Life in the "Farce Lane": the Cognitive Vacuum that Disables Us

2016-05-16 06:44

I get a lot of ideas for new articles and posts from people responding to what I have already written. Those that affirm or support (what I think is) a sound point of view, are gratifying whilst most others can be challenging and promote dialogue. The debate is usually worthwhile, even if we don’t reach full agreement.

But then others make me wonder what goes on in their heads. Their apparent literacy suggests a measure of intelligence, yet they remain intransigent and resistant to argument and dialogue - demonstrating indoctrination to the point of no return.

So when I bemoaned the potential land grab issue (“give back the land”) and ‘transformation’ goals in recent posts, some went as far as to suggest a fully state directed economy. But when “neo liberal” capitalism was blamed for our mass unemployment, it sealed their fate for me.

I had, reluctantly, to concede that for some, the penny will never drop.

Then – within a day or two - three interesting press releases saw the light of day.

The first commented on the reprieve we received from the rating agency Moody’s. Although it was greeted officially with a huge sigh of relief, it was no more than a temporary stay of execution. An article from Daniel Silke on the topic reads:

“Moody’s has bought (no more than) a promise from government – a promise to review the dismal state of policy formulation and fiscal management that was largely responsible for getting the country into (this) mess in the first place.”

Two things helped us to defer a downgrade –

1. A firmly stated resolve on the part of the finance minister to get things right, and

2. The demonstrable integrity of our constitutional court, for

a) having thrown Zuma under the bus for giving the public protector the finger in the Nkandla debacle, and

b) its pronouncement in relation to the spy tapes.

But - Moody’s adds - it will all hinge on an improved relationship between the state, the private sector and labour. For this to happen, “a new policy framework for growth and job creation will be necessary”.Anyone who has lived in the new South Africa for the past 20 odd years will know that pigs are more likely to fly.

Is there anyone in the house who seriously believes that “hard won workers’ rights” (that oft’ used mantra of the union movement) and unreasonable wage demands are going to go away? Enough said.

The second press release related to our economy’s pecking order on the African continent. Some years ago we were relegated to second place in terms of GDP – having been easily the largest economy for decades. This caused some unease in the corridors of power and generated a lot of excuses.

But now we have dropped to third - behind Nigeria and Egypt.

Of course this is no more than a barometer of our relative standing on the continent and does not affect anyone specifically and directly. Nonetheless it is sobering to reflect on how far we have slipped relative to our international peers after the demise of apartheid South Africa.

The final press release related to our national unemployment levels – which trend was predictable, but considerably higher than many expected. The 1st Quarter Labour Force Survey top line results reflect this picture -

Official unemployment leapt from one quarter to the next from 24,5% to 26,7% - i.e. by nine percent (26,7/24,5 = 1,09).

More alarming still, the “expanded definition” of unemployment – i.e. inclusive of those who have given up looking – amounts to 36,3% - or 8,9 million people. That is getting on for four out of ten potentially economically active South Africans.

The figure is well over fifty percent among the youth.

Quo Vadis?

Up to now, there has been no appetite on the part of government for identifying cause and effect in relation to the economy. The reasons are ideological and largely because of the company it keeps in the tripartite alliance (trade unions and communists).

There are the odd mutterings about “helping small business” - which doesn’t ever happen; instead there is a total disconnect, similar to the comments of a few readers described in my earlier paragraphs (see above).

These stem from an absence of rudimentary economic nous in the ruling echelons. It also highlights an intelligence void that disables any grasp of the mutual exclusivities of economic coercion and the personal individual freedoms required to fuel economic growth.

The current government’s default narrative is one of “transformation” with economic realities playing no part. Rather, the racial composition of national sports teams and the much bemoaned preponderance of “white males in business management” enjoy its attention.

So while white males have beyond any doubt mitigated the sad trend in our economy - they get busted for it - not commended. Their race is their only sin - and by both default and definition, they are deemed “the problem”.

Such are the cognitive barriers to a viable economy and prosperous democracy.

It can be thought of as life in the farce lane!

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