Friday, May 30, 2008

Digging up the Pothole Mystery

The "when-we's" who left Zimbabwe often talked about the first signs of Zimbabwe's decay: potholes in the road. I guess it has been a feature we've watched for with hawk eyes in the transition from the old to the new South Africa.

I'm pleased to report that our pothole situation is nothing like some expectations in 1994. I can confidently report from my own experiences that I am not aware of a pothole that was not at some stage repaired. At "some stage" could mean a year or two, admittedly, but at least that's a finite scale.

What does seem prominent though is that potholes keep re-appearing. I've always thought it was simply the aging of the road, which now needed a full resurfacing, something that is rarely done. Now it turns out that much of the problem is actually down to the contracting of pothole-fillers.

The KZN provincial department that repairs roads contracts the filling out to individuals. Usually there is little filling background required, but personally I don't see experience as a huge requirement in this field anyway. The real problem is that repairs are paid for per square metre. Subsequently it is in the filler's best interests to do a spit-and-polish job rather than a deep repair, because they'll get fresh work in a shorter space of time.

So the problem it turns out is simply a matter of quality control. The department is partly doing its job, but just needs to get out, inspect the repair jobs and put some pressure on the contractors... although an occasional resurfacing would be nice too!

ANC Chooses Enslavement Over Empowerment

That is of course a heavy title and I'll need to spend a few moments explaining where I'm coming from on this matter. In the ACDP's KZN administration we have a Shadow Cabinet in place where we discuss and form policies on the key issues facing the country. One of the challenges that keeps resurfacing is dealing with poverty in the province. This factors into the thinking of housing development, where to build transport infrastructure, pension support and the like.

Here's where the problem comes in. If I can use an analogy, a patient has an internal wound and is bleeding profusely. So the government comes in and continually mops up the blood without closing the wound. As usual, we keep dealing with the symptoms instead of the root cause.

The root cause of South Africa's poverty problem is the lack of an economy that provides jobs. If you have a steady income, you can buy your own food, pay your own rent and support your own children. Understandably there needs to be some support to get a community through a hard time while the employment rate climbs.

The problem is that employment has not increased, and at the ACDP we believe that much of this is down to the ANC's failed economic policies, like rigid labour legislation, lack of action on crime, heavy rates and taxes, centralised bureaucracy and silence on Zimbabwe. We believe in a free market economy with less government involvement.

We cannot maintain a medium-term welfare state - the taxpaying base will not tolerate it and it simply is not the best approach. The best approach is to empower the population rather than support them. You empower them not through handouts but by giving them the power to run their own lives with their own self-earned finances. The centralised welfare economy of the ANC creates a system where the population becomes dependent - becomes enslaved rather than empowered.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wise Words from Lincoln

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.

--Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ACDP Opposes Rates Policy

Sharing his views on the rates policy recently, Clr Wayne Thring, the KZN provincial leader for the ACDP, raised a set of important objections the party has to the rates policy currently being implemented, with particular reference to the Ethekwini Municipality (Durban).

I quote directly from his speech, with "voting" referring to the councillors' vote on the policy:

  • We were not given the rate randage figure at the time of voting
  • We did not know what thresholds would be used for pensioners
  • We were concerned about the effect of the policy on our farmers.
  • We still do not know what effect the incidence issue will have on our rates base.
  • There have been numerous anomalies in the valuation process
  • Religious groups will have to apply for an exemption each year, but only on producing a tax exemption certificate from SARS.
(End quote.) These objections raise specific concerns. If you take a step backwards and look at the trends determined by the ANC's worldview, the rates policy fits right in with its socialist dogma. The objective of a socialist government is to transfer economic functions into the hands of a central administration. That obviously requires funding from taxpayers and in turn increases their dependency on the state. You will see similar trends in socialist-oriented countries, like Sweden with its high tax rates.

The ACDP pins its colours to the free market post, and believes that a transfer of economic functions to free market operations will see a rise in efficiency, a reduction in costs and a growth of services that can't be matched by a lumbering central administration.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why Did We Legalise Abortion?

I'm trying to rehearse all the arguments that have done the circles in defense of legalising abortion. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the main argument seemed to be that legalisation would protect women and girls from unsafe backstreet abortions. The idea was to get these operations out in the light and monitor them.

Well, they are now out in the light. As for monitoring them, there appears to be a problem. The ACDP recently raised a significant concern regarding the proliferation of abortion advertisements across the Durban metro. As the attached photo demonstrates, posters have been plastered across every inch of space in some areas of downtown Durban, and I'm sure other cities will testify to something similar.

The reality is that the abortion industry is out of control. That the city councils are facing a losing battle trying to control this scourge of posters is indicative of the kind of battle faced in monitoring the industry as a whole. There have been some arrests of illegal operators, but the scale of these operations is quite intense.

Now that the "safer" abortions argument appears to be flying out of the window, why did we legalise it then? Actually, the need for abortions was primarily a spin-off from the sexual revolution. Given that sex creates babies every now and then, and birth control has its hang-ups, the spread of the "need" for sex would quickly have overpopulated the planet. Some sacrifices had to be made on the altar of sex, and unborn babies would be the innocent victim.

How did our consciences become so scarred that our selfish lust drive could have us killing our own kids? Who did this to us? Or if we did it, why don't we reverse this monstrous evil, call it quits and start with a clean slate? We think it's time and hope that you'll join us, for the sake of the children.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MTN/Vodacom Illustrate Free Market Principles

It was fascinating to read about the play-off between MTN and Vodacom with regards to their new per region/per time billing plans. Basically, MTN launched MTN Zone for prepaid customers, where your charge would depend on the location and time you were calling from. Essentially, if you called from a remote spot at 1am, your call could receive something close to a 95% discount.

In no time at all, 2 million subscribers switched allegiances to MTN. Vodacom were given a big fright and very quickly launched their own Yebo4Less plan. I'm not yet fully aware of what discounts are on offer and what the pros/cons of the plans are, but it seems that many customers are in for decent savings.

This of course is the classic interplay that makes the free market economy work so successfully. Of course we're well aware that the telecoms market is still overly regulated, but within this little zone of freedom we can see how multiple competitors drive the prices down through price wars. A similar study of the deregulated British telecoms market compared to the regulated French market makes for a fascinating advertisement for the free market. Where prices used to be similar, deregulation on the British side resulted in British customers paying considerably less for their calls.

The free market system is not without its drawbacks. It is used effectively by arms dealers and similarly alligned syndicates. It also doesn't deal very well with a natural monopoly situation like Microsoft or Eskom have found themselves in (a natural monopoly is where the market is not big enough for more than one player and the monopoly player is able to use their position unfairly). Nevertheless, on the whole the free market system works a great deal better than government regulation, and is responsible for huge economic growth right across the world, not only in the traditional strongholds like America, but also in growing markets like the Asian Tigers. Even China only began seeing its current growth when its markets began deregulating.

There is one more important ingredient worth mentioning. Flow of information is critical to the success of the system. As soon as a customer realises they can buy a good more cheaply elsewhere, they switch, and back again when information arrives that a supplier does not supply good customer service or is involved in unethical activity. Both traditional and new media play a huge role here, and thankfully South Africa has a fairly well established media structure.

The ACDP has always believed in the free market system. The party sees its role as a protector of the system, not a controller. As the ANC continually seeks to regulate and control, as a true socialist party would, we see labour structures stutter, investment slow, red tape increase, media constipate and apathy loom. South Africa is rearing to go and it's time for a new order.

Monday, May 5, 2008

How Opinions Shift

Here's a frank question: Who gave you your opinion?

What's particularly jarring is the thought that you didn't arrive at your opinion through insight, wisdom and a grand view of the world. And even when you had weighed up 13 pros in support of an opinion you had decided to take up, you may have completely missed the 25 cons, or even the one con that completely outweighed all the others.

With a bit of experience you'll find like me that the opinions you hold are up for renewal, decay with age and need frank reassessment fairly often. But more importantly, we often adopt an opinion by hearing it elsewhere and not giving it the proper test procedure.

What is interesting though is that a group-think can emerge which challenges traditional news sources and publications, but then commandeers opinion making in a way that they criticised the traditional outlets for. Global warming is a classic example. The traditional media outlet in this case would be something like the Bush administration. A movement arose which challenged the traditional view of industry with claims about the environment, including climate change through emissions and global warming.

Without doubt the questions they raised were valid. However, in our attempts to be independent thinkers, do we give equal consideration to the views of this new group-think as we did to the traditional media outlets. Did our natural aversion to authority lead us to evade one authority only to fall unwittingly under another?

This is not intended to be a discussion of global warming, but rather, when you examine policies of a party like the ACDP and find that you take an opposite position, pause briefly and consider where and when you were given your opinion, and whether it is indeed valid. It may be. But then it might not.

DISCLAIMER: This blog serves as a commentary and the views presented are not necessary the official views of the ACDP. For official statements and contact details, visit: