This paper explicates what the writer believes is the right political and economic approach to modernizing African countries. He makes a strong case for corporatism. He defines it as borrowing aspects of all extant political and economic ideologies that are known to produce results and applying them in the effort to modernize Africa.
Corporatism As The Best Political Idealogy For Africa
By Ozodi Thomas Osuji
Lately, out of the blues, I have been receiving mail from a clearly Marxist- communist group. I do not know what I did to deserve the honor of being on their mailing list. I must confess that the materials from the group are well written; in fact, they are literate hence I am tempted to keep on reading them. The writings are couched in correct Marxist categories. How do I know? When I was in college I flirted with Marxism.
Winston Churchill is said to have remarked that if you are young and you are not attracted to Marxism you are not a thinking person and that if you are past youth (age thirty-five) and are still a Marxist you are not a thinking person, either. In my twenties I toyed with Marxism but a few years after graduate school I saw through it and discarded it.
To me, Marxism is sort of like Christianity; on paper it sounds nice but if you asked: how is this thing going to be implemented then you appreciate its problems. It is like saying, as Jesus Christ allegedly said, do unto others as you want them to do to you…and since you want them to love and forgive you, for you to love and forgive them. Well, in the real world you cannot always love and forgive other persons. Sometimes you must insist that someone be punished for what he did. If a criminal (murderer, rapist, thief etc) is running amuck harming people you don’t just say that you love and forgive him and let it go at that. If you did not stop him from doing what he is doing you are now a party to his criminal activity, you are culpable for those he harms. Instead, you go after him, arrest and try him, put him in jail or even decapitate his head. The good of the community requires us to punish evil persons. Thus, while love and forgiveness is good on paper in the real world it is not always the appropriate answer to the problems engendered by social living.
Marxism sounds good on paper but it is not always the answer to our social problems. In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and his side kick, Frederick Engels, (1848) said: “from each according to his skills and to each according to his needs”. This sounds better than anything that the old boy, Jesus Christ, preached. However, I doubt that it is practicable.
In the real world, people have different levels of intelligence and different levels of training and skills. There are some who are born dumb and some who are born super smart. There are some who have acquired incredible skills and some with no skills at all. Some persons are more productive than others and some are not even productive. How are we going to pay the super productive person the same as the unproductive person just so that we practice “from each his skills and to each his needs”?
If you robbed the productive element of society to pay the unproductive element of society the productive element of society may stop producing and both of them become poor. There is no incentive to work hard in a situation that treated all persons as equals. You simply have to reward people differently if you want them to be productive and do their best in whatever it is that they are doing.
Appealing to the goodwill of the productive element in society to work for social interest is being emotional and irrational. If one puts on ones rational hat one could cynically ask: why should the unproductive element of society be supported by the productive elements? If you cannot support yourself why should you live?
In nature animals fend for themselves. Charles Darwin (Origin of Species) and Herbert Spencer (Ethics) got one thing right: they showed that animals compete and the fittest survive and the weakest die. Evolution is best served if the weak are pruned from the jungle. See, nowadays we keep the weak alive but spend billions of other folks’ dollars to keep them alive. What are they kept alive for, what are they living for?
(This question is the same as asking you: what are you living for, for the question you ask other persons are the question you ask yourself. Only you can answer that question and in as much as you want to live you work to support your living. Other persons have no business working to support you if you cannot support yourself. This is the rational approach to existence.)
The point is that Marx was overly irrational and emotional when he assumed that the weak should be supported by the strong. It is simply impractical for all to be rewarded at the same level. On athletic tracks, get ten boys set on their marks, get them ready to run and let them run and some will run faster than others; one will be first, another second etc. People have different abilities and they must be rewarded accordingly or else there would be no incentive for them to do their best and society would devolve into mediocrity (as was the case in the former Soviet Union).
In this light, by the time I was thirty I had concluded that Marxism, communism, socialism or whatever else utopia is called is unworkable. This does not mean that I do not like utopia but that my empirical observation shows me that utopia does not work in the jungle we live in.
Our world is a dog eat dog place; fish survives by eating other fishes. I may like what the good intentioned boy from Nazareth teaches, you should love and forgive your neighbor, but the fact is that my eyes show me that sometimes my neighbor does antisocial things hence the need to have jails, prisons, judges, police, and prison wardens so as to apprehend and punish him. If people were pro-social at all times there would be no need to have jails or police or judges.
Love and forgiveness do not always maintain good social order. Human beings are not angels; they are imperfect creatures. People have the freedom to choose their behaviors and some choose evil and harm other persons. Those who choose well must protect themselves by incarcerating the criminals that are always part of society.
My adult eyes turned to what is workable. I examined the various economic and political ideologies: capitalism, socialism, communism, mercantilism, conservatism, liberalism, fascism, Nazism and corporatism to see which one is most workable for me.
In time, I reached the conclusion that corporatism is the best political-economic system for me.
What the individual chooses for himself is what he chooses for other persons, for he and other persons share the same fate.
In this paper, I will try to explain the various political and economic ideologies and show why I believe that corporatism is best for us, Africans. I believe that whereas democracy has some uses that those who are where Africans are in their developmental stage need extra democratic means to carry them over the bridge to modernity.
In a manner of speaking, this paper is my response to the group sending me Marxist literature. My goal is not to dissuade them from their Marxism, by all means they should hold unto it until it no longer makes sense to them. I just want to give this good intentioned but, to me, misguided folk, a different perspective on ideologies.
I am an African who has thought about many of our received Western ideas and has made my peace with those that make sense to me. I do not ask for any one to approve what makes sense to me. I know that individuals are different and as such what makes sense to me may not make sense to other persons. For example, if you are a diehard liberal democrat, fascism may not make sense to you. On the other hand, to me aspects of fascism make sense! In fact, the reason corporatism is my chosen political-economic ideology is because it incorporates aspects of fascism, capitalism, liberalism and conservatism in its corpus. I accept what makes sense to me regardless of what other persons think about it.
Consider this material my contribution to your political education. Read it as you would read a lecture given by a German professor. In Germany university professors live up to the term professor: they give lectures based on their perspective, a reasoned perspective with supporting evidence; they do not do what American professors do, jabber on all sides of a subject without letting the students know where they stand on anything. And if they, American professors, express their opinions they are reprimanded, if not worse. In class, I once responded to a student’s inquiry about what I thought about Samuel Huntington’s book on the Clash of Civilizations by saying that not only do I agree with Professor Huntington that I would go a step further and argue for the Judeo-Christian based civilization to triumph in that struggle. The student, apparently, did not like my view and went straight to the dean to report it.
In this paper I assert what makes sense to me and if you do not like it you articulate what makes sense to you and let our divergent ideas struggle for survival in the market place of ideas. You should not try to passively control political discourse by stifling discussion of what you do not like and or by insisting on political correctness. This paper, in as much as it articulates a point of view that though prevalent in the real world is not acceptable to the phony gatekeepers of academia, is politically incorrect.
Political and economic ideologies are philosophical statements about what the individual believes is how his society ought to be governed. Each of us has ideas, conscious or unconscious, articulated or not, on how we believe that our polity and its economics ought to be arranged. These ideas are not necessarily rational; in fact, they are beliefs and seldom subjected to rational analysis.
Most of us pick up our ideologues as we are growing up, often from our parents and other significant persons (such as the opinion leaders of our society). If one is growing up in the USA, for example, one is subtly influenced to believe that capitalism and democracy are the ideal economic and political ideologies and one unquestioningly incorporate those into ones idea of how things ought to be. Conversely, if one is socialized in the former Soviet Union and or in contemporary China one is bombarded by messages to the effect that communism is the ideal ideology and one is more likely to accept that idea as ones ideology. We are socialized into particular ideologies and internalize their ethos. Once accepted as our ideologies they subsequently influence our political and economic behaviors.
Clearly, ideologies are neither true nor false. Capitalism, despite the gyrations of its apologists, such as Milton Freedman, is a man made, social construct. There is nothing in nature saying that it is a natural phenomenon. In fact, what is in nature is taking from where one did not sow. The idea of criminality is a social construct; no such thing exists in nature.
In nature, hungry animals take and eat. They take whatever fruits and other edibles they believe would satiate their hunger. If a lion is hungry it kills a dear and eats it and that is all there is to it. If a bird is hungry it flies to wherever it can find food and take it; there is no such thing as territoriality, boundaries in nature. Birds are today (winter) in South America and tomorrow in Alaska (Northern summer); today in Africa and tomorrow in Europe. It is raw power that enables a set of human beings to keep other human beings away from their so-called territories, nation states. Strong persons appropriate certain territories and defend them with force and when they no longer have the ability to do so others take them away from them. When the Romans became weak the German barbarians took over their territories.
The idea of supply and demand, of people selling and buying goods and services in a certain orderly manner, is a social construct.
Sociologists like Karl Manheim tell us that what we currently call reality is a social construct, perhaps, a construct of the ruling classes that is superimposed on the masses and serves their interests, or, perhaps, a construct that most people in a group have a consensus on as the “truth”. What in fact is the truth none of us human beings know for sure?
Human beings have beliefs as to how their world ought to be organized. Those ideas are visceral and emotional for them; they are not intellectually reasoned out.
People are actuated to action by their ideological constructs of reality, even if those constructions are not true. People are willing to go to wars, kill and get killed, for their beliefs.
Consider democracy. Where is it written in nature that democracy is natural? If nature is our guide what is self evident is that in nature stronger animals lord it over weaker animals. However, before one gets carried away by so-called naturalism, as Adolf Hitler, apparently, was carried away, we must remember that a group of weak persons, if they have not been conditioned to accept the ruler ship of the strong, can set upon the strong and kill him. Thus, democracy, though not a natural phenomenon, would seem the most pragmatic ideology if social peace is our goal.
For our present purpose, the salient point is that an ideology is a belief, idea and vision of how politics and economics ought to be carried out in a polity. Ideology is a world view, what Germans call Weltanschauung. The question is not whether they are true or false, right or wrong, but that they are ideas that people carry in their heads that influence their social behaviors.
Perhaps, in the future we shall come up with universalistic and not our present particularistic ideologies but for now we must work with people as they are. As they are, people carry different ideas on politics and economics and associate with those with similar ideas and try to influence their politics to be in accordance with their political and economic ideologies.
Below is a brief review of the dominant ideologies in the Western world.
LIBERALISM: CLASSICAL AND AMERICAN LIBERALISM
Liberalism has two sides to it; one is as it is classically understood in Western Europe, especially Britain and France, and the other is as it is understood in the USA.
Western European classical liberalism is inclusive of what Americans generally call economic conservatism (as espoused by the Republican Party) and what Americans call liberalism (as espoused by the Democratic Party). In effect, the Republican and Democratic Parties of the USA are really two sides of the same coin, twidle-dee and twidle-dom, the right and left wing of the same party. Yet, to the American conservative, the word liberal is a curse to be hauled at any one who he thinks is un-American!
Etymologically, Liberalism has roots in the Latin liber, free person, as opposed to slave. Liberalism is, in effect, the acceptance of liberty for all. The liberal espouses liberty and freedom for all members of society. The liberal wants a society where all men and women are considered equal before the law. All persons are expected to participate in political discourse as equal citizens, talk freely and vote into political office whomever they want to lead them.
In this regard, the West is said to have liberal democracy, polities where all men and women are treated as equal under the law and are subjected to the rule of law, no slaves and masters. Individual liberty is the crux of classical liberalism.
Liberalism supposes the acceptance of reason in political discourse; all people have the opportunity to use their reason to discuss any political subject and public policy is the result of this rational discourse. As it were, the presupposition is “may reason lead folk to where it may”, no pre-conceived and pre-accepted ideas of what is right for the general public is accepted (such as the idea of divine right of kings that Jean Jacque Rousseau railed against in his Social Contract).
Classical liberalism accepts democratic polities and in economics accepts Adam Smith’s laissez-faire capitalism (as detailed in his seminal book, Wealth of Nations).
In sum, classical liberalism wants a polity where individuals have freedom of thought, freedom of speech, rule of law, individual access to private property, limited government (as articulated by John Locke in his Second Treaty on Government) and transparent governmental activities.
By this definition of liberalism, we can easily agree that Britain, France, Netherland, Scandinavia, the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand are liberal democracies.
In the United States, each of the two political parties adopts one half of liberalism’s mission. The Republican Party considers itself Conservative and the Democratic Party considers itself liberal. From classical liberalism’s point of view they are both liberal parties. Each of the parties is on the one end of the liberal political spectrum; they are a continuum of the same political phenomenon.
Let us briefly talk about the two extant American parties. We must talk about them because any one with eyes to see easily sees Africans imitating everything American, often without really knowing what it is they are emulating! Many Africans have not really seen through the appearance of America to understand her true nature. America’s politics is tinsel town; it is glamour galore and folks are deceived into thinking that they are looking at real democracy when, in fact, they are looking at a brutal political system. The two American political parties are invested in protecting the American political economy, a political system that is rooted in the oppression of unsuspecting folk, especially impressionable folk who permit themselves to be deceived by appearance of democracy.
American conservatives are preponderantly found in the Republican Party; however, a significant portion of the Democratic Party is conservative. Each of the two American parties is a large tent housing persons with different political views. A so-called member of the Democratic Party may vote in what folk would call conservative manner more than a member of the Republican party, and vice versa. Watch the current debate on Health Care. Democrats are the majority party in Congress but many of them are dead set against providing public health insurance to all American citizens. The so-called Liberal Democrats are bedfellows with Republican conservatives.
It should also be noted that it was Southern Democrats that killed most efforts to extend civil rights to African Americans and that when finally Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act many of those Southerners changed party affiliation and became Republican!
Americans periodically undergo party realignment and if tomorrow the Republican Party is perceived as more liberal many current Democrats would switch party affiliation and become Republican. Prior to Franklyn Delano Roosevelt’s 1930s party realignment most African-Americans considered themselves Republicans! It was the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln that freed them from slavery. But today, many African Americans perceive the Republican Party as the refuge of white racists!
The Republican Party came into being on the death bed of the American Whig Party in the 1850s. Initially, the Republican Party was what for lack of a better word we could call the progressive party and the party for the industrialization of America. Given its focus on progressive ideas, such as abolition of slavery and industrialization of America, the Republican party was initially a Northern affair, whereas the Democratic Party, the proslavery and pro-agriculture party was a Southern party (the situation is now changed, the Republican party is essentially now a regional party; it is concentrated in the South).
American conservatives claim to have their root in the writings of Edmund Burke (especially his book of Reflections on the French Revolution) and John Locke (Second Treaty on Government). Burke had made an argument against cavalier change of governments, especially against the French revolution, for, to him, the ancient regime, problematic as it was, was part of the French tradition and throwing it away would result in chaos and a period of disorientation for the French. True; the French did not obtain political stability until 1958 when Charles De Gaulle finally established the fifth French Republic. This means that the French had almost two hundred years of political crisis just because the Jacobeans threw away the French monarchy instead of allowing Marie Antoinette to eat her cake for breakfast. Burke argued for gradual change of regimes, improving the monarchy until it becomes as today’s British monarchy: pieces of nice looking pictures to adorn the British political landscape with, and good to look at but politically irrelevant. Stability requires gradual modification of the old, not radical change; incrementalism and reformism, not revolution is the preferred Burkean approach to governing.
As the name suggests, Conservatives want to preserve something that they consider good in their history. They believe that they have certain traditional values that they ought to preserve. For example, they want to preserve the Free Enterprise Economy, they want to preserve marriage between a man and a woman; they want to prevent abortion (as they put it, the killing of innocent children), they are against homosexuality; they are against immigrants; they are anti minority persons (they barely disguise their contempt for African Americans).
Conservatives claim to prefer limited government over big government. As they see it, if government becomes too big it acquires tremendous powers and as such could ride roughshod over the individual (and to prevent that from happening they want every American to possess guns so that they could form posses and fight their rulers). Conservatives want private property.
Whereas the critical variable in conservatism is the desire to preserve the nation’s traditional values there is a philosophical underpinning in this political philosophy, aka ideology. Conservatives really do not believe in the equality of people (as true liberals do). They see some persons as better than others, as more intelligent than others etc. They want a society where the better sort of people ruled the supposed shiftless masses. In this light they put all sorts of obstacles to the poor’s access to voting.
American conservatives engaged in all sorts of shenanigans in their efforts to prevent African Americans from participating in electoral politics. First, they engaged in what is called apportionment and spread blacks into white districts so that blacks do not form sufficient majority any where to elect any one into Congress. Second, they say that blacks, those they made poor, did not pay their pool taxes hence could not be allowed to vote. Third, they say that those they deliberately prevented from going to school so as to keep them ignorant could not pass certain bogus literacy tests required before folks could vote hence not allowed to vote. All these played out in the 2000 Florida elections for the presidency with its hanging chards and all.
Conservatives are smart but smart by half. Smart by half because by oppressing blacks they have made it inevitable for blacks to hate them and as we all know what goes up must come down. Sooner or later, the oppressed rule their oppressors; oppressed Germanic tribes eventually overthrew their Roman lords and became today’s Western Europe, the masters of the universe who, in turn, would become the servants of the universe, unless, of course, we change the parameters of politics.
Conservatives would not mind if only a handful of persons voted (generally only a third of Americans participate in off presidential election and this is fine with Republicans). Conservatives make voting as difficult as is humanly possible to discourage the masses from casting what is perceived as their ill informed votes. Why Allow Southern black folk to vote when they do not know the difference between their left and right feet, a conservative friend asked me.
Conservatives have a dim view of human nature. They agree with Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan) that people are inherently self centered and left alone would be at perpetual war with each other in their efforts to optimize their self interests. Conservatives do not believe that we can ever change human nature. Therefore, they want to establish laws and have law enforcement authorities make sure that people play by the rules of the game and those who cheat are arrested and punished.
Conservatives believe that the proper function of government is to maintain law and order. Build prisons, hire prison wardens, police, hanging judges and put antisocial persons into prisons and throw away the keys.
Have a strong military to checkmate foreign nations that might be tempted to attack America.
Beyond those functions the government does not have a business providing any kind of welfare services to the people. People ought to fend for themselves, swim or drawn, that is their problem.
True to its philosophy, the Republican Party practically opposes every effort to use the power of government to help the people. Welfare legislations that were passed by the US Congress were a Liberals’ affair. Conservatives will kick against any effort to help the people. Watch them kick against giving health insurance to all Americans but when public health insurance is accomplished they would be the ones ripping it off (conservative health care providers currently milk Medicare and Medicaid to near bankruptcy).
Do not provide the people with health insurance; let the private insurance folk and hospitals charge them money to provide them with healthcare. Never mind that fifty million Americans have no medical insurance coverage and those that have it are likely to go bankrupt should they have serious medical health issue and their so-called health insurance companies drop them like hot potatoes. Just give private insurance companies, hospitals, medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies opportunity to make money; that is what America is all about; caring for the people is not the function of the American government!
(Editorial: Putting on my mental health hat I would say that there is self hatred in American conservatives; I believe that this self hatred is denied and projected out to hatred of other persons. If the self hatred is not changed we can kiss America goodbye. The country is on the verge of implosion! These people are foolish beyond foolishness; they elevated wickedness to virtue and are so far prevented from reaping what they sowed because of their military power. As other countries, such as China and India, develop strong economies and militaries so that they are no longer easily exploited, the American economy would have no one to exploit and if it does not exploit any one it cannot exist. These people are parasites sucking their hosts, non-Americans and poor Americans, to death. When the hosts refuse to be sucked to death the parasites would die from starvation, unless, of course, they change and become cooperatively productive persons.)