SOVEREIGNTY AND ECONOMIC VALUE
AT the centre of this article is my firm belief that sovereignty, or state power, is meaningless if it does not deliver economic and political benefits or value to those citizens it claims to represent and protect.
In this respect, ideals such as nationalism and its extended belief in state ownership of all resources of value within the national borders become meaningless if citizens do not ultimately benefit.
The same can be said for capitalism and its commercialisation or privatisation tenets or principles. If citizens do not attain a level of progressive benefit, then there must be a systemic reconstruction of state.
Having said that, four landmarks need to be definitively explained in relation to the title and introduction, set aside before making the point; and these are sovereignty, value, economy and political benefit.
Firstly, for the purposes of this discussion, sovereignty will be understood as a representation of state or governmental power over a given territory and its people. It connotes and denotes power in its inherent form.
In other words, it is power that is inherent by virtue of merely existing. The conundrum of state sovereignty is that without actual human beings, a geographic space is as good as a blank unclaimed area, but not a country.
This means that the most important quality and qualification of state sovereignty is people. It is people that enact laws through parliament; it is people who activate and oversee those laws through the judiciary and it is people who elect a single representative to the highest executive office of the land.
A state, therefore, that does not adhere to an electoral system of legitimate representation cannot claim to be beneficial to people. Any claim to sovereign legitimacy without electoral consent is dictatorship because the sovereignty must be derived from the citizens.
To put it simply, if people do not have the basic right to vote for a candidate of their choice, it is worrisome for people to believe that those who do not allow them such basic rights will create economic opportunities for them.
Secondly, economy entails the full semblance of all resources, tangible and intangible that generate some form of income from which the state provides services to its citizenry. The fact that such resources are within the geographic purview of government means that nationalisation is an extra step of exerting authority by government, after all, the resources are already in the state’s territory. This essentially means that nationalization expresses a government’s intention to be the sole distributor of all benefits relating to a national resource or asset. Still, a nation cannot rightly expect to distribute resources fairly of there is no input from the supposed beneficiaries.
In the same vein, privatization of assets without demanding a distribution of benefits associated to that privatized asset to citizens, would be irresponsible. For example, for about 10 years since 1991, Zambia liberalised the mining sector before formally privatizing the mines. The value chain of companies that supplied various equipment, consumables and so on to the mines were given to citizens. Mining licenses were issued to citizens for the first time. This was classic liberalization that transferred economic power of an asset from the state to the private citizens, including privatizing homes.
So, while negotiations for the larger asset were ongoing, the distribution of wealth had been partly resolved in that way, and by privatizing the houses associated to the mines. Furthermore, the single mining unit was broken into multiple portions to derive varying levels of economic benefit.
The penultimate term to explain is value. Like sovereignty, value is an inward indeterminate value of something. Economists propose that it can either be measured as a sum of the demand it commands or, in the case of labour, value can be determined by the labour hours spent on the job. In terms of a nation asset such as a copper mine, value can be determined by the demand for the copper (if it is to be privatized) or by the time and money needed to keep the asset nationalized.
The fourth and last landmark to explain is political benefit which is best captured by the right to vote; to elect candidates of one’s choice. To participate freely in the process of making laws to enable and advance the citizenry of a given nation. This includes the process of making laws to ascertain the distribution of all value related to resources inside the geographic boundaries of a country.
To sum it up: if sovereignty is power exercised for the benefit of people to guarantee them economic benefit from the value of their national resources, then democracy is the best guarantee for equitable resource distribution. Under this system, what is not beneficial can be reversed; what displeases the custodians of sovereignty (the people) can be confronted and importantly, they can vote the leader out of office. Nationalization, at full scale, has always been the better fantasy but fails to distribute resources for progressive benefit in reality.
That is why a middle ground is most preferred these days because, the distribution of resources is shared between government and the private sector. In that way, sovereignty is legitimized through representative government and the economic value of country is distributed with transparency. In a democracy, the collective power of the citizens must never be underestimated, regardless of how repressive and intrusive the system may be, there lies within the people the will to bring about change and correct the status quo to a desirable state. In this regard, leaders are elected and remain at the mercy of the citizens.