Mandela: No Convert to Capitalism

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The title of a column by New York Times DealBook editor Andrew Sorkin certainly got my attention on the heels of Nelson Mandela's death: "How Mandela Shifted Views on Freedom of Markets". Recalling that Mandela was a Marxist and knowing that South Africa is hardly Galt's Gulch, I was intrigued. Had the man revered as the father of South Africa actually had a Yeltsinesque "supermarket epiphany", only to be frustrated by other politicians?

Not quite:

But as the five-day conference of high-level speed-dating wore on [the 1992 World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland --ed], Mr. Mandela soon decided he needed to reconsider his long-held views: "Madiba then had some very interesting meetings with the leaders of the Communist Parties of China and Vietnam," Mr. Mboweni wrote, using Mr. Mandela/s clan name. "They told him frankly as follows: 'We are currently striving to privatize state enterprises and invite private enterprise into our economies. We are Communist Party governments, and you are a leader of a national liberation movement. Why are you talking about nationalization?'"
Although the article claims a genuine change of heart on Mandela's part and touts "capitalist" reforms in South Africa, the very name of one of his major policies belies the claim that he embraced capitalism:
But for all of Mr. Mandela's embrace of capitalism and free markets, as demonstrated though his policy called GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution), the results raise more questions than answers about its success. [bold added]
The article ends with the following gross injustice against capitalism, disguised as an inconclusive verdict on Mandela's legacy:
Mr. Mandela may have ended apartheid and years of awful violence, but his dream of creating a country that, as he said, is "a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities” may still remain a dream that capitalism and free markets have yet to solve.
As Michael Hurd recently pointed out, "Mandela's biggest enemy was not racism, but collectivism." Racism and communism are each just varieties of collectivism.

Mandela, by embracing a mixed economy, did not really try capitalism. I suppose, in that sense, we could say that, "capitalism and free markets have yet to solve" South Africa's troubles: Whatever he thought of them, Mandela never tried them.


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