Ghana and the Social Contract

Ghana and the Social Contract

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Aristotle rightly said that the family is the building block of the society and each family has its common values and preferences. Even though individuals may belong to the same family and society, they would have diverse opinions on what the society should be and where it should be headed. Even in the face of shared values by a society, there is another discriminant of individual’s value systems- their experiences. These experiences make them masters of themselves because they assume that their experiences are unique to only them and therefore these views should be recognized as valid. James O’Toole categorised the value systems of individuals under the four major themes of community, efficiency, liberty and equality (O'Toole, 1995). This paper reflects on the good society and its constituents in the light of these four themes. O’Toole believes these four are the great themes of political argument which face trade-offs with each other and have an inverse relationship with each other, that is, an increase in one causes a decrease of the other.

Thomas Jefferson considered the good society to be a society in which everyone was happy and I agree with that because happiness is the end product of various favourable factors in a person’s life. Furthermore, I am of the same view that a good society is one that ensures the rights of every member of the society. This is because every human being is innately self-seeking and this is evident in a child’s selfish efforts to attain his or her wants in spite of being young in knowledge of the society. Even though humans can be selfless, their basic needs should at least be met because the satisfaction of their needs sustain them and ensures their contentment. To ensure basic rights of individuals, it is essential to know which value they hold dear, whose fulfilment would bring them long lasting pleasure, thus, leading into the exploration of these major core values.

Liberty is concerned with freedom of the individual in three spheres, which are in politics, religion and economics and this value births individuals who are known as libertarians. The modern Libertarian principle that these individuals operate by is that “the equal right to freedom constitutes the full extent of human equality; all other equalities are unwarranted and unjust” (O'Toole, 1995). Thus, libertarians support every kind of liberty which includes economic liberty hence, capitalism. As such they believe that government interventions in the free market stifle economic progress.

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Friedrich Von Hayek confirmed this assertion by saying that “every governmental action designed to impose order, through planning, regulation, or redistribution of income, amounts to the laying of a brick on ‘the path to serfdom’” (O'Toole, 1995). Libertarians are of the view that a good society is one with absolute political and economic liberty. This view causes a strain between libertarians and egalitarians because some egalitarians believe that capitalism is evil and has caused exploitation of the lower classes.

The modern In John Jacques Rousseau’s book “the Social Contract” he stated that every man has natural liberty with which he was born (Rousseau, 1762). Therefore, if every man has natural liberty then they have the will to do whatever seems right to them and if there is no system to ensure that all these individuals who have natural liberty are properly monitored, the society would be thrown into the state of chaos. Furthermore, the naturally stronger will oppress the naturally weaker thereby trampling on their rights to live freely as humans. With unlimited liberty, a man has unlimited right to anything which entices him and he would move solely by his or her will. Considering this propensity of man to act freely without restrictions, the good society should ensure that one person’s liberty ends where another’s begins and this civil liberty is ensured by the means of a constitution as Abraham Lincoln believed. In spite of the fact that freedom or liberty should be limited, it does not mean that freedom should be restrained absolutely because freedom is a very essential part of human existence and thus the good society which should be guaranteed. This freedom should enable individuals to pursue their own good without preventing others from pursuing same as John Stuart Mills elaborated (Mills, 1859).
Equality is the value that emphasizes that individuals should be have equal standings in the society in terms of income. This equal standing should be created consciously and not left to the wind of unregulated capitalism. Modern egalitarians hold that every person has inalienable rights and if these rights are not freely available to all because of the imperfect means the market distributes income and resources, then it should be redistributed on the basis that “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” (O'Toole, 1995). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were the staunch proponents of redistribution of income. They supposed that those who had so much economic power, that is the bourgeoisie, were exploiting the lower classes who are the proletariat and as such the bourgeoisie should be stripped off of all of the economic power they have so that that influence can be redistributed throughout the society (Marx & Engels, 1988).
On the wing of equality, I opine with Jacques when he says that inequalities are as a result of nurture and not nature. People may argue that a person who is born poor has a high probability of remaining poor which is sound because to an extent, the environment has an influence on an individual unless the person makes a choice to rise out of their situations based on opportunities that present themselves. Also, I would support Aristotle that nature can influence the outcome of a person’s life. This is because, opportunities do not present themselves to everybody and not everybody seeking opportunities find them. Therefore, individuals are made unequal by both nature and nurture. William Sumner in his essay “the Challenge of Facts” stated that the most deserving individuals amass property (Sumner & Keller, 1914) but Karl would disagree because he believes that property was probably accrued to individuals, at the expense of others. The issue inherent in this view is that, the measure of who is most deserving is not determined by individuals alone. Existing social structures put in place determine who deserves what in the society and because of this the most deserving individuals might be able to accrue property since they may fall at the wrong side of these structures put in place.

Another position that raises political argument is the issue of efficiency, efficiency being wealth creation through very industrious applications of science and technology and individuals that share this view are known as corporatists. Corporatists believe that a good society is realised on full employment and a constantly advancing standard of living. And contemporary corporatists believe in in economies of scale, which is the view that mass production has long term benefits and also that savings equals investments. Therefore, the major stress of efficiency is on “cheapness and plenty” as mentioned by Adam Smith (Smith, 1776). In achieving this “plenty” they assert that human resources and capital should be fully exploited to their full capacities and machines should be used more in production as they improve efficiency. This huge concern of corporatists on increasing wealth brings them into harsh opposition with communitarians who believe that high quality of life is more important than high standard of living and that humans should be regarded as ends not as resources in industry operations. They also believe that uncontrolled usage of powerful technologies threatens the moral foundations of culture and humanity.
Community therefore is another value that certain individuals known as communitarians cherish. Communitarians believe that the uncontrolled desire to accumulate wealth creates a vast distinction between owners and workers, where they share no real bond as fellow human beings as Alexis de Tocqueville expressed in his book “Democracy in America” (Tocqueville, 1945). Buttressing Tocqueville, E. Schumacher in his writing of “Small is Beautiful” also makes it known that the end product of work should be to improve the worker and not to exploit him. This desire for wealth also has adverse effects on the environment as heavy industrialisation releases toxic substances into the atmosphere. Communitarians assert that humans a humans a part of nature and as such should not act apart from nature because their actions would come back to harm them and so their common purpose is to protect the biosphere. Rachel Carson in her book “Silent Spring” brought this issue of the impact of focusing on efficiency in agriculture by use of pesticides and insecticides on the environment. She noted that the use of these chemicals all in the name of increased productivity would cause destruction to the earth’s environment and if the earth’s environment is destroyed, then humans too are destroyed because the environment supports human life. Communitarians also believe that mutual co-operation and collective action is necessary as expressed by Ibn Khaldun in his book the Al-Muqaddimah (Khaldun, 1377). John Donne’s poem “No man is An Island” (Donne, 1964) summarises the stance of communitarians that there is an interconnectedness between men that should be appreciated.
Considering these opposing views of community and efficiency, I believe that efficiency is necessary to move a nation forward and that productivity creates wealth and wealth ensures the material happiness of citizens. Looking at Africa and specifically, Ghana, it is evident that inefficiencies have caused poverty and dependence on foreign countries who are keen on efficiency. I believe that the environment can be protected to some extent even in the midst of efficiency in production. Moreover, I believe that the hungry child in Somalia would nor concern him or herself with global warming when he has not eaten a warm bowl of soup for about a week. As Abraham Maslow propounded, the physiological needs of a person have to be met before the person can go further to think about social needs (Maslow, 1970). Therefore, just as the world is doing by checking carbon emissions and some companies are being efficient by producing biodegradable products, I believe that the trade-off between efficiency and community is necessary but the loss to the community should be salvaged with measure like tree planting exercises.
Since it is the duty of every legitimate government to ensure the good society for its citizens and there are tensions in the construction of the good society because of varying values, it is the task of the government is to settle these tensions in the society in a bid to carry out its chief duty. The governance of Ghana like any other country has recognised that there are varying values inherent in the country and so it has sought to tackle these tensions. Before measures by the government to settle these tensions are brought out, it is necessary to know about the country under scrutiny. After the background of the country is discussed, concrete illustrations of resolution of tensions would also be dissected.
Ghana is a country on the West Coast of Africa and is it has often been referred to as an "island of peace" in one of the most chaotic regions on earth. The industrial sector (about 30 percent of GDP in 2007) is more developed than in other African countries, but agriculture accounts for 50 percent of employment and 39 percent of exports The GDP (PPP) of $82.4 billion with a 7.0% growth and an 8.3% 5-year compound annual growth. The per capita of the country is $3,305 with unemployment rate to be 11.0%. The Inflation (CPI) rate is 9.2% (Ghana, 2014). Ghana is a significant exporter of commodities such as cocoa, gold, lumber and the recently discovered oil. Public debt is over 55 percent of the size of the economy and a large share of the labour force remains in the informal economy. Foreign investors may face restrictions in certain sectors of the economy even though they are free to trade. Ghana has an estimated population of 24 million with about a hundred ethnic groups with their own unique cultures and languages. English, however, is the official language. In 1957, Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence. Afterwards, Ghana was ruled by a series of military leaders with intermittent attempts of democratic rule, most of which were hampered by military takeovers. Finally, an enduring democratic rule started in 1992 which has gained recognition for Ghana as a leading democracy in Africa. Ghana is ranked the 66th freest in 2014 based on economic freedom (Ghana, 2014). Ghana’s overall economic freedom has been undermined by declines in freedom from corruption, the inefficient protection of property rights and the weak rule of law.

According to the March 18 edition of the Daily Graphic newspaper, the Offinso Municipal Public private Partnership Agenda (OMMPA) is a development oriented poverty reduction strategy initiated by the Offinso Municipal Assembly to inspire the people to create their own jobs and other opportunities. It is an initiative to mobilise all available resources at the community and manage them judiciously. This move by the municipal assembly is to resolve tensions between equality and efficiency and this depicts the constant battle of the country to balance the two. Because of capitalism, people in the community have to fend for themselves and so this move by the assembly was to bring the members of the community on an even playing field. Now any increment in equality leads to a fall in efficiency. The funds for the project could have been used to finance any other activity that would accrue more profit. However, the government had sought to balance this out in the sense that, even though there is going to be an initial loss in efficiency, the people of the community when empowered, would contribute to the efficiency of the economy as they would become more productive and would fully utilise all their abilities.

In March 2014, the president of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama inaugurated the Kyebi Water Project and this project was to make up for the destruction of the water bodies caused by the actions of illegal miners in the community. The illegal miners in a bid to express their liberty to the fullest are endangering the community and communitarians believe that it is the job of humans to protect the environment. This tension between community and liberty is what the government seeks to resolve by helping out the community and also clamping down on the activities of the illegal miners. All over the country the government of Ghana has had to clean up after illegal miners by compensating communities for losses.

Also, the government of Ghana decided to cease dumping of faecal matter into the sea and has instead decided to employ some kind of technology to maximise the use of solid waste. Initially, the waste was just dumped into the sea creating a nuisance to the sea life and emitting a pungent smell to the neighbouring communities. The government now seeks to be highly efficient with the waste and also to protect the earth’s biosphere not only for the humans now but generations to come. The oil extraction in the country also raised health concerns for the communities surrounding the Cape Three Points in the Western region of Ghana and the debate between the values of community, which was mainly the protection of the environment, and efficiency, that is fully exploiting the natural resources of the country.
The rain on the 57th anniversary day celebration caused the nation’s leaders to consider the necessity for geospatial technology for Ghana’s development. This technology is to help to carry out functions quickly and more efficiently on data of the earth and application to the study of the earth’s surface features. This is to make the nation more efficient and moreover, instead of this new technology causing a strain, it would enable the country to track the earth and its activities to ensure that the earth is well protected and monitored.
Hernando De Soto established in his book “the mystery of capital” the fact that the part of the society in the extra-legal sector are not there because they would actually want to but they do because they are not being allowed into the formal sector. These people actually bribe officials who come to intimidate them and therefore, they are not avoiding the payment of taxes. The sudden upsurge of the motorcycle business popularly known as “Okada” in Ghana is a very relevant example of workers in the extra-legal sector. The constitution specifically rules out the use of motorcycles for commercial purposes in Legislative Instrument 2180 (LI 2180) and the police has gone great lengths to clamp down on these drivers but to no avail. The point to note here is that, the government is losing out on a lot of revenue that be accrued from these commercial motor cycle riders since they cannot be completely eliminated. They can be fixed somewhere in the legal sector so that the millions in revenue that the government is losing out of them can accrue back to the government. The taxes gained from the large informal sector would have been used to redistribute income in a bid to ensure equality by the government.
Even though freedom is necessary in the creation of the good society, absolute freedom is impossible and even Milton Friedman, the staunch believer in capitalism and economic freedom agrees to this fact. Essentially, all the other aspects of the compass are under threat if human being is not curtailed to an extent. As an illustration is the government of Ghana restricting marriage of young children. Even though the children are free to do whatever they please with their lives, if they are not checked, their own lives are going to be danger and precious human resources who would contribute to economic growth would be lost. If the market is allowed to be completely free and no wage limit is instituted to an extent, people are going to be turned into slaves and a sense of community would be lost because the humans would be seen as ends and not people to develop. Equality would suffer the most because the society would be thrown into a state of chaos where the rule of the jungle would be employed, the rule being the survival of the fittest. Here, the weaker members of the community would be trampled upon and their rights would be totally ignored.
One major challenge in the construction of the good society for Ghana is the issue of corruption of the leaders of the country in various state institutions. The recent Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) corruption case is proof of the level of corruption in the country. In this corruption case, the executives put in charge of this development agency misused state resources and deliberately caused financial loss to the state. Corruption is very prevalent because the rule of law in Ghana is very weak. Therefore focusing on William Sumner and his view that justice equals perfect liberty, it implies that the country is nowhere close to ensuring the liberty of its people because the rule of law which is supposed to uphold justice cannot be ensured because of the feeble rule of law.
The art of leadership is the ability to pursue all values simultaneously and as such, in contributing to the society as a leader, my concentration would be on satisfying every part of the quadrant. Drawing inspiration from James McGregor who explained that if anyone has the opportunity to change the world for the better they should, I would go to the farthest extent that I can, no matter how small its impact, to contribute to my society to ensure happiness and contentment for all.
In ensuring the good society, my contribution will mainly be from the aspect of equality of opportunity like Arthur Okun suggested (Okun, 1975). To ensure that people have the similar opportunities to start lives and determine what course they would like their lives to take. As a starting point is the project Starfish Aid, founded by myself and two other colleagues. This project basically sends volunteers to very remote villages to teach them literacy, sanitation and to motivate them enough to want to take on the world. What they do with this opportunity given depends solely on them and that is where meritocracy comes in. On of equality of women, my priority will be to properly inspire the women because as Socrates noted, which is in line with my system of beliefs, women cannot be vastly described as different from men in terms of the kind of education they should receive. They are both capable of learning and therefore, they should both be given the opportunity to learn and improve upon their lives just like contemporary egalitarians believe.
Agreeing with R.H. Tawney, the good society “invokes, in short, a large measure of economic equality- not necessarily in the sense of identical incomes, but of equality of environment, of access to education and the means of civilization, of security and independence…” (Tawney, 1952). Therefore, income redistribution is not the aim of the equality I am looking at but in the kind of equality that would move a person to become what he or she has the propensity to become. It is basically teaching a person how to fish and not giving the fish because the person might be lest worse off if there is no on around to continue offering fish. Therefore, just as Eleanor Roosevelt did, I would champion the cause of equality of opportunity.
I also have a business plan that aims at providing affordable housing for people in slums. They are going to work in building and they are going to be provided with very conducive environment for them to grow their minds and capacities in good health and a sound mind. I plan to harness the beautiful skills of autistic children in a bid to ensure efficiency. In this sense, it would be bringing out their expert abilities that would help build the nation.
Because the community and its resources are public goods which are non- excludable, one person cannot protect the community. In support of Jacques, I believe that everybody should be involved in the protection of the community and specifically the environment. Therefore, continuous sensitization is necessary for my present and future community and that is what I aim to do. As an illustration, if I decide that in my home refuse is not going to burnt to tamper with the atmosphere, I would have done my part. However, if the other members of the community do that, the purpose of protecting the community would be defeated.
One of the major problems of democracy in Ghana is the tendency of Ghanaians to just vote or support a particular political party simply because that is what his or her family believes in. Democracy as explained by O’Toole is to help balance the four poles of the quadrant, however, democracy is not being practised to its optimum in the country.

I hope to cast in my vote not based on personal sentiments but rather on objective views based on what each party is aiming to offer. The Ghanaians who vote based on sentiments cannot be blamed wholly because they offer their support for a few cedis which they need to survive. This attitude confirms Alexander Hamilton’s saying that ““A power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will” (Hamilton, 1948). Niccolò Machiavelli affirmed this when he referred to men as being of a simple mind and easily dominated by immediate needs (Machiavelli, 1909–14). Therefore, in order to avoid the exploitation of the will of Ghanaians because of their subsistence, I would, as a writer, expose the fact that the leaders are not doing the country a favour by providing for their needs but rather, the people have a right to the good standard of living which they have been promised. Hence, they do not have to beg for food from politicians but rather demand for them. My writing would influence the minds of these Ghanaians and not only for the literate Ghanaians but also for the illiterate ones through notices in local languages.

In the protection of the environment, I would consciously work on the use of environmentally friendly products even though they may be costly. This is in realisation that the negative actions of individuals on the environment would affect its inhabitants in the long run. The world is suffering from floods because of its indiscriminate carbon emissions and the floods obviously destroy humans and their property. My home is going to be a pseudo- botanical garden that is going to support plant life to the little extent that I can get to.
In an all-encompassing conclusion, as a leader I would improve upon my competencies essential for leadership which include analytical skills and management skills so as to take any leadership role excellently all to contribute to the overall improvement of Ghana would yield myself with training, I would explore my talents and my conscious attempt to have a growth mind-set, will guide me along trenches in whatever leadership I am placed in. All in all, my quota to the good society would be to seek the “greatest good for the greatest number” in support of Jeremy Bentham (Bentham, 1948).

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