The Economic Basis of Inclusivity

I recently went on a radio show where I talked about the need for Nigerians to start thinking differently, to attain a higher level of consciousness and intelligence, just like many leading countries of the world. They say the only constant thing in life is change. And good change is innovation. The rest of the world keeps changing and setting the pace, dragging the rest of us along.
And so what is this new thinking that I preach? The world never waits for things to totally deteriorate before they innovate. I titled one earlier article “If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It!”. It used to be otherwise. We now live in the age of creative disruption. Young people the world over are using their brains to take over the world. Look at Uber as an example. This is an Application created to solve the problem of getting a taxi on the crazy streets of places like Manhattan, New York, but soon deployed all over the world. When the idea got to Nigeria, local drivers who couldn’t get on the platform decided it was best to catch and beat up Uber drivers! That is what creative disruption does to you.
The world is also thinking of income inequality. The World Economic Forum couple of years back, settled down on the fact that the key issue that will face all economies in the world for the next number of years – at least up till the year 2020 – will simply be INEQUALITY. The developed countries of the world have come to realize that fact, and though they may be capitalist countries, they are putting checks in place to ensure that life is not too miserable for the majority of their people. This they do by making sure there is a surfeit of public goods which are made affordable for their people’s use. A travel card of say 25 pounds can take anyone all around Greater London’s six zones for a whole week, and afford you the flexibility of going by bus, surface train or the underground. This means that with 100 pounds you can take care of your transportation for a month. Your remaining salary – even if you are on minimum wage (say 600 pounds a month) – is available for you to feed and enjoy a bit of life. These people have attained a higher level of consciousness that so long as people can feed and move around a bit, there is little else to life.
Here in Nigeria, we are stuck in the primitive acquisition, hunter-gatherer kind of existence and we are getting few good examples from our leaders. Even as the economy is in a prolonged recession – from which we are expected to come out sometime next year – the fiscal choices we are making are appalling. There is no sense of urgency, modesty, contrition or responsibility on the part of political office holders. It’s all about grabbing what is closest to you even as we are locked in a combat to show who owns the largest stash of cash. Lately, kidnappers have cashed in on this and would usually profile those they are sure have tons of cash. They too soon fall victim of ostentatious living because the only standard for the good life set in our society is that if you own it, you flaunt it.
But these are not my concerns for today. I am more concerned with the need for inclusion. In the radio program referred to earlier, I made a case that we cannot build society around the healthy and strong only, contrary to the ongoing drive for restructuring driven principally by the need to cast away the weak among us. I admit that there has been a lot of injustice in our governance over the years. Many so-called leaders have come into position who simply feathered their own nests all the while claiming they were favouring their own people. But in spite of this, predicating the call for restructuring on the fact that some regions of Nigeria have some sort of resources and don’t have to share with others, is fundamentally wrong, spiritually abominable and economically suboptimal. That is my position.
In the first place, those calling for restructuring on the basis of resource control and allocation, are focused on the same resources of which we have no indigenous technology to mine and process; like crude oil. The best resources are however ‘upstairs’; our brains. With 180million people we should fare well, if we did the right things. Somehow the most influential and productive countries of the world are also the large ones, like the USA with 360million people, China and India with over a billion each, and so on. It makes economic and statistical sense that in the middle of great numbers will be great talents. Are we finding ours? Or are we stuck in a time warp looking for the same resources in the ground in order to repeat the same mistakes?
A caller phoned into the radio program to disagree with my opinion. He belonged to that group of Nigerians who believe in winner-takes-all. However, winner-takes-all philosophy is like the idea of an eye-for-an-eye. It hacks back to the Hobbesian state of nature, where life was ‘nasty, brutish and short’, where a man took revenge for an infraction done against him or his family, on the spot without referring to the state or community. That age has long been relegated to the background. But will we take heed? Human beings came together and outlawed such existence which led to much killings and in which human population never grew. It is thus a surprise that we cannot reason beyond that level.
I told the caller of people like Stephen Hawkings. Wheelchair-bound and paraplegic, the world (the western world in particular), still ensure that we wring out every intelligence that we can from the gentleman irrespective of his circumstances. If it was elsewhere, they would have taken Hawkings to the ‘Forest of a Thousand Demons’, abandoned him there to starve to death because the gods must be angry with him. Look at Nick Vujicic, born without arms and legs. But today, he is one of the world’s greatest motivational speakers, and has become a millionaire several times over, in addition to living a happy life with his wife and children. If it was elsewhere, his mother would have been told to strangle him the moment he was born. She could have even been ostracized and banished from her husband’s house for delivering a runt. But today, the world gains from Vujicic. There are many examples out there we can copy from.
The economic basis of inclusion (defined as the deliberate involvement of the vulnerable, underprivileged and ignored in society), is scientific. In drawing up an economic model to explain a phenomenon, the trick is to ensure that as many variables as possible that explains that phenomenon is considered. If too few variables are considered, the error term will be large, meaning that we haven’t estimated our phenomenon correctly. Economists differ from scientists because we never agree that anything can be fully and totally explained because human nature is involved. So we are always ‘minimizing the error term’. These days, the study of human nature is mainstreaming further into economics. Behavioral economics is becoming more popular, and many assumptions we had made about man in the past – that he is rational and calculating and has all the information he needs before making a decision – have been realized to be farcical. This should humble anyone still promoting the winner-takes-all approach. But will they take heed? Even if they don’t, the rest of us who are humbled and are aware should do the needful that will cause society to change.

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