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.

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