The Best Argument Against Democracy Is A Five-Minute Conversation With The Average Voter Essay

Donald Trump

Joram Nyathi Spectrum

First, humans are free moral agents. We all have a limitless capacity to think although we might not always think like we have the capacity to. So, let’s enjoy our democracy.

“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time-to-time. The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

We shall revert to these quotations shortly.

I didn’t want to make reference to SI 64 again this week. I know very little about how an economy works.

Instead, I would have loved to comment at length on America’s Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Like I have said in the past, I love him for his forthrightness.

Given a chance, I would love to spend more time in the company of people such as Trump and former apartheid leader PW Botha.

They make you learn a few tricks about telling people truth that hurts.

Botha didn’t think much of blacks of whom he said they could not plan their lives beyond a day. It’s up to you to prove him wrong.

That’s his view from personal experience.

Let’s hear Trump the billionaire who speaks his mind. At the recent Republican convention, he was confronted by reporters for the New York Times to comment on a wide range of issues, including American foreign policy. He was reminded of Bush and America’s self-anointed role as a global crusader for the opium of democracy and human rights.

Instead, Trump seems to have picked up the mirror and face America herself, like this clip:

SANGER (reporter): “Erdogan (Turkish leader who had just suppressed a coup) put nearly 50 000 people in jail or suspend them, suspended thousands of teachers, he imprisoned many in the military and the police, he dismissed a lot of the judiciary. Does this worry you? And would you rather deal with a strongman who’s also been a strong ally, or with somebody that’s got a greater appreciation of civil liberties than Mr Erdogan has? Would you press him to make sure the rule of law applies?”

TRUMP: “I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country.

“We have tremendous problems when you have policemen being shot in the streets, when you have riots, when you have Ferguson. When you have Baltimore. When you have all of the things that are happening in this country – we have other problems, and I think we have to focus on those problems.

“When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.”

There was more said.

Suffice to note here that Trump refused to indulge the reporter’s hypocrisy of America’s messianic role about “civil liberties” and “rule of law”.

There is a clear distinction between an ideal and what the reality demands at a particular moment. I could go on.

But I found myself drawn back to mother Earth by the business headlines in the private media yesterday, all against the backdrop of Zanu-PF’s “clueless” policies since 1980. (Yes, according to these sages the history of the black man’s misery begins with independence. Colonial rule was our golden era, hitting the zenith under Ian Smith – a ringing endorsement of Botha’s observation.)

Here is a sample of the headlines:

DailyNews: “Trade deficit drops”, “Zim gears for cashless economy”, “Stanbic Bank offers exciting home loans”, and “Harare can do it.”

NewsDay and its “Southern Eye” version: “Goods import ban unconstitutional: Veritas”, “Court clears anti-govt demo”, “Mpilo hospital gets new maternity equipment”, “Influx of cheap imports hurt Zim firms”, “ZSE bounces back”, “Govt set to revive Dimaf”, “GetCash launches mobile money app”.

Now dear reader, set these truthful headlines of Thursday July 28 2016 against State media “propaganda” of the same day led by the flagship, The Herald: “Brainworks unveils GetCash platform”, “Zim imports fall 13,3 percent”, “Govt to make Dimaf bigger, accessible”, “Chinamasa urges banks to rise to competition”, “Govt can do more on corporate governance.”

After looking at all these headlines of truth versus propaganda, I recalled the opening quotes to this article, both ascribed to Winston Churchill; “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time-to-time.”

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

Winston Churchill

A historian majoring on Churchill, Richard M Langworth, disputes that the British war time Prime Minister made the first observation.

What is however, undisputed is that Churchill was a brainy Briton and recently overtook the bard, William Shakespeare as the greatest Briton who ever lived.

That said, I have no reservations about his observations. First, humans are free moral agents. We all have a limitless capacity to think although we might not always think like we have the capacity to. So, let’s enjoy our democracy.

The second quotation is a bit problematic; “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

The positive developments conveyed in the headlines run across media houses.

It is not Herald propaganda. Yet when it suits the politics, we are assailed daily by news of an inexorably dying economy, a clueless Government.

Who’s making the most ardent argument against democracy here?

Who is the average voter?

“Goods import ban unconstitutional: Veritas”, “Court clears anti-govt demo”. These have become the stock-in-trade of the private media.

Demonstrations have become the in-thing against Government’s failure “to stop the economic rot”.

The same will happily campaign that the “international community” should not help the Mugabe regime. That includes current spirited appeals to Britain and America to use their vote to block any plans by the International Monetary Fund to extend lines of credit to Zimbabwe. (I am opposed to the IMF and World Bank as lenders or economic advisors but for completely different reasons.)

To them, sanctions on Zimbabwe are a good political tool.

Verita’s observations are within tradition, whose economy is across the Limpopo.

Question is: How do you advocate punitive sanctions against your country and still clamour for the creation of 2,2 million jobs, except in a democracy?

My point is, against these massive odds, we have positive developments set, unfortunately, against a political sentiment that will not tolerate anything positive happening under “the Mugabe administration”.

It must all be gloom and despondency to make for a fertile campaign ground for the next elections.

Otherwise who would juxtapose these two headlines in the same issue and still fail to choose the better course except the average voter in a democracy: “Goods import ban unconstitutional: Veritas”, “Influx of cheap imports hurt Zim firms”?

So we would rather follow the constitution against what makes economic sense? Yet we can see that the “ban” on imports is succeeding in cutting the trade deficit, by as much as 13 percent. But that is not the end.

The falling trade deficit and falling imports, both positive developments, are what SI64 is about. More importantly, SI64 is being supported by increased funding for Dimaf. The aim being not to just protect local industry but to raise productivity and create jobs.

Can that kind of co-ordinated thinking be the stuff of Mr Average Voter?

A wild one for industry: how do we reconcile support for SI 64 and calls for Zimbabwe to adopt the Rand as the anchor currency?

Presumably South Africa has no say either way!

And rumour circulating is that most retailers are rejecting the Rand! They don’t want bond notes.

And producers say the American dollar is too expensive for exports, and therefore bad for the economy.

Say it again Mr Churchill: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

That conversation for me this week was scanning through the business headlines in all the daily papers.

Reading the lead stories on the front pages, one would think VP Mnangagwa had been arrested rather than protected by President Mugabe who openly declared; “We shall keep together at the top”.

It’s wishful political thinking versus a slow, painful but stubborn economic turnaround against mighty odds.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned editing Op-Ed essays over the years, it’s that when I see a stirring sentiment attributed to Thomas Jefferson, I’d better reach for my Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

Enlisting a famous thinker like Jefferson may seem like a foolproof way to buttress your argument about, say, abolishing the Electoral College, but it’s not without peril. Just ask the Republican National Committee, which sent out a tweet this week for Lincoln’s Birthday quoting the 16th president as saying, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”

Maybe because it seems such an unlikely thing for Lincoln to say, people quickly pointed out that there’s no evidence that he ever did, and that the genesis of the quotation perhaps was a 1947 advertisement for a book about aging by one Edward J. Stieglitz.

In my experience, Lincoln is a popular source of dubious quotations for Op-Ed contributors, but he pales in comparison with Winston Churchill and Jefferson.

“Capitalism is the worst economic system, except for all the others,” sounds pretty Churchillian, and a nice line to add to an essay defending globalism, for example. But he didn’t say it, and even what he did say, in a House of Commons speech — “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried” — he attributed to somebody else, as the Churchill scholar Richard Langworth has pointed out.

Similarly, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” sounds like a plausible Jeffersonian line to drop into an essay about government surveillance (and to be fair, Jefferson was a quote machine, taking up nearly three pages in my version of Bartlett’s). But there’s no proof he ever said it in any of his voluminous correspondence. An 18th-century Irish orator did write something like this, but having John Philpot Curran on your side may not add much heft to your argument.

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