Libertarianism is the belief – albeit a strong one – that people should be free to think and do what they want to, without any government involvement. However, a libertarian is not an anarchist; he just resents undue government control of the life of the people.
Since life is lived on many facets: economic, education, health, political, social, er cetera, et cetera, it follow also that this school of thought will ramificate all the various aspects of life and living. The present writing considers libertarianism and the Nigerian economic experience.
Nigeria economic growth make for an interesting study. The economy grows at near 8% per annum despite stagnation in power generation. While Politicians and career bureaucrats siphon collective monies, the cities and towns are busting at the seams with people going about their businesses.
The current growth is propelled by our unwritten but real economic policy. LIBERTARIANISM. This is the highest form of capitalism, with individuals providing all services and infrastructure. It promotes irrelevance of government in society. At best government is restricted to very few roles like defense, administration of law and foreign policy.
This unwritten policy began with the departure of the British. Remember Nigerian Railways of yore. Rail development in Nigeria was stopped for road development. While no rail line was added to what the British left, massive road construction has continued. This spawned private haulage companies from articulated trucks to luxury buses. In fact, a Nigerian owns one of the largest haulage fleets in the world.
While politicians and economic advisers are yet to embrace this policy as a way of economic life, we the people have. The phenomenon of okada as part of our public transport system is evidence of this.
Further embrace of libertarianism is seen in the packaged water industry. In the fifties and sixties regional water corporations were to pipe potable water to the people. This was mere lip-service. Realizing the impotence of government, individuals treated water, packaged it and delivered to nools and corners of the nation.
Nollywood is a shining example of libertarianism at work. Government had no role in the growth of Nollywood. It is the result of energy and drive in Nigerians. Par chance government steps into this industry, Nollywood would go the way of our football.
Twenty odd years ago, the citizenry expected government to provide for them. It was free this, free that. Health or Housing for all by 2000. Then it was Millennium Development Goals MDG by 2015 and vision 2020. The good news is that only the media that carry these tales or hallucinations believe them. We the citizenry are moving on and leaving government behind.
My hope is that libertarianism becomes the citizenry mantra and government or state continue to grow less relevant in our lives. Individuals are shoving government aside in their traditional strongholds of education and health. We the masses are avoiding government schools and hospital like a plague. Vigilante groups and neighborhood watch are providing better security than the problematic Nigerian Police. We have been deceived for too long that government should control the commanding heights of the economy. All that achieved is the commandeering of collective resources into private pockets by a corrupt and inept posing as politicians and bureaucrats.
No Nation has prospered by the antithesis of libertarianism which is collectivism. Rather national wealth is built up by individuals – the Fords Dalmler Benz, Toyota, Honda, Tata Family, Gates and our own Dangote. Not Peugeot Nigerian-Pan, Volks, Nigeria-Von, NNPC, Aladja and Ajaokuta steel. These parastatals will continue to fail because they are conduits siphoning monies away from their stated missions into private vaults. I posit that libertarianism would ultimately solve the cancer of corruption so endemic in public affairs.
To bring this trend to fruition, I propose a movement that might morph into a political party with the aim of serving as undertakers to Nigerian government as we know of them today, expected to do everything but doing nothing. Even running down simple things as football, obtaining driver’s licence etc.
The party would gradually limit government to a few roles like defense against external aggression, foreign affairs, police serve not police force. Items such as roads, power can be in a concurrent list of both private and government participation.
Importantly, all government expenditure would be pegged to taxes on the economic activities of the citizenry. So as the peoples’ economy grows, so goes government expenditure and largesse. If the masses prosper the masses prosper government prospers. In an economic downturn the government largesse suffers.
The party would continually pursue a downward review of tax rates. By this policy, more capital would be left to businesses to provide all manner of goods and services competitively.
In libertarianism lies our economic salvation if left as its an unwritten policy, it would take decades to achieve our vision, our being a global giant. If helped along and imbibed culturally and as a political policy, the Asian miracles might yet be re-enacted in Nigeria.
Written By Dr. A. Jayesimi