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Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Economic law and democracy – an analogy

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By Lamino Lang Comma

An economic law addresses the logistical requirements to make goods (and services) available. In a liberal economy, the market forces are sometimes found to be imperfect and misbehaving.  No wonder economists like to qualify their assumptions with ceteris paribus (all things being equal) knowing very well that things are never equal. Such a situation warrants the development of a  framework of policies and regulations that is designed to allow a system to keep a balance between the demand and the supply of quality goods and services, especially when prices are getting out of control. 

By extension, in a very general way, the logistics of producing a political leader is by way of casting of votes.  A majority of the votes cast for a contestant determines the outcome as a winner – ceteris paribus. 

Politics is a vehicle for development through the management of an economy. A management outfit is led by a leader. In politics, it is a political leader that takes on the helm of managing the resources of a country and defines the trajectory of development within a framework of a governance system in a cohesive social environment. 

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Where economic laws are formulated to regulate the market, by extension, ethics are universally recognized in politics to regulate the activities of a leader in a democratic dispensation.  They are prescribed as the values that define and underpin the character of a good leader. Good leadership has certain defined characteristics amongst which are integrity, respect, empathy, knowledge, consistency and responsibility.

Integrity is the foundation of trust that will inspire confidence and maintain credibility to uphold the values and principles that set the moral compass for a mindset of the people in an environment of honesty and accountability. 

It is often said that respect is earned and not given. It is a two-way relationship, even in the animal kingdom.  It is a privilege based on the conduct of a person; it is not a right.  It has to be deserved.

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In politics, a leader should be able to relate to and empathize with the people to understand their hardships and aspirations in order to be able to formulate responsive policies to ameliorate their condition and realise their aspirations. 

Knowledge is the foundation of decision making and good judgement. No wonder it is said that knowledge is power –  to rationalise, understand and be creative.

Ethically,  responsibility requires the recognition of some requisite universal values and principles of good leadership and to behave accordingly. These values are of a higher standard for a political leader than in the private lives of individuals.

There is indeed morality in politics.  In more specific circumstances, the character of good leadership is considered under the ethics of politics. Thus, a political leader is always under scrutiny for behaviour, utterances and decisions (judgement).

The economy has no friend. In order words, there are consequences for bad decisions in the management of one’s economic circumstances. Where the application of policies in economics have consequences, the decision of voters in an election of a political leader also has consequences too.  The outcome could go either way – a bad leadership or a good one. 

However, just as in the case of rectifying an undesirable outcome in the management of an economic  circumstance, which can take time, the course of democratically changing any political situation or leadership and the burden of bearing the outcome of a voter decision, takes several years, usually a constitutional term of office of four to seven years. The effects could last even longer.

The choice of a political leader for voters does matter. It requires a clear and  responsible campaign strategy of all parties contesting for leadership, voter awareness and objectivity to allow a prudent voter choice and an active voter participation. It further requires responsible messaging and consideration of a leadership that has the qualities and characters already mentioned herein. 

Just as the economy being no-one’s friend, by analogy, the ethical and character factors to be considered for selecting a good leader in the context of the values attached to such a position, similarly have no friend. The failings of democracy are demonstrated in the outcome of a choice of a bad leadership. The choice of voters in such a dispensation has consequences.

It appears that in developing countries there has, for a long time, been a dearth of good leaders – a lack of leaders who empathise with the people, who exercise good judgement and who develop appropriate policies, principally in the interest of their people.

Instead, such countries are overwhelmed under the yoke of bad leadership. They have very similar national characteristics too. Most of them have a high poverty rate, low standard of living and gross domestic product (GDP), demonstrate bad and poor economic management, have appalling governance records and an existential pattern of state capture. Such a status quo is sustained by sycophancy, weaponised institutions and persistent electoral fraud.

Perhaps, the codes for democratically chosen leaders in such states need to be revisited and enhanced – a regulatory system, similar to economic laws, to ensure a better outcome of the electoral processes.

Accordingly, the standard for leadership is generally and unsatisfactorily low in terms of academic and character qualifications.  A higher threshold should regulate the selection of political leaders because there are consequences to elections which, like markets, also have imperfect logistics for producing a good leader.

In recent years, debating amongst the contestants has become a constant during election periods. It gives voters the opportunity to assess them, inter alia, for their comportment, knowledge, intelligence and capacity to rationalize and understand issues of national and global importance. 

Perhaps some developing countries need more and different means and considerations for their leadership selection processes. These could include, but certainly not limited to, an open debate on reforms of electoral practices, national constitutions, term limits, lowering of ethnic and regional tensions, a benchmark on rhetoric, and so on. The jury is still out.

Just thinking aloud.

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