Absolute Power

I have been thinking really deeply about this “Democracy” thing. I have also been reading Anti-Competition Legislation in place in numerous countries, including our very own Competitions Act (98 of 1998)

As a total layman in this field, what I conclude from these pieces of legislation is that laws are needed to prevent a company from abusing a position of dominance in a market, by unfairly increasing prices, forcing out smaller players and indulging in various other uncompetitive practices.

The most prominent recent case was the United States vs Microsoft.

Amidst calls to break up Microsoft into smaller less monopolistic entities, the presiding Judge Jackson stated in his Findings of Fact on November 5th, 1999 that;

Microsoft’s dominance of the personal computer operating systems market constituted a monopoly, and that Microsoft had taken actions to crush threats to the monopoly, including Apple, Java, Netscape, Lotus Notes, Real Networks, Linux, and others.

The ANC is currently holding it’s “Policy Conference”. “Policy” is being discussed, but because of it’s absolute dominance over the political landscape in South Africa, the difference between what is ANC “policy” and what WILL become legislation is blurred. The same applies to the succession battle. Whether this battle is about who will lead the ANC or who will be leading the country seems irrelevant, it’s an absolute “given”

  1. Is this Democracy? I don’t think so.
  2. Would this dominance be tolerated in business? Definitely not, we have legislation to specifically prohibit it.

In fact, if we used the Microsoft case, there should be calls to force the ANC to split into smaller, more competitive parties, ANC, AND, ANE, ANF etc.

Here is the % votes enjoyed by the winning party, runner up and others for a few “Developed” countries in their last elections;

USA, 53%, 42%, 5%

UK, 37%, 33%, 30%

France, 53%, 47%, 0% (after second round which eliminates “others”)

Germany, 35%, 28%, 37%

Australia, 41%, 38%, 21%

New Zealand, 41%, 39%, 20%

Now let’s look at our “Democracy”

South Africa, 70%, 12%, 18%

Spot the difference?  Does this mean that the ANC can do no wrong? Does this mean that 70% of the voters think they are doing a great job?  Or does it just demonstrate how naive our voters are?  Maybe it’s just because we are a very “young” democracy.

So I thought I’d go back to when the US was a “young” democracy.  Here is the result from the year 1800.

Democrats (Jefferson) 53%, Federalists (Adams) 47%.

What is wrong in Africa?  Why do we have such overwhelming majorities?  Maybe we, as Africans, really just yearn for a dominating Dictator?  Why are we pretending that this is a democracy?  Are we just going through the motions?

Is the concept of a Western-imposed, Democratic System of Government foreign to us?

Power Corrupts, Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.

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6 Responses

  1. Hi, I like this post.. Something bothers me though… I studied politics for a long time at Uni and the one thing that I realised is that the US and UK ARE NOT DEMOCRATIC.

    The US system of first past the post (the party with the most votes wins EVERYTHING in parliament) leaves majority of the poeple unaccounted for. ie: the democrats get 25%, the rest of the votes are split across 5 other parties. That means that only a mere 25% of the population that actually managed to vote are represented. NO ONE else is represented. THIS is not a democracy.

    At least in SA other parties and citizens are represented in parliament with somewhat of a say.

    Just my 2 cents!

  2. Wow, you were quick on the comment button. It appeared about 2 minutes after I pressed Publish !!

    Yes, interesting point. Like I said, I’m an absolute novice here, but there is clearly more to this “Democracy” thing than meets the eye.

  3. Well the problem with democracy is there are many many versions of it. Of course the states has democracy, but a version different to the uk, whcih is alos different to our form of constitutional democracy…

    It is a bit like going into a restaurant and ordering tea, everybody know what tea is, but when you look at it closely the question then becomes, would you like camomile, rooibos, ceylon.

    Though admittedly in my opnion is the only time you can actually tell if a democracy is working is when those that have held power lose it through the vote… If they leave and the next voted in arrive then something it is functional. If the don’t leave and say well we don’t care if you like rooibos, we only serve ceylon tea then it is time to find a new teashop….

  4. Deep thoughts as usual from JP….

    Are you serving Honeybush at all?

    It really bugs me that there is no progressive alternative to the ANC – people vote for them because they don’t want the Right back in power, but I would guess a minority are actually ardent supporters of ANC policy – for the rest they’re the best of a bad lot.

    But remember that power doesn’t really lie in parliament – it’s economic. The real power brokers are big companies that we have no vote over.

  5. My thoughts exactly, but the Competitions Act puts a rein on this runaway power (to an extent). No such brake exists over a political party who find themselves in the position of absolute power.

    I do agree that, JOINTLY, big business wields great power, but more than Parliament, I’m not convinced?

  6. I think that that this matter ties up strongly with the previously discussed topic of the strenght of an individual’s vote. What we have in this country may, in theory, be called democracy, but in practice, can amount to nothing more than mob rule. The ANC electorate have proved themselves to be fine purveyors of intimidation combined with the fact that most of them are not able to distinguish between false offers of grandeur and luxury versus a practical soloution to an impovished dispensation in SA. Surely a more educated electorate (and I’m NOT talking degrees etc here but rather a system of reasoning) as well as practising more tolerance towards the view points of others will go a long way to bridge the severe gap in diversity of our community’s aspirations.

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