Thomas Piketty is wrong.
Thomas Piketty is dangerous.
Thomas Piketty is the French author of the best-selling tome entitled Capital in the 21st Century, and Adam Smith he is not. In many ways his book is the antipathy of Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. He blames everything on the rich and he believes that all of the inequalities in the world can be blamed on capitalism and only state intervention can save us from ourselves.
His thinking seems to be dead in line with that of the South African government. I am actually surprised that we haven’t named a street or a town in Limpopo after him. After all, we are so happy to name stuff after other geniuses that brought so much happiness into the world like Che Guevara, Yasser Arafat and Pickaxe Mary Fitzgerald, we might as well name a bridge after Piketty.
The reason that I feel so strongly about this is that I love South Africa and I hate to see us making bad economic choices. The trend popularised by Mr Piketty and so beloved by economic geniuses like Blade Nzimande, Zwelinzima Vavi and Rob Davies is that people are poor because other people are rich.
Now I am not sure how their brains are wired but I cannot understand how they reach their strange conclusions. In my opinion it is not only flawed, it is dangerous. If this isn’t bad enough, their solution is always to take money away from the most productive and efficient people in society and give it to the government who are invariably the least efficient or productive. These people are then entrusted to pass it on to the people who really need it. Little wonder that our economy is going backwards.
So what is to be done about poverty?
I truly believe in people. Most people are far more resourceful than what any government ever gives them credit for, and I have no doubt that all we need is for the state to get out of the way and people will provide for themselves.
I understand that many people will immediately think that we will have a surge in crime, but I believe that law and order is the job of government and when they get out of the business of running airlines, television and radio stations and electricity companies, they can focus on making the police and courts work a lot better.
Every day, we see the success of minorities, especially the recent immigrants from other African countries. These people arrive here with nothing but each other. They know that they cannot go to our public hospitals or attend schools, they also know that they will not get protection from the police or public servants but yet they not only survive, they thrive.
So what would I do if they made me king?
For starters, I would embrace the success of the successful.
I would stop the language that says that we must help the poor. Given the space and opportunities, the poor will help themselves. Most importantly I would reinforce the message that governments do not create wealth, they destroy wealth. Governments are inefficient and should therefore be as small as possible.
To see how good government is at running a business, we only have to look at Eskom or the SABC. Those SABC soapies might be amateurish and hard to watch but don’t worry, Eskom will come to the rescue by turning off the power!