Democracy = Freedom?

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When the universally reviled South African policy of apartheid was ended and majority rule democracy instituted in that country there was great hope that democracy would at long last restore freedom and justice that the black majority of that country had been deprived of for so many decades. Most Western elites unquestioningly assumed that the god of democracy would work its usual miracles. It has not only not done so, but has created a catastrophe in that country, as documented by a new book by Ilana Mercer entitled Into the Cannibal's Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa.

Mercer is a native South African whose parents and other relatives still live there. Her father is a renowned Rabbi who was for decades an outspoken opponent of apartheid, which she herself condemns in no uncertain terms as "the repressive — and reprehensible — apartheid regime." She has written about a topic that the Western media have almost completely ignored — the failure of post-apartheid South Africa to move in the direction of peace, justice, and prosperity. She hopes that her book will be a small contribution that can help turn things around in her native land, while providing valuable lessons to Americans as well.

One thing that Into the Cannibal's Pot demonstrates is that democracy alone is not at all desirable if it is not attached to a culture that highly values the protection of life, liberty and property. The new rulers of South Africa do not. South Africa competes with Iraq and Colombia for the title of "the most violent" country of the world. The homicide rate in South Africa today is twenty times what it is in the U.S., as Mercer documents. A rape occurs every twenty-six seconds. The annual murder rate in South Africa has increased three-and-a-half fold since the ending of the reprehensible apartheid regime. There are more than 52,000 rapes/year in South Africa today, ten percent of which victimize infants because of the bizarre superstition that is widely believed there that sex with a virgin is a cure for AIDS.

Mercer describes in sickening detail how the government of South Africa often looks the other way when the white population is victimized by thugs and criminals, apparently in a perceived act of racial retribution for the sins of the past. There have been so many murders of white South African farmers that it "makes farming in South Africa the most dangerous occupation in the world," writes Mercer. "Arrests and convictions [for murdering white farmers] are rare." This is "land reform," South African style. The South African government admits that 90 percent of the "redistributed" farms are now dysfunctional.

Mercer's description of South Africa's "diversity" policies, otherwise known as institutionalized discrimination against white males, sounds almost identical to the same polices that exist today in American society. Such "diversity" has indeed become the mating call of nearly every academic bureaucrat in higher education. Hiring by skin color instead of by merit is mandatory in South Africa, and increasingly so in the U.S.

South Africa has also adopted the housing policy of American Congressman Barney Frank and his Democratic Party colleagues in that "South Africa's financial institutions [have been] forced to provide loans to blacks with lower credit ratings," known in the U.S. as "subprime lending" or "the Community Reinvestment Act." Thus, reprehensible institutionalized discrimination against blacks has been replaced by reprehensible institutionalized discrimination against whites.

In drawing comparisons to the U.S. Mercer recalls how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a self-described "affirmative action baby" who did not have the academic qualifications to enter Princeton and Yale. She was admitted anyway because of her ethnicity and, according to the New York Times, was told at Princeton to improve her reading skills "by reading children's classics and studying basic grammar books during her summers." Mercer quotes Pat Buchanan as asking the obvious question: "How do you graduate first in your class at Princeton if your summer reading consists of Chicken Little and The Troll Under the Bridge?"

American elites are silent about the various outrages occurring in South Africa, Mercer argues, because they support and sometimes personally benefit from similar policies in their own country. (Rather than attempting to enact a policy of reparations from the politicians and others who were responsible for the abuse of South Africa's black population under apartheid, there is blanket discrimination against all whites – a perfect definition of racism).

Mercer shows that Nelson Mandella, who was imprisoned before the worldwide collapse of socialism in the late 1980s/early 1990s, is still a devoted socialist. He gets the economics of apartheid exactly backwards, for instance: It was a system of governmental laws and regulations instigated by white labor unions, and was not an example of capitalism. This was explained wonderfully in Walter E. Williams' book, South Africa's War Against Capitalism. Nevertheless, Mandella announced in a 1997 speech that "the evolution of the capitalist system in our country put on the highest pedestal the promotion of the material interests of the white minority." Wrong, Nelson. As Mercer points out, the "biggest industrial upheaval in South Africa's history" was a 1922 miner's strike that came as a result of the fact that the capitalist mine owners wanted to hire more blacks. The white labor unions whose slogan was "Workers of the World Unite, Keep South Africa White," opposed this and the power of the government was employed to enforce discrimination against black workers. It was the capitalists who wanted to abolish the apartheid system because there were profits in doing so. White miners were paid much more than black miners even though they were not much more productive.

Mercer also takes on the hoary leftist "root causes" theory of crime that has been used to excuse the explosion of murder, rape, and other violent crime in South Africa in recent years. Assuming that there is no such thing as free will, leftists routinely assume that the last person who should be blamed for a crime is the criminal himself. In the case of South Africa the excuse-making machinery of Western journalists, academics, and even "celebrities" like Angelina Jolie, blame colonialism and not enough "foreign aid." Citing the work of economist Peter Bauer, Mercer skillfully explains how decades of "foreign aid" has in reality only served to enrich Third World politicians and plutocrats with little benefit to the average citizen — in Africa and everywhere else.

As though criticizing the holy grail of "affirmative action" were not politically incorrect enough, Mercer has the chutzpah, in her concluding chapter, to invoke the "S" word — secession. Whenever a minority is politically prosecuted by a majority, secession is one possible solution. This is certainly the case in the current South Africa and may be the only hope for the Afrikaner minority there.

Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton's Curse: How Jefferson's Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution — And What It Means for America Today.

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