Life after Systems Administration

Hughes, J. (2007). South Africa’s rising wave of crime. Christian Science Monitor. August 24, 2007. Available online: http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0824/p09s01-coop.html.

The Christian Science monitor is optimistic, to say the least:

It is now 13 years since South Africa turned its back on the oppressive era of apartheid and, in a remarkably peaceful transition, embraced democracy. Much has been accomplished as blacks and whites sculpt a new, multiracial nation. But the warning in the Sowetan’s boardroom is a reminder that democracy must be nurtured to flourish.

Besides “democracy,” the fall of the Nationalist government brought hope on one front: the Nationalists ran their economies along welfareist-socialist lines, and a shock therapy program by the new rulers (of the African National Congress) might jump-start the economy.

Instead, solid economic growth is accompanied with an increasingly violent society and ethnic cleansing against the most educated demographics within the country. And of coures,


courtesy hdr.undp.org

As can be seen in the chart above, South Africa’s human development index under the Nationalist government was essentially that of a Latin American or Caribbean state. Since the African National Congress has taken over, South Africa’s human development has fallen below Latin America’s, below East Asia’s, below the Arab states’, nearing South Asia’s, and is steadily regressing to the mean for sub-Saharan Africa.

Generally, two factors are behind Gappishness — having your country be one of the worst in the world. One is economic system. The other is the average intelligence of the population that runs the state. The easiest states to bring up are those with bad economic systems but high general intelligence, such as those of East Asia. The hardest countries to bring up are those that suffer from both bad institutions and low general intelligence.

The worst parts of the Gap will not shrink themselves. Pretending they will confines a billion people to misery, terror, and death. Shrinking the Gap requires a long term, institutional commitment by the Core.

The Core’s last attempt has failed everhwere or is failing everywhere in Africa. The European states were too weak and too self-destructive to complete their mission. Hopefully, the next wave of Systems Administration will be luckier.

20 thoughts on “Life after Systems Administration”

  1. I'd imagine the reason for the decline in human development scores was a large number of white south africans emigrating after the end of apertheid, which would have happened no matter what the “intelligence level” of the new government. I'd say the benefit of getting rid of the apartheid government outweighs any human development scores.

    Discrimination, etc., is taken into account in HD scores, but I don't know the weight its given.

    http://hdr.undp.org/hdr2006/statistics/indicators/default.cfm

  2. “I'd imagine the reason for the decline in human development scores was a large number of white south africans emigrating after the end of apertheid, which would have happened no matter what the “intelligence level” of the new government.”

    Why? (And why the scare-quotes about intelligence?)

    “I'd say the benefit of getting rid of the apartheid government outweighs any human development scores.”

    Why? (And how?)

  3. To the first question – I had assumed there would be white emigration after they lost power. According to wikipedia, the proportion of whites in South Africa has declined since 1994 but wikipedia attributes it to birth rates (unsourced though), so my thesis seems to be wrong.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whites_in_South_Africa

    To the second question, the ending of a government and society such as the apartheid society in South Africa would be worth almost anything (unless you're a white South African).

  4. “the ending of a government and society such as the apartheid society in South Africa would be worth almost anything”

    Why? And what is “almost anything”? What other regimes also worth “almost anything” to replace?

  5. So yeah the apartheid regime was evil, but at least the trains ran on time? I'm confused as to why you're defending the apartheid government.

  6. Governments are established, to paragraph Thomas Hobbes, to end the universal freedom of the State of Nature and protect us from evils.

    Now, between deathly liberty and lively tyranny, there certainly are trade-offs to be made. So why is a prosperous but apartheid South Africa preferable to a miserable but integrated one?

  7. Apartheid South Africa was prosperous for white people. Blacks and others were oppressed. Thus the human development scores, which are averages, are higher because white prosperity averaged out against the lower black scores.

    I find it hard to believe that you are arguing that the Whites should return to ruling the Blacks in South Africa for their own good.

  8. “the human development scores, which are averages, are higher because white prosperity averaged out against the lower black scores.”

    So you are arguing that the continued collapse in South Africa's HDI (120th (2005), 119th (2004), 111th (2003), 101st (1999), 95th (1995) [1]) is because of the deterioration of living conditions of whites, and not of the South African majority? And that this this is happening in spite of rising income inequality and economic growth? [2]

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_South_Africa#Statistics
    [2] http://www.southafrica.info/doing_business/economy/econoverview.htm

  9. No, that is not what I am arguing – I was arguing that South Africa's high HDI was high because white prosperity disguised black poverty. The comment was in regard to your characterization of apartheid South Africa as “prosperous.”

    There can be a lot of different factors accounting for the HDI score. HIV has exploded since the early 1990s, which is accounted for in HDI (again I don't know the weights). The rising income inequality actually will also lower HDI scores as well. I don't know the exact factors that caused the lowering in HDI score for South Africa – I'm sure the change in government had a lot to do with it. But I'd be absolutely flabbergasted if South Africans wanted a return to white supremacist rule to combat crime.

  10. “I was arguing that South Africa's high HDI was high because white prosperity disguised black poverty.”

    What does this mean? I get it as a bumper sticker, but not as a description of an economy.

    “There can be a lot of different factors accounting for the HDI score. HIV has exploded since the early 1990s, which is accounted for in HDI (again I don't know the weights). The rising income inequality actually will also lower HDI scores as well.”

    I wouldn't be surprised at all if South Africa's inability to handle disease (the long-time denial that HIV causes AIDS, and that claims otherwise are merely a white plot being both a symptom and a cause of the problem) led to misery for her citizens.

    “But I'd be absolutely flabbergasted if South Africans wanted a return to white supremacist rule to combat crime.”

    People like power — they are petty that way — so you are probably right.

    In the context of the bigger goal of ending genocide and wars as we have known them in Africa, the ANC's overseeing of the destruction of their state is even worse than the socialist paranoia of the Nationalists.

  11. “In the context of the bigger goal of ending genocide and wars as we have known them in Africa, the ANC's overseeing of the destruction of their state is even worse than the socialist paranoia of the Nationalists.”

    I think this has a lot more to do with SA's problems than intelligence. A few years ago, I read a great quote in a South African editorial, along the lines of “Great freedom fighters are seldom great governors”. The two roles require very different skill-sets, and Mbeke and Co- like most freedom fighters- didn't have the latter. One can only hope they lose power before Barnett has to modify his map.

  12. Fair enough. There's a lot of shades of grey between Gap and Core.

    “What's interesting about South Africa, though, is that it's not a complete failure — as I was writing to Adrian, the ANC is generally less socialist than the Nationalists were.”

    Is this a reflection of the ANC's virtues (or Nationalists' lack thereof), or just of their different circumstances? When you're relatively isolated from the world, like apartheid SA was, trade with other countries for what you don't have isn't much of an option; as such, free-markets hold less appeal and centralized planning to conserve and expand resources becomes more attractive. As your connectivity grows, however, you're better able to acquire resources from elsewhere; these temptations decrease and your industry benefits more from overseas competition than protection.

  13. Michael,

    South Africa became enthralled with socialism and state-control at the same time that many other countries (USA, UK, France, Germany, etc) did: the 1930s and 1940s. But while the US, UK, and China began their economies reforms in the late 1970s, South Africa's waited until the 1990s.

    In any case, South Africa's state control over her economy far preceeds economic sanctions.

  14. I'll buy that (I don't know a lot about South African history). Nonetheless, to what extent did the sanctions prolong the socialist phase?

  15. Michael,

    I'm sure that sanctions prolonged non-market economies, as they still do now in Cuba and Iran.

    That said, if economic reform would have happened anyway without the sanctions, there is even less to praise the ANC for…

  16. I think there is a tendency to overemphasise the allegedly “socialist” nature of the National Party government of 1948-94 in order to denounce it. While it is true that the state had a role in some important sectors such as electricity, the railways etc, the economy was essentially a market one. One could argue that such a strategy was in many ways a success in building up an advanced infrastructure in what was an underdeveloped but resource-rich country. For example the ESKOM monopoly was said to produce the cheapest electricity in the world using many cutting-edge technologies, which stimulated private industry and the economic boom of the post-war years.

    I think this is the essential point, that such state control of a certain number of basic industries was intended to act as a stimulant to private economic growth rather than as an end in itself. If we are going to talk about socialism that is a completely different kettle of fish in which the state runs almost all of the economy and private economic activity is limited very severely to such things as perhaps small-scale agriculture etc, as it was in the former Eastern Bloc. To lump the two things into one is silly.

    At the same time there is a tendency to underestimate the socialist tendencies of the ANC government. While privatisation has taken place so too has state interference in business in the form of so-called affirmative action and black economic empowerment in which businesses are increasingly compelled to hire employees according to their race rather than suitability. The firing of white employees in favour of less qualified black replacements accounts for much of the white emigration from South Africa and the deterioration of infrastructure which has led to erratic electricity supplies recently.

    Lastly of course there is old-fashioned communist expropriation (we must not forget that the ANC is still allied to the South African Communist Party) in which private farmland is increasingly targeted for confiscation. Commercial farms are increasingly “redistributed” with predictably disasterous results in terms of yields, often reverting to peasant subsistance agriculture.

  17. Ed,

    Certainly South Africa was not Communist, as say, East Germany, Romania, or the Soviet Union was. It was socialist as Great Britain was (from 1945 to the ’70s), however, which was enough to do long-term harm to the economy. The South African government controlled the “commanding heights” of the economy, guiding what it viewed as the critical industries of the country. As a richer South Africa may have avoided an ANC take-over, this may have caused permanent harm to the country.

    The ANC does not appear to be socialist, though it’s certainly running a racist welfare state.

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