by Kavon Fiennes
“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong”– Ayn Rand
I was once an objective socialist in my teen years, and by objective socialist I mean I thought the institution of government should be the source of Jamaican citizens’ progress in life. I genuinely believed that the government should own companies (like the JPSCo, NWC, Air Jamaica, Caymanas Track Ltd. etc) and should hire people to ‘create’ jobs, as a means of doing ‘good’ for country. Sale of government assets was a “sell out of Jamaica”. I was ambivalent though, as I was not blind to the deficiencies and inefficiencies in the way the business of govt was conducted through their companies, agencies and Ministries.
The govt wasn’t (and still isn’t) the best at doing things…..Why couldn’t the government get things right I thought? Why were ‘international forces’ always trying to keep Jamaica down, as the govt and wordsmiths always preached when things didn’t pan out as planned? I had the mind of a child. I had questions. To tell you how much of a child’s mind I had, I did not understand why the government couldn’t just print more money to fix things! I did not realize that there was another way.
It was not until my late teens and early 20’s that I started to think about alternatives to the status quo in Jamaica, as we remained relatively ‘backward’ compared to the stories I had just begun to hear coming out of the Singapore success story. This gained some impetus during my first year at University with a primer in Critical Thinking, as part of the compulsory course called UC120 at the UWI. This I believed laid the foundation for what was to come, my ‘conversion’.
After graduating from University at age 23/24, I met up with Cato Rand, who I knew from before to be a bit quirky. On this particular day while walking through a corridor, I saw him wearing a tie with Republican elephants printed on it, in a repeating pattern! I thought what a traitor to his race!
I challenged Cato about his sartorial choice, but he only laughed and advised me to go and do some reading, instead of listening to media portrayals of the ‘goodness’ of the Liberals, the Progressives, the Left, the Democratic Party and Socialists.
I must confess, that I was skeptical at first, as ‘the right’ has been so vilified in my household and in wider Jamaica in general. But I delved into reading about the history of US political parties objectively and with reason.
I started with who were the racist segregationists in the South, the KKK, the origins of the Civil War, the civil rights era, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It was only then I realized that the Democrats were the ones suppressing Blacks for most of their history and it was the Republicans who were the ones fighting for the freedom of slaves and ending Black oppression in the Jim Crow South. Think about this (and imagine my shock)….MLK was a Republican?!? Three WHITE REPUBLICANS founded the NAACP and were presidents of the organization!! WTF? Why hadn’t I known about all of this before? What more did I not know?
And so began my intellectual journey into right wing/conservative/ governance, economics, politics and capitalism. I had to fight the poison inflicted on my mind in my formative years and look at things objectively.
I borrowed and read the lengthy book From Third World to First. The Singapore Story: 1965-2000, by Lee Kuan Yew.
Mr. Lee and Singapore started out dirt poor and with great uncertainty. He went around the world to learn everything he could from other nations, to improve the lives of his citizens. Though ‘statist’, Mr Lee believed in Capitalism and right wing politics. He crushed communism influences and limited the powers of unions in his country. He refused to ‘live by the begging bowl’, he insisted on the creation of a “Fair State” and not a “Welfare State”.
While reading the book I tried to preempt the content and searched the Index for ‘Jamaica’, but saw no reference. Then I thought of Michael Manley (Jamaica’s former Prime Minister and exponent of Democratic Socialism from 1972-80; and reformed Socialist PM from 1989-1992) and his name was indeed there. Mr. Lee gives his opinion on Page 364 (Chapter 22: Inside the Commonwealth Club). This is in my mind, is the most damning (and correct) indictment of Jamaica I have ever read, and I quote:
“At Kingston, Jamaica, in April 1975, Prime Minister Michael Manley, a light-skinned West Indian, presided with panache and spoke with great eloquence. But I found his views quixotic. He advocated a “redistribution of the world’s wealth”. His country was a well-endowed island of 2,000 square miles, with several mountains in the center, where coffee and other subtropical crops were grown. They had beautiful holiday resorts built by Americans as winter homes. Theirs was a relaxed culture. The people were full of song and dance, spoke eloquently, danced vigorously, and drank copiously. Hard work they left behind with slavery.”
It is no wonder we are the way we are in Jamaica and with Mr. Lee’s stewardship Singapore was able to lift themselves upwards. I then bought the book and after completion, I started looking at every economic decision made by the Govt of Jamaica with a ‘WWLKYD’- (What Would Lee Kuan Yew Do?) approach.
I then started reading columns by conservative economists, Professors Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, huge proponents of capitalism and liberty; just last year I found some ‘gems’ of theirs on YouTube.
They did a series of documentaries in the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s outlining the unintended economic harm being done by government, through programs intended to do good and looking at empirical data without political biases. All of what they say makes sense. They continue their fight to this day. I have shared just a few clips of theirs, here and here, on the blog.
I also discovered on YouTube lectures given by Economics Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman (my new hero) in his brilliant prime. The topics of his lectures range from capitalism, freedom, free markets, freedom of choice, colonialism and slavery and the need to restrict government activity.
Friedman’s clarity of thought, argument and analysis about the inherent morality in an individual’s freedom to choose for himself the best way for himself to live their life; the inherent fairness of capitalism and the danger of the monopolistic force of a limitless government, won me over immediately.
In retrospect, I believe I was always on ‘the right’, but I hadn’t realized it yet. I needed information and it had to be a gradual epiphany (if there is such a thing). I had to accept who I was, by converting with healthy skepticism, due to my earlier conditioning.
Having now converted from ‘the left’ to ‘the right’. I can objectively say that government expansion is harmful. We see it everyday in Jamaica, but are blind to it. Most of us think it is a good thing. There are desirable roles of the government, which they should stick to and that’s it!
We the people are above the government. The government serves us. We do not exist to sacrifice and ‘ban we belly’ for those with privileges and power in the seat of government. I believe in freedom, reason and objectivity in almost everything I analyze, except relations with my family!
With this view of politics, governance and economics RightFromYaad was birthed to share with Jamaicans an alternative to the message of the JLP and PNP. What we have been about in Jamaica for the last 40-50 years has taken us to the point where Jamaicans have emigrated in the hundreds of thousands seeking economic and social freedoms elsewhere.
I hope RightFromYaad serves to stimulate conversation and hopefully a similar conversion among Jamaicans. I know that there will be many who will reject our message. C’est la vie!
“Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.” -AYN RAND
“There are two sides to every issue. One side is right and the other is wrong. The middle is always evil” -AYN RAND
Kavon Fiennes is creator of the RightFromYaad blog. He is a 30-something year old ‘Black’, sometimes ‘Brown’, Jamaican. He is a former socialist, nationalist and Democrat, turned Libertarian and semi-conservative since his mid 20′s. He still holds lingering left-wing views on the way society ought to treat the destitute and elderly.