The difficult truth

It is a fact of life that everyone will try to get as much as they can from every circumstance, because we all have something that we desire and are willing to sacrifice something else for it.

This is why socialism has never worked, because everyone ultimately wants something beyond what someone else thinks they should have or be content with. For example, if I have a burning desire to wake up to the sound of the ocean and a sea breeze on my face every morning, I would have to give up on this dream if some socialist government aparatchik then “assigned” me a flat in downtown Joburg for “the good of the people”.

I don’t know about you, but living in such a world would make me miserable.

Socialism forbids ambition and desire while capitalism formalises it. The differences between socialism and capitalism are constantly on my mind largely because of the socio-economic situation in the townships here in my hometown of Newcastle. You see, Newcastle is one of the most industrialised cities in KZN with many Taiwanese-owned factories, but the people who work in these factories earn very little.

Seeing people waking up every morning for what can sometimes be as little as R800/month makes me feel sad and outraged for these people because I know that a human being is worth much more than that, it is then that my thoughts invariably wander to the “other” option,namely socialism.

You see as much as we know that people are worth more than R800/month, it is important to note that employers, wonderful person you may be, do not need you for your humanity or personality but only for whatever it is you can do to help them produce a product or service and employees are not necessarily always the most important part of the production process.

With that now established, though a bit sadly so, I always wonder what would be the alternative for these people, what if government told their employers to pay them slightly more surely that would make the situation much better for them?

It is then I remember that these factories are competing not just with other South African factories but international ones which sometimes pay even less and in a highly competitive industry(which true capitalism implies) a business owner can only take just enough profit to justify running the business and any upward movement in costs will inevitably result either in cost-cutting (retrenchments) or bankruptcy for the business and its owner.

So while it is true that it is not nice seeing people walking more than 10km every morning to get to work (6 days a week) only to earn R800 at the end of the month, I would feel much worse if they were going hungry because they had no job like so many other South Africans.

Capitalism is not nice or easy or even fun sometimes, but it is the only system that allows us even the possibility of achieving our grandest and most peculiar dreams, the ones that make sense only to us.

John Greystoke 2014-08-10 11:54:17 PM
Good article.
CyberMatix 2014-08-11 03:25:34 AM
Nice article. The problem is that pure naked capitalism is not a good system, and neither is pure naked socialism. It seems the best system is to have a combination of the two, where the capitalist free market is allowed to operate, but with restriction to disallow pure predatory capitalism. And then a measure of socialism to help out the portion of the population that can't deal with capitalism. If you go and look at the most successful economies in the world you would find that this is the model that is implemented. The trick is to get the mix right. At the moment I think the mix in SA isn't very good, due to many reasons. Some historic and others current. My personal opinion is that the current government is somewhat inept and too corrupt to get it right.
Nomfundo Makhathini WabeNtungwa 2014-08-11 04:13:44 AM
Well said.Yes forcing the employers to raise salaries(minimum wage) does not always work. It force reduction in numbers and is worse for those outside the job market. It's difficult to enter at high salaries if you have no related skills and experience. This feeds unemployment. As SA we have a difficult task of striking a balance between preventing exploitation and reducing unemployment.
Chris May 2014-08-11 06:28:53 AM
We need more businesses, with more diverse outputs and therefore accommodating a broader spectrum of skills.