By Chris Hattingh
What does the sugar tax; an increased minimum drinking age; National Health Insurance; a wealth tax; the spectre of White Monopoly Capital; state capture; tenders; and repeated attempts to stoke racial tension by politicians have in common? They are all elements of collectivist philosophy. And, they are the tools of those in power who believe they know what is best for everyone else and are prepared to use whatever power they have to legislate measures that enforce that belief.
None of the examples mentioned are radical because they cannot be. None will produce any real, radical economic change because none of them holds the standard that the rights of the individual are paramount. Instead, they continue the socialist bent of the apartheid government, which was to increase the reach of the state. The collectivist philosophy is premised on the importance of the group over the individual and our current government’s philosophy is deeply collectivist, just like the apartheid state.
Throughout human history, those in political power have tried to control as much of the individual’s life as possible. Whether in the form of theocracies or socialist utopias, none recognise the importance of the individual.
Thinking, gaining knowledge and acting on that knowledge are all actions of the individual. It is what individuals have to do to ensure their own survival. Any act (or system) that violates this, is immoral. And that is why capitalism is radical, by its very nature. Under capitalism, everyone must decide for themselves how they want to live, how they want to spend their time and how best to use their resources.
Capitalism is based on voluntary actions. As Walter Williams said, capitalism is a voluntary exchange between individuals free of third party intervention. This means that the government’s proper, and only function, is limited to protecting the individual’s right to think, to produce, to trade and to pursue his own life and happiness. The government does this by outlawing the initiation of physical force.
Capitalism, and the individual freedom it necessarily protects, flies directly in the face of history and the deep desire of some people to control the lives of others. No matter the justification offered, all social/economic systems that subject the interests of the individual to that of the group are immoral. The purported ends may be dressed up to appear as noble and caring as possible – but, once the metaphysical importance of the individual is jettisoned, the politics of the day loses all credibility.
Colonialism had, at its heart, the perspective that the state would dictate people’s lives for their own good. Apartheid had, at its heart, the perspective that the state would dictate people’s lives for their own good. The current government, and its view of economy and society, is such that it does not believe South Africans are responsible, smart or resourceful enough to live their lives as they see fit, and so it also attempts every possible avenue to control our lives, for our own good.
It is a stain on South Africa’s history that we have never had a system close to capitalism; that people have never been as free as they ought to be. However, it is also a great testament to the South African people that many have managed to build successful lives through all the state interventions and state failures. Imagine what they could do once the government retracts its tentacles.
I am an advocate for capitalism because its moral justification rests on man’s rational nature – it is premised on and recognises individual rights – and it protects that rational nature from the force of others.
Do we want to continue using the archaic, immoral class rhetoric of the communists? Or the racist groupings of people established by segregation and apartheid? If we want true radical economic change, we must move toward capitalism and jettison attempts to control the individual, in whichever guise they are presented.
Author: Chris Hattingh is a researcher at the Free Market Foundation