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Socialism is a terrible idea for SA

21 January 2013, 10:13

There are many factions in the country that believe that socialism is the way forward for the country.  The most extreme even go as far as to suggest that one should take it a step further and embrace communism in some form or another. 

First of all let me say that I do not believe that there is a single political model that is perfect. In fact with every ideology from the left to the right there exist fundamental problems with all the systems in their purest forms and each has had its own myriad of examples of failure. This is probably why it is impossible even today to get examples of countries that can be said to whole heartedly embrace a single political system 100%. Instead most political systems tend to be concocted out of various ideas stemming from various different schools of thought and is merely given a blanketed term to describe it from the system it most closely resembles. 

But that said there are various reasons why socialism and it more extreme cousin communism are an extremely bad political system choices for South Africa. Perhaps the most important is this. For socialism and communism to work effectively one requires a very strong national identity and discourse that can unify the people under a common vision. This is because these systems rely heavily on citizen buy in and commitment to the ideals of the underlying ideologies in order to work effectively. Thus it follows that these ideologies are easiest to implement in countries where your population is relatively homogenous and tends to espouse the same cultural background, upbringing, general level of education and way of experiencing and thinking about the world. These are all the things that South Africa is not. In fact the exact opposite is true. Not only are we a land that is massively diverse in almost every axis mentioned, but our past has also become a propaganda tool to garner political loyalty that has divided our citizens and national identity. The ANC has successfully fractured and divided South African society across so many distinct and clear cultural lines that it is very hard to actually pin down what it means to be South African (when referring to cultural stereotypes). In the ANC’s South Africa, just like it has always been under the apartheid years, you are first a Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaner, Coloured or whichever ethnic classification or sub culture one wants to use and then you are a South African. In a fragmented society such as ours, it would be impossible to gain the national drive and unity required to bring about a real socialist culture, and it can only end in one very bloody and sad way. 

The second problem that arises from wanting to introduce these two systems is that it requires very ethical and educated leaders to drive the process since the systems in themselves are open to massive abuse due to the centralization of power. One simply has to take a glance at any local newspaper to realise that our leaders have already crippled our country with corruption and a lack of leadership. It would be folly to entrust the very people that have caused so many problem for the last two decades with absolute power and control of all the key sectors in our country. There are too many individuals that would simply use such an opportunity to enrich themselves and destroy many value creating assets in the process. I am not saying that the free market or private route is not open to abuse, but at least it is decentralized and abuse cannot become endemic if the system is regulated effectively.

The third problem that arises from these urges is the fact that both socialism and communism requires precise and effective governance to act as custodians for the nation’s interest. That is not to say that Capitalism does not require solid governance, but the fact of the matter remains that our government is already too inextricably incapacitated to successfully implement even the most basic of governmental policies. Cadre deployment and cronyism has left us with departments that function at bare minimum and can’t even present clean financial statements or achieve basic levels of service delivery. It would be madness to want to put even more key sectors and industries under control of the same incapacitated leaders and departments that cannot even sort out their house in its current context. At least with well-regulated capitalism many key sectors remain relatively productive in private hands (due to competitive forces) meaning that society as a whole still functions. There is currently no evidence that a shift to more centralization would not cripple the country beyond the point of return. And this lack of trust in ability and intention would see fierce resistance to any such notion.

But perhaps the biggest problem is the fact that we are living in the 21st century and the ideological debate that certain sectors are fighting over such as the merits of socialism and communism are archaic both in theory and in validity. In today’s globalized technology infused high paced environment Capitalism has for some time become the language of the world. In the modern world you simply cannot not have a capitalistic element to your economy, if you intend on being a serious role player on the global stage. Even countries such as China and India achieved the biggest period of growth that the world has ever seen not through their socialistic and communistic roots, but by liberating their economies and embracing many capitalistic ideas. In the end it comes down to the fact that one can either try beat the world at its game or you can choose to join it. A glance over at South Africa’s latest trade deficit and the massive level of deindustrialisation over the last two decades means that even if we wanted to, we probably cannot afford to try and beat the world by going pure socialism or communism.

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