Get South Africa Going

May 15th, 2017 by Brian Kantor

My book has been published. ( See below for details ). It should be available in the book stores and on-line very soon. The chapter outline included in the Foreword is shown below.


Get South Africa Growing

Jonathan Ball Publishers
Johannesburg and Cape Town

Brian Kantor

Published in South Africa in 2017 by
A division of Media24 (Pty) Ltd
PO Box 33977
ISBN 978-1-86842-763-5
ebook ISBN 978-1-86842-764-2


Chapter outline

In the first chapter, I address the current very unsatisfactory state of the South African economy seen as a whole – the macro environment – and what might be done to improve it. I accept that the global economy has made it more difficult for our economy to grow faster in recent years and I consider what more favourable cyclical forces might spark faster growth. But, I would argue that our problems are not with our stars but with ourselves, and while the challenge to government is to live within the taxpayer’s means, it is a call for not just more competent government but also less government.

In Chapter 2, I make the argument for market forces properly understood – why they are fair to the participants in markets while delivering the goods, services and incomes that people want more of. I make the case for the market meritocracy and why much greater reliance on the free play of market forces is called for in South Africa. As support for this contention, I refer to the proven ability of these market forces, of individuals given essential freedom and encouragement to pursue their economic interests and protection of their gains, to lift billions of people out of absolute poverty in recent years. The global economy bears witness to an unprecedentedly successful poverty relief programme that deserves greater recognition appreciation than it has received and emulation for other economies playing catch-up. The chapter attempts to do this.

Chapter 3 attempts to answer a burning question: given its well-demonstrated achievements, why do these market forces, and the business enterprises that are their prime instrument, not receive more approval? Why are they so often regarded with hostility rather than respect? Why are they regarded as opposed to the economic interests of the many they serve, thought capable of dishonesty unless proved otherwise, rather than the other way around – recognised as beneficent forces for economic progress, unless in exceptional cases proved otherwise? In doing so I challenge those with these attitudes to perhaps reconsider their motives and to change them – so that markets in this country can more easily get on with their important task of delivering goods, services, incomes and jobs in abundance.

Chapter 4 provides further exhortation to South Africans and arguments to back up this essential view of the world and how it works. It attempts to explain how we as a society would do much better to focus on the growth in incomes and wealth rather than their redistribution. The danger to the growth opportunity is redistribution – redistribution not necessarily to the poor that are deserving of assistance, but to the better-off with a strong sense of opportunity. Opportunities that can advance the economic welfare of a privileged minority but are taken at the expense of a better functioning economy and are often to the disadvantage of the objectively poor and disadvantaged. More redistribution – taking from the more successful to give to the economically less successful – inevitably follows economic growth. It has always done so, as the history of other economies reveals. But it is vital to get the sequence right and not to let redistribution – of which we already do significant amounts – get too much in the way of faster growth by undermining the incentives of enterprising and efficient individuals to contribute their skills and assets to the economy. Discouraging rather than encouraging such individuals means that they could easily decide to supply their services to other economies rather than ours.

Chapter 5 and 6 look more closely at the labour market and at policies for regulating the South African economy and encouraging competition. Chapter 7 examines competition policy in more detail and looks at why activist policies are not good for business and so the economy. My scepticism about the beneficence of such policies will be apparent, as will hopefully the reasons for my critique. I hope that public opinion will share such views and help inhibit the ever-flowing tide of more onerous regulation and more active competition policy, which discourages rather than encourages economic efficiency in a world of continuous innovation that effectively threatens what are temporary powers to control markets.

Chapter 8 shares insights about the all-important role played by privately owned corporations and the stock exchanges that help them raise capital and monitor their use of capital. I analyse the sources and uses of savings in South Africa and why our corporations have succeeded, on both sides of the saving–investment nexus, for their owners, who are mostly members of pension and retirement funds and collective investment schemes. I celebrate the opportunities that South Africans, the pension funds that act as their agents for acquiring wealth, and the companies that they own on their behalf have been given in recent years to diversify their wealth across other jurisdictions. I explain why being able to reduce South Africa-specific risks to the wealth of South Africans has been very helpful to the economy. This has encouraged risk-taking in South Africa rather than elsewhere. This chapter also discusses the costs and benefits of black economic empowerment (BEE).

To conclude, Chapter 9 supports the thrust of my argument by turning to measures of South African economic performance. It considers how South Africa ranks relative to our competitors in the global economy. The measures of our standing in the world are mostly very discouraging – and encouraging of reforms that would add freedom and competitiveness and enhance both incomes and standing, as well as respect for our economy as a place to do business.

The text is supplemented by shorter essays, entitled ‘Point of View’, previously published on my www.zaeconomist blog and elsewhere, that substantiate and concentrate the argument without repeating too much. If you like, they offer a short reinforcement of the message.


Brian Kantor

February 2017