The argument for command and control systems is that for society to have order, there is need for a powerful command center, to which everyone must forcefully surrender.
The idea is that if we want to have good roads, electricity, shelter, education, healthcare, food etc. for all citizens then we need government to organize and provide all these things.
This, many will agree is a very good idea. It is exactly what the masses have always clamoured for but then again, it is exactly what the politicians have always promised to provide.
The more the masses clamour for government to provide these, the more the politicians promise to do same, the more elusive the goals seem. Yet, the demands only keep rising. People have blamed the insincerity of the politicians, corruption, nepotism, and sometimes the system of government for these failures but it is time to look a little more beneath the surface of things.
While there is a problem of deceit, corruption, and bad governance systems, there is an even greater problem of ideology – That is, the pattern of thought of the people about themselves and how they wish to be governed by the leaders they choose among themselves.
Nigerians wish to be governed by an almighty government that has unlimited powers and could thereby conjure electricity, food, roads, education and so on while the people standby and cheer on as recipients of so much goodwill.
In order to actualize this ideal, the people of Nigeria, support an over centralized system of government which Nigeria calls a federal republic that vests all powers in the hands of the federal government, with 36 federating units that have to go to the center like alms seekers, for sustenance.
This system also ensures that within the federal government, the executive arm has almost unlimited powers and further on, the president precisely is gifted with excessive control. All of these are enabling the idea of creating an unrivalled power center from where a benevolent dictator can dispense blessings and redistribute wealth to the masses, dealing with anyone who stands in his way as he moves to provide abundance for all.
This is the kind of government Nigerians envision and pray for – a messiah president who would deliver them from poverty, having officially become the land of the poorest people in the world.
Isn’t it wonderful that the same ideology that led Nigeria into this state of misery is the same one Nigerians are still relying on as they think of solutions?
This ideology which has been otherwise described as socialism, looks good except it hasn’t worked and may never work. It just turns out that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is wisdom to ensure that nobody, no institution is gifted with absolute powers because once you concentrate so much powers at a center, you create the soil for the manifestation of tyranny.
Indeed, it is more natural that instead, free market systems are put in place, where power remains largely domiciled with the people themselves, rather than loaned out to an uncontrollable power center that is easily seized by wrong hands.
Disciples of command and control systems a.k.a communism/fascism or even socialism will argue that society will have no order without a command center but ask them to tell you which command and control system invented and ordered the language they speak to convey that message? Since they obviously have no answer to that question, then they need to be told that there is a higher order that emerges spontaneously if we become humble enough to recognize our limitations and let ourselves be guided by that higher order.
The very language through which we interact and exchange our ideas are proof that complex order can be attained without a command and control center.
The language, with all its rules of grammar and complexities was not invented by any command and control system but through a spontaneous order that worked with the voluntary cooperation of all men, even while they remain unconscious of the process.
This is what happens in free market systems. The will of one man is replaced by the will of every man, pressed and shaken together by a spontaneous order. One man’s command gives way to every man’s voluntary cooperation. The result is peace and prosperity. It is by means of such spontaneous order that our languages evolve and have continued to evolve.
The most important lesson that Nigerians must learn in order to liberate themselves from this penury, is an ideological one.
Central government should be focused on security of lives, properties and liberties of the people rather than being burdened with providing things that the people, with the right reorganization, can provide for themselves without government or if needs be, through local governance.
Centralized planning is good but when the scale is so large that there are more unknown than known variables, the best plan is to decentralize execution, if not decentralize both planning and execution.
Where the production, distribution and consumption of a commodity is beyond the government’s capacity to manage, they should allow self-regulating free markets and voluntary exchanges and the people will find the solution themselves. One man, however powerful and good natured cannot determine what`s best for everyone, no man should play God.
Feyisade is a trans-disciplinary educator, an academic staff at Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Academic Director, Students for Liberty (Africa) and the founder of Chale Institute.
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