By Benjamin Rukanda.
In the plethora of modern day political ideologies social democracy and other left of centre political ideologies appear to have received preference over the rightist capitalist leanings and extreme leftist socialist doctrines of the past. Capitalism because of the greedy exclusion of the have-nots by those who have as the money interests use their economic might to protect their interests. Socialism by failing to deal with mankind’s inherent greed and accumulative nature and the invariable result of creating ruling elites that feed on the masses. The promoting of various human rights especially at the initiative of the UN has perhaps brought awareness to the populations of the world of the reality that governments are there to provide social delivery as well as formulate enabling policies for the progress and prosperity of its people and providing the infrastructure to that effect.
Just as in marketing products are developed in accordance with the needs of the market, so also political ideologies develop because of the voter’s aspirations to the life they wish to live in their cultural context. It follows that any ideology that contradicts the norms of society only exists by compulsion of authoritarian rule and political ideology then must stand up to the cultural values of society for democratic acceptance, cultural preservation and development.
Zimbabwe is a multi-cultural society that practises many different religions, as well as maintaining many diverse cultural practices although Christianity is dominant and the constitution recognises the rights to freedom of worship, assembly, economic activity and stands against discrimination on the grounds of race, religion and sex. It is the complexion of modern democracy that the majority voice carries the decision as to choose of political leadership and other matters, although effort is made at proportional representation to protect minority interests. An absolute democracy is therefore a utopia as there can never be total consensus on any given issue without at least one dissenting voice. The Polish Parliament once employed the ‘Liberum veto’ in which when voting if even one vote dissented without having to give a reason, on any motion, the motion was denied. This became a hindrance to progress and foreign powers took advantage by buying members in order to frustrate any decision for their advantage. Clearly that was not to the advantage of the Polish people.
So then comes the need to balance between national or sovereign interest against the democratic aspirations of the citizens as concerns the role of the government of the day. Citizens freedoms and rights against national security concerns. Majority views weighed against minority rights. Environmental concerns against economic and commercial interests, indeed growing the national cake against the equal distribution of the same among citizens.
It is said that money is only of concern when there is not enough of it and it does generally have a bearing on the quality of life so it would be fitting to assess an appropriate ideological framework in which to build an economy that accords disposable income to the generality of the population in order to bring an egalitarian quality of life that sees eradication of poverty. Of course this is utopic and subject to individual factors, abilities and disposition.
While capitalism can be credited with the ability to create wealth, it usually panders to the interests of a few individuals who have accumulated wealth and by virtue of wealth, control the system to the detriment of the poor and capital interests translate to national interests. Socialism, as pointed out by Karl Marx, requires firstly a phase of capitalism to grow the national cake, before equitably redistributing it, but this can cause those putting more effort to see no point in the extra effort when the rewards of idleness are the same as for hard work. Socialism has also shown a tendency to create a ruling and corrupt elite that eventually becomes more concerned with its own welfare than that of the citizenry, and the interests of the elite become national interests.
In modern times the tendency is to seek another form that will put together the good from both extremes and will reward hard work and innovation and provide equal opportunities for all, balance majority views against minority interests and care for the disadvantaged. This has become known as social democracy. Thus, broadening the scope of national interests to mean the broad interests of the people of a nation as opposed to the interests of a ruling elite or the few that control capital. In this regard social democracy stands favourable in protecting the interests of the broader population.
In the Zimbabwean context reference is made not only to cultural values but also the content of the constitution and the rights provided to define the ideological mix that will deliver those rights while upholding cultural values. The rights of freedom of association, assembly and opinion point to an ideology that upholds democratic values and practices. Property rights and the right to pursue economic activity point to an ideology that allows a free market system. Rights to social service delivery such as availability of water, education, freedom from hunger and poverty put a social obligation on the government of the day. So also, the burden of legislation to protect the environment and curb the public from harming the same falls upon the government of the day.
In conclusion while Adam Smith believed that ‘man looks best after others’ interests when he’s after his own’, it is also in the interests of the nation for the naturally avaricious instinct inherent in mankind to accumulate to be curbed by laws and regulations. In the interest of promoting democratic and political rights and freedoms it may also be necessary to ‘protect freedom from freedom’. And national resources and revenue may need to be shared equitably to have the fortunate taking care of the less fortunate and disadvantaged. No more so is this true than in a nation that values Ubuntu/Vunhu as a cornerstone of its cultural values.
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