Finding meaning in the gap between rich and poor


As we approach the 31st birthday of Zimbabwe, we are compelled to take stock of the distance travelled, successes and failures scored in reducing the inherited gap between rich and poor, and more significantly what could have been done differently in order to deliver the promise of independence in an efficient, inclusive, just and equitable manner.

It has often been argued that the post-colonial state did not create poverty, it merely inherited it.

Using this argument, a self-serving approach is then taken that poverty is a consequence of other peoples’ actions and choices forgetting that throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man and the developments, which permit this condition to be ameliorated, are the work of an extremely small minority, often despised and opposed by all right thinking people and more importantly frequently misunderstood, despised and ostracised.

Any country that attempts to keep this minority from creating wealth or drives out this class of economically active minority, the poor are the ultimate victims.

The poor want to be rich and when they reach the mountain top, are despised by the very people that benefit from their ascendancy.

It is not the difference between poverty and plenty that is the problem rather it is poverty as history has shown that the things that make one rich do not necessarily make them poor with the exception of theft.

In the animal kingdom, the law of the jungle dictates that the powerful acquire their status from the danger they pose to others and yet in the human kingdom it is possible for the weakest person through service and productivity to become the strongest economic player.

Even if all rich people, who happen to be a minority in any society, were eliminated, this would still not help the cause of the poor.

In a free society, the mountain of opportunity is scaled through a series of voluntary transactions from which wealth is generated.

Wealth, therefore, cannot be poisonous for it is normally generated from willing contracting parties.

It is easy to blame the existence of poverty in post-colonial Africa on first world greed but we should be honest in our own assessment of the journey travelled for such a critical analysis may very well reveal the economic, political and social obstacles that the post-colonial experience has raised to progress.

If we want Zimbabwe to be rich then we have no choice but to start the journey by loving people we often despise.

The post-colonial experience has been characterised by attempts to introduce socialist ideology yet universally it has been shown that despite capitalism’s reputed link to all the world’s evils, the undisputed fact remains that every single democracy is in a capitalist country.

Economic progress is inextricably linked to political freedom and the last century’s experiences with socialist experiments proved beyond doubt that tyranny cannot reduce the gap between rich and poor.

No state can be smarter than the people it is created to serve and yet socialism was created on the basis the state can be a living organism and its intervention in economic affairs would produce just and equitable outcomes.

If at independence, we had understood the true nature of the human spirit, Zimbabwe’s condition could very well have taken a different face not least because human progress is not a function of third party choices and decisions but the actions of the actors themselves and also that human imagination is best maximised where the rule of law exists and property and human rights are respected.

Governments are creatures of citizens to serve their interests.

Although they may play a role in uplifting the majority who find themselves in the valley of poverty, when they expropriate any wealth that free citizens create, it is true the present value of future national output is compromised and in so doing the power of predatory governments to destroy hope and wealth is incredible.

After 31 years of independence, we have to ask ourselves one fundamental question: “Why are some places that were not prosperous in 1980, more prosperous and thriving than Zimbabwe?” Is it a matter of brains?

Zimbabweans can rightly boast they have the brain power and yet must accept brains are not evident in the condition of the country suggesting that we ought to honestly review the ideological questions and embrace that which has been proved to work for others, that socialism is not a natural phenomenon but an attempt to engineer social outcomes forgetting that human beings are driven largely by self interest than vague and hypocritical slogans.