South Africa: The Vital Need for Economic Democracy in South Africa


"Economists have only ruined the world - the point is to improve it". (With a nod to Karl Marx) Today is the United Nations International Day of Democracy. At a time when democracy is under attack in so many parts of the world, the day could not be more important. But rather than activists satisfying ourselves with glib platitudes, we should ask deeper questions about what's going wrong. One obvious area we should look at is the disconnect between democracy and economy.

Until recently, one of the greatest weaknesses of social justice activism in South Africa, and internationally, was that it paid little attention to economics. Activists and organisations frequently launched campaigns for human rights into a void, paying little to no attention to how their legitimate demands would be financed.

Let's be clear: the legitimacy of human rights does not depend on whether governments claim to have money to pay for them. In terms of the Constitution, there is a binding legal duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil all rights. However, if activists don't link human rights claims to a demand for the fiscal reforms needed to fund them, the result is that they are often not financed...

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