A Long Winding Road
Economic sufficiency : Africa and the world
Some thoughts on the winding road to economic sufficiency. Learning from history.

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Economic sufficiency : Africa and the world
Robert Shepherd

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Long Winding Road

Pursuing Economic Sufficiency

Some tho'ts and ruminations by robt.shepherd


Marxism in Africa, as in almost all of the socalled Third World, represents what has to be described as a colossal failure. Conversely, those nations with the most consistently solid ties with Western capitalism and the free-market system show the best track record in terms of real world economic results for the benefit of their people.

The question arises: why would a nation even be tempted by philosophies like socialism and Marxism. It has been shown, after all, to be a "God that failed." In the case of the newly independent nations of Africa, no less than much of the rest of the developing world, there are at least two very straightforward answers, one positive, the other negative.

Socialism holds out the ideal of both betterment and the promise (in theory) of something approaching equality. The Marxist mantra of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a lofty and appealing objective for any society. In fact, it is a modus operandum at the level of families (good ones anyway) the world over. It is even embodied in the New Testament injunction that the strong bear the burdens of the weak, in the Old Testament language which calls us to strengthen the feeble knees, and in that ideal of chivalry dictating "noblesse oblige."

Those are attractions which socialism represented of a "positive" sort, more as ideals, and in theory, than anything truly realized in practice.. But there was another set of motivations of a negative sort. Nations that had chafed under the indignity and "burdens" of white colonialism were eager to dissociate themselves from every hint and reminder of their past European overlords. Anything that smacked of European origin was, for some, suspect.

The Soviet Marxism was an alternative whose major advantage, for some newly independent states, was that it had never been a colonial power. Moreover, Lenin had developed a coherent theory of imperialism, in which western capitalism was cast as the bad guy and bully, the developing world as the innocent victim, and World Socialism as the ultimate rescuing Hero. Lenin's theory, a grandiose morality play based on a little truth and a lot of sheer indignation, created a rationale that, however attractive to many formerly colonized peoples, was a far cry from the real, blunt lessons that most of them needed to be confronted with.

Europe's slow climb to economic power was built less on plunder than on self-discipline, trade, and the kind of ethos we today sometimes called "middle class values." The sources of the culture embodying those values are many, and slow in the formation. Semitic sources and Greco-Roman antiquity are obvious origins, and northern European vigor was tamed during an apprenticeship lasting hundreds of years beneath a Roman and Feudal yoke imposing sedentary agriculture, law, religion, and nationhood. Jews, whose ancestors had given the world "The Book," in the middle ages were seminal contributors to the rise of trade, capitalism, and the earliest bourgeois beginnings. Monasteries, beginning with the Benedictines, stood as islands of not only the preservation of literacy, and transcription of books, but of self-discipline in general, a work ethic, and realtive prosperity in the midst of a continent steeped in ignorance and want.

Could Africa (and other parts of the developing world) learn the real lessons of economic growth and development? Or would they buy into the Marxist picture of a fixed pie, a picture of colonial people plundered by the West, victimized by evil capitalists and the imperialist superstructure empowering them?

In the 1950's and 1960's, the Leninist view was a 'bait' very tempting for many non-white peoples to swallow. This was a time, after all, when the two great super-powers, the USA and the USSR, offered diametric contrasts in economics. What's more, while the Soviets had never been colonial powers (per se), the USA was highly visible as a negative poster boy for racial crisis and confrontation. America was the land where white cops turned water hoses and sicced vicious police dogs on non-resisting black folk whose 'crime' was asking the country they had helped build to treat them with the full decency due to citizens.

It is hardly suprising that Marxism and socialism held such allure for so many emergent nations of the fifties and sixties, if for no other reason than that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

However, history often has deeper lessons than what a surface view reveals. "In every curse there is a blessing and in every blessing there is a curse." One of the determinants behind the rise of early civilization has been the cultural cohesiveness of populations. And ironically, the factors giving impetus to this cohesiveness have often been in many respects negative. That is, territorial compactness forces otherwise divergent groups to get along. Environomental insufficiency demands greater expenditure of exertion. Conquest and subjugation induce cohesion and the inculcation of new skills and styles of response. These factors are to be seen in the rise of agriculure and urbanization in cultures (and eventual civilizations) as diverse as the Indus Valley, Mesopotamia, the Yucatan, the Nile, the Mediterranean (and ultimately Europe as a whole).

In every curse there is a blessing. Europe was subjugated under the harshness of Roman and Feudal taskmasters for hundreds of years. Forced to adopt Roman culture and law, compelled to till the soil and become sedentary subjects of those bearing rule, the tribes of Europe were shaped into peoples, and finally modern nations. The curse of a virtual enslavement ultimately gave rise to benefits for Europe which in turn have been shared with the world.

The record of African nations since the independence movement of the fifties and sixties is an echo of the same lesson. Those nations which reacted with the greatest hostility to their colonial past have fared the poorest, as time progressed. Those nations on the other hand who have attempted to come to terms with Europe and the world have done the best.

One comparison (writes David Lamb): "While Zaire's Mobutu was chasing away whites, expropriating their plantations and businesses, Kenyatta had been encouraging Kenya's whites to stay because they had the technical and managerial skills that Africans had not yet learned. The result was that Kenya operates far more efficiently than most African countries, and foreign investment and tourists from the West have poured into the country, providing great economic stimulus."

Lamb notes that while Tanzania's Nyerere pursued lofty socialist ideals, the actual result was dismal. Nyerere, for all his utopian vision, wound up leading Tanzania down a self-destructive course nationalizing the economy, alienating investment, driving away Europeans, curtailing individual intiative. Tanzania's productivity plummetted, while Kenya's steadily increased.

Tanzania, despite the lofty idealism of its leader Nyerere, has been "one of the great failures in independent Africa," says Lamb. Half the 330 companies he nationalized went bankrupt within a decade. Worker productivity, the Tanzania Investment Board admitted, dropped by 50 percent between 1969 and 1979, The government's bureaucracy grew at the rate of 14 percent a year, and government expenditures increased twice as fast as the gross national product. (p 340)

In every blessing there may well be a curse also. Africa is a continent with perhaps the most abundant supply of natural resources on earth. South of the Sahara, the ground is fertile, the supply naturally profuse. The rich soil and tropical climate provide ample food for subsistence. But as Lamb notes, "Take away the monetary rewards for increased production and people are perfectly content to live as they always have, growing just enough food for [the immediate needs of] themselves and their families." Ahhh. Don't we all long for a little "contentment?" Yet that very "contentment" may be a downfall for all of us to avoid at all costs.

We must hope that Africa, as with all countries, can learn the lessons of history. Only the middle class values of lifting those who are weaker and meeker into the mainstream of personal responsibility and productivity will truly enable the prosperity sufficient to bless the entire continent. Economic energy must flow. It must not stagnate in the hands of a privileged elite. But neither is it possible to nurture the kind of blind hatreds that overtook the French and Russian revolutions and not reap eventual disaster.

When today's 'do-gooders'
are really doing good

Only God Can Save Us

According to America's Martin Luther King, Communism and Christianity are fundamentally incompatible.

Dr. King rejected materialism, humanism, atheism. He rejected the "grand illusion that man, unaided by divine power, can save himself and usher in a new society. He rejected moral relativism.

King declared, "Man cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of all things and humanity is not God. Bound by the chains of his own sin and finiteness, man needs a Saviour."

King upheld the Christian system of "absolute moral values" and the affirmation that "God has placed within the structure of this universe certain moral principles that are fixed and immutable."

"The trouble with Communism is that it has neither a theology nor a Christology; therefore it emerges with a mixed-up anthropology."

[From Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love. New York, Harper & Row, 1963. ISBN: 0800614410 ]

A Few Africa Links

Beyers Naude
Ancient Ethiopia
Gift of the Nile
Paton ~ Kumalo
Nelson Mandela
Spiritual Africa
Desmond Tutu
Moses of Egypt
The African calling
Peter Firstbrook
Next Christendom
Black Woman
Obama Luo
Our Mother Zion
Timeless Code
Africa anointing
at the end of the rainbow
A more prosperous Africa,
a more plenteous World

Spiritual treasures of this ancient continent


The Gospel According to the Son

Norman Mailer's The Gospel According to the Son has a comment by Jesus the Christ in which he says, "I think often of the hope that is hidden in the faces of the poor. Then from the depth of my sorrow wells up an immutable compassion, and I find the will to live again and rejoice." [p242]

Bob Shepherd
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Spiegel, specchio
Africa's Resource Miracle

by Bono

Time Magazine - Monday, May 28, 2012
The rock star and activist explains why Africa could be this century's success story.
It's become the go-to cliché of modern economics. Natural resources are a "curse." When a nation is over-reliant on one or two commodities like oil or precious minerals, corrupt government ministers and their dodgy associates hoard profits and taxes instead of properly allocating them to schools and hospitals. Happy the country that lives on nothing but its wits; cursed be the one that thinks it can get rich by planting or digging or drilling for wealth.

Such is the collective wisdom. So we must ask the collectively wise, How did the U.S. avoid the curse? And what might that tell us about other countries' chances of doing the same?

When European settlers arrived in North America, they found a continent groaning with abundance--soil in which anything would grow, stands of timber marching to the horizon. Under the land were vast reserves of gold and silver, coal and oil. Over time, Americans learned how to harvest this natural endowment--not just to build a modern society but also to feed and supply the world.

The story, of course, wasn't always a happy one. The extraction of oil, coal and minerals brought, and still brings, a cost to the environment. Still, the bounty didn't and doesn't belong only to the barons. And that, unlike finding oil in your backyard, has nothing to do with luck. Americans put in place laws regulating how those resources get extracted and how good fortune gets shared.

This summer the world has a chance to work that miracle a second time--and without the worst parts of the American story. As they gather at the G-8 summit at Camp David this month and again in June at the G-20 in Mexico, international leaders focused on the euro and Iran should make time to ensure that a new resource boom benefits the many, not the few.

This new boom won't be in the U.S. It will be in developing regions like Africa. In many ways, Africa is to this century what North America was to the 19th. It has 60% of the world's undeveloped arable land and vast reserves of coal, oil and minerals, together with enormous renewable-energy resources.

Sub-Saharan Africa is also home to 400 million of the world's poorest people. These resources should be theirs. Get the development of them right and the forthcoming financial resources--invested well--can transform the lives of countless numbers of people.

Food and agriculture are the place to start. At Camp David, the G-8, led by President Obama, will work on an ambitious plan for global food security, centered on commitments made and costed by 30 nations in the developing world. By partnering with such leadership, there is a very real chance of lifting 50 million people out of extreme poverty over the coming decade and sparing 15 million children the cruelty of severe malnourishment.

This isn't about the G-8's committing massive new aid increases. It's about continuing present investment and making it smarter. Beyond food, Africa's vast oil and mineral reserves can be a pipeline to investments in health, education and roads. Mineral extraction is an expensive enterprise, and those who invest in it deserve to make a profit. But they should pay what they owe to governments. Transparency is the vaccine to prevent the biggest disease of them all--corruption, which any African will tell you is killing more kids than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

That's why in 2010 the U.S. Congress passed groundbreaking legislation that requires every extractive company listed on a U.S. stock exchange to publish any payments they make to overseas governments, project by project. That information lets Africans hold their leaders to account for the way revenue is spent. Even oil companies will benefit: they're less likely to be criticized by those whose resources they are harvesting. But while the Securities and Exchange Commission crafts rules based on this legislation (amid lobbying by those who think it doesn't work for them), the European Union, considering its own new law, contemplates something worse. World leaders can break the logjam by backing tough rules on the transparency of payments.

In hard times, we hear a lot about "resource management." Resource mismanagement--whether food insecurity or corruption in oil and mineral development--is something the G-8 can reverse, and it can do it not by spending new money but by acting in partnership with the developing world.

If I've learned anything in more than 25 years of making noise about this stuff, it's that partnership trumps paternalism. This summer let's hope the G-8 and G-20 listen more intently to the people we hope to serve and bring the boom without the bust.

Mirrored from TIME Magazine
But Who Will Watch the Watchers?

quis custodiet ipsos custodes

asked by Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis

known in English as Juvenal

In the business world, as in the fiscal world
The crying need is for integrity, and the recourse
Seems to be an independent audit (external audit)