Liberty Needs To Reclaim Compassion

During my years attending an all-boys school, many of my previous and currently-disproved political convictions were formed. As an adolescent, I watched the series The West Wing in awe of the portrayed Democratic Party American president who, as I later realised quite ironically, was a...

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During my years attending an all-boys school, many of my previous and currently-disproved political convictions were formed. As an adolescent, I watched the series The West Wing in awe of the portrayed Democratic Party American president who, as I later realised quite ironically, was a fictional Nobel Prize for Economics laureate. Despite the fact that now, years and quite a few rewatches latter, I don’t agree with many of the portrayed policies of that award-winning series, I still look back on the series with fondness. It played a small, yet significant, part in forming my current political convictions. As one grows older your convictions, as well as opinions, are bound to be challenged and changed.

I have been fortunate enough to serve and partake in, and be involved with various student and youth organisations and structures. On the one end of the political spectrum, I have been part of progressive liberal leadership development programmes and right (excuse the pun) through to the other side I have served in classical liberal organisations. Although my various involvements may seem contradictory, I believe that there remains one common thread throughout all my engagements.

To advocate for free market principles and individual freedom does not seem to fit into the stereotypical idea of an involved and compassionate student. The perception exists that the only people who care about the poor and disenfranchised are the left or progressives. It, therefore, baffles many to see conservative or classical liberal youth being involved outside of their own communities and being involved in social upliftment, civic education and societal involvement. This view must, however, be corrected. The idea that social upliftment, civic education and societal involvement must happen through and by private citizens, fits squarely into right-leaning political and philosophical viewpoints; quite unlike most Marxist and progressive arguments that government should primarily play this role.

As an active campus student, many friends and colleagues respond with disbelief when I verbalise my political and economic opinions. Many often struggle to reconcile the idea that a free market exponent could come across as caring for the plight of those who struggle and those who are disadvantaged. This mistake is frequently made. It does not bode well with the contemporary political narrative that a person could care for the poor and disenfranchised while arguing for poverty-alleviating free market capitalist principles. In reaction to this, many political, as well as racial slurs, get hurled in our direction. Despite the obvious care for the poor, many then blindly and unthoughtfully attribute many other characteristics to you as a person, most of which are untrue. Just because I believe that the free market has the power to change our country and world, does not mean I deny many self-evident truths.

It would be ignorant and naive to deny that, historically speaking, the majority of our country’s people have been discriminated against and actively been oppressed. As a free market advocate, I do not deny this abhorrent tragedy of our history. I realise how easily I could have been in the position of the countless victims of our past, had it not been for things beyond my control such as melanin levels, or my gender. I acknowledge that I am privileged because of circumstances before and beyond my control. Like you and like everyone else, I had no control over where and to whom I was born.

Acknowledging this fact of history simply further motivates me to fight and seek freedom and liberty for all. Acknowledging the facts of our history does not entail supporting the view that, because of historical discrimination and disadvantage, I wish for the government to play the great role of equaliser. On the contrary, I would argue that a too powerful government is to blame for the current challenges and unfairness that we as a nation face.

As an example, I personally agree with the correctly-identified problem that many #FeesMustFall supporters fight for. It is an undeniable fact of our time that many students struggle financially at university. My critique of the #FeesMustFall, and the fallist movement in general, is not aimed at the merited, justified struggle that they believe they are fighting for affordable education. My critique of these movements takes aim squarely at their approach, philosophical background and the actions that necessarily flow from these. However, not supporting these movements does not boil down to not caring for students who struggle financially – just like not supporting a sports team coach’s tactics and decisions does not mean that you do not care for your team. On the contrary, your criticism is often because you want the best for your favourite team.

The difference is that, as a free market advocate, I believe that the surviving injustices of our past are best resolved by maximising individual freedom and opportunities – in society, in political debates, and in the market.

These same injustices were caused by a lack of individual freedom for all and by a lack of opportunities in the market. Oppression, by its very nature, always flows from an over-powerful, overbearing, liberty-destroying state. The solution to this, I believe, is the free market.

Nothing has done more to lift humanity out of poverty than the market economy. The apartheid state claimed the perverse power to dictate to us who can have ballots and what may be done with these ballots. How can a government today claim the perverse power to dictate to us who can have money and what may be done with it?

Examining human history over a time span of centuries and recent decades clearly illustrates the case that actual freedom, political, social and economic freedom, is the greatest liberator of the captured, feeder of the hungry and carer for the poor. The number of people in the world who live below the breadline has more than halved in the last twenty years due to the now-threatened increase in actual freedom.

This statement, however, does not fit the popular and dominant narrative. The previous paragraphs are sure to provoke reactions pointing to my privilege and oppressive capitalist opinions. But it is self-evident that accusations against me do not alter the facts on which I stand, nor the humanity on which I act. And this is a desperate concern in our time.

A person who holds different, perhaps unpopular views on how to solve poverty does not make them deplorable. It seems that what is, in fact, deplorable, are people who disregard diverse opinions about solutions because they do not fit their own personal worldview. This debate is a question about policy, not about the person.

As a lover of freedom, I have always felt comfortable in the company of all those who wish to make a difference in our country. I appreciate that thought goes into trying to solve problems. I appreciate the critique of my held political convictions just as much as I appreciate others being open to critique of theirs.

In the end, I, just like many of my red-bereted countrymen and women, wish to end the inhumane poverty in our country. We share this noble and vital ambition, yet our debates and discussions are polluted with needless hate and anger. Just because I do not agree with your means, does not mean that I do not agree with your ends.

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  1. Adoons Blou Reply

    Marxist jibber-jabber always trumps rational classical liberalism in terms of gaining support. Collectivism by nature has numbers on their side.

  2. Harald Sitta Reply

    A lot of good points.The right must be able to deliver their messages also emotionally.It is the biggest leftie fraud to play the caring, emotionally involved etc etc .We have to unmask their tactics .Not easy but possible.

  3. Gillian Benade Reply

    Great piece!

  4. v_3 Reply

    While free markets remain the best long-term solution for the country (as Churchill put it, it’s a bad system but the others are worse) South Africa, at present is incapable of having them. By definition, free markets require more or less equal participants, fairly free information, low barriers to entry (or exit), “agency” and, by implication, consumers earning more than survival in order to be able to make choices. It also requires strong regulation (either from the state or through self-policing) and strong checks and balances and that the state performs ITS role regarding education, security, reducing crime, security of ownership, etc, all of which where the ZANC is failing.

    SA is riddled with monopolies and oligopolies – Big Comms (Telkom and mobile), media groups, supermarket chains, Big Banks, the auto industry, Big Labour (unions) etc, etc, for whom it is easier to raise prices than value. Try opening up against one of the established players and the only real opportunity is in high-end niche (“craft”) markets if at all. The barriers to entry include regulation (one feature of SA that really does go back to van Riebeeck: the “Vrij Burghers” were forced to sell their produce to the DEIC, not directly to the ships), and the evil Cecil J Rhodes created the world’s most perfect monopoly – diamonds, while his adversary, Kruger was dishing out monopolies and nepotistic appointments, too); the amount of investment (funding) require (imagine, say trying to build a new cellular network); economies of scale, where China has us licked.

    Above all, free markets, like democracy, are a product of culture. That most free market of countries, the US, had a “rags to riches” “protestant work ethic” – the narrative that anybody (or any man?) who was bright and worked hard would “make it” along with little stigma for entrepreneurial failure. Until that model ceased to work when globalisation and the fourth industrial revolution [the “knowledge economy”] made many in the US unemployable. Or, if you prefer, sleeping giant China awoke and is returning to its former glory.

    We need to face up to the fact that thanks to past Nat and ANC and present ZANC policies and programmes (“Bantu education” and “burn don’t learn”/”liberation before education” before 1994; kow-towing to SADTU and dysfuntionalisation of state education after) we have a generation that is largely unemployable. They cannot be wished away and decency (ubuntu) and common-sense self-interest means that they will have to survive on grants. 17 million out of a total population of 55 million is a not insignificant “economic genocide” after twenty-two years of ZANC rule that no amount of “free markets” can redress.

Rational Standard
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