Khalid Wasi

Rely on the free market for drive, initiative and genius

  • Over view: an aerial view of Bermuda (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Itís good to look at history to see what works and to ascertain systems that are more effective or best.

Itís not to suggest that we can come to a position of absoluteness, but at least we can have a comparative analysis from which to draw conclusions.

Most of us are aware that the European expansion into the West in what we now call the Americas, beginning in the late 15th century, resulted in a tremendous rivalry between European nations.

Portugal and Spain were the leaders for more than a century, but were eclipsed by the British, who were the newcomers whose feet only began to tread the grounds in the early 17th century.

One significant difference between the economic approaches of the countries was that the imperatives of the Spanish and Portuguese were led by the monarchy. In other words, a government initiative, while the British adventures were led by private investors receiving a patent granting them right of possession.

The advantages were numerous. Let me show one example: Jamaica was held by the Spanish and had a slave population including Maroons who had freed themselves into the interiors.

When the British encountered Spanish Jamaica, they used the discrepancy between the slaves and their Spanish masters.

The slaves would have been loyal to their Spanish masters had they given them freedom.

However, the Spanish could only promise, as they had to seek permission from the monarchy, which was to be a timely process.

The British, on the other hand, offered a type of freedom but instantly if the slaves supported them against the Spanish.

The British had the ability to make a decision independent of the Crown, whereas the Spanish could not. As a result, the slaves assisted the British in expelling the Spanish.

In many ways, this was a comparison between state-run operatives and private enterprise. The whole of the adventurers of the American expansion shows a comparison, and the results are there as a living, historical testimony.

Hence, today we have typical debates between those who argue about government involvement versus government taking the hands-off approach.

Given the matters of exploitation, slavery and a host of issues that have trapped various segments of society, which has made the economic and social field uneven, other economic philosophies have evolved in an attempt to bring fairness and level the playing field.

Naturally, there are tendencies as these causes and movements for justice emerge to take the remedies and turn them into the ďgolden meansĒ when they were truly temporary ideas or expediencies meant only to restore balance.

After colonialism, many of the new, presumed liberation governments saw their role as one of actually delivering economic justice through the use of the government.

In such cases, the government and its ministers became, as it were, businessmen competing as an entity against the private sector. However, the best construct allows the private sector to develop and correct the imbalance.

The government can act as policeman directing traffic, which will facilitate the advancement of those left behind.

The drive, the initiative and the genius must come from the private sector.

You cannot lift people up; they must have or develop the self-determination to lift themselves up.

We donít want to see the alternative where a government cartel tries to replicate the private sector.

It never works and has led to a type of corruption and conflict of roles in many countries where they have become known as the poor manís oligarchy.

Bermuda is fortunate to have a history of entrepreneurship in all its sectors.

Yes, our middle class crumbled and is seriously compromised, but intellectually it still remains.

This government needs only to rely on the market and its native entrepreneurs to restore the balance.