Praising democracy in Africa

Or praising democracy anywhere in fact. An interesting but not surprising finding from Africa:

Africa is poor and its urban population and industrial centers are small, while its rural population and agrarian sectors are large. In the absence of party competition… we should therefore expect economic interests to seek to influence public policies through lobbying by interest groups. Insofar as this is the case, we expect economic policies to be “urban biased.” But when there is a change to party competition… electoral majorities acquire political weight and those seeking office will therefore begin to advocate measures designed to attract rural voters. They should therefore begin to support policies that favor agriculture.

Any ruler must favour the interests of those that keep him in power. A military dictator has to take good care of the Army and everyone, even Roman Emperors, is afraid of the urban mob. And what we saw in Africa after independence was that the urban masses, although only a small fraction of the country, were those who had the political power. Ghana's insanely over valued currency for example, which killed off the cocoa plantations in favour of cheap manufactured imports for the urbanites. And as that first flirtation with democracy faded then things only got worse.

But when the majority of the population is rural, engaged in farming, it's only right that economic policy should be determined by the needs and desires of that majority. Which, with the return of democracy, is what we're seeing happen.

And there's a lesson for us oh so moderns here too. Allowing power, decision making, to float off into the technocracy (at any level, UN, EU or just Whitehall) is going to cause exactly the same problems. As the power base, the support, will come from technocrats to technocrats policy will be decided with the aims and desires of technocrats in mind, not with our.

Which is really why we don't want political power to accumulate in the centre but to keep it close, by us. Doesn't matter which centre, if it gets there it will be deployed to benefit the centre whereas if we have it then we get to exercise it for ourselves.