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The centre CANNOT hold in SA - David Ansara at Rand Club

[Read summary] David Ansara, Chief Executive Officer of the Free Market Foundation spoke at the Rand Club on 21st September, in an address titled “The centre cannot Hold – does South Africa fail if the state fails?”

David argues that the highly centralised nature of South African politics as we have come to know it, is undergoing a fundamental change and what we are experiencing is the end of an era of the country's existing political institutions. “The center can no longer hold and we at the Free Market Foundation believe that it should no longer hold” said David.

The question then becomes what if anything should replace it and what does the collapse of the center of South African politics mean for the future of us South Africans. David named several examples of the decline in economic activity which can be directly attributed to government’s very poor policy, dismal decision-making, and implementation.

“One of the major fallacies of post 1994 South Africa is the notion that policies are good but implementation is bad. The reality is that bad implementation is actually what protects society and the economy from even worse policies. Had implementation been good we would be further along the path to where Venezuela and Zimbabwe are today. We would own nothing and we would be very unhappy but this is not a good situation to be in, where incompetence is what saves us from ruin!”

State-Proofing David continued: “Increasingly individuals, communities and businesses should look away from the formal political process and look inward and towards one another. The answer to state failure that we think has thus far been provided is the concept of state-proofing as the business group encourages its members to do. State proofing is an approach that recognises the state for what it truly is and not what it claims to be”

What does state-proofing look like in practice? David proposes the following:

1. Avoid taxes as far as you possibly and legally can. The state is essentially a rent-seeking machine which has shown itself as incapable of upholding its mandate to collect and spend money fairly and judiciously

2. Big businesses should stop supporting the government. The recent partnership initiative between big business and government is a way for the government to reinforce its policy agenda; it effectively amounts to indirectly supporting the ANC on the eve of an election. If you are a business leader and you feel it is necessary to provide support to where your interests are being directly affected, you should demand significant concessions and reforms first. Business Leaders have so far been very timid in terms of their demands, amounting to essentially unconditional support.

3. Support Civil Society Organisations that are creating alternatives to unbridled statism in South Africa. The original phrase "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" in Latin, which translates to "Who watches the watchmen?" The phrase is a general embodiment of the idea that it can be hard to hold those in power accountable. Who will do it?

A constitutional state is one where power is necessarily decentralised, however power should not only be decentralised within and throughout the different spheres of government. In a constitutional state social formations like professional associations, trade unions religious organisations and community groups all carry with them a measure of political power in a broad sense. These formations serve as a coordination mechanism for citizens, allowing them to act as a counteract to government power. Organisations such as Sakeliga the FMF, Solidarity AfriForum, OUTA and Gift of the givers, as well as dozens of others all play an essential role in upholding the constitutional state. They operate often on limited budgets and could use your support.

4. Roll up your sleeves The sad reality is that most middle-class South Africans experience double taxation not only are they coerced into supporting Public Health Care education and police and get nothing in return but they also have to provide their own Medical Aid send their children to private schools and hire private security guards to protect their homes and businesses.

While this is a lamentable drain on resources, it is no good whining over the proverbial braai about why your local municipality has not fixed the growing number of potholes on your street. Why not fix the potholes yourself?

5. Shift your mind-set Above all, the best way to state-proof is psychological. This entails changing your attitude and your preconceived assumptions about the role and the nature of government. The first mindset shift is to realise that government and politics is not the best answer to whatever problem you might be faced with. When confronted with a seemingly intractable social or economic problem, your first port-of-call must always be to ask what individuals, voluntary communities and businesses can do before defaulting to the idea of approaching the state. We are too used to outsourcing our problems to somebody else - instead we should narrow the locus of control to the local and the particular. Living in a truly free society entails taking personal, communal and commercial responsibility for the greatest number of things. The state was never meant to be responsible for everything, like we think it is today and hence the state is predictably failing. Sometimes letting the problem simmer is a better approach than asking the state to solve it. The state after all is not neutral; it is made up of a variety of groups with overlapping and competing interests. It is seldom, if ever, attuned to the so-called public good.

6. Avoid defeatism The very harmful South African government is not an all-powerful institution. The majority of South Africans treat it with the contempt it richly deserves. While we in the suburbs were cowering in our houses with our masks in 2020 and 2021, most South Africans were out and about keeping the economy going. The harms of the government can be mitigated and eventually eliminated if we mentally take the state off the pedestal we put it on. We are governed by our inferiors - all the power they have is the power we perceive them to have.

Societies in far more-dire situations than we are in in South Africa today, have turned the corner in recent history. Liberty and free markets allowed ordinary people to take their destinies into their own hands, rather than expecting some vanguard to do so on their behalf. Don't succumb to disaster porn. There is no point of no return - things can get better and they can get better quickly. People who are defeatist do not say “no”, they say “whatever”. Let's rather adopt the power of “no” with smiles on our faces, optimistic about the future where we can all prosper. We have the opportunity to choose something better and more durable. This will entail radically decentralising decision-making and empowering everyday South Africans to set their own course in life.

“The center cannot hold - thank goodness!”

The above is a shortened version of David Ansara’s speech. For the full version, watch the video at: #mbf #mafubebusinessforum #mafubebesigheidsforum #mafube #giftofthefivers #afriforum #sakeliga #fmf #outa #irr

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