speech, a lot of African nationalists are disappointed that Zimbabwe might adopt SA-style land reform, despite the shade that Mugabe has been throwing at Mandela’s memory. With 80% unemployment (this figure is uncertain due to the challenges in that country), Zimbabwe needs investors and no investor is going to risk […]

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After the new Zimbabwean President’s inauguration speech, a lot of African nationalists are disappointed that Zimbabwe might adopt SA-style land reform, despite the shade that Mugabe has been throwing at Mandela’s memory.

With 80% unemployment (this figure is uncertain due to the challenges in that country), Zimbabwe needs investors and no investor is going to risk capital in an environment where property rights are disregarded by the state. You only invest if you know that the capital you put in and any returns will be yours at the end of the day. This should be clear to everyone.

There are good reasons why you can’t just seize all capital and invest in your economy yourself. Firstly, any such seizure is prone to corruption, which tends to make the allocation of resources less efficient.

Secondly and related to the first point, a central authority allocating resources will never beat a market of free individuals making economic decisions about the property which they own (as opposed to state ownership which is ownership by “everyone”, i.e no one). Individuals act based on price information and their assessments of their needs and wants. Democratic governments act on the basis of popularity. Something can be popular politically but those same individuals are not necessarily willing to spend money on that thing; and something can be unpopular politically but the opposite is found to be the case when it comes to the buying decisions of those same people. Two examples representing both cases would be giving money to the less well-off and buying the services of a prostitute, respectively.

Finally, even if government managed to achieve the impossible and allocates resources as efficiently as the market (this is impossible for the same reason that you can’t tell me what the weather will be like tomorrow, but even more complicated because we have no good way to measure subjective human variables like happiness), exposing yourself to a global market makes your own market that much better, for the same reason that the free market is desirable. A bigger market means access to more investment capital but more importantly, it means access to more human minds to make sensible investment decisions.

So what Mnangagwa said about compensating farmers for land is the least that his party owes Zimbabweans. They still have to balance their budget, deal with corruption, protect property by abandoning their indigenisation program, etc. The most important thing after property rights is the rule of law (they are two sides of the same coin, in fact), and on that score the coup and immunity granted to Mugabe are very bad signs. I’m not in principle opposed to immunity, but it should have been done as part of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission-like process. The Zimbabwean Constitution also looks like it confers too much power on the President, even more than the South African Constitution. The rule of law won’t be achieved if the President is not subject to the law.

This is by no means a detailed analysis of Mnangagwa’s inauguration speech. These are just my thoughts on the reaction to what is probably a small part of the speech by my Pan-Africanist friends as well as an opportunity for me to discuss why Zimbabwe-style property seizures always produce bad economic consequences.

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Of funny names and ridiculous legal opinions https://rationalstandard.com/of-funny-names-and-ridiculous-legal-opinions/ https://rationalstandard.com/of-funny-names-and-ridiculous-legal-opinions/#comments Sun, 26 Nov 2017 10:14:17 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6905 Socialists are incorrigible repeat-offenders. Pierre de Vos is a self-appointed redeemer of progressive jurisprudence, sometimes also posing as a university professor and jurist. I may say that after 43 years of legal studies, legal practice, and writing legal articles, I am accustomed to much higher levels of legal reasoning. He again delivered a gem of […]

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Socialists are incorrigible repeat-offenders.

Pierre de Vos is a self-appointed redeemer of progressive jurisprudence, sometimes also posing as a university professor and jurist. I may say that after 43 years of legal studies, legal practice, and writing legal articles, I am accustomed to much higher levels of legal reasoning. He again delivered a gem of his wisdom attacking “white privilege”, wealth and private autonomy by lauding a judgement from the full bench of the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court, Pietermaritzburg.

First of all, I will not comment on the judgment. As a jurist I never – unlike De Vos – comment on a judgment that I was not able to read in full with all supporting documentation. That should go without saying among jurists, but with De Vos I am not so sure.

I only comment on De Vos’ comments which are lamentably shallow and small-minded. In Viennese vernacular we call that kind of behaviour “wadlbeisserisch” (biting on the calf like a little yapping dog). Fast-forward to some eminent gems of De Vos’ reasoning:

The judgment provides a timely reminder that no person or body (including a body corporate) can contract themselves out of constitutional or other legal obligations.”

Of course you may. Students of civil law learn this right in the beginning.

As long as the provisions are not mandatory like some provisions in labour law (Post Office v Mampeule (2009) 30 ILJ 664) or consumer protection law, parties may within the framework of private autonomy agree on their own rules and choose the applicable law (for example, CSA 250/09). What a constitutional obligation is remains unclear. Of course, I cannot agree with someone else to forfeit his political rights – that being evidently contra morem bonum – but everyone able to act and conclude contracts may do so or not do so according to his own taste and will and resolution. There is a theory that fundamental rights possess a “horizontal effect”, meaning that the rights apply between citizens and not merely between citizens and government. In light of the equality provision of the Constitution, this is taken to mean no ordinary person may discriminate based on listed grounds. But if that is true, private autonomy and freedom would be gone because then everyone would be answerable in his private gestations to government, inquiring why you concluded a contract with that guy and not with this lady, and so on and so on. Poppycock, that is!

“Attempts to privatise privilege by invoking the law of contract or property law speaks of a pre-constitutional mindset associated with a particularly toxic strand of liberalism”.

The Bolshie lawmaker speaks. He can sell that theory to Senor Maduro of Venezuela.

First, the term ‘privilege’ is – surprise, surprise – a legal term meaning possessing a right not everyone possesses. We all are privileged as every one of us possesses specific rights, from rights out of the Constitution – as a permanent resident with a foreign citizenship I am not entitled to vote here and that is alright with me – to rights out of  specific fields of law up to rights out of contracts and the agreements we conclude.

But I suppose De Vos uses this legal term in a sociological or economic sense. But then he should say so. And if he sees material wealth as privilege, everyone is free to protect this ‘privilege’ and if one likes to live in a golf estate – I don’t – he is free to do so and use his good money to gain access there. That is neither my nor De Vos’ business. The only toxic ideology I know is socialism in all its forms under which name whatever it creeps along.

“In terms of this view, the wealthy and socially privileged can largely opt out of ordinary legal obligations and the non-discrimination provisions of the Constitution.”

Everyone may opt out of non-mandatory legal provisions. Insofar section 8(2) of the Constitution obliges a private person to explain to any authority why he concludes a contract with a certain person and not another, must be explained to me.

Section 9(4) forbids (private) persons from unfairly discriminating against anyone. Now, it is time to combat the abuse of the word ‘discrimination’. It derives from the Latin word “discrimen, discriminis” which means difference. Of course, we all differentiate every day and have to answer to nobody for that. That is personal liberty and private autonomy. Of course, it is anathema for a Bolshie jurist.

What most people mean if they speak about discrimination is putting someone at a disadvantage. That is something very different from differentiation. If a restaurant owner excludes a patron whose family name starts with an “S” – as it is with my name – it is all right with me, he may have that right to discriminate. Of course, the cited clause can be interpreted progressively and in an activist way – God beware – or in a conservative way. I prefer the conservative view as jurists should be from the very nature of their profession conservative, meaning careful and circumspect.

“I like reading court judgments dealing with quarrels between neighbours or family members”.

I don’t. You have to have a taste for the gutter to like it.

“I cannot help but wonder how many of the owners of houses in the estate are called Spencer, or Grant-Smith, or perhaps (my imagination conjuring up the most caricaturist colonial-sounding English surname) Rees-Mogg.”

So De Vos likes to play the boere gutter boy, making fun of Engelse names. So be it. In Austria we have family names with a German, a Slavic, a Hungarian, or a Romanic origin and we learned as children not to poke fun at ‘foreign’ names, “Tschurtschenthaler”  (pronounced Tschooorrrtntholler) being a classic Tyrolean name who De Vos surely will find funny. So be it. Everyone to his taste, everyone to his abilities.

Now the case is about the relationship between servants and this country club estate. Let us face a disturbing fact: There are people around who cannot afford to employ servants and under whose ancestors – if they have any at all – no one employed servants or even had been servants, serfs or people of such kind. Therefore, they lack the sometimes-inherited ability to treat servants properly. Maybe De Vos’ and my domestic helpers can meet and exchange experiences about how they are treated and paid. The result of that chat would be interesting.

“If the houses were not so large, it would have been possible to imagine that the fence was intended to keep prisoners inside – instead of intruders out.”

May I have a look at your house, Professor?

Due to the poor state of public security and policing, we have to make use of security devices. That the state fails to provide all residents with adequate security hits the materially poor most, but De Vos does not criticise the state for its failings. Instead, he criticises private persons for their private security endeavours. That a Bolshie wants to have us ‘bad, bad’ wealthy people camped in is no surprise.

“And were those who approved of these rules (whoever they might be) aware that the rules said more about their own racism, their own ignorance, their own fear, and their own inhumanity, than it could ever say about the (surely exclusively) black domestic employees targeted by them?”

One of those bad obnoxious rules says that “Domestic Employees must make use of designated bus stop points throughout the Estate.” Providing servants with a bus service and asking them to use the designated stop points is incredibly racist, isn’t it?

“Seegobin J (Chetty J and Bezuidenhout J concurring) notes in his judgment, in terms of the National Road Traffic Act the roads in the Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate are “public roads” subject to the same rules as any other public road.”

Well, according to Austrian law private roads are all roads not property of government but the property of private persons. If the public has no access to those roads (as the road is boomed or a sign says “no driving except neighbours only”, the Road Traffic Ordinance does not apply.

In my humble opinion, I have no explanation why that should be different in South Africa.

Private persons with their private money build a road for themselves on their private property. Of course they make the rules. Everything else is socialism.

“But the most egregious aspect of the case relates to the attempt by the management association to impose apartheid -era rules restricting the movement of “domestic employees”. These rules – quoted above – demonstrate, in ways surely not intended by its drafters, the perversity of part of South African society.”

They provide buses for them. Awfully bad, isn’t it?

That maybe most of the residents are ‘white’ and most servants are ‘black’ is no concern for me. They have jobs, opposed to about 50 percent of South Africa’s young people and about 30 percent of the whole work force.

That the club provides rules for non-members like visitors and servants is fine with me. Rules are rules. And we all divide people in two groups, for example, people who do that and people who don’t. People who are clubable and people who are not (although I believe that my very decent domestic helper is far more clubable than Professor De Vos). And such a country estate is far too boring for me to live there. But if someone is a resident there the residents make the rules. And I do not see any unfair discrimination if asked to use the designated bus stops.

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Why Humans Persist in Believing in Universal Morality: Moral Opinion Presented As Fact (Part 3) https://rationalstandard.com/humans-persist-believing-universal-morality-moral-opinion-presented-fact-part-3/ https://rationalstandard.com/humans-persist-believing-universal-morality-moral-opinion-presented-fact-part-3/#comments Sun, 26 Nov 2017 09:37:00 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6902 Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2. We saw in Parts 1 and 2 that it is not only those who openly believe in God who rely upon the supernatural in order to facilitate their desire to believe that morality is universal. Every agnostic or atheist who also believes that […]

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Click here to read Part 1.

Click here to read Part 2.

We saw in Parts 1 and 2 that it is not only those who openly believe in God who rely upon the supernatural in order to facilitate their desire to believe that morality is universal. Every agnostic or atheist who also believes that morality is fixed and universal, and not simply the product of the human mind, without being aware of it implicitly infers a supernatural agency responsible for this universality; for what but a supernatural agency could originate and apply for all time a single moral code across all of humanity? This group probably includes a high proportion of all non-believers. This is presumably because they haven’t ever cared to think about where a universal moral code might originate, why it might do so, or by what mechanism it would enter the human domain.

As so many supposedly non-religious humans rely no less upon the supernatural than do religious individuals, in order to believe that morality is universal, even if this is implicitly and without their being consciously aware of it, does this mean that all, or virtually all, humans are significantly religious; and if so, what does this tell us about human nature?

Much of the most sceptical portion of humanity deliberately deceives itself intellectually, in order, for emotional reasons, to be able to believe that morality is universal and transcendental, so implicitly suggesting that life has more significance and meaning than appears empirically to be the case, and the less sceptical portion believes in the supernatural quite explicitly. Clearly, then, the general human need to believe in the transcendental is not merely an incidental need, but an enormously powerful and influential one. It would appear that humankind in general, including most of those who are avowedly sceptical, is indeed significantly religious, when this means implicit as well as explicit belief in the transcendental nature of human existence.

It is this transcendental emotional need, as we saw in Part 2, that is responsible for the existence of all political as well as religious ideologies, and for our inclination generally to embrace ideological doctrine willingly, no matter how irrational or absurd. Given that every society on Earth is, and appears always to have been, organised upon transcendental ideological principles, it would hardly be an exaggeration to state that humankind’s transcendental emotional need (crudely, its ‘religious gene’) to believe that human life is meaningful, is the single strongest determinant operating in respect of human social behaviour, other than morality itself.

It is through the process of gratifying this need, and particularly through their supposed link with the transcendental, that all ideologies derive their moral authority. This brings us to the critical role played by the presentation of mere human moral opinion as moral fact by ideologies, in facilitating their ideological capture of people’s minds.

As touched upon in Part 2, the whole point of any ideology, religious or political, in asserting the existence, either explicitly or implicitly, of a transcendental and supernatural existence or intelligence, (which, by definition, must be superior to humankind) is in order to be in a position to claim for itself four things; firstly, and most importantly, that the morality the ideology represents and speaks on behalf of, is the true, transcendental and universal morality, and its moral judgements therefore true facts; secondly, any potential adherent may be assured that there is indeed far more significance to life than empirically apparent, and that the ideology will grant access to this, provided that the ideology’s particular doctrine is followed; thirdly, that the ideology is aiming at the highest moral good; fourthly, that the  ideology is the supernatural existence’s bona fide representative on earth.

Whenever an ideology is accepted, this enables it to proclaim to its adherents that the moral opinions that it expresses are not merely the contestable human opinions of its leaders, but are incontestable, transcendental, and universally true moral facts. Anyone contesting or denying them therefore has absolutely no moral grounds upon which to do so, as the ideology, thanks to its link to the transcendent, is morally all-knowing.

In order to establish their moral authority over the masses, it is above all on creating the common belief that the moral opinions they express are actual facts and not mere opinions that all religious and secular ideologies rely.

Thus, the assertion of national socialists in Germany in 1940 that blacks and Jews were morally inferior to Aryans was accepted widely as fact. That homosexuality, divorce, eating pork, and capitalism and the profit motive are morally wrong are similar simple moral beliefs widely held to be actionable moral facts in today’s supposedly secular world. What are perceived by believers to be transcendental moral facts are far more likely to be acted upon than what are perceived to be mere arguable human opinions. Fanaticism is the fruit of moral certainty.

It is the moral authority conferred by the intellectual sleight-of-hand which enables mere human moral opinions to be transformed miraculously into transcendental moral facts that lies at the heart of the fervent advocacy of the concept of universal morality by all ideologies.

Rationally, to be accepted as a fact, a moral opinion or belief has to be shown to accord with reality, because that is what a fact is, by definition. While the holder of a moral opinion may believe that it corresponds with reality and is, therefore, a fact, unless it can be shown indubitably to correspond with reality, it cannot rationally be claimed to be a fact, and remains mere human moral opinion.

In religious terms, God’s moral injunctions are regarded, not merely as God’s opinion, but as moral facts. For example, that God loves mankind is taken to be a fact by Christians, not simply God’s opinion. From the secular viewpoint, rationally this cannot be accepted as fact because the statement cannot be shown to correspond to reality. Its truth status, therefore, is no more than that of any contestable human opinion.

For Christians, however, God’s word is held to be fact because it accords with another reality that they claim has been revealed to them by God. As the mystical religious concept of a reality accessible only through divine revelation is meaningless in secular terms, what Christians hold to be God’s word, and therefore fact, can be regarded as nothing more than human moral opinion in terms of secular understanding.

An understanding of the manner in which mere human moral opinion comes to be accepted as moral fact by the adherents of ideologies is of critical importance in understanding how morality has been, and is still today being used to control people’s minds through their beliefs. Those who accept untested moral opinion as moral fact, unwittingly confer virtually unlimited power and moral authority over themselves on the ideologue, dictator, cleric, politician, or leader whose moral opinions they come to subscribe to.

Political ideologies are the religions of a supposedly secular age. And, like the religions of old, they determine much of what each of us believes, as well as much of the course our life takes. Secularity, like rationality, is not readily accommodated by human nature. We believe what we are taught to believe.

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3 Ways How President Mnangagwa Can Make the New Zimbabwe A Success Story https://rationalstandard.com/3-ways-mnangagwa-make-new-zimbabwe-success/ https://rationalstandard.com/3-ways-mnangagwa-make-new-zimbabwe-success/#comments Sat, 25 Nov 2017 15:32:05 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6891 The curtains of celebration are gradually drawing home in Zimbabwe as President Emmerson Mnangagwa assumes office to lead the country out of its numerous ordeals. As expected, there would be calls to initiate state-driven economic reforms to solve the three development-related problems of cash purchasing power, institutional corruption and food shortages. Instead, Mnangagwa must learn […]

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The curtains of celebration are gradually drawing home in Zimbabwe as President Emmerson Mnangagwa assumes office to lead the country out of its numerous ordeals. As expected, there would be calls to initiate state-driven economic reforms to solve the three development-related problems of cash purchasing power, institutional corruption and food shortages. Instead, Mnangagwa must learn from the consequences of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year experiment with collectivism.

On Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)

If Mnangagwa truly believes that Mugabe was wrong in meddling with the market economy, he should simply avoid following suit.

For instance, following the currency instability that started in the late 1990s greatly because of the confiscation of private farms from white landowners, Mugabe adopted a state-driven strategy that would eventually influence the bulk of present economic problems. He made the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe routinely print money to fund budgets and reward his political allies until the currency bloated to an unmanageable level in 2009. This neither helped economic productivity nor encouraged investment as he promised.

Rather than experiment with another centrally-designed programme, it is best to have private-driven reforms by repealing laws that constrain foreign investment and property ownership. The return of corporate interest and security of property would almost instantly stimulate the value of the currency through a natural inflow of foreign exchange and increase in informal start-ups.

It is more interesting when considering the possible benefits of replicating this approach in the prolific mining sector. Zimbabwe has the world’s third-largest reserve of platinum, a highly-valuable commodity for electronic and medical industries. It also has lithium, which is in great demand by tech companies for making batteries.

With these enormous market opportunities, a complete shift from the usual state-led extraction and exchange would attract more investment and allow competition among corporations to gradually increase the PPP of the Zimbabwean dollar.

Managing Corruption

If pro-market reforms are necessary to resuscitating the Zimbabwean economy, reducing corruption to the barest minimum is more integral to sustaining it.

In 2016, Transparency International reported that corruption cost the country $1 billion annually. This is primarily because of the wide dependence on government to provide basic amenities including healthcare, education and social welfare, which are considered cultural rights in Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa should avoid this by not burdening his cabinet with unnecessary headaches. These are services best provided by a competitive private sector.

It is not rocket science that entrusting any administration to provide private goods invites corrupt tendencies. The enormity of government bureaucracies subject funds meant to finance these responsibilities to pass through numerous offices before actual disbursement and there is practically no way to avoid corruption. Instead, Mnangagwa should give individuals and corporations room to own up but concurrently ensure a tolerable framework of justice.

Keeping corporations and the government void of corruption may be achievable if the incoming president can experiment with the procedure of public interest litigation (PIL). PIL is a sure way of adopting the law to strategically realize social change. The procedure simply utilizes litigation and other legal actions to raise issues of broad public concern. As argued by Transparency International Zimbabwe, PIL can help provide a check on government agencies, statutory bodies and public officials by holding them judicially accountable through fair and unbiased judicial procedures. Mnangagwa should draw lessons from Kenya and Uganda as they have robust experience using PIL in addressing corruption.

Food Shortages

The World Food Program estimated that some 1.5 million Zimbabweans are critically hungry – about 16 percent of the population. This is among the worst anywhere in the world. Although there are external factors to consider in addressing this problem, especially inflation. The primary considerations for Mnangagwa should be to repeal existing discriminatory land reforms and plan for artificial irrigation.

For example, the 2001 the ‘Fast Track’ Land Reform, which initiated a compulsory acquisition and redistribution of land, dispossessed over 4,500 white farmers of their farms and resettled a million black Zimbabweans instead. The policy critically affected the agricultural productivity that drives the economy and complicated the legitimate ownership of land. Moreover, the wide negative impact on agricultural exchange since 2001 affirms the unfortunate outcomes.

If Zimbabwe is to produce its own food to solve the shortage, it needs to allow fair land ownership. People are more productive when they have dividends to economize properties they rightful claim.

For a country where drought is the most common climatic threat to agricultural production and only 7.6 percent of its farmers practicing conservation agriculture, having a dependent alternative to rainfall is smartest. Zimbabwe should partner with countries that have recorded success in adopting the technique. Although, there could be financial constraints in funding such audacious undertaking but this is another reason it needs better relationship with corporations.

Zimbabweans have every reason to demand fast economic transformation after decades of suffering but, Emmerson Mnangagwa must be cautious yet market-oriented because every policy no matter how small, determines the future of Zimbabwe.

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Identity Politics, and Why It’s a Virus https://rationalstandard.com/identity-politics-virus/ https://rationalstandard.com/identity-politics-virus/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:11:16 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6711 Identity politics has infiltrated every aspect of modern political discourse like the virus it is. It thrives on stereotypes and total disregard for unique individual views. Dissent is discouraged by the shame that goes with being deemed a sell-out to the cause (cue Pan-Africanism and Afrikaner nationalism). It creates a prison of non-negotiable narratives and […]

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Identity politics has infiltrated every aspect of modern political discourse like the virus it is. It thrives on stereotypes and total disregard for unique individual views. Dissent is discouraged by the shame that goes with being deemed a sell-out to the cause (cue Pan-Africanism and Afrikaner nationalism). It creates a prison of non-negotiable narratives and virtues. But what exactly is identity politics, and what does it entail?

A simple Google search will tell you that identity politics is the tendency for people of a particular collective to form exclusive political alliances that move away from traditional broad-based party politics. In essence, it entails a group of people that attempt to further their collective interests by banding together and saying “this is what we want”.

At first glance it does not seem as problematic as it really is, but that is exactly how it traps people in its cult-like clutches. It seems alluring when one does not consider the suppression of dissent and the invalidation of views based on arbitrary grounds.

It has always boggled my mind why individuals need a collective identity to determine their own. It is as if people are blind to the fact that one does not choose one’s collective identity ascribed to them at birth. Black people carry the burden of either supporting apparent “pro-black” narratives or be deemed sell-outs. Afrikaners have to be proud of the Boer way of life and everything that goes with it, or they will be labelled ‘Volksverraaiers’. False dichotomies are at the order of the day.

Members of involuntary collectives, such as racial collectives, are ascribed traits and virtues whether they share them or not. It is the flagship of strawmanning. Stereotypes are strengthened in this manner and individual views are invalidated by preconceived notions of what a person is ‘supposed’ to believe.

This stereotyping entails grave consequences.

Ideas are evaluated based on who airs them, rather than the merits of the ideas themselves. The collective identity that is determined by whatever stereotype, is deemed as more important than individuals and their respective unique identities.

Twitter serves as the best source of examples.

I recently pointed out to a user that not all black people are in favour of land redistribution. Her reply: “Who are these other black [sic] that don’t want land back”.  Which neatly brings me to my next point.

Identity politics serves to foster a culture of “us vs them”. “These other black [sic]” serves as the perfect example of this narrative. People who do not subscribe to the narrative they’re “supposed” to subscribe to are othered and their views are delegitimised, no matter how legitimate those views actually are. Those who digress from the identitarian norm are automatically deemed not worthy of being heard. Identitarianism creates a bubble characterised by indoctrination, irrationality and narrow-mindedness. It is therefore no mystery why cultural warfare in political discourse is so prevalent.

The State represents a central form of power over which interest groups fight in order to strengthen their standing in society. It is as if identitarians who fight for independence do not see the irony in fighting for protection from the State. Logic dictates that groups of people who want to secede from society to form their own little communities should be able to do so at will. Unfortunately, because government has taken unilateral control over a certain jurisdiction, interest groups are forced to fight over who controls the State and subsequently the fate of all the people within that jurisdiction. But what is the solution?

It’s simple: the absolute protection of individual rights.

If the State serves to only protect the individual rights of all people, minority rights are rendered redundant since people will be able to voluntarily form collectives based on whatever identitarian basis they prefer, without being bothered by an intrusive government and without relying on the government to protect their collective.

Identity politics is a virus because it affects those who have no choice in whether to be affected by it or not, since the central body which controls a society has to be fought over. Liberty is the solution. All people should be able to associate and disassociate from whomever they want, for whatever reason they want, as forced association is just as problematic as forced segregation. Decentralise power from the government to the people, and identitarianism can thrive without affecting innocent people.

It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that there will always be people who seek to define their identity according to what their culture prescribes, but there is no way around this.

In essence, the virus that is identity politics cannot be wiped out as humans are driven to form groups based on collective identities. There is no cure. There is only a remedial measure: decentralise the State’s power and let collectives determine their own destiny without bothering the rest of us.

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