Release the Lion
We don’t have to be stuck between two mythical deities known as white monopoly capital and state capture, both are an attempt to frame all our problems around one single problem – with government the solution in both cases. This is plainly not a true assessment of the situation we find ourselves in. Yes, we had colonialism and apartheid which caused serious problems in this country; both of those severely curtailed the potential of black people. That does not mean that those who fought this system had all the right answers. We’re human, and we make mistakes, but you need to have a sustained process of rational engagement with the ideas you are generating to fix your problems. Look at history to see what works and what doesn’t.
The ANC played the biggest part in uniting this country after 1994 as well as solving some of the most pressing economic problems with apartheid. Mbeki and Manuel’s Gear policy did help create the black middle class, through liberalising our economy and allowing people to trade more freely with each other (they could have gone even further: the economy was still hamstrung by labour laws, exchange controls, sectoral minimum wages, and our unaffordable welfare system).
Then we allowed the populists to take over – and they believe in solving problems through spending and raising taxes (Gordhan is part of this populist crowd). Yes, firing him so suddenly was bad for the economy but only because it signals a shift further towards increasing deficits, higher taxes and inflation. Never let something as stupid as race distract you from paying attention to the economy!
Equally, corruption is really bad for good fiscal management, but the bigger the government role in the economy, the higher the dividend for trying to corrupt state officials – people like Brett Kebble, the Broederbond and, our good friends, the Guptas.
The real big idea we haven’t explored is whether it is better to shrink the state to its bare minimum, providing a judiciary and police, with both functions localised to the municipal level, national defence, and prosecutorial services also established at the municipal level. The national government would only take voluntary contributions from the municipalities to fund an agreed-upon level of defence and capacitating the foreign affairs service. There would be absolutely no role for government in business – someone from the townships can think of an idea and just start running with it because the idea is a good one and everyone who wants to make money will invest in that idea and make money.
Economics is not a zero-sum game – a lot of economic transactions are about someone conceptualising something new and trying to sell that thing for as close to the conceptualised value as possible. He engages in negotiation with his neighbours trying to prove the thing’s value, so both parties win if both are right, i.e. that the thing really has the value they agreed on.
It is time to release the African lion into the world. Markets are ripe for conquering by people who have our survival skills. Let’s not be pussies. Let’s seize the moment and define ourselves instead of always seeking validation from someone else.
I challenge you: build something that makes the world around you better. Let’s throw away the shackles of government and make money together. It’s not a finite pie – imagination is the limit.
Author: Mpiyakhe Dhlamini is an important person to his two friends on facebook. He is also a web developer who has recently developed an unhealthy obsession with angular, a frontend web framework.