Beware the shiny little things they bring
The manifestos of our competing political parties during this election proves one thing: all of them believe in central planning. This means that the manifestos aim at one thing only, the exclusive absolute pre-eminence of their own plans. No interests, and visions, matter. It is all a zero sum game.
Reading the manifestos reveal the contempt our politicians have about the individual mind and ability — human thinking and the resulting intelligence—being the primary source of wealth. Some of the manifestos read so far would want to treat us like children and make us wait expectantly for nepotism. The thesis for the current campaigns is simple: lie your way to power. Almost all the political parties’ promise wealth creation but a careful reading reveals tightening of government control in all aspects of the economy and our lives. The manifesto that wins power, would not achieve a market, it will destroy successful production in which rewards are won by successful plunder.
The power grasp by the politicians on a lie is not anything new. Ghana has many open wounds rooted in decades of authoritarian false promises, anti-wealth, anti-middle class and anti-market policies. No wonder most of us have become tired of the same double speak and empty rhetoric. That is what it is. Our politicians always promise much but deliver very little. Ironically, in December, some of us will still fall for the tricks and techniques our cynical politicians use to convince us and vote for political hacks, to our detriment.
Our politics has always been authoritarian in nature. Even our multi-party democracy is authoritarian-led. The economic policies and the actions taken so far simply affirm the power of our politicians and the political elite on the psyche of the poorest and most marginalized in this country. Some of us only hope that this election will open the eyes of the population to the deep failures of our socialist politicians and their elites and reveal the failures of existing social and economic policies. The choice would be difficult, however, because the majority of our citizens have come to believe in the magic of the state and government to make things happen, in spite of the failures.
Of course, we need better leaders, but we are not going to get them until we become smarter followers. For years, our politicians have preached the power of the collective and enacted socialist legislation to appropriate and redistribute wealth. They do not recognise the importance of the individual and his ability to create wealth in the huge failures of our collective endeavours. The importance of the daily successes in the informal economy is lost on them. Ironically, the informal economy function, ultimately, because of the minds of the individuals who operate the system, not the muscles of the government bureaucracy.
The things some of the manifestos promise do not pass any serious economic scrutiny. ‘Everybody, no matter how much money they have, should be able to go to university for free’. ‘Houses would be provided for all’. ‘Medicines would be available to all pregnant women and children’. ‘There would be money for all those who want to go into businesses. Above all, ‘government would help mend broken hearts’, well sort of. The main goal and desire is to win political power. The political elite craves power in the collective because it gives them access to the rents. Their big government agenda is about nothing, but control of the population and access to the kitty bag. Our poverty is the creation of the political elite, across the divide.
Those making the promises in this election year refuse to raise the issue of the massive deficit spending or the accumulating national debt and its effect on our poverty. It is not “politic” to tell voters that there are no free lunches. It is also not smart to talk about the fact citizens would have to pay higher taxes in the ensuing years. They refuse to tell the poor that they and their sons will pay for the “costs” of that deficit spending now and in the future. The campaign promises are akin to stealing. Yes, stealing. There are heavy costs to the promises, which they are not telling voters. The politicians have decided to win this election on a lie for votes on Election Day. Our politicians are painting a rosy picture of borrowing, or printing money to finance the free benefits but mum on the costs. The poor pay the cost, with interest. The silence is simply because our politicians want voters to depend on government. Dependency gives them the aura of power and that is why for all these years, it has been possible for politicians to create the economic illusion that it is possible to give voters “something for nothing” – a “free lunch.”
Unfortunately, we live in, as someone aptly described, a seemingly perpetual “democracy in deficit.” Unless, we proactively turn our attention to the dismantling of the deep state and give the population who struggle in the informal sector the freedom to act, and landowners the rights to their physical properties, no attempt at reducing poverty would succeed. The battle lines should be more clearly drawn. Twenty-twenty should be a battle between freedom and socialism. Law, order, and anarchy. High quality education for our children and highly politicised education. Protecting life and celebrating the destruction of life. A working healthcare system and a government micro-managed one. Lower taxes and higher taxes. Justice for all and double standards for the favoured elites. Ghanaian strength as shown by those who struggle daily in the informal sector and Ghanaian subservience embodied in those who swarm the corridors of power for unearned handouts.
Indeed, 2020 should not be a normal election year. Twenty-twenty should be about something so much more than “winning” an election. The stakes are higher than they have ever been before and we voters should know it. We can feel it. It is not for nothing, that we see the National Democratic Congress (NDC) presidential candidate, John Dramani Mahama, and many others, instead of giving better alternatives to the current regime’s policies, is attempting to buy votes with an endless array of economic rhetoric, which is short of substance but full of government handouts, freebies, and many other big government promises. All the political parties, seeking to overthrow the current regime, talk as if job creation is all about government public works and nothing about individuals. In their naïveté, they forget representative democracy cannot subsist if great parts of the citizens are on government pay roll. The majority of those seeking power see themselves as agents of those receiving salaries, subsidies and free benefits from government, instead of protectors of the taxpayers’ purse.
Discerning voters should lead, insist and refuse to make 2020 a normal election year because the poor in Ghana are fed up. While our nation continues to fight against poverty, our politicians have a responsibility to help individuals and small businesses survive on their own. As one of Ghana’s main employers, the informal private sector is the engine of our economy. There are more people working in the informal economy than in in government employment. In fact, over 85 per cent of the population work in the informal market. They deserve a government that responds to their needs, especially a government that is prepared to give them a hand-up, not a hand-out.
This election should be about being inspired. It should be about being aspirational. It should be about believe in the greatness, benevolence, diversity and strength of the star of Africa. This election should be about the revival of our dreams as a nation. There is no ethics in promising to borrow to shift the burden to pay back to future generations. That is not culturally and economically healthy legacy to leave our children and grandchildren.
By Kwadwo Afari