Botswana is actually hanging on to the tail of a dying cow. We have desperately adopted Western hardcore capitalism and matching lifestyle and totally forgotten that we were once believers in a 'soft' traditional capitalism with a human face; the caring, traditional concept of our own African style. Today most tame economics are more and more shaky and slipping on their feet. They can sense a downfall for Western hardcore capitalism, but what about our old variety? Could it be the future? A kind of converted social democratic capitalism?
We don't have to waste many words on communism. Marx and Engels are turning in their graves for being misunderstood, their tools for dissecting economies and to diagnosing social ills having been grossly misused though the analytical tools are, interestingly, as valid as ever.
Capitalism is now digging its own grave and we must ask what is becoming instead of Socialism and Neo-liberalism? Let me give some indications from contemporary theorists, although as they often say, nobody knows for sure. The trouble with 'them' is that they don't have our background in tradition that is a good basis for change.
Normally and among friends, when I say that our kind of capitalism is dying, I'm told that I had one beer too many. No air-cleaner can kill the smell of money, they say. But I say no IMF spray can kill the smell of death, either. But let me refer to bigger brains than mine.
Computers and the Internet are revolutionary tools, if used properly (i.e. forgetting about naked bimbos and such things) because there is a lot of interesting information available there. For instance, neo-liberalism (free trade, de-regularisation and privatisation) has so far resulted in 250 individuals that are proud owners of more than three trillion (3,000 billion or three million millions) US dollars.
The United Nations has estimated (circa 2005) that half a trillion is needed to eradicate global poverty. Think of that! Bill Gates and a few friends of his have started their walk to Golgotha. That's commendable, but not enough!Most UN members are finding some pennies in their pockets and cannot even equal the philanthropists. As Warren Buffett, giving a million dollars for research on poverty, said: Market economy was fine to me but doesn't work for the poor!
The 250 trillionaires can only play Monopoly between themselves or take a bath in gold like Donald Duck's grandfather. That indicates the future of Western hardcore capitalism. Nothing to spend the money on - no profit making projects (called bankable) left except a hope for drilling for oil in problematic places. And buying the media... What am I basing these queer ideas on? Well, let's forget that socialism has been declared dead by privatised media because it is just hibernating and will return one day in a more liberalised and democratic form.
Maybe it will resemble my old social democracy that Sir Seretse Khama was familiar with when it worked well for Scandinavian countries until the IMF and the World Bank took centre stage.The brains I'm referring to (and their books) are: Samir Amin (SA) - Le Virus Liberal (The Liberal Virus) and Immanuel Wallerstein (IW) - World System Analysis and Utopics;Once they were perfect exponents of the famous US Economics - teachers, professors and so on, and you hear the roar from the tiger's mouth, so to speak. Both scholars dedicated a lot of research work and their careers to capitalism, yet they are today asking: What's the future of it? Is it sustainable in the long-term?And what price are we paying for its longevity?
IW has developed a unique research line of his own - world system analysis. It is a theory with great claims. He is a sharp analyst and a brilliant educationalist. Nobody can put the history and politics of the world to an understandable unity like him.Like IW, Amin regards the world as an entity kept together by the circulation of finance capital. He is known for his theory of "unequal development" between North and South and controversial ideas about how poor countries can get out of their weak positions. And that is not by liberal global trade that always gives advantage to countries with advanced technology.Both SA and IW think that form about 1970, the world is a transitional period. Capitalism is not the first global system in the history of civilisation and it will not be the last. It is now coming to the end of the road. When the inherent conflicts in a system become implacable, unforgiving and so serious that the system cannot resolve them, a period of crisis occurs. In such a dangerous transitional time, a new system will develop and people will organise society in a way unthinkable to earlier generations.But how will such a system look like? Well, that depends on us, but it will surely be different.
Tentative, even fumbling efforts are being made here and there and we must be careful in our criticism of them.Much more has been said about world history and why we have to prepare ourselves for the demise of hardcore capitalism. Even Karl Marx is cited! He is obviously bigger than we ever realised. Obviously, SA and IW are now Marxist's, which is interesting, considering their backgrounds. Marxism revived by capitalist gurus! For instance, they say: Human beings and conditions as the state, the economy, the culture, the religion, the family, and the society as a whole must be seen in a historical perspective. How it looks like in each phase depends on the place it has in a constantly changing whole.
It sounds like Engels to me. But "comprehensive" ideologies and science are saying the opposite, and I quote: Universities and science are cutting small pieces of the reality cake and studying the small pieces only, as if they had laws of their own. Economy is presented as following eternal laws that can be put into formulas. Even humanity is presented as something constant - "individuals" with the same characteristics and interests irrespective of the society he/she comes from.
In "The Liberal Virus," SA asks: How come that the unrealistic tale of "market" and "individuals" has become leading science, determining policies and religions? And in whose interest did this happen?IW states: ... for 500 years the history has been impelled by the endless accumulation of capital, by companies with the only aim to increase the profit, to earn money in order to earn more money. The profits have resulted in both good and bad but this is not relevant to the question.The important thing is (as I see it) that there are soon no more big profits to gain! Small profits still available will need even more pressure on nature and humanity. We cannot defend long-term interests of the world with big corporations' preference for short-term profits! And there are alternatives.IW compares and contrasts them in "Utopistics." The stumbling block is the short-term thinking in the prevailing global system. The dust from Neo-liberalism, Growth, Free Markets, De-regularisation and Privatisation is blocking our sight.
And the developed countries are the only short-term winners. The quarterly financial reports are fulfilling the owners' expectations of a world in which raw materials and workers are becoming cheaper as the environment grows more poisonous and inequality deepens. The right to a decent life for future generations is put in pawnshops and increasingly depends on the generosity of philanthropists!
Botswana is a small fly on the world's window and must take orders from the IMF, the World Bank, WTO and the US Federal Reserve Bank. We are now conforming to privatisation and allowing utilities to increase their profits to levels attracting potential buyers while leaving customers out of the agenda. In the process, we completely forget the fact that developed countries once offered such things at prime costs until they were truly developed and their people in production (and housing + welfare). Protectionism was one of the pillars then and still is for a number of developed countries.
Didn't we have a soft, working, human-faced capitalism here before? Feudal, they now call it; something so shameful the IMF, the World Bank and WTO had to 'correct.' I'm sorry, but I think our old kinship capitalism worked better than the new hardcore and we can develop it as our African contribution to the future of the world.Where are today's economics brains? Obviously only writing columns about interesting 'portfolios' on the stock market in our newspapers. Sharpen up, guys. The important thing is not so much how to enrich yourself but how to survive in a future of less abundance.
Developing countries will suffer most by the high prices for energy. We have to find an alternative to the myth of ever-rising GNPs and look into the history of surviving in some kind of "steady state" conditions. That has been discussed on the Internet for some time, and you can follow the discussion for yourself. E.g. Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy - Herman Daly, professor and ecological economist at the University of Maryland, USA. As you can see from this piece so far, notions of Left and Right have zero significance for us at this point in time. We have to search for the inherent character of things - and we have that in us in Botswana!