Why is it so tough to Change?

Source: Why is it so tough to Change?

We live in a fast changing world. We live in a world where you can do things in years which previously took centuries.

Eddie Cross

It took Britain 600 years to move from a backward, feudal society where 90 per cent of the population lived in absolute poverty, to the Britain of the 19th Century which was the wealthiest State on earth and ruled a third of the globe. The rest of Europe followed and the United States rose to become a global power house in a third of that time, but only because the foundations had been laid in Europe.

We can argue that much of this progress was due to societal change wrought by the Judeo/Christian revolutions that swept Europe and Britian in the 17th and 18th centuries. Rule of law, recognition of basic human rights, democracy, free enterprise, security of property, all contributed. Today the western world lives on the moral and human capital created by that era and in general the countries in this system all have average incomes that 600 years ago would have been considered impossible.

After the Second World War we saw Europe and Japan emerge from global conflict and near total destruction of their economies by war. A generation of the best died in meaningless conflict. From the ashes, led by an exceptional generation of leaders, the western world and Japan put themselves back together and in Japan, one of the most remarkable transformations in world history took place with the two worst affected countries – Germany and Japan recovering and then growing rapidly as new democracies and becoming two of the most highly developed countries in the world. The EU was born and has become the largest and most successful experiment in transnational development in history.

After the Korean War we saw Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea put together successful mini States which today has given these small nations among the highest incomes per capita in the world, without natural resources. Then the Vietnam war, one of the longest and bloodiest wars in history, involving first the French and then the United States in ignominious defeat. That coincided with the Death of Mao Zedong in China, a man who had ruled China with an iron fist since 1949.

What then happened was that extraordinary country, the USA opened its doors to the world. They promoted globalisation and free trade. Nixon visited Beijing and Deng Xiaoping became Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party. Change swept Asia, in 50 years, China became the second largest economy in the world, swamping world markets with goods and building an infrastructure that allowed China to compete anywhere. Vietnam and Cambodia followed and then India. All these countries no longer resemble what they were just 50 years ago. Billions have been lifted out of poverty.

How did this happen? The formula was simple really, the countries that took part in this real revolution; after so many previous revolutions including the 1917 Communist overthrow of the Feudal State of Russia and the Communist victory over the Nationalists in China had achieved little; all adopted a similar formula: –

  • They modelled themselves on the West.
  • They adopted the rule of law and recognised free enterprise and property rights.
  • They recognised the importance of the family.
  • They exploited the new world order, borrowed seemingly unlimited money from the old economies of the West.
  • They copied western innovation and science and quickly became innovators themselves.
  • They built amazing educational institutions and sent their children to study abroad.
  • They followed authoritarian systems of Government with strict discipline and cracked down on corruption in all forms.
  • They were stable politically and from a military point of view.

The countries who did not follow their example, stagnated, many in post-colonial stupor. Cuba, most of South America, nearly all of sub-Sahara Africa. Pakistan and other States in the Middle East and Aisia. Many of these countries are poorer than they were 50 years ago and the West is now stagnating with the weakening of the moral and ethical foundations laid by their Judeo/Christian heritage. I do not count States like the oil rich countries who live off the wealth created by the rest of the World. Where countries are unstable or engaged in conflict the position is often even worse.

My home is in Africa, in a small land locked State called Zimbabwe. We are among the richest States in the world in terms of natural resources but are a typical African State that has not just stagnated but gone backwards since being liberated by a war in 1980.

Why? In 1990 we led Africa in the struggle to educate our population, we achieved 90 per cent literacy, We received billions in aid, we lived through the period when many States, just as poor as us in 1975, were rising stars in the global economy. We led Africa in agricultural productivity, we had a diversified economy with a decent infrastructure, a strong and stable currency. Today our neighbours are actually doing better than ourselves, except for South Africa which looks increasingly unstable and is experiencing a rapid decline in income per capita with collapsing infrastructure.

What have we done wrong: –

  • We have violated the rules of law and property rights, especially in agriculture.
  • We have allowed corruption on a massive scale on the grounds that it is “our time to eat”.
  • We have not allowed our people freedom of enterprise and initiative.
  • We have consistently tried to control our currency while violating every rule of sound monetary management.
  • We have mismanaged our State controlled enterprises which in 1980 were 40 per cent of our GDP and are now all in a state of failure and constitute only 5 per cent of our economy with consequential loss of competitive edge.
  • Our failure to create opportunity has driven half our population out of the country with massive loss of skilled, educated and enterprising people.
  • Our State controlled education system is a disaster.

So today we have a much more unequal population like South Africa, with a rich elite and the great majority struggling on the edge of absolute poverty. By contrast with all the Asian Tiger States, we have been under international sanctions for most of the past 60 years, cut off from international finance but we should not make that an excuse, it has hindered growth. Our main problems are self-imposed and can be rectified only by concerted action by ourselves. The recipe is there, its quite simple really and in our case the rewards would be great. The message for our detractors is that democracy is not the answer – stability and discipline is more important.