Wednesday 18 December 2019

Meerkats and Weavers

Trevor Watkins 15/12/2019

There is a small valley somewhere in Africa where a colony of meerkats live close to a large nest of social weavers. Each group has been quietly filling their destiny in the way nature intended, for many generations. The meerkats do not particularly like the weavers, regarding them as noisy, untidy and annoying, while the weavers think the meerkats are weird, anti-social and disapproving. Nevertheless they have got along side-by-side for generations, mostly by avoiding each other.

The meerkats often scatter seed around their colonies, which the weavers eat and enjoy. The meerkats also keep the area clear of snakes, which are the weavers' worst enemy. In turn, the large weavers nest provides welcome shade on the hot days, and the birds do provide early warning of approaching predators.

But times change, and a new and unsettling cloud of meaning drifted over the valley, driven by the winds of change blowing throughout the world. Phrases like “the majority shall govern” and “the poor and oppressed must rise” were heard in dark corners from odd folk who did not live in the valley. With their aristocratic bearing and independent lifestyle, the meerkats were quickly regarded as the enemy of the working classes, who were best represented by the weavers who worked long hours to erect great nests for the general good. After a few unpleasant incidents, a meeting of all the valley residents was called to discuss the “emergency”. The weavers liked the idea because they constituted the majority in the valley by far, while the meerkats were perfectly happy with the way things had worked in the past and saw no need for change. After days of talking and twittering, and several walkouts by the meerkats, it was decided to hold an election to elect a parliament and leaders for the valley.

Since the weavers outnumbered the meerkats 10 to 1, it was not surprising that they won the election hands down, and the majority of the seats in the new parliament. The meerkats were mildly horrified but did not know what to do - it all seemed reasonable and fair and democratic. What's the worst that could happen, they asked themselves.

Although the weavers liked the idea of being in charge now, they had no idea of what they were supposed to do next. Weavers weaved, meerkats burrowed, life went on. But soon the same odd folk who had suggested the election started suggesting some rules the weavers could pass. The meerkats could be obliged to put out more seed under the weavers nest, for the “good of the community” and to pay their share of the administration costs of the new government. When they passed this law, by a large majority, with only meerkats dissenting, pretty much nothing happened. This annoyed the bureaucrats amongst the weavers. At first they tried to get weaver birds to dive bomb the meerkats, but the meerkats just laughed this off. So the weavers made a deal with their arch enemies, the snakes, to enforce the weavers’ laws, in return for first pickings on any illegal meerkats. Pretty soon it was simpler for the meerkats to comply with the extra grain allowance than lose members to the snakes.

And so it carried on - the weaver parliament passing ever more intrusive laws, generally to the disadvantage of the meerkats. All entrances had to be entered from below - just like a weaver's nest, but insane for a ground dwelling meerkat. All nests were limited to a maximum size, which just happened to be the size of an individual weavers nest, but was hopelessly inadequate for a meerkat warren. When the meerkats appealed to the weavers to just leave things the way they had always been, the weavers told the meerkats they were anti-democratic, unprogressive, and worst of all, conservative. The peace and cooperation of the little valley was shattered, in the interests of the common good.

Of course, after a few months of this, the meerkats just abandoned their warren one night and moved away. The weavers were enraged and passed many resolutions condemning this selfish behaviour, to no avail. The weavers had become used to their extra ration of seed, which was no longer available. Worst of all, the snakes which had been kept busy enforcing the rules on the meerkats now had nothing to do, so they went back to their old ways of attacking the weavers nest. Soon, the weavers nest fell into disrepair and began to crumble.

And the moral of this story? A majority confers no moral authority, it is just a majority. Individuals do best when left alone to compete for themselves using tried and trusted approaches. What works for a weaver does not necessarily work for a meerkat, or anyone else. Individual choice is more important than collective good.

Wednesday 27 November 2019

New Principles for the DA

by Trevor Watkins 27/11/2019

After a long period of confusion the DA has finally agreed to adopt a principle-based policy going forward. This is great news, but do they really mean it?

A principle is a fundamental truth that serves as the foundation for a system of behaviour. It is a statement that is true at all times and in all places. It must be consistent. It is not subject to negotiation. It does not vary with polling numbers. It is not influenced by the current consensus.

So before adopting a principle you had better be sure that you agree with it and that you are prepared to die on a hillside defending it. You cannot choose which bits and pieces of the principle you wish to defend, and which to ignore. It really is all or nothing, or else the process is pointless.

The issue that has split the DA revolves around the principle of non-racialism. This appears to say that race will not be a factor in making decisions about people and policies. However the ANC proclaims a wildly different view of non-racialism, believing that demographic representivity in all spheres somehow represents a form of non-racialism. For awhile, the DA seemed to believe this too. Obviously a robust and consistent definition of non-racialism is required.

But mere non-racialism is a far too limited position. The real principle we must seek to extract is how we deal with each other as individuals, and the relationship between the individual and the state. The summary of the principle is that we respect each other's sovereignty, the right of each individual to make his or her own decisions completely free of the influence of others, except when those decisions may impact on the equal freedom of others.

Race is just one aspect of this wider principle. Freedom of speech, religion, sexual preference, preferred economic system, the right to life itself, are all intimately involved in the principle of freedom of choice. Freedom of choice means removing the stultifying hand of government from the lives of ordinary individuals. Instead of regulations prescribing every aspect of life, freedom of choice will allow individuals to make their own decisions. Government can offer solutions such as education, health, social grants, business development, etcetera but it cannot and should not force citizens to participate in, or fund, what they do not use.

Of course if individuals really are free to choose they should be entitled to choose the government programs they wish to support with their funds and attention. If something like unemployment is the biggest challenge of the day, then let them put their tax funds specifically towards relieving unemployment. If others think that education is the problem then likewise let their tax funds go to education. Ultimately in a free to choose state individuals should have complete control over the disposition of their personal funds. This is all a logical consequence of the idea of empowering citizens through personal choice. It would represent a sea change in DA policy but it might well resonate strongly with members of the public.

What about the issue of redress for past grievances? It suits the ANC very well to make this a cornerstone of their policy because of the pressure it places on whites in particular. Despite the outrage this would precipitate, I believe the DA should adopt as a principle that only the actual perpetrators of a crime are responsible for its consequences. The unborn should not have to pay for the crimes of the long dead. This can only result in a society held hostage to ghosts.

Of course past actions lead to current inequalities, differences in outcomes and wealth. This has always been true and is not unique to apartheid and South Africa. These differences must be resolved by current actions.

Direct government control of every aspect of society through myriad rules and regulations has become so entrenched in our Society that many will find it virtually impossible to imagine an alternative scenario.

Amusingly the free to choose (or user pays) principle is nevertheless the Foundation of Sanral's justification for its tolling system on Gauteng roads. Individuals should be free to choose which school they send their children to, which hospitals they prefer, what salary they choose to work for, what kind of house they choose to build and in what place. These are all reasonable concepts made fantastical by our current dictatorial state.

If the DA is looking for a change of principles that will surely reverberate through the country and quite possibly the world, then I suggest the principle of individual freedom of choice going forward.

Sunday 1 September 2019

A virtual country

New Zealand consists of about 4 million people, mostly white and western. It is a country in two parts, north and south. The inhabitants are mostly peaceful, hard-working, thoughtful people. New Zealand has stringent immigration restrictions which limit who may become citizens of this country.

Imagine that the leaders of a neighbouring country, such as Indonesia, decided they were entitled to rule New Zealand because they had more people. Imagine these leaders levied a heavy tax on the native New Zealanders, and then repatriated this income to their friends and cronies. Imagine that these leaders took over all the functions of government such as police, health and education and placed only Indonesians in all these jobs. Imagine that these Indonesian usurpers pursued a program of looting, death and destruction amongst the civilian populace.

The outcry would be enormous. New Zealanders would take up arms against the perceived invaders. Civil War would be inevitable. The Commonwealth and United Nations would come to the aid of the beleaguered New Zealanders. The USA would move aircraft carriers to the vicinity and demand immediate Indonesian withdrawal. Chaos would Reign.

South African whites consist of about 4 million people of mostly western descent. They are spread throughout the physical area of South Africa but are generally concentrated in 5 urban areas, in the north and the south. South African whites are mostly peaceful, hard-working and diligent.

Nevertheless, the leaders of the black population believe they are entitled to rule over the whites and other population groups because they have more people. They levy a heavy tax which is mostly borne by a segment of the white population. They have taken over all the functions of government such as policing, health and education and only place blacks in the majority of these jobs. They allow a program of looting, death and destruction amongst the white civilian populace to continue with almost no hindrance.

There is no world outcry at all. The United Nations is silent. South African whites do not take up arms against their rulers. No one is expected to come to the aid of these beleaguered white South Africans. Chaos Reigns.

I suggest that white South Africans should regard themselves as a separate virtual country embedded within the boundaries of the current South Africa. They should make a unilateral Declaration of Independence from the existing South African state. They should identify and elect their own leaders and political structures. They should cease paying tax to the South African state and begin contributions to their own new virtual state. They should set up structures of their own for activities such as defence and security, education, health and welfare. They should begin a process of population registration which would decide who would be citizens of this virtual state. They should put in place stringent immigration policies which would decide entry into the virtual state.

For many this will seem like a return to the bad old days of apartheid. But the existing ANC government continues to insist upon a racially divided and classified nation. It insists that some racial groups are discriminated against, treated differently, ineligible for positions in government. This proposal merely takes existing ANC policy and applies it to a class defined as white, instead of black.

Whites already have to make private arrangements for their own security, education, health and many municipal services. Many of them already live in separated walled-off estates. They already constitute most of the economic base of the country. What have they got to lose?

Sunday 28 July 2019

U4I - Union for Individuals

by Trevor Watkins

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’
Buckminster Fuller - Architect / Designer / Futurist / Author

What idea would attract the interest of your average township gogo, trying to sell vegetables from a roadside stall?
What would interest a rural mother of 5 with a drunken husband eking out a precarious existence living on tribal land?
How can you explain the downsides of minimum wage to millions of unemployed workers?
How can you conduct a countrywide poll of the poorest of the poor in a matter of minutes?
How can you credibly address the security issues of middle class South Africans?

Here is an idea that can tick all of these boxes.

Some current realities

  • South Africa is on the verge of a catastrophe.
  • Opposition politics is a black hole which sucks up funds and energy without return.
  • The vast majority of South Africans of all classes have some access to cell phone technology.
  • Ordinary individuals are the largest oppressed group in SA
  • Unions have near unlimited power and access to the state
  • Jobs, not race or land, is the biggest issue for most South Africans
  • The ANC has provided significant benefits, economic and social, to millions of poor South Africans, who remain grateful and loyal to the ANC as a result
  • We have much to learn, and to fear, from the Chinese

Some current myths

  • Black people must be stupid because they keep voting for the ANC
  • White people are no longer relevant to, or influential in, the future of South Africa
  • Our current problems can be solved by doing what we’ve always done before
  • Our past defines our future
  • Socialism can work here, or anywhere else.


Many solutions are proposed
  • BBBEE, NHI, prescribed assets, endless bailouts, improved social grants
  • Commissions on jobs, poverty, state capture, corruption, education, security, SMME’s
  • Emigration
  • Secession
  • Better education through private initiatives

Characteristics of a workable solution

It must directly involve the vast majority of South Africans, across all races and classes
  1. It must improve their lives significantly in the short term
  2. It must be affordable to all
  3. It must be new and different, not simply a recycled version of a past failed strategy
  4. It must be non-political, non-racial, independent of the level of education and income
  5. It must be popular - it should appeal to most people
  6. It must be professionally and privately administered and managed, without corruption


To address these issues, I suggest the following new model:
  1. Setup a new business, provisionally known as the Union for Individuals (U4I). Register it as a union.
  2. U4I will act as a union for individuals, providing services, protecting their rights, and advocating on their behalf.
  3. The precedent for this is Afriforum, which is linked to the Solidarity trade union and promotes the protection of Afrikaner culture. However, Afriforum excludes the majority of the SA population, who have a deep culture of union membership.
  4. U4I will charge a nominal annual membership, such as R10. It will undertake projects on behalf of individuals, like Afriforum does for Afrikaners. Court actions, protests, dissemination of information, special services.
  5. A new Android app, provisionally called App4U, similar to the Vodacom LINK app, will be developed. (See
  6. Members will be registered on App4U for free. The app will have the following facilities:
  7. Members can setup local security groups amongst friends and relatives. The people who agree to be in your group will be notified if you have an emergency, along with your location.
  8. Members can report less urgent problems using the App4U, for attention and possible resolution by U4I employees, local councillors, state officials.
  9. Instant polls of members on specific issues can be quickly and easily conducted and tallied.
  10. Members can communicate, offer and request goods and services, interact with each other, like on Whatsapp. A marketplace for work seekers will arise, which prospective employers can access.
  11. App4U will provide the contact details for all levels of government in a structured search, similar to the LINK apps’ councillor and ward database. Complaints and queries will be recorded on the app and shared with the targeted officials. The app will provide facilities such as standardised emails to selected officials. A history of interactions with officials will be kept, and available for public interrogation. Non-performing officials will be quickly identified.
  12. U4I can directly communicate with members through broadcasts. This can be used to rapidly spread awareness of important issues, such as widespread fires, rioting, weather problems. It can also be used to educate members on new legislation, better practices, tips, etc.
  13. The app will track your reputation. Abuse of other members or app facilities will lower your reputation. Frequent assistance and problem resolution will raise your reputation.
  14. The app will probably fund itself through targeted advertising.
  15. U4I management will be able to conduct polls, track developing issues, alert authorities, act to resolve issues before they escalate.


  1. None of the technology proposed is new. The Vodacom LINK software could probably be used without change initially.
  2. The app addresses a fundamental issue of most South Africans, security, quickly and efficiently.
  3. It may also assist job seekers, small enterprises, education.
  4. U4I will establish a wide and deep network of members who can assist fellow members in need, provide critical intelligence on needs and shortages, offer advice to many simultaneously.

Next steps

  1. Find a backer for this idea with sufficient funds and infrastructure and motivation.
  2. Setup a project team.
  3. Contact the developers of the Link app at , or, The App Factory (Pty) Ltd, 11th Floor Convention Tower, Cnr Heerengracht and Walter Sisulu Avenue, Foreshore, Cape Town.
  4. Register U4I as a union.
  5. Test the idea in a controlled localised trial.
  6. Develop a marketing strategy.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Future Money

by Trevor Watkins

Initially Fractional Reserve Banking (FRB) was criticised from the perspective of the person depositing funds with the bank. Since the bank theoretically lent out multiples of their deposit, there is a potential for fraud and loss to the depositor. However, if the bank honours the terms of its agreement with the depositor (your money is available whenever you call for it), there is no fraud or loss. Bank runs are actually very rare.

Then the debate centred around the dangers to the economy of the bank creating "new" money without full backing. Leon said new money was not created, Dawie said it was. Even Von Mises warned of the dangers. I think it is patently obvious that new money is created when a bank makes a loan in excess of its reserves. However, I no longer think this is a bad thing.

My new insight is that banks are lending "future" money - money which has not yet come into existence, but will as a result of the loan. Consider this scenario:

  1. A builder wishes to erect a block of flats but does not have the necessary capital for materials and labour. The maximum credit period he will get from suppliers and labourers is 30 days. However, his bank will give him sufficient credit for the entire project for 5 years, if it judges him to be a good risk.
  2. The bank lends the builder R5 million for 5 years. This loan plus all its others exceeds its reserves (but hopefully by not more than the almost pointless statutory amount). Because the bank's credit is trusted by the suppliers and labourers, the bank makes the money available as a bookkeeping entry in the builders account. (ie, it does not have to produce actual gold or silver to convince people it will honour the demands)
  3. This is now "real" money. As soon as the labourer or supplier spends money paid from the builder, it is in the economy doing useful things. But it is only backed by trust in the bank, for now. Because the bank aggregates many deposits and loans, it can meet all demands through judicious management.
  4. This ability of the bank to stimulate new production by issuing unbacked loans is wonderful for the economy. It is a form of private Keynesianism. Through a network of trust it persuades and assists people to take risks they might not otherwise take.
  5. The builder completes his block of flats and starts receiving rent. He uses this to repay his loan from the bank, plus interest. The loan IS NOW BACKED by the funds and real asset created by the builder. The future money loaned by the bank becomes real money on the banks books. Everyone is happy - the builder has a productive asset, the bank has more money than it started with, the workers and suppliers have all been paid at profit.

Sunday 2 June 2019

The Present - June 2019

by Trevor Watkins 2/6/19
In June 2018 I wrote an essay entitled "The Future". I outlined 3 possible future scenarios, the Greek, the Zimbabwe and the Ramaphosa scenarios. Despite sturdy attempts to get this published on Politicsweb and elsewhere, it received little or no public exposure other than on the Individualist Movement blog and Facebook group.

I revisited this essay in June 2019, and was quite pleased at how accurately at least one of the scenarios had played out. - the so-called Ramaphosa scenario. Of course, if you paint enough scenarios, at least one of them is likely to be close. 

I did put in some hard predictions, like the election results. The actual results (with my predictions in brackets) were: ANC 57% (55%), DA 20% (20%), EFF 10% (15%). Except for the EFF, pretty close.

I also predicted that the ANC would split before the end of the year. Ramaphosa seems to have done a good job of unifying the party, so that seems less likely now. However, the probability of a split in the DA seems to be growing, with Mmusi Maimane heading the ANC-lite wing, and Zille and others going back to their liberal roots. The good news is that the EFF came nowhere near the feared 15%, and also seems to be sailing in fairly troubled waters. I must confess that the resurgence of the FF+ (and to a lesser extent, the IFP) caught me (and everybody else) by surprise.

I think that the potential for catastrophic fiscal shocks, as described in the other 2 scenarios, is still lurking out there, but a more sensible cabinet and a less corrupt government may yet succeed in overcoming them.  Unfortunately, I still think my last line of the scenario remains most likely.
Late 2019
Ramaphosa remains president of a deeply divided country.
South Africa stumbles along with no major policy shifts and poor future prospects.
For your information, here is the original and untouched prediction.
Ramaphosa scenario

Late 2018
The “Incident” does not occur. Eskom or SAA do not default on their loans, there is no natural disaster,  assassination,or epidemic.
The fragile fiscal house of cards remains intact.
The government manages to borrow enough money to avoid catastrophe. Salaries, grants, creditors continue to be paid.
The rand declines, the stock market declines, service delivery protests continue.
Ramaphosa’s government continues to strengthen, prosecutes corruption, reduces size of cabinet, makes reassuring noises on EWC.
The delicate juggling act begins to pay off for Cyril.
EFF and the Zuma faction become ever more hysterical, and irrelevant.
The DA continues to flounder.
Malema’s star begins to wane. Internal dissensions in EFF mount. Court cases takes their toll on Zuma and Malema.
Early 2019
Early elections announced. Ramaphosa under huge pressure from radical elements in ANC and EFF. In order to curry favour with ANC base, several businesses and farms expropriated in high profile cases.
Court cases challenging expropriation ensue.  DA is enraged. Ratings agencies threaten further downgrades.
Elections take place. ANC wins 55% majority, EFF 15%, DA 20%.
Economy continues to crumble. Growth rate is negative 1%. Little new fixed investment. Unemployment reaches 50%.
ANC splits into verligte wing, committed to market friendly policies and economic recovery, and verkrampte wing committed to ongoing socialist policies.
Verligte wing absorbs most black members of DA, forms the DANCe party. Remains titular government under Ramaphosa, with narrow majority.
Verkrampte wing (called the ANC Loyalists League) merges with the EFF, forms the EFFALL party.
Remainder of DA becomes a liberal party.
Separatist movement in Western Cape gains strength. Tax revolt in Western Cape.
Basic services in northern provinces severely compromised.
Mid 2019
DANCe party encounters major internal strategic and philosophical differences. Majority dwindles due to desertions.
Service delivery rioting increases around country. Riots move from dusty townships into leafy suburbs.Many middle class suburbs in Western Cape and Gauteng become walled cities with own management, independent of state entities.
Tax collections plummet, adding to pressure on fiscus.
Late 2019
Ramaphosa remains president of a deeply divided country.
South Africa stumbles along with no major policy shifts and poor future prospects.

New Zealand Reflections

by Trevor Watkins 24/5/2019

I spent a happy four weeks in April and May 2019 visiting my daughter and her family in New Zealand. I undertook this arduous and expensive journey in order to reassure myself that all was well with their recent immigration to this new country. I really need not have bothered. They seemed happier, safer and more comfortable than I remembered them in South Africa.

However, this was a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of life outside the South African pot. Embedded inside Africa we are so overwhelmed by the boiling water all around us that we rarely get to think how life might be in a safe, peaceful, cooperative world.

Paraparaumu, where my daughter and her family live, is a reasonably large middle class suburb 60km outside Wellington. It would seem to be the epitome of the successful town planners dream.

Everything is well ordered. The roads are clean, the pavements are level, there are bike paths everywhere, all the services and utilities seem to be taken care of. Like waves on the sea, every house is different,every house is the same. All plots seem to be between 500 square metres and 1000 square metres. Almost all are wooden frame houses mostly with fake brick fronts. There are few or no tall poppies, few or no weeds. It looks like a wonderful place to live, to raise your kids and perhaps to retire.

But it is a society that seems to have traded freedom and innovation for order and safety. I am sure the municipal planning departments’ word is absolute law. Individuals do not decide, the community decides. Most people seem to be very happy with this arrangement. They cannot picture another way of organising things.

There are some worms in the woodwork. House prices are very high. It seems as though a majority of New Zealanders are obliged to rent. Growth and salaries have remained flat. Citizens from more productive economies, such as China and the USA, are buying up much of the property stock. Inevitably this leads to calls for more restrictive immigration policies.

New Zealand is high on many indexes of human satisfaction. It is third on the economic freedom of the world ranking. It has little or no violence or unrest. It is largely a society made up of just two population groups, the Maoris and the overwhelming majority of English descendant Settlers. But it appears to lack the energy and drive of a Hong Kong or Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Us Western folk just don't choose to work as hard as them Asians.

From a libertarian perspective this is a very buttoned down country. Not many “Give me Liberty or give me death” types cruising the back lanes of the country in their pickups with their rifles easily to hand. From a New Zealand perspective, that could be distinctly dangerous. I battled to find any current New Zealand libertarian links on the internet. Finally a friend referred me to the very blandly named Not PC blog at Its byline proclaims the site as “Promoting capitalist acts between consenting adults”.

ACT New Zealand is a right-wing, classical-liberal political party. The name comes from the initials of the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers, founded in 1993.
ACT bases its philosophy on individual freedom and personal responsibility. ACT sets out its values thus:
  • That individuals are the rightful owners of their own lives and therefore have inherent freedoms and responsibilities
  • That the proper purpose of government is to protect such freedoms and not to assume such responsibilities.
The party's current leader and only member of parliament is David Seymour. During the 2017 general election, ACT kept its sole seat in Epsom near Auckland and gained 0.5% of the popular vote. However, the party has had as many as 9 members elected in the past, and has shared coalition government with the National Party, with 2 cabinet ministers.

I made several attempts to contact ACT with a view to meeting a local representative, unfortunately without success.

If the magnificent “Gallipoli” exhibition at the Te Kapa museum on the Wellington waterfront is anything to go by, New Zealanders appear to celebrate the fact that many thousands of young men freely volunteered to fight a foolish war for a very distant and foreign king. Although I think this self-sacrifice should be regretted rather than celebrated, nevertheless, there is no denying the bravery and fortitude of these ANZAC soldiers. I did leave a suggestion with the museum that they set up a space at the end of the tour where people can talk with each other and perhaps Museum staff about the meaning and significance of the exhibition. I also suggested that the museum include the text of Wilfred Owen's classic poem regarding the First World War, “Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori”. However I fear that the last line of the poem would not suit the theme of the exhibition - “My friend, you would not tell with such high zest, To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: how sweet it is to die for one’s country”. Both suggestions were positively received in an email I subsequently received from the museum administration.

Perhaps even more so than South Africa, New Zealand is extraordinarily beautiful. After a tour of the South Island your eyes begin to hurt when you see yet another magnificent vista of oceans, bays, mountains and forests. Although narrow and windy, the roads are in excellent condition, particularly given the extremely challenging nature of the terrain through which they must be built. This is a relatively wealthy Society, as evidenced by the masses of sophisticated campervans everywhere.
New Zealand has a wonderful concept called free camping. Plots of land near tourist spots are set aside for tourists to use absolutely free, so long as they have some means of disposing of human waste. This being New Zealand, most of the free campsites we used nevertheless had clean and working toilets on site.

Whilst cycling around Paraparaumu I even had a brush with the New Zealand law. A police car stopped in front of me very deliberately. A policeman stepped out of the car and asked me who I was and what I was doing. He informed me that a person matching my description had been accused of verbally abusing people from his bicycle. I explained that all us old men tend to look alike (grey grizzly beard, balding heads, overweight bodies) and that I thought he was mistaken. I also mentioned that I had only been in the country 2 weeks. He seemed to accept my explanation, but did suggest that I wear a helmet while cycling.

He had a very good-looking female partner and, on a whim, I asked if he would take a photo of me with his partner. Looking somewhat bemused he nevertheless graciously agreed and I got probably the best photo of my trip. I mounted my bike and carried on down the road only to be cut off by a second police car about 3 minutes later. A much more brusque police officer jumped out and asked me the same questions again. However his radio appeared to inform him that I had already been inspected and with a curt “wear a safety helmet in future, mate”, he jumped back in his car and disappeared. I was very impressed with the efficiency and seriousness which with which the local police took a complaint of verbal abuse.

Many South Africans have moved to New Zealand in the fairly recent past. In the last 6 months alone, 5,535 people have moved permanently from South Africa to New Zealand.  Mike and Gill Waiting, 2 of my oldest friends, have been in Hastings on the North Island for many years. I had the great pleasure of spending a night with them on my trip north with Meg and Dave. They are happily settled, surrounded by grandchildren, and doing the things that make them happy. Both are still gainfully employed, whether for financial or personal reasons is not entirely clear.  I also discovered that the privatised New Zealand postal service works well and cheaply, when Gill’s binoculars were safely returned to her in a day or so, after she left them in our car.

Buses and trains work so well that you can actually rely on them for transport. The bus arrives within a minute or two of the advertised time and coordinates with the train to Wellington that most people are catching. The trains are clean and comfortable and also run strictly on time. However the early morning trains are very crowded and one must be prepared to stand for the hour-long trip. 
 Passengers on the trains are very reserved and English. They do not chit-chat or pass the time of day, but sit or stand in little cones of isolation. By and large men or young adults do not appear to give up their seats for women or the elderly.

Relative to South Africa New Zealand is expensive. The Rand/New Zealand dollar conversion rate is 10 to 1. Eating out, house prices, transport, entertainment are all seriously expensive by South African standards. However if you are earning New Zealand dollars the pain seems to be considerably less. 

Housing is a very big deal in New Zealand and most people aspire to owning their own home. It is also a major factor in local politics. Nevertheless it appears that up to 40% of New Zealanders are currently renting their place of abode.

I enjoyed visiting New Zealand. I enjoyed being surrounded by English people just like me. I enjoyed the cleanliness and the efficiency. Here crime and corruption is just not a factor in the vast majority of people's lives. 
New Zealanders seem passionately loyal to the society and the system they have built, despite the fact that it is a largely socialist Society. There is widespread concern about the underprivileged, the environment, safety, order. I think it would be a good place to retire even though I would find some of their practices annoying. No doubt some New Zealanders would find me annoying.

I finally came to the conclusion that if they would have me, I would move to New Zealand. Unfortunately as the law currently stands this is not a possibility.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my daughter and her family for putting me up, ferrying me around, and feeding me regularly. I owe a similar debt to my old friend Peter Woodhall who drove me around South Island for a week with grace and forbearance.

Tuesday 19 March 2019


Trevor Watkins' reply to an article on Politicsweb called “Freedom vs Social Welfare” by Gwen Ngwenya, from awhile back. The reply was labelled as spam and never published.

Lets start with the Rawles thought experiment. What is the best starting condition for entering a society you know nothing about? Any assumption you make could be wrong. You could be entering as a peasant under Genghis Khan. You could enter as a French aristocrat in 1788. The simplest and most comprehensive general condition would be: No one may take action against me without my consent. No matter where you arrived, your life and property and opportunity to prosper would be protected.

If you arrived bandaged head to toe, unable to move and helpless, your life would depend on the charity of others. Who is most likely to help you? Would it be one of the many charities dedicated to humanitarian assistance without question, like Red Cross or Doctors without borders, or an official from the government who would want to know where you came from, do you have valid papers, how did you get bandaged, what are your intentions, do you plan to work here.

As a simple matter of principle, taking the property of another without consent is theft, no matter who does it or how good their intentions. Being robbed by a gang called government is just like being robbed by any other gang.

Gwen believes I owe a debt to society simply by being born into it. I have no say in the matter, although I never agreed to any contract incurring debt, I have no clear idea of who the debt is in favour of, what is the amount, what are the terms, can I ever repay it in full. This is a convenient fiction for those claiming the debt, with no basis in justice whatsoever.

There is a very simple test of the morality of any position - if it requires the first use of force it is immoral. If you can collect your taxes without threatening me and others with force, go for it. Once you have these voluntary taxes, spend them as you will, like any other owner of property. If you spend them badly, do not expect many further voluntary contributions. But if the only way you can get my property is by threatening me with force, then your taxation is theft.

Truly critical services, like the supply of food and drink, are too important to be left in the incompetent hands of government. Here we must rely on competing private enterprises who operate on a purely voluntary basis, offering me goods and services I desire in exchange for my cash. This system works brilliantly, so why not privatise all government services?

What about the poor and helpless? Like the victims of the Esidimeni tragedy? The government safety net is a mirage, a fiction. If you want to protect the best interests of the poor and marginalised, do not rely on thugs who use violence to seize your funds in order to feather their own nests at the expense of everyone.

Friday 25 January 2019

Seize the DA

by Trevor Watkins.

There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

The Democratic Alliance has been suffering some serious slings and arrows in the recent past. From Helen Zille suggesting a tax boycott in the Cape to the very public resignation of Gwen Ngwenya as policy chief, the optics for the DA have been poor just a few months prior to the election. In this piece I propose a novel and outrageous solution to the DA's problems.

Here are just a few of the challenges currently facing the DA:
  • The ANC looks set to win the next election with an increased majority at the expense of the DA
  • There is a real danger that the DA will lose control of the Western Cape and Cape Town.
  • There is widespread dissatisfaction amongst supporters with the “all things to all men” spread of DA policies
  • Whilst most DA policies are sensible, they do not light any fires in men's souls. They are boring.
I propose that the Democratic Alliance adopt the policy of Cape independence.

There is a groundswell of support for Cape Independence, as evidenced by the numerous parties and organisations supporting it. Pieter Marais of the Freedom Front Plus has just endorsed the policy. The Cape party has been punting the idea for the past 10 years and has a reasonable level of support. New organisations such as Capexit, Gatvol Capetonians, Sovereign Cape party and the United Liberty Alliance (ULA) all have their own claim to support and membership running into the tens of thousands.

Over the last 5 years the ULA have completed all the legal requirements to apply for secession in terms of article 235 of the South African Constitution. All that remains to be done is for the premier of the Western Cape to schedule a referendum. If 2 million voters support Cape independence in a referendum then it will become a legal reality

There are many advantages for the DA in an independent Cape.
  1. While they have no conceivable chance of winning the election in the greater South Africa, they are almost certain to be the dominant party in the Cape.
  2. All the secession players are committed to a confederation of states based on the Swiss canton model with minimal Central Government power, very much in line with the liberal ideals of the DA.
  3. Individual cantons could have widely differing policies, from the near socialism of the current DA, all the way to the free market and classic liberal policies of Helen Zille. The demonstration effect will quickly show which of these policies is superior.
  4. The DA will have the chance to correct the opportunity missed at Codesa when the ANC and the Nats colluded to impose a central state on the entire country.
  5. If Cape secession succeeds there is a real possibility that KwaZulu-Natal will choose to follow.
  6. With Trump in power, and with the spectre of a collapsing Zimbabwe looming across the border, there is a real possibility that such a seceded State will win the recognition of at least the United States of America.
  7. It will be a unique opportunity to finally put a halt to the dominance and hegemony of the socialist ANC within all of South Africa.
Of course there might be a few problems too.
  1. The DA will probably forfeit most of its black vote in the rest of South Africa. That is really only an issue in Gauteng.
  2. Such a move will accelerate the decline and collapse of the remainder of South Africa.
  3. Whilst some very detailed analyses have shown that the Western Cape can survive economically as an independent entity, there will nevertheless be hardships.
  4. An independent Cape will probably be required to fight a war on its borders sooner rather than later.
  5. An independent Cape will probably be required to deal with some serious protest and destruction from disaffected members of its existing population.
  6. If international recognition is not quickly forthcoming then the survival of the infant State could be seriously at risk. 
To be of any value such a decision must be made before the national elections. This leaves a very short time frame. Fortunately much of the leg work has already been done by the existing secession organisations.

Does the DA have the courage, the leadership, and the testicular fortitude to undertake such a dramatic step? Probably not. Perhaps it will require a secession within the DA itself first.

Thursday 10 January 2019

Prince Alberts Water

by Colin Bower

Concerning water, and other issues. Or why the Prince Albert (PA) Municipality does not secure my goodwill in respect of its ever more frantic requests to “save” water.

I know we are in a dire drought (although the more relevant point is the extent to which that drought affects the area of the town of PA itself), and I am against profligacy of any kind, and certainly in respect of water.

Why then am I half-hearted in my willingness to conform to the Municipality’s strictures on water usage (90 litres pp per day) ? To answer that I have to go back to two fundamental points that some may find all too academic or theoretical in the face of what they see as a crisis. Too bad. We still have to go back to those fundamentals. For a period of well over 2000 years water rights in the western world have been governed by common law riparian rights which trace their origin to Justinian and for all I know earlier. A riparian right is (or was in South Africa) a property right and respect for property rights is a cornerstone of freedom. In the USA riparian rights are protected from Government appropriation by the Constitution). Until 1998, water in South Africa was regulated by riparian common law also. Then the government passed the Water Act, which appropriated the ownership of all water in SA to the government, placed it under statutory law and became the monopoly supplier of water in our country. Therefore, none of us have an inalienable right to our leiwater, irrespective of our property title deeds, and no farmer has an inalienable right to the water under his or her land. This at a stroke destroyed the market in water or the possibility of a market in water ever emerging. But a market is the sole and exclusive means for establishing an agreed and objective cost of a product. The concept of the establishment of price by means of supply and demand is a concept that goes back to Aristotle (somewhat further back than that bĂȘte noire of the social justice warriors, Adam Smith).

Without a means of determining a true price for water we are denied the means of managing it effectively. We cannot establish any economic model that will objectively determine the respective ratios between capital costs, distribution costs, operational costs, and price. There is a further factor that serves to hinder the emergence of a real price for water, and to obfuscate our understanding of just what water is deemed to be (my view: simply a commodity): The Constitution makes provision of water as a right. Social justice warriors will applaud this. I don’t. Water comes at a cost, but if the government is both morally bankrupt and financially bankrupt, how does a right that comes at a cost get to be enforced? It can’t be. It is a right on paper only. But the effect of this provision of the Constitution coupled with the nationalisation of water serves to take water completely out of the realm of the law of supply and demand, and it turns water supply from a simply economic transaction into a quasi-spiritual benefit (“water is life … water is a right”). Again, this seems to have a wonderful moral resonance, but in actuality it frees water suppliers such as PAM from any practical, purposeful and business-centred obligation to account for the water it supplies. It has no idea what the water it procures and supplies costs, and it has no idea what to charge for it. For instance, what is the cost of water loss through faulty piping systems, and what is the cost of repairing the pipes relatives to the cost of the losses? Ally to this systemic failure some level of operational incompetence and you have the disaster which we currently experience.

If our problems are systemic at the national level, as I allege, then we will never solve them at the local level – and this is the problem we face. But we can mitigate the effect of such a systemic failure. We can best do so by privatising the supply of water in our town, as a number of other municipalities in SA have already done with success. (iLembe., pop; 34 000; Mbombele; pop; 35 000), and others). In a 2014 article the privatisation of water supply was recommended by the Mail & Guardian.

But it is too much to hope for that this course will be followed here. Our next best solution is to commercialise the supply of water. The water supply can remain under the jurisdiction of the PAM but sub-contracted out to a for-profit specialising water engineering company (they exist in South Africa) , an arrangement that will enforce the development and implementation of a proper and a sound economic model, that will enforce operational efficiencies, and that will place the sub-contractor under penalty for failure. This will also mean that we get to have a true cost of our water, and – as under all market conditions – the scarcer the resource, the costlier it will become. If this means – as seems likely – that the cost of water may be prohibitively high for the poor, the problem can be addressed by means of a subsidy or, say, a voucher system. At least under these circumstances we will know exactly what we are dealing with in respect of supply and demand, cost and price. I am confident that a private for -profit sub-contractor will find means of adequately sourcing water for all the needs of the town. And it is worth remembering that at the landmark Water Indaba held in our town some 10 years ago Rick Murray told us that the problem with water management in PA was unrealistically cheap water.

If even commercialisation represents medicine too strong for social justice warriors, shouldn’t we at least have in place in the PAM a well-qualified, professional, water engineer? Wouldn’t many of us even be prepared to pay a premium on our rates for the costs of such a person? The post of the MM costs taxpayers well over R1-million a year – couldn’t we dispense with the post of an MM in favour of a qualified water engineer, given the fact that water supply is the sine qua non of the viability of our town?

I have previously attempted to explain my view that party political councillor candidature is unnecessary and divisive in a town such as ours, and that we would be better off with a council of independents. But since we do have a party-political council, isn’t it the least we can expect to get well thought our water supply policy statements from the various parties competing for council positions (to say nothing of policy positions regarding re-cycling, solid waste management and the like)? Are all the political parties in Council at one regarding the current water situation, and at one regarding the water restrictions? If so, why are they at one? I would feel re-assured if any of the political parties had raised concerns about the water management performance of the Municipality (perhaps they have). At the same time, I would like to be re-assured that the restrictions have been duly authorised, and I would like to know whether the restrictions are an advisory or a legal demand.

My sense is that the PAM is both unqualified to manage water supply and operationally incompetent to do so. And so, the moment its water supply system begins to fail, it drops the problem in the laps of the residents with the instruction: “You only have 90 litres a day”. But I don’t want the problem dropped in my lap, I want it solved at source, and it is for such a solution that I pay swingeing taxes of all kinds. Again, let me say: I know there are consequences of a drought … I am committed to water conservancy … and I know I live in Africa, and I am happy to do so. But I expect to live in conformity with first world living standards, as – in effect – all the people addressed by this communication are. Our town is a first world destination, and everyone in it is to a lesser or a greater degree dependent on our visitors, but perhaps the poor community more than most.

In the absence of any reasonably scientific data supporting the 90-litre pp per day restriction I regard it as arbitrary and irrational – irrational for many reasons, but here are a few. Many residents grow vegetables and fruit. This is not a middle-class indulgence. Domestic crops reduce dependency on food brought into the town by means of food miles. How do we equate the value of the water thus used and the environmental impact of imported products? Many people have businesses that are dependent on water yet produce positive benefits for the town. Many others offer accommodation, but here we are faced with a conundrum: why should the needs of visitors trump the needs of the inhabitants? Swimming pools are seen by some as an indulgence, but I fully support the existence of the municipal pool and the pleasure and health it brings to countless residents of the North End of town, but why should private pools – also the source of pleasure and health to many people – be regarded differently?

I dislike being admonished either formally or informally as if I were a naughty boy. Instead of claiming that the residents use too much water, why not say instead that the Municipality supplies too little water and put the blame for water shortage where it belongs. I use as little water as I deem to be reasonable, but I do not necessarily restrict my usage to PAM guidelines, and will not do so until I am assured of professional water management. Until then my own sense of discretion will be my guideline.

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