The parliament of South Africa has just recently passed a motion to confiscate all the land from white farmers without compensation.
The motion passed by a large majority, and was put forward by the Economic Freedom Fighters party, a radical Marxist faction in the South African political system. At the core of their grievance is the claim that the white farmers inherited the land through colonialism, and currently own an overwhelmingly large proportion of the country’s total land given the small proportion of the population they make up.
As such, the Economic Freedom Fighters party see this as righting a historical wrong; as finally achieving some recompense for the atrocity of colonialism.
As usual, however, the Marxist ideologues unforgivably overlook several dimensions of the situation, many of which have proved detrimental or even fatal to other societies which implemented the same policy in the past.
To begin, let us deal with the elephant in the room – racism. To lump all white farmers into one category, and all black farmers into another, without acknowledging the differences between individuals is quite the opposite of righting a historical wrong – it lays all the right seeds to perpetuate it.
Immediately the assumption is made that if the farmer is white, then he must own the land because of his colonial ancestors, he must not deserve the land, and his land must rightly belong to people outside his race. Essentially, he is blamed for the wrongdoing of his presumed ancestors, and by mere virtue of being related to the victims, the presumed descendants of these victims are credited with the merit to own and farm the land instead.
This policy does not reflect justice; it reflects misguided resentment and prejudice.
And we see this discrimination with Marxism everywhere, be it between races, genders, or economic classes; it’s almost as though this is a necessary result.
The richer class is collectively blamed for the collective troubles of the poorer class, men are collectively blamed for the collective troubles of women, and white people are collectively blamed for the collective troubles of other races.
Personal agency is removed from the equation, nuance between members of a racial, gender, or economic group is ignored, and an over-arching narrative is stamped onto the social landscape to provide a one-size-fits-all answer to the scenario. Ironically the system claiming to dismantle oppression between groups ends up perpetuating the same oppression themselves.
Beyond the obvious pitfall of racism in this motion lies a lack of historical awareness, even of countries nearby and their recent policies. A few years ago, Zimbabwe took the same approach that South Africa is currently adopting, and their economy plummeted dismally.
This is because when the majority of competent farmers who efficiently produce the food for the country are removed, who replaces them? Invariably the workers who take over have less experience, less training, and consequently do not produce anywhere near the same output as their predecessors. And the entire country feels the sting.
Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, assures the approach will be carried out without jeopardizing food security and production. With the vibrant memory of Zimbabwe’s failure however, a great many critics don’t have much confidence in his claim.
One such critic is our very own Jordan Peterson, Professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, and quite likely Canada’s most popular intellectual as of late. Professor Peterson has made a name for himself by opposing what he calls the “radical post-modern neo-Marxist ideology” which he believes is increasingly possessing the academic institutions and the media.
For months now, he has been warning his audiences of the dangers of this philosophy and urges that we stop heading in this direction as a society or we face catastrophic economic, political, and social disaster.
The motion passed by South Africa’s parliament frighteningly affirms that his understanding and predictions of Marxism have validity. Recounting the Marxist history of Soviet Russia, Dr. Peterson often speaks about a class of affluent peasants called the “kulaks”, who owned and farmed land in Ukraine in the late 1920s. The kulaks were economically more prosperous than other classes of society, and they produced most of the food for the country.
The Soviets identified them as vampires and blood-suckers who contributed to class inequality through their economic privilege, and consequently organized mobs to invade their land, confiscate their wealth, and ship the kulaks who weren’t killed in the process to Siberia. The resentment the Soviets had for the affluent class of farmers wasn’t without its consequences; millions of Ukrainians died of starvation shortly after.
South Africa’s approach is strikingly reminiscent of this awful historical event. A collection of farmers has been stripped of their individual circumstances, identified by their group status, blamed for their economic prosperity, and displaced from their land by the government with no recompense. Ukraine received terrible backlash after doing this. Zimbabwe followed suit. What can we expect for South Africa, when their other farmers have such poor training and experience?
Considering the economic inequality between white farmers and black farmers, pertinent to this case is one of Dr. Peterson’s other topics of interest; the Pareto distribution. This phenomenon describes the natural progression of creative endeavours in any given field. Essentially, it demonstrates that a small minority of highly skilled people, in any given field, will come to receive the vast majority of the earnings.
We may observe with the music industry, for example, that a tiny fraction of artists make it big. This small percentage ends up getting most of the label contracts, radio plays, YouTube views, fans, and so on. All the other musical artists who are less successful are left to compete for the small space in which the stars leave behind. The same goes for athletes; a very few play professional sports, are recognized worldwide, and make millions of dollars. The distribution of wealth and popularity among the less successful athletes is very small in comparison.
As such, the same holds true for wealth; one percent is overwhelmingly successful and earns the vast majority of money, while everyone else fights over the remainder. The Pareto distribution demonstrates this is a natural progression in any form of creative expression; there is always a small group of insanely efficient, talented, or competent individuals who produce the vast majority of their craft and receive the vast majority of earnings.
Perhaps it is unfair, particularly with regards to wealth.
However, we must not immediately assume, as the Marxists do, that it is caused by a corrupt economic system, particularly if the same disparity holds true in a vast range of other fields.
Furthermore, Dr. Peterson explains that the “one percent” we so often vilify is not consistent; it is very competitive and people constantly shift in and out of it as a result. He explains that the vast majority of people within the one percent do not sit around all day chewing on expensive cigars as we assume. Rather, they work tirelessly because they underpin the whole economy.
They create all the jobs. Their intensive labor ensures that society continues to run smoothly, and thus their position is as much of a blessing as it is a curse.
Indeed they make overwhelming sums of money, but they spend virtually all their time working fiercely to maintain the economy’s stability. In many ways, they are responsible for the creation of jobs we hold in order to feed ourselves.
This is something the Marxists in South Africa could learn from. Indeed the minority of white farmers in South Africa own most of the farmland and make more money than the black farmers do. But they also produce most of the food and possess most of the farming skills. According to the Pareto distribution, this is naturally so.
Unlike the Marxists believe, wealth isn’t equally distributed, even when everyone plays fair. Neither can humans be generalized into boxes by their group status.
People are different on an individual level, and a small portion of any population will always be obsessively productive or talented in a given field. Naturally then, they will earn more than others do. What’s more is that we all benefit from these highly efficient individuals. We either listen to their music, enjoy their sportsmanship, absorb their teachings, occupy their jobs, and yes – eat their food. And when we burn them at the stake in the name of economic equity, everyone is left with little to consume.
Nobody eats without skilled farmers.
Marxism is characterized by a bitter resentment of those doing better than oneself, without thoroughly examining the reasons for their success or anticipating the consequences for supplanting them.
It attempts to manifest an idealized utopia without considering the real-world variables that such a project must contend with. Insofar as this philosophy stands, Professor Jordan Peterson is right when he says the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Whenever we feel indignation, we must also verify what we should be grateful for. Often, the people whose things we covet are in some way responsible for the things we have. The Kulaks are the most pronounced example of what happens when we forego this. Let us hope the South African population learns from history before their citizens suffer irreversible catastrophe.