Transformation and “Unintended Consequences” – Subverting Democracy

2015-07-21 08:52

Have you ever noticed how often "unintended consequences" are offered as excuse when government makes a hash of things? Think back over the years to countless examples – some were fixable, genuine mistakes, but in general they were the result of an entrenched faith driven by fraudulent and irrational “struggle” values. A ruling elite pursuing ephemeral “transformation” goals was trying things out to see just how much it could cream off for itself.

“Transformation” South African style has had far more to do with coercion for gain than the transformation of fortunes for ordinary people. I shall explain.

Amidst the hundreds of examples, some ongoing and systemic clangers have been:

• The nation’s labour legislation's UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCE of sky high unemployment and worsening economic growth. In fact the union movement often even disputes its role in promoting unemployment – thereby denying economic logic or any vestige of business intelligence or simple common sense.

Ergo the union movement cannot grasp the simplest of economic principles, yet it participates as a partner in government.

• Eskom's high flying BEE status' (the organisation gave itself awards and paid fat bonuses for the privilege of putting inept people in charge on account of their race - as early as the late nineties) has carried the UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCE of load shedding in recent years.

They got rid of too many smart people (either of wrong loyalty or colour), which brought with it the diminution of services, an unstable electricity grid and a very substantial contribution to the onset of economic stagnation.

• Trade Union participation in the teaching profession brought the UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCE of rock bottom education and the worst maths and science scores for state education in the world.

• Inappropriate staffing and affirmative action throughout the nation’s municipalities is the cause of an incipient water crisis – yet another UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCE.

There are many, many more.

Conclusively, we lack the human capital required to maintain a social and political system based upon constructive public involvement in civic affairs. Add to that the incapacity to diagnose systemic malfunction and find solutions – and it becomes clear that Eskom’s problems are a harbinger to many others.

This is all very sad - but need not have been a problem in the halcyon days of the newly fledged “rainbow” nation, because back then we had the talent to surmount the important issues of economic growth, education, energy and water security, etc.

But the available resources were ignored and issues have since grown into huge problems – some of crisis proportions – precisely because of transformation.

It might even be more accurate to suggest that transformation per se is not the intention of the ruling elite – and conceivably never was. Could it be a ruse, with the term having been misconstrued for gain by relatively few well placed people in the right places?

Either way, ”transformation” skews the nation’s scarce resources in an unsustainable way. Nice sounding words have been hijacked in order to enrich some, favour those of selected pedigree and preclude the very people who had the capacity to make a difference to the nation’s fortunes in the first place.

In a rational-economic sense, South African transformation amounts to societal sabotage and economic subjugation. It enriches the incompetent and corrupt and quarantines those of ability and economic acumen – precluding them from contributing to the greater good.

At the heart of this are two factors – pervasive corruption and the notion of the NDR, the National Democratic Revolution - which drives the tripartite alliance from a philosophical and ideological point of view. The arrival of the rainbow nation in 1994 was only phase 1 of that ideological map for South Africa.

I shall ignore the already well documented issue of systemic corruption and focus on the NDR.

With the demise of the ANC’s comparatively intellectual leadership at Polokwane, Zuma assumed the reigns, creating a cognitive void in the presidency that the SACP was eager to fill. The likes of Blade Ndzimande and Rob Davies may strike few as brain surgeons, but in the pecking order of the ruling elite they were right up there.

The net result is that at this moment, 40% of cabinet appointments are communists.

Add to this Zuma’s dodgy ethics and threats to his personal future and it is clear that he has latched on to what cognitive backing he could find outside of his web of patronage. His relationship with the SACP is thus a symbiotic one - a case of any port in a storm. His preferred ideology, if indeed he has one at all, is subservient to his need for political survival and staying out of jail.

In practical terms to the citizenry – in other words as far as you and I are concerned – the NDR means a lot more.

The notion aims to control all the levers of public life – from government itself to education, the economy, parastatals etc. In a nutshell its aim is to have South Africa run as a state corporation by its political elite.

The irrationality of this – since it is in conflict with the institution of democracy, and has no legitimacy in an otherwise post communist world – is plain to see from routine government utterances and stated policy intentions. It is also subject to populist splinter groupings creating mayhem for the purpose of self anointment and drawing attention to themselves.

Examples of the former include sporting quotas, BBEEE “scorecards”, racial preferencing (always Black) - all of which are coercive, racially driven and carry costs to the economy and society. Such costs find expression not only as cost inflation, but in falling productivity, unemployment, declining education standards, lower living standards (think electricity outages and factory down time) and virtually any avenue of life one can think of.

An example of the latter would be the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign where disruptive behavior purports to promote “transformation”, but - yet again – has no articulated goal. No one is let in on the secret of what “transformation’s” goals are; they have been dreamt up by a disenchanted someone in quest of attention.

In practice the “transformation” initiative is in place to inhibit debate and stifle free speech. It serves as a tool for coercion. True transformation implies a shift from one state of affairs to another and it is impossible to imagine what the removal of a statue could achieve.

Indeed, it is only once one recognizes the ultimate and sinister objectives of the NDR that one can understand the transformation motive at all. It is there to steer socio-economic forces along a channel in which the self anointed call the shots and the individuals’ liberty becomes eroded and may ultimately be abandoned.

Professor Thomas Sowell, author, economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, understands the dynamics and dangers of politically driven “transformation”. He sees the imposition of the will of some (in most countries, a minority who think they know better than others – but in this country a majority who know very little about anything) in the name of transformation, as a danger to the sovereignty of the individual, personal freedom and ultimately – to democracy.

In fact he dismisses those supporting the notions of transformation, “social justice” and affirmative action as vainglorious and self absorbed - and quotes TS Elliott’s words: “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm-- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

In Sowells’s words, “there are no solutions, only trade-offs” – so next time we are exposed to the transformation mantra, let us bring to mind its costs and look with grave suspicion at those promoting it.

For – even if they are not on the take - they think they have the answers because of their sense of importance and social fulfilment regardless of the price others are called on to pay. In South Africa’s case though those felonies bring forth rewards even more abundantly because the ethical register of those in office amounts to a blank cheque - and the longer they stay in office, the richer they get.

And the poor – constrained by a coercive dearth of resources – will remain poor.

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