NEWS & ANALYSIS

Democ(k)racy 101

David Bullard says the good bad news is, we're not alone

OUT TO LUNCH

So here’s the good news. We are not alone. You may have long assumed that the ANC enjoy a virtual monopoly when it comes to barmy, unworkable social engineering plans but you may derive cold comfort to learn that similar ideas are popping up in places like the USA and the UK. The sort of places to which disillusioned South Africans may be thinking of transferring their skills.

My editor at the Institute of Race Relations, Sara Gon, wrote an excellent piece last week on dailyfriend.co.za (All too familiar lesson from America) which highlighted the rantings of the Democrat party and their brilliant strategy to win back power from Donald Trump.

Among these were plans which would involve destroying major industries in the quest for a fossil fuel free environment within ten years. For example, planes would be grounded and replaced by high speed trains (have they been talking to Cyril?) but the massive loss of jobs this quest for zero emissions would lead to in a highly industrialised nation would be easily solved by offering every American a “guaranteed job”, although what these jobs would involve is still a bit vague as things tend to be when lefties start proposing anything to do with economics.

You’ll be happy to know that our own NHI proposals are insignificant compared to what the lefties would like in the USA. Their very own magic grandpa, Bernie Sanders, wants to nationalize the health insurance industry and make it illegal to belong to a private health scheme. This is a $900 billion industry in the USA but, as usual, Bernie knows best and all that has to happen for this to work is for doctors and hospitals to reduce their charges by up to 40% while offering the same level of healthcare. Oh, and it would cost the US taxpayer an estimated $32 trillion to implement over the next ten years. Looks like a real vote winner to me.

The Democrat’s resident swivel eyed loony, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has suggested higher marginal tax rates of up to 70% for the super rich. This didn’t work terribly well for the UK Labour Party back in the mid 1970’s when the then chancellor of the exchequer, Denis Healey, said he wanted to squeeze the rich and raised the top rate of income tax to 83%. This resulted in a stream of high end tax payers moving their business affairs offshore and thereby reducing the tax take. It was also very effective in dissuading any new investment in the UK which is why Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party romped to power in 1979.

US Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal is to levy a wealth tax of 2%-3% on those deemed by the Democrats to be too wealthy for their own good. So that would be an additional tax on already taxed income; an unconstitutional idea that would no doubt find favour with Thuli Madonsela but would probably be disguised as a “reparation for past injustices” tax.

Things are pretty much the same on the political left in the UK. If the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn wins a general election his chancellor of the exchequer (finance minister) will almost certainly be a man called John McDonnell, a dedicated Marxist. While I don’t like his politics one bit I have a high regard for McDonnell as a politician because he is a man of principle. Not for him the champagne lifestyle of our ANC lefties.

In a recent Lunch with the Financial Times (where the FT pay for the lunch) he opted for a very ordinary local restaurant in his constituency of Hayes and Harlington, a shabby suburb west of London. He still lives in one of the poorest parts of Hayes and doesn’t swan around in Gucci, Versace or Hugo Boss or insist on robbing a bank so that he can drive a new Range Rover Sport.

McDonnell believes the time for change has arrived in the UK and he is the man to usher it in, assuming Labour win the election. Obviously taxes would rise for the top 5% of earners but the top rate would still only be 52%. However, one of Labour’s great beliefs is that they know how to run a business better than the business world so they would re-nationalize industries that were privatized in the 1980’s.

Admittedly not all privatized industries (particularly the rail network) have been an unqualified success but looking back into Labour’s past it would be reasonable to say that none of the nationalized industries were a roaring success although, unlike the ANC, the various reasons for this did not include fraud and theft on an epic scale. In that, I feel, the ANC can rightly claim to be world leaders.

One of McDonnell’s scarier proposals though is to introduce a “right to buy” for tenants of rented properties, whether or not the owner of the property is a willing seller or not. The idea is that the tenant would be allowed to buy the property at a below market price and that would jolly well serve the exploitive landlord right. This typically woolly leftish thinking assumes that the landlord is wealthy enough to own multiple properties and must be punished for that crime. It also assumes that tenants are poor defenceless victims who must, by definition, be suffering exploitation at the hands of a rapacious landlord. All of which is dangerous nonsense.

When I rented long ago in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea it was because I wasn’t sure of my future plans and didn’t want to commit myself to property ownership. That must apply to many renters today. As far as rapacious landlords are concerned it is true to say that many landlords have only one property they rent out. With UK interest rates at a record low the only way many people could guarantee an income for their retirement was to use the equity on their principal residence to buy a second property for rental. Given the choice and the many legal hassles that come with renting property I’m sure the majority of renters would have been happier to earn 6% on a bank deposit but that wasn’t to be.

So what McDonnell is proposing isn’t much different to what the ANC are proposing with expropriation without compensation. It is to seize an asset that has been legally acquired and paid for and to hand it to someone else at a greatly reduced price. Critics of this proposal have already pointed out that such disdain for legal rights of ownership is hardly likely to attract investors to a post Brexit Britain.

Unfortunately, most of what lefties propose (apart from being designed to win votes from the more gullible members of the electorate) is little more than the politics of envy. The aim is always to punish the more productive members of society for their “unearned privilege” and to create a more equal society, even if that means equality of poverty as we have seen in Zimbabwe and Venezuela. But that’s “democ(k)racy for you.