Why Libertarians Should Vote DA

“As our President said, the DA has been very proud to demand wholesale privatisation of state assets. What this means is that the DA wants “the democratic state to stop providing such basic goods and services to the people as water, electricity, transport, telephones and so on”.

This is precisely what the DA policies of privatisation mean. The DA has been saying that all these goods and services should be provided by the private sector rather than the democratic state…

Consistently, the DA has argued for a minimal state, claiming that this would expand the freedom of the individual. Related to this has been the equally persistent demand of the DA for maximum deregulation. The call for wholesale privatisation is consistent with and an essential part of this outlook.”

This ringing endorsement is taken from a DA-bashing piece that Malusi Gigaba, president of the ANC Youth League, wrote for ANC Today.

For the foreseeable future, elections in South Africa will be fought over economic issues. And if the DA really are as principled in their defence of the free market as Gigaba claims then, hey, where can I sign up?

Just for the record, I think Gigaba exaggerates the DA’s free market sympathies considerably, probably to inspire or frighten the ANC’s own left-wing. I mean, “transport”? Sheesh, that makes it sounds like the DA wants to turn every single road in the country into a toll road, which is simply not true. (Lately, the ANC leadership has been churning out a lot of anti-DA material that strikes me as being designed primarily for left-wing consumption, rather than being aimed at the electorate in general. Remember my earlier theory about how Mbeki’s “they want to bring back apartheid” article was entirely aimed at the ANC left? I’d link to it, but our blogging software doesn’t yet allow us to link to individual posts. Hopefully that’ll be fixed soon enough…)

The Privatisation Debate
Exaggeration or not, there are basic flaws in Gigaba’s argument. He complains that the DA wants the government “to stop providing… water, electricity, transport, telephones and so on”. By emphasising the government’s role in providing services rather than providing jobs, he’s arguing against privatisation from the consumer’s point of view. But as any consumer of water, electricity and telephones knows, the government doesn’t give you this stuff for free. Why would buying these services from a private company be any worse than buying them from the government? It’s not like it would be more expensive, as Gigaba implies. I don’t think there are any serious-minded people out there who would honestly argue that a private company couldn’t provide, say, communications, at a much cheaper rate than Telkom does. (In fact, they already do.)

Pretty much everyone admits that private companies are more efficient than government monopolies. The reason that groups like COSATU oppose privatisation isn’t because state-owned companies aren’t inefficient – it’s because they like that inefficiency. The increased efficiency that would come with private ownership – which would undoubtedly take the form of layoffs, to get fewer people doing more work – is precisely what they hope to avoid.

That’s a valid reason for opposing privatisation, if you adhere to the ideology that says the state should act as an employment agency. But you shouldn’t go and pretend, as Gigaba does, that you’re opposing privatisation for the sake of the consumer. Not when government monopolies keep prices artificially high… something I’m sure he’s aware of.