The latest political machinations of Jacob Zuma have caused outrage across the nation, from the leafy suburbs of Sandton, to the offices of our political commentators and analysts, to the man on the street trying to make a living in any way he can.
I’m quite taken aback by all the outrage, opinion pieces and righteous indignation swirling around us – Zuma’s actions are simply in line with the best of any socialist despot throughout history, and South Africans produced this situation because, fundamentally, we vote for the same philosophy whether we vote for the ANC, the DA, the EFF, the VF+, the IFP or whomever else. Our economic and political perspectives, however distinct we think they may be, comprise group rights and the needs of the other over the liberty of the individual. We should not be surprised at the actions of the democratically elected ruling party – their philosophy is socialism, and those who voted for them sanctioned their actions when they cast their ballot. Furthermore, the situation will not be different if another party comes to power; they all engage in different shades of socialism, but the philosophy remains the same.
Socialism holds ‘the good of society’ as the standard of morality. This is an amorphous concept, but one which permeates our education and beliefs. We are taught from a young age that we must always consider the other – our happiness, values and goals come second to others. Socialism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that the only justification of his existence is his contribution to society and how he adds to the ‘public good.’ Socialism pays zero heed to reality, to small matters such as stock exchanges, investor confidence and living within one’s means. Zuma, and any politician who finds themselves in power when the situation is expedient, will do as they wish under the guise of doing what is good for society, the country, or their particular group. From this perspective, what truly matters is the wonderful dream of how society can be if only we would jettison antiquated notions such as individual rights and private property. The good of society (whichever group finds itself in power) is the standard of morality for the socialist.
Whether we get socialism in a big dollop, or through little increments, poison compromises the health of the body. Constitutions, grounded in classical liberalism, have managed to hold back the atrocities committed through the philosophy of collectivism. However, any compromise, any ‘mixed’ economy and body politic, will eventually see the subjugation of the people through the force of the state. There are many clauses in the South African Constitution which protect the rights of the individual, but only up to a point, and always with the standard of the group as the ultimate justification of these rights. We get bogged down in debates about group rights according to race, gender, and wealth – all while forgetting that without property rights, no human rights can exist concretely. To suspend, and in some instances, deny, property rights means that individuals, and what they produce, become the property of the state and the can be used accordingly. The economic disasters of socialism have been exposed again and again, but the underlying moral code is never refuted; if only we had more money, or more people willing to ‘give up’ their rights, socialism would work.
Do not expect Zuma and his ilk to bother with irritating things such as individual rights when you vote according to ‘group rights’ and the ‘good of society’ – by doing so, you sanction what is happening in front of our eyes.
This is what happens when you vote for parties based on how much they promise to do for you. This is what happens when you accept arbitrary health laws which are made ‘for your benefit.’ This is what happens when you allow the state to dictate who succeeds in the market; which companies are ‘too big’ and deserve to be brought before a tribunal or a government ‘panel.’
In the Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand wrote that the implementation of socialism resulted in “economic paralysis and/or collapse to every country that tried it.” Some countries have implemented the philosophy to a greater degree than others – the degree of disaster has simply been greater in these countries than those which are mixed. When your society holds the basic philosophical premises of socialism as your standard of morality, do not be surprised at the actions of your politicians. A will always be A.
Author: Chris Hattingh is a passionate advocate for free markets and free minds. He is a student of Objectivism and is currently an intern at the Free Market Foundation.