Open Economy: The human element of economic progression

07 Sep, 2014 - 06:09 0 Views

The Sunday Mail

I like reading about romantic societies. By romantic I mean societies full of idealism, utopic dreams, and passionate aspirations. I like literature too.

The kind that is easy to read though. Music and theatre are nice as well. Not as disciplines of study, but definitely for commercial consumption and enjoyment.

Philosophy and religion can be fun. It’s just that quite often conversation on those topics gets too heavy for my liking. The point is I have a fondness for what are commonly called humanities in academic circles. Humanities are loosely defined as disciplines that study human culture. So I have always wondered why economics is not widely acknowledged as a humanity. After all, when we discuss matters to do with the economy, are we not self-reflecting on our own human culture?

An economy is a consequence of elements of our humanity. The dominant philosophies, the existing social contracts, esteemed literature; the humanities of the times. I am often surprised and disappointed at the lack of humanistic perspective that our policy-makers interpret our economy. They often approach our economy with principle abiding rigidness as if our economy is merely an application of equations and practical formulae serving to increase the Gross Domestic Product.

We are not robots. So surely, the economy which reflects our humanistic condition cannot be simplified to arithmetic theorem and principle. Actually, I would argue that our economic demise has less to do with economic methodology than it has to do with the descending Zimbabwean human condition. Hence, solutions will only be clear once we become conscious of our humanistic decadence. Just for a second, consider a few foreign examples. Outside of business, Japanese people are profoundly playful and happy. It is no coincidence then, that Nintendo, creator of video game consoles, becomes a flagship multinational for that country. True to their cultural richness in theatre and drama, India has won global appeal with Bollywood movies. Likewise, the Nigerians with Nollywood. Very little cultural compromise in their productions; true to Nigerian story-telling and culture. In the United States, the idealistic “American dream” of home ownership was the centre piece that drove economic growth for decades. It can be argued China’s economic ascension is due to their open mindedness towards capitalism; a significant shift in their social mindset. All these are examples of human culture that results in economic progression.

At the core, it is always humanistic influence that creates economic circumstance. Economic progression is usually driven by a visible advancement in customs, beliefs, culture. This is what you sell. This is what you build on. This is your unique identity within globalisation.

Conversely, a stagnant and lifeless country will regress economically. I worry that this is us. Let’s assess our state of humanity.

Are we alive with creativity and imagination? More importantly, do we encourage such intellectual audacity in our society?

I do not think so. Metrics we can use to assess this notion would be how many socially-beneficial institutions have we created on our own? How many economic sectors have we created ourselves? Not many. Basically, we have not intellectually superseded our adopted economy.

Do we dream as a country? Or at least have some form of economic vision?

What is our present social mood? A lot of apathy and disengagement by the youth. This is understandable. There is more to life than political allegiance, succession issues or surviving through tough economic times. Regrettably, these are the dominant matters of the day.

Naturally, a sombre, pessimistic mood sets in. Sports and entertainment do matter. They give occupation of the mind. Our continued failure in sports only adds to economic distress. Our limited media range keeps us mentally confined. Youth need stimulation. Social consequences do include drug usage, youth discouragement, and giving up on being economic participants who can actually contribute to the greater economy. Who are we as a culture? Renowned for being adopters of foreign cultures, we have somewhat become culturally shallow. No, I do not wish that we regress back to every traditional custom. But, today what can you identify as being Zimbabwean and feel excited about? Without cultural appeal, how can we expect ourselves to buy into national interests? Hence, our developing individualistic culture that breeds corruption and systemic exploitation. Nothing ties us together, so one might as well fend for himself in this environment.

Even if it’s to the misfortune of the rest of us.

The humanities within our country have decayed and are not conducive to any economic progression. We do need better policy-making and application of more precise economic principles, but that is all at the surface of our economic demise. At the heart of our economic challenges are humanistic deficiencies that have settled in our society. We are lacking progressive philosophy, communion, culture, hope, vision, imagination and social stimulation. The human element of economic progress.

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