What should be the ultimate aim of government? This is one of the simplest question one can ask and yet at the same time, it can be the kind of question that can produce answers which are in total contradiction with each other. Depending on where you stand on the platform of ideology, your answer will vary accordingly. Even the pragmatics will find it troublesome to find common grounds on this one. A good starting point, I believe, would be to fully grasp the essence of government. Simply put, government is the system by which a state or community is organised. Bearing this in mind, it follows that there can be different types of governments with each producing very different outcomes. Based on pure deduction principles, one could imagine a state where all the organizational power is held by one individual and that, as such, that individual crafts the governing system of the community as he or she deems appropriate. Similarly, one can imagine a state where all the organizational power is held equally by everyone and that, as such, that group of individuals craft the governing system of the community as they collectively deem appropriate. These two possibilities stand at the extreme of a whole range of possibilities which more likely than not encompass all the forms of government which have existed, exist and probably will exist in the future.
By all accounts, Mauritius, in 2017, is technically closer to the system whereby a group of people decide and legislate on how a society should function; a system which has been labelled as representative democracy – whereby the population, at regular intervals, elect representatives to decide on their behalf what is the best course of action when it comes to public policy. The question that then deserves to be asked is whether the population is making the right decision with respect to its ambition and desires and the answer is a resounding no. The first few generations of an independent Mauritian sovereign state have unfortunately generally been unable to elect representatives that appropriately and genuinely represent the interest of the electors at all times. And this, dear reader, boils down to the farce that the accession to independence represented for the Mauritian people. If anyone of you out there think that independence marked a major turnaround in the destiny of the Mauritian people, please think again. Independence represented a mere replacement of a monarchical power by a new monarch, in the person of Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. The latter was not a founding father of the Mauritian society for the simple reason that the Mauritian society is still to exist. In 1968, Mauritius was transformed from a colony into a neo-colony; a state whose shackles we are yet to entirely shake off even today.
As a colony, Mauritius was never imagined as a society. The first settlers who came here did not come here to establish a utopic society or even a better society than the one they sailed away from. Mauritius, since its discovery, has been a land of exploitation – from the Dodo, the ébène forest to its eventual working population. As a colony, Mauritius was a mere factory where profit maximization was the ultimate end-all. From a strict economic perspective, there has never been a system where profitability levels were as maximized as under colonialism. One of the most important implication of profit maximization is cost minimization. Colonialism permitted ‘new’ lands to be ‘discovered’ and subsequently exploited for free, while the inhumanity of slavery meant that labour cost was minimal. Free land, free labour! Imagine the fortunes which colonialism created…
However, we cannot say that the welfare of the society was maximized under colonialism. Welfare of a society is concerned with the collective wellbeing of all members of that society. We have just highlighted the fact that under colonialism, the colonisers probably maximized their welfare but that a great deal of this maximization came at the expense of another set of people (the rest of the colony) being worse off, hence not an optimal situation. Righteous economics is obsessed with optimality – that level of equilibrium where the economy is fine-tuned and all economic agents are in a more or less stable situation. Colonialism is a text-book example of profit maximization but not one of societal welfare maximization. What about neo-colonialism one may ask?
Before attempting to bring some elements of answer to that fundamental question, we need to go back to where we started and that is assessing the aim of a government. Should it be to maximize profitability levels or should it be to maximize welfare of society at large? One’s answer to that question is critical in determining how left- or right- leaning one is in economic terms. Many of my fellow Mauritians fail to grasp the discernment that should exist between a company and a society and therefore tend to strongly think that the aim of a government should be to maximize profits. Completely delusional if you want my opinion. You, bloody communist! That’s the response I usually get when I do share every now and then my opinion on the matter. The reality of things is that I’m left-leaning on this matter and see absolutely no reason why welfare of a society should not be maximized. To my potential detractors, let me add that the concept of welfare maximization is compatible with cost minimization, only that in this case, it is called constrained cost minimization – that is you cannot exploit resources freely but have to include an element of fairness which can be translated along the lines of minimum wages, sustainable fishing thresholds etc.
So far we have ascertained that colonies were all about profit maximization but that the ultimate aim of societies should be to maximize welfare. This brings us to the conclusion of this article – what should we do to maximize welfare in Mauritius? Firstly, we need to recognize where we are at in terms of society. As previously mentioned, we are still at a neo-colonial stage whereby the economic forces that controlled the pre-independence colony have mutated into an economic elite that have mustered into a few conglomerates which totally controls the traditional political class. Through obscure financing of ALL traditional parties at all electoral encounters, they have turned our dear politicians into Muppets who dance to their tunes such that the inconsistency and absurdity of profit maximization at a national level are still a painful feature of our society.
We, people of Mauritius, have a right to transform our neo-colonial society into something more beautiful and more respectful of each other’s contribution to the economy. We can really build a new society upon our shared values and maximize welfare for all citizens, and not for a few privileged ones only, as is currently the case. All it will take is to boot out of parliament all MPs who have sold their souls to the devil and replace them with citizens that want to work for the betterment of their country and create a true Mauritian society whereby the sons and daughters of former slaves, indentured labourers and colonisers collaborate to maximize the welfare of each and everyone… Mauritius 2.0! The real independence where monarchs and their followers are replaced by individuals who fully embrace their unique Mauritian identity and embody the values of a free and proud nation, Mauritius!