By Professor Mwiine Lubemba
I got a call from a colleague last Sunday who said I must buy a copy of the Post Newspaper and give him my opinion on the editorial.
The editorial was entertainingly glorifying socialism. It was baffling. Many people of mature years are amazed at how some young people have been following Wynter Kabimba’s Rainbow Party, and are enthusiastic about the socialism he preaches.
Many older people have lived long enough to have seen socialism fail, time and again, in countries around the world. Venezuela, with all its rich oil resources, is as we write this piece, on the verge of economic collapse, after its heady fling with socialism. Cuba is a sorry sight.
The Post Newspaper editorial reference to China was incomplete as it failed to point out that the Chinese now boast of producing the largest number of billionaires in the world. But let’s not digress…
Most of the young in Zambia today have missed all that, and their dumbed-down education is far more likely to present the inspiring rhetoric of socialism than to present its dismal track record.
Socialism is in fact a wonderful vision – a world of the imagination far better than any place anywhere in the real world, at any time over the thousands of years of recorded history. Even many in Zambia who lived through Kaunda’s socialism era would probably still prefer to live in such a world again, if they thought it was possible.
Who would not want to live in a world where college was free, along with many other things, such as Castle and Mosi lager, Chibuku and all those Emasdale Devils Street and Kabwata East Point Night Club chicks and where government protected us from the shocks of life and guaranteed our happiness? It would be ‘Heaven on Earth’ come true that Kaunda promised!
Free college tuition, meal allowances, Books etc of course has an appeal to the young and adults alike, especially those who have never studied basic economics. But college or anything tangible cannot possibly be free. It would not be free even if there was no such thing as money.
Consider the costs of just one lecturer or professor at UNZA or CBU teaching just one course. He or she has probably spent more than ±20 years being educated, from kindergarten to Ph.D., before ending up standing in front of a class and trying to convey some of the knowledge picked up in all those years. That means being fed, clothed and housed all those years, along with other expenses.
All the people who grew the food such as maize, chickens, vegetables, beef, soya beans for cooking oil and animal feeds, including those who manufactured the clothing, soaps, tooth paste produced the electricity and built the housing used by this one lecturer or professor, for at least two decades, had to be compensated for their efforts, or those efforts would not continue. And of course someone has to produce the food, clothing and shelter for all the students at UNZA or CBU in this one course, as well as books, computers and other requirements or amenities.
Add up all these costs – and multiply by a hundred or so – and you have a rough idea of what going to college costs. Whether these costs are paid by using money in a capitalist economy or by some other mechanism in a feudal economy, a socialist economy, or whatever, there are heavy costs to pay.
Moreover, under any economic system, those costs are either going to be paid or there are not going to be any colleges. Money is just an artificial device for getting real things done.
Our young people, who understand this, whether clearly or vaguely, are not likely to be deterred from wanting socialism. Because what they really want is for somebody else to pay for their decision to go to college.
A market economy is one in which whoever makes a decision is the one who pays for that decision. It forces people to be sure that what they want to do is really worth what it is going to cost.
Even the existing subsidies of college have led many people to go to college, who have very little interest in, or benefit from, going to college, except for enjoying the social scene while postponing adult responsibilities for a few years.
Whether judging by test results, by number of hours per week devoted to studying or by on-campus interviews, it is clear that today’s college students learn a lot less than college students once did in our era when we were bonded to whichever institution paid for our college education.
If college becomes “free” for everyone today even more people can attend college without bothering to become educated and without acquiring any economically meaningful skills.
More fundamentally, making all sorts of other things “free” means more of those things being wasted as well. Even worse, it means putting more and more of the decisions that shape our lives into the hands of politicians and bureaucrats who control the purse strings.
Worst of all, government giveaways polarize society into segments, each trying to get what it wants at somebody else’s expense, creating mutual bitterness that can tear a society apart as we’ve seen evolve between the various political parties in Zambia today. Some seem to blithely assume that “the rich” can be taxed to pay for what they want – as if “the rich” don’t see what is coming and take their wealth elsewhere.
That’s what happened when President Kenneth Kaunda run a socialist government at State House, many companies left Zambia and took their wealth with them. It also reminds me of an old story retold several times at social functions. When Kaunda ran a socialist government late baroness Margret Thatcher was running a market driven capitalist government at London’s 10 Downing Street. The two leaders met and even danced together at a banquet hosted for President Kaunda by Queen Elizabeth II.
When interviewed about the banquet President Kenneth Kaunda proudly referred to Baroness Thatcher as “my dancing partner.” It’s likely president Kaunda was not aware Prime Minister Thatcher was anti socialist when she long before Kaunda’s visit to London said “the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
She knew all along President Kaunda would eventually run out of cash too. But Mrs Thatcher- was too polite and too well-mannered to repeat her line to her visiting VVIP, most probably because of what actually comes out next.
So I’ll do it…
After socialists run out of other people’s money, their people eventually run out of something almost as precious as money.
Sorry, I actually lifted the above two sentences from a colleague’s book I have just finished reading.
But it happened under Kenneth Kaunda’s socialist Zambia, once Africa’s leading copper producer. If you cannot connect to the Kenneth Kaunda era because you were too young or not yet born, something almost similar is happening again right now in Venezuela, once a socialist, oil rich paradise and land of great shortstops. Venezuela is fast becoming a thoroughly failed state.
The editorial in last Sunday’s Post Newspaper was glorifying socialism. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen here again. A nation without toilet paper is a nation ungovernable.
The social chaos, the whining, the aggravation-not to mention the horror of alternative methods, like maize cobs- or empty Dangote cement paper bags would just drive the same young people glorifying Wynter’s socialism, who have become accustomed to a wide selection of toilet paper–insane.
I don’t know about you, but I think many young people would again seriously consider migrating overseas or to the USA and risk deportation by Donald Trump’s men at the Airport should he finally be adopted and win in November than live another socialist life in Zambia.
Naturally, just like in Zambia those days, the socialists in Venezuela are also blaming the CIA and the western capitalists for it all.
Any toilet paper in Venezuela is either given as precious gifts by tourists who are warned to bring their own, or smuggled out to nations that will pay a decent price for the privilege of soft behinds.
I’m not an economist, and I’m sure there are many brilliant PhD’s who would say that socialism really does work.
All Venezuela has to do now is go deeper in debt, and print more money, the way we did it in Zambia.
It’s only paper.
Just a thought,