By Kwadwo Afari

Political parties matters greatly in every democracy. However, when they fail to represent any serious moral compass, or what simply could be called guiding principles, the people and country suffer. Effective government need a clear conception of government. Public policy does not operate in a moral vacuum, nor does the politics behind it. No country prospers with parties that roll along from scheme to scheme because it has no guiding principles.

Indeed, ideas direct the course of all human affairs and a nation’s prosperity is ultimately determined by ideologically driven policies offered by political parties and embraced by the common people (the masses). The poor do not conceive any ideas, sound or unsound. They only choose between the ideologies developed by political parties and their leaders.

Sadly, Ghanaian political parties have failed the country with their inability to activate and mobilise citizens into participating in political decisions and transforming their ideas into viable policy options. The brief period on and before independence may be an exception when the two major parties seemed to represent two distinct philosophies — socialism and conservatism, the state and the individual, crony capitalism or bourgeois socialism and the free market. Now in Ghana, the difference is blurred. While the country is polarised, the parties have come to share so much in common —- a believe that the state should have a more active  role in society because this will help society grow, achieve its goals and also leads to equality and higher quality of life . 

This is a believe in the magic power of government central planning to create wealth, thus creating absolute dependency on the state for an education, a job, opportunities for economic and social advancement and of course, the selected perks and privileges bestowed on those loyal and obedient to the leaders of the political parties.

After several years of lectures about “transformation”, “development” and “the Rule of law” by the political establishment, their performance demonstrate that their high-minded dedication to economic prosperity is all a fraud. It is not about “economic development” or “the Rule of Law.” It is only about holding on to power – theirs. The paradise promised citizens in reality has become a la-la land with an intricate hierarchical labyrinth of status, position, and degrees of power depending upon the individual’s place within the vast bureaucratic network of government planning.

Yes, confidence in our politics is shaken to its foundations. Only the worst brigands get on top. The symbols and slogans they use are most often mere fallacies and make-believe. So after several years of tiresome finger-wagging about “development” and how we need to put our “collective interests” above our desire for “selfish interests,” the whole sordid scam we always knew it always was is revealed for the discerning to see.

Our politicians cannot hide it anymore and they are not even trying. Their glorious “social-justice principles” are not democratic at all but a kleptocracy; a sleazy ploy designed to loot the treasury. The redistributive policies help politicians to loot the treasury. Our poverty has nothing to do with the population but with policies that restrict our ability to freely use our God-given talent to create wealth for ourselves and country. Every scheme, every subsidy, every plan is just another way of stealing public money. This must end, and soon.

Sadly, we are moving towards a political season that seems unreal because it is unreal. The election is taking place at a time when recent economic history does provide ample cause for depression. Meanwhile, a lot of make-believe, absurdities and false premises is what is driving the campaigns. Will reality assert itself before then? It seem impossible now; the safe bet is no.

What we are witnessing in the run-off to 2024 is just a contest among ‘big government’ demagogues who are still promising a bigger and more expansive state in every imaginable area without any ideological arguments. The make-believe is that the bumps in the economy is due to incompetence and not policy failures. The rhetoric that smart young people could plan this country’s economy is becoming like a small-fry family drama, which depicts the Ghanaian economy in fairy-tale plots.

They say those who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it. The prosperity still promised are still mere fallacies and clichés to throw dust in the eyes of the poor just for their votes. Words like “equity,” “social justice” and “participatory democracy” is becoming one of the most intricate social webs of power, privilege, favouritism and plunder ever seen in our history.

Our make-believe democracy presently does not represent citizens. It works to undermine our God-given freedoms; hostile to the open, competitive market economy that, precisely, gives each and every individual wide latitude and liberty over his own personal affairs. Our politicians’ make-believe policies demonise free trade, truth telling and protect criminals at the expense of law-abiding Ghanaians, and in the main, starve political opponents. If the current trajectory of the 2024 election holds, every major-party voter will be tarnished in the end.

The make-belief system refuses to kill the thieving hand of the State and replace it with the “invisible hand” of the market. What is too real for partisans to handle — what we have covered over with political fantasy — is the refusal to confront the flaws in the ideas of our leaders and institutions. The make-believe disease is bipartisan. Both sides of the aisle proceed as if their standard-bearers possess magical powers and their words give power and create wealth. It is not for nothing that some call the president ‘father’.

Our recent history suggests we are in for the long haul. The belief of “the people” owning, controlling, regulating and overseeing the redistribution of wealth is pure illusion and deception, not driven by service to the people and nation, but by selfish greed and cowardly progressiveness, which encourages corporatism, paternalism, state controlled industrial policy and the distributive welfare state. All forms of planning, regulation, and political redistribution in fact takes power and decision-making out of the hands of the people and make them poor.

“No Taxation without Representation” has always been the rallying cry of democracy. Citizens lost their voices long time ago when politicians got the ability to produce money out of a hat. With the ability to print money, our politicians no longer care about their citizens and instead use printed money to cultivate vote banks and partisan groups.

So, no, this is not a do-over. This election is remaining true to our psyche: a bipartisan devaluation of accountability and a moral compromise forced on the Ghanaian voting public. No one championing any candidate can be said to have clean hands. No one here is righteous. Assaults on our freedoms comes from all sides these days, even civil society organisations all have their agendas to impose on poor citizens.

There is a serious disconnect between Ghanaian politics and the life of the ordinary Ghanaian. Since 1992, our leaders have created a make-believe political and economic system that do not take note of either the inborn talent or the inborn morality of our children. The Constitution, largely, does not recognise property rights. Appropriation and land reform is nothing but ‘legal plunder.’ The ‘repressed economy’ ranked 145 in the World Economic Freedom index 2022, places restrictions on trade at every level.

This country would be much more frightening place in the coming days without a radical change in our mind set. The cost of entitlement programmes is the inflation that put a heavy burden on the poor. Inflation is real; the corruption is real; the unbearable tax hikes and breakdown in primary education and health-care is real. None of it would go away. We would continue to live poor until we exorcise the make-believe.

Ghanaians should never forget that the make-believe old prescriptions and scarcity invoking policies are of course, designed to keep clients in the IMF and World Bank happy, not citizens. These clients prosper while the people stay poor. This is not development economic. It is cheap, thieving politics.

We need to grow up. However, most of us fail to grow up. The stakes are more than just winning a few elections. They are about reviving the animating spirit of our whole system. The big issue of today is preserving representative government and multi-party democracy. To do that, we need to preserve the spirit of it, and that will require political parties to start thinking of themselves as attempting to build broad consensus through meaningful debate, not make-believe to pyrrhic victories.