Sunday, January 13

Do the Right Thing

image 1 & image 2


"All happy families resemble each other. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy wrote the above passage at the beginning of Anna Karenina, “All happy families resemble each other. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

This is also true of nations - look at a map of the world and it is not difficult to pick out the prosperous, peaceful and democratic countries on every continent. Or - for that matter notice those on the way to becoming so today who scant decades before where mired in every form of lethal revolutionary stupidity.

All of that ‘happy’ group display a basic commitment to some combination of capitalism, rational governance and respect for their citizen’s rights that absolutely predicts their reality.

The ‘unhappy’ group reveals many different brands of oppressive ideology, religion or any other possible justifications to serve their ruling classes. As though determined to prove that Hobbes and Malthus were right those varied dictatorships worldwide make human life "poor, nasty, brutish and short" for uncountable millions while squandering resources, time and lives.

The world has no more lessons to offer on how to move from one group to the other - reforms not revolutions work and there is no 'third way'. History may not be over but there still is only one direction to progress.

Nations are poor and unjust exactly in proportion to the lessons their rulers quite purposefully choose to ignore in the service of their own power and at the expense of everyone else. For such rulers, ‘happiness’ is achieved with each successive day they survive in power.

All other factors are secondary.


"Do the right thing."
Da Mayor

What are the 'happy' governments doing right and how should any willing government ‘do the right thing’?

1) A Rational World View - Recognize once and for all that ideology and mantras nor bureaucratic, academic, economic, journalistic hype of any flavor will not change human nature or create wealth. The most cursory glance at a globe will show what basic policies work and which don’t. Essentially, create conditions favorable to good old fashioned capitalism - not some convenient special version of it.

2) The Rule of Law - Enshrine a constitution and laws that leaves people alone to their own devices as much as is possible by protecting them from the necessary evil of government and the occasional evil of each other. Government and its associated political parties should have little place in the economy besides the regulation of commerce and the collection of the lowest possible tax burden.

3) Civil Society - From the free flow of information all the way to independent civil institutions such as universities and even sports clubs, power and influence should devolve away from government. Basic rights such as private ownership of property can ensure that citizens have a government in their service and not the reverse.

4) Limited Government - This deserves repeated emphasis. Excepting an initial dominance of basic infrastructure projects, education and public health, government should command an ever shrinking portion of national resources. Indeed, government should, within the limits of providing for law and order, be eternally suspected of wrong.

5) Trust and Democracy - Emphasize what citizens have in common and respect tradition. While the executive should run government, she should be subject to constant criticism and fear of recall. She should have no ability to govern without the consent of popularly elected representatives and should have to obey the law as determined by an independent judiciary.

All of the above won’t happen overnight or even necessarily concurrently, but development and improvement will be obvious from day one of a decision to accept them in principal. And no ... these things are not easy to do but even a miss in any regard is better than going in entirely the wrong direction.

There is plenty of room in the above prescription to fit in everything from classical liberalism to Keynes and from social democracy to globalization ... As long as at some point a society is given the chance to develop and generate wealth and as long as some measure of that opportunity is sustained.\


This post is a companion piece to The Birth of Plenty. Nothing that made donor countries wealthy and free and nothing that put so many other countries on a path to either wealth or freedom is being practiced by Ethiopian government.

Karl Marx during a singular lucid episode wrote in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, that
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.
The reality of Ethiopian government reflect none of these basics because it is not in the government's interest to do so nor is it in the interest of some of the government's core constituency, ferengis, to see it so. Indeed, the Ethiopian government is paying attention to NONE of the above goals - except for lying about them.

From an assumption that "Africans need a strong hand" to "Meles is an S.O.B. but he his our S.O.B." onto purely monetary and career motivations - it is clear that the convergent interests that serve to make Ethiopia a nation where suffering is a tradition are legion.

Meles Zenawi is an intelligent man but his rule is evidence that intelligence and service are not necessarily found in each other's company any more than intelligence and morality are associated.

Ethiopians don't matter to their own government but ferengis do. What is served by the policies of Meles are his own glory and power at any cost to his subjects.