Nkrumahist socialists, Marxists, social democrats and progressives have attacked the ideas of freedom and liberty —- the rule of law, individual rights, property rights free press, etc. —, before and after independence in 1957. They still do.
These ‘progressives’ blame the downward trend of the economy on external forces, inequality, and free market capitalism and insist that poverty and corruption is because of capitalist greed, and social injustice.
The ‘progressives’ get it all wrong. The poverty, inflation, the corruption and the worsening conditions of Ghanaians is not the problem of free market capitalism.
The problem is higher taxes, government intervention and regulation in the economy and our lives, maintenance of public goods, forcing too many people to live at the expense of others or charge their personal economic problems to the national credit card.
Intervention allows politicians and bureaucrats – not the masses themselves – to make most crucial decisions in the economy, which restrict the choices people make.
Therefore, when the vast majority of Ghanaians believe the country’s economy is on the wrong track, going to hell in populism’s hand basket, it is because of the ‘principles of state policy’.
Indeed, long the vicious cycle of clientelism, higher taxes, reckless public spending, inflation, higher petrol prices, and corruption, are because of the same cycle of interventionist’s policies that have wrecked the economy since independence.
Interestingly, it is a spiral that is difficult to break — bottomless public spending assures votes, while the high public debts are pushed to the future to be dealt with by the next elected official.
Ironically, there seems not much urgency for new and alternative policies to stop the madness, fix anything or muster much opposition to the ‘progressive’ fairy tale promises of meeting all of the needs of citizens — ranging from food, housing, and health care to education.
The story of Ghanaian politics is not so simple. The line between Danquah conservatives, who claim to believe in rule of law, property rights and individualism, and Nkrumah’s unhinged populists, with their African socialism policies, has broken down.
Political observers would be familiar with the failure of the Nkrumah-style African socialism, as has the mercantilism sponsored by his successors over the past years, which has only enriched the elites and brought corruption, nepotism, and wars for political control. Our politicians no longer fight an ideological war.
They have sadly become partners in a joint venture sustained by mutual self-interest and wilful rent taking, crony capitalist policies that have sentenced the majority of the citizens to live in poverty.
Ghana’s proverbial natural resources have been of no use to the people. Together our politics has paved the way for neo-colonialism to thrive and corrupt people to climb to the pinnacle of political power.
Presently, our politics has become a profession for plunder. A tiny minority prospers. Laws are broken with impunity. Meanwhile, critics are threatened or bribed into silence.
Nobody needs a degree in economics to see our policies are driving us to ruin. This country cannot continue to build private wealth on the back of public deficits.
Why do our leaders, in spite of their reckless and extremely high level of public spending and government entitlements that create huge pockets of citizens who are completely dependent on government support for survival, encourage their supporters to blame “neoliberalism” or “economic inequality” or “free market capitalism” for current economic problems?
There is indeed a reason why World Bank aid has been spectacularly unsuccessful. “Creating a robust, independent economy” is a nice sentiment. But if it is not coupled with a willingness to reduce the cost of government, reduce level of government intervention in the economy and a robust understanding of what individual responsibility, rule of law, property rights, economic freedom and wealth creation policies that reward results, not promises, our intentions can be somewhat void.
To revitalize our economy and strengthen government, we need to talk about talk. We need a new, respectful rhetoric — respectful, that is, listen to alternative views, analyse the relationship between the policies of prosperity, by which this country can escape poverty,and policy models, which are formulated based on how the world used to work, or supposedly worked, but are out of line with how the world works now.
Indeed, the growth of the economy should be so much more than a slogan. It is about ethics and personal responsibility. It is about self-improvement and creating value for others.
It is about seeing people as unique individuals and recognizing the tremendous benefits of free markets–self-reliance, fidelity, piety, industry and opportunity, individualism, low barriers to trade, and low barriers to capital flows and investments. You can call it conservatism or free capitalism. It is!
It is about time then, for conservatives to change the rhetoric in the political market place. We have to change course. We have to grow the economy. We have to understand what the vicious cycle of cronyism, higher taxes, reckless public spending and power-centralization, the same cycle that wrecks nations, is doing to our economic development.
Everyone seems to think that common sense will prevail and people will stop voting for bad politicians but we are not so sure. We cannot win this fight without ideas. It is not enough to be simply-not them.
Patriots need to point out – again and again – how government’s arbitrary intrusions into private economic transactions and its disregard for civil liberties is the cause of our problems. It is critical that freedom-loving politicians offer Ghanaians a worthy agenda of progress – A vision of a brighter future.
Common-sense thinking means, measuring good governance by the extent of intrusion. Rather, by the environment and the rules of the game that inspires people to go out and fend for themselves, their families and to keep this country strong. You cannot build anything worth building by punishing the poor who work by taking away benefits.
Those who continue to promise ‘an economy that works for all’ or ‘meets all the needs of all the people’ would not be able to defend their bad record.
The trouble with government interventionism is that it undermines the spirit and creativity of people, making them poor; moral and social progress depends on individual creativity and voluntary cooperation, not government planning and coercion.
The majority of Ghanaians are looking for new policies that give opportunity, not hand-outs.
None of those who preach ‘equity’ and ‘social justice’ is bringing in any “new” or “revolutionary” or even better, “progressive”, ideas. Their ideas are always the same, and have already been tried, always leading to crushing failure and suffering.
Unless those who believe in the individual and trust his ability to create wealth wins power, and restore the people’s right to regulate the government and redistribute its power back to individuals, we will stagger from economic crisis to economic crisis.
Of course, true conservatives would not run billion cedi deficits or propose new spending on entitlement programmes and subsidies that will put Ghanaians further in debt.
Conservatives will not concentrate all resources and decision-making in the State, and arouse expectations that could never be satisfied, and encourage everyone to live at each other’s expense through the tax and benefit system.
We should never forget that our rent-seeking progressives and their allies would not accept that growing our economy depends on freedom and rewarding those who work hard, take risks, and defer short-term pleasure to put themselves and their families in a better place. But, doing that will put them out of work.
That is why they will always make elections about their opponents — nasty, hateful free market conservatives. We need to make it about building a brighter future.
Freedom lovers should begin to be and always remain on offense. Bearing in mind that the ‘progressives’ with their bought media, their Mickey Mouse intellectuals and their gravy train partisans will always attack freedom and liberty nonstop and relentlessly.
Ghana needs people of conscience to put an end to the pandering and perfidy of so-called progressive social democrats. This country needs those who sincerely believe in the rule of law, the individual and property rights to stand up and be counted. It is time for more profiles in courage and fewer acts of cowardice.
By Kwadwo Afari
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