AS used in South Africa, “economic freedom” is both an ill-defined principle and an attempt at intellectual sleight-of-hand.
In fact, the acquisition of wealth is dependent on the individual’s increased involvement in economic activity, which not only limits that individual’s free time, it also forces him/her to become enslaved by established economic processes and modes of thought to benefit financially.
Due to the scarcity of resources, the economic system is fundamentally unfair, unstable and, in the long term, unsustainable.
The unfairness has to do with its Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest, which in effect rewards only the successful few who reach the top.
Its instability is caused by internal system stresses which stem from incessant competition (conflict) between the entities seeking survival and eventual dominance of the scarce skilled labour pool, non-renewable materials and the money supply, as well as the social, economic and psychological consequences suffered by those who are eliminated from the competition.
The long-term unsustainability is due to systemic instability as well as the eventual concentration of wealth in the hands of a few dominant economic players who are forced by the fear of losing their position and access to resources to become defensive and oppressive in their dealings with entities on the lower economic power rungs.
For example, a billionaire may create 999 millionaires by sharing the money, but will no longer be as economically powerful as before because he/she is now merely one of a thousand millionaires – and who in their right financial mind wants to do that?
Rev Dr Simon Gqubule’s plea for a more inclusive economy in his guest editorial comment is mostly correct (“Remember the needy this festive time”, December 24). I would like to take it further by calling for the establishment of a national brains trust to devise a strategy to fix the problems in our very unequal society.
These stem from and are perpetuated by a nearly useless national basic education system, poverty among the majority of our people and the living conditions that are not conducive to creating opportunities for escaping its clutches, along with the consequences of previous administrations’ narrow-based white and black economic empowerment. Yes, there’s too much wealth in the hands of too few, but the answer lies in giving a hand up, not a hand out.
Although Gqubule couldn’t define it in the small space he had, I believe this is what one would call “economic justice”. It has been ignored for too long.
It’s just a matter of time before the socio-economic time bomb explodes in our faces, because I don’t know if South Africa can afford any longer to disregard the Oppenheimers and Motsepes among our economically disenfranchised youth who are currently wasting away in the acid bath of poverty and hopelessness.
M Negres, Port Elizabeth