Gavin Ray – The best way to promote individual freedom in South Africa


This is the essay and motivation contributed by Gavin Ray as his entry in the recent Freedomfest competition sponsored by Bob Glenister.

Individual liberty is a principle that is both moral and efficient. It runs deep in South Africa’s history, whether it be the pre-colonial African tribal system of government that looked so much like the Swiss Canton system, or the government-free individualist decades of early European settlement that created the Afrikaner nation. Helping people see that it is needed for prosperity, and seeing our history for what it truly is, is the best way to promote individual liberty in South Africa.

The author Walter Williams has often emphasised that during apartheid South Africa was a country of two economic systems – market capitalism for whites; and socialism/communism for blacks. All sorts of black business associations and alliances, in addition to many ANC activists, worked with the single purpose of undoing this double system. Some of their causes included fighting for freehold title deeds for black people, the ability to have relationships with people regardless of their skin colour, the right to communicate freely, the right for blacks to register and own businesses, and the ability to compete for jobs in the market without racial barriers. They were fighting for individual liberty! A lot of people today suggest that capitalism is foreign to Africans, and that they are inherently and culturally socialist. This is the furthest thing from the truth.

In the twenty-one years since the dismantling of apartheid, black South Africans have seen their per-capita income double, and contrary to all sorts of myths this is almost entirely because of their access to property rights and the market; not because of state handouts or so-called Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). There is so much that increased liberty can do for blacks, such as increasing access to freehold title deeds for black landowners, that would accelerate their advancement greatly. If South Africa can implement liberty-oriented policies like this, see the fruits they bring, and then advertise it as a victory for freedom, then liberty will go far.

There is a deep tradition and understanding of individual liberty among ordinary South Africans, and is here that we will find the key to promoting it. Have you ever considered the wonder of a taxi or a hawker? Every day, hundreds of thousands of black-owned small-businesses like these go to work, and it is hard work that demands ingenuity and an entrepreneurial spirit. Highly developed cities like Hong Kong began as cities of hawkers, and if you use your imagination a little you may well see the next Hong Kong in a South African township.

To advance an ideology or an idea amongst a mass of people, it has to resonate emotionally. I think individual liberty will advance in South Africa when we make clear that the struggle to end apartheid was a struggle for liberty. We can add a very powerful punch to this by making the link, to anyone who will listen, between liberty and prosperity. Highlighting places like Hong Kong, that went from poor to rich in a just a few decades, and emphasising that they did this with systems of strongly entrenched individual liberty, can go a long way in promoting a similar system in South Africa. Liberty has been the moral movement of South Africa’s history and if it succeeds it will unleash an immensely successful society.

Gavin Ray – 10 June 2011

Why I should be sent to FreedomFest

My name is Gavin Ray and, at the risk of sounding like a politician, I want to make the case to you why I should be chosen for Freedom Fest.

My first real introduction to the world of liberty was two years ago when I began to work at the Free Market Foundation, the largest pro-liberty think-tank on the African continent. It is hard to imagine a better place for an inquiring mind to grow. In my time there I did everything from losing myself in the glory of Atlas Shrugged to leading a protest march of Alexandra residents demanding title deeds. I read Mises and Hayek, and I researched everything from energy policy to economic freedom. It is a very special time in my life and I believe it has made me into a perfect ambassador for South Africa at an event like Freedom Fest.

I currently work as a political assistant in the DA for the Gauteng-legislature leader Jack Bloom. Whether my career ultimately leads into politics or back to think-tank work, promoting liberty in South Africa and the world will always be a big part of my life. Freedom fest could be a wonderful moment for me, opening my eyes to what is out there and investing into my future work.

I assume that if you are going to send someone to Freedom Fest, you want to make sure that they are going to enjoy themselves! It’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying freedom fest as much as I would. I am an philosophy junkie and about as ideologically pro-liberty as you can get. My interest in liberty extends globally, and I am well acquainted with the current big issues in a multitude of countries. You can be confident that if you surround with a bunch of libertarians from all over the world, I will be quite the social animal!

I really believe that freedom unleashes prosperity in people’s lives and that it would transform the world for the better. It is a cause worth living one’s life for. If you want to send someone who really believes in the cause of liberty, who has already learnt a lot and who has an unquenchable hunger to know more, a person that will represent South Africa well and honour this opportunity, then I am the man to send.

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