It’s very easy to tell that South Africa’s economy is headed in the wrong direction. It’s also very easy to tell who exactly is culpable for the destruction of our economic productivity. We advocates of freedom have maintained that among other things that enfeeble our economy, is government’s policies that deny the poor and the unemployed a chance to find employment.
Ann Bernsteinn, the Executive Director of the Centre for Development and Enterprise, wrote a brilliant, spirited piece last week – where she argued our mass unemployment crisis demands we ditch our aversion to lowly paid jobs. She shrewdly contended, these low-wage jobs we very much dislike are the first step towards reducing our mass unemployment and poverty.
In my opinion Ann was correct. Most South Africans are unskilled, and rely on these low-wage jobs to earn income and have something to eat. Yet astonishingly, these are the jobs that many see as exploitation, and that our government tries by all means to extinguish.
We need millions of these jobs in order to quell poverty. But the growth of these jobs is only possible if government chooses pro-market policies. A free market is a requirement in creating these desperately-needed jobs.
This general view is held by most advocates of freedom – libertarians. Because of this stance, for reasons I do not fathom, we are hated. Many say we do not care about the poor and that we approve of the exploitation of workers.
But this is utterly absurd. What we fight for, is the opportunity for every South African to find employment and take a step forward in life. The only viable way to fight poverty is through the creation of jobs not government handouts. We want people to work, improve their skills and contribute to our economic productivity. Massive anti-poverty government programs don’t bolster the economy, they weaken it.
We think this way because we believe in individual liberty – that you have a right to live your life the way you want as long as you do not impact the third-party without his consent. This principle applies in almost all aspects of life – be it in politics or economics. So I find it baffling that people are against freedom – which is something millions around the world are desperate for.
A free market not only creates jobs, it also guaranties individual liberty.
We live in times where this liberty is under threat. The political elite’s intent is to deny us all our freedoms. Here in South Africa, government is ever-expanding, bills after bills are passed at the expense of our liberty. Confusingly, most people approve of our governments’ actions.
Matt Warner of Atlas Network United States addressed us at Free Market Foundation few months ago. I asked him why most people are not comfortable with the idea of liberty and economic freedom. He said that our duty as libertarians is to ensure that we speak in a language that they can relate to. We should speak about how free markets touch their lives. In that way, we are likely to convince them.
We battle against hate every single day. People accuse me of betraying black people and call me a “White capitalist”. My friend, Martin van Staden, who’s a Local Coordinator at African Students for Liberty, based in Pretoria, has been called “Hendrik Verwoerd” because of his deep belief in liberty and economic freedom.
Being called names can be quite painful at times; but we are determined, because we believe we are right and they are wrong.
South Africans like Themba Nolutshungu, Leon Louw, Herman Mashaba and Frans Cronje, inspire us young people to fight for what we believe in. And now that we are crafting relationships with other libertarians all over Africa and around the world, we’ll keep on sweating in the struggle for liberty.
Every time I sit and think about the socioeconomic ills South Africa endures, I always ask myself “What is a libertarian approach to conquer these challenges?” Liberty and economic freedom should guide us in our efforts to finding solutions to our problems.
This type of thinking will help create millions of jobs and boost the fight against poverty. I hope that one day, most South Africans will stop hating, and joining us in the fight for economic freedom and liberty.