Roadblocks all over the place. Restrictions on when you may head out of your house. Restrictions on what shops may charge for their goods. Restrictions on how many items you may or may not buy. The state now determines whether some can work or not, what people can do, where they may go. Am I describing Soviet Russia, that paradise of communism? Or perhaps North Korea, or East Berlin before the Wall came down? No, I am describing South Africa in the year 2020.
The lockdown imposed at the end of March is, we are told, temporary, but has just been extended by a further two weeks. South Africans are getting a taste of good ol’ state control — some socialism. I wonder whether they will reel back in disgust, or simply ask for more when the time comes.
There have been numerous cases of police brutality reported since the lockdown was imposed in South Africa. Such brutality is part and parcel of any society where the state believes its power is absolute, and that it must force people to act in the ‘correct’ way. Usually this brutality manifests the most against the poorer in society – those who many politicians who dress themselves in the garb of ‘fighters for the rights of the workers and the poor’ are supposed to care about the most.
Any socialist experiment begins under the guise of ‘justice’ and ‘fairness,’ of ‘equality’ and ‘communal ownership.’ Inevitably, all the flowery language makes way for hyperinflation, food shortages, joblessness, and, in the worst cases, firing squads.
Why does this happen?
Socialism will always and everywhere breakdown into violence because it is predicated on an immoral idea: the idea that the ‘good’ of the group is superior to that individual. One group (sometimes gathering around an enlightened individual) will always understand the ‘revolution’ better than others; and of course they will need either more of people’s taxes, or more force (in most cases both) to further lead society on their glorious path to a society where no one needs to worry about work or money (in a way, they are right, because societies which are most socialist don’t have much of either money or jobs). One group in society will assume power over others, and then use the levers of power against anyone perceived to be the enemy of the glorious revolution.
There can never be ‘communal ownership’ of anything – this is a contradiction in terms. Someone will always assume influence and control over others in the group. This is one of the major reasons a smaller state is better than the inevitable gargantuan (in both size and role) – the less room for control and abuse of citizens, the smaller the chance is that will happen. No movement that necessarily entails the state forcing citizens in its desired directions should ever be considered moral in any way.
The trappings of complete state control (socialism, and in comparatively worse forms communism and fascism) appear to not sit well with some South Africans. They want to go where they want, when they want. They want to buy things with the money they’ve earned. They want to drink and hangout with their friends. It is my fervent hope that those people who rightly balk at these restrictions ensure they hold the government accountable, and that they learn the necessary lessons from this whole experience.
Sometimes increasing government control (FYI: that’s a necessary part of socialism) creeps; other times it becomes entrenched almost overnight and remains in place. The coronavirus pandemic, while serious in its own right, has been accompanied by governments all around the world trying to increase their reach into people’s lives. Some have said they will roll back these restrictions and controls once the pandemic has subsided – only time will tell whether they will remain true to their word.
For decades now, students all over the world have been taught the moral superiority of socialism over capitalism. Many politicians, in the guise of various political parties, have called for increased controls over people’s lives – and many cheered them on. If we look at purely results, there ought really be no argument. If we look at the morality underpinning these ideologies, there definitely ought not be any argument of which is superior. Yet advocates for more state control over us keep on their fight, and so too must those who believe it is right and moral for people to be free. This pandemic could be a much-needed opportunity to wake people up to just how much control the government has over their lives – let us hope the awakening happens, and that the right lessons take hold.