Are our enterprise policies shaped by obsessions? Paradigm paralysis (2)

Ramaphosa’s Manifesto – “A New Deal” – envisages the “massifying” of black enterprises to promote growth and job creation. It is shaped – like the National Development Plan – by the paradigm of SMEs as prime agents for growth and jobs. As the belief in the curative effects of bloodletting – it was the general consensus – acted as a barrier that prevented the consideration of alternative treatments, the belief in SMEs obscures evidence that net job creation is largely independent of firm size.

Convictions, one must remember, do not necessarily yield to evidence.

Masaai Mara crossing

For the creation of several hundred thousand successful businesses (or would “massifying” – Ramaphosa’s term – imply businesses by the million?) there needs to be at least a similar number of entrepreneurs with effective business skills and plans for these businesses to have a chance of survival.

But for a business to succeed one needs other ingredients than mere entrepreneurial aptitude and astute management: it requires support from customers and clients. Successful “massifying” of new businesses would therefore depend on a prior (or at least simultaneous) mushrooming of the spending power of existing consumers and/or the “massifying” of consumers.

On that, the New Deal is silent… Could a 2016 warning about economic transformation hold the explanation?

Continue reading “Are our enterprise policies shaped by obsessions? Paradigm paralysis (2)”

The economic consequences of Luther: Ideas have legs, but some come with leg-irons

500 Years after Martin Luther hammered his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenburg, Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar and Noam Yuchtman saved their theses to the internet: Beliefs have economic consequences.

Old news, one might say, recalling Weber. But Weber’s thesis was always contested: assumptions of cultural traits based on unreliable statistics from the 19th C. Cantoni, Dittmar and Yuchtman (further-on Cantoni and co.) offer hard micro-statistical evidence from the century when Luther protested against Papal authority : 1517 was a watershed year in how people viewed the world and those (world)views had economic consequences.

In a National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper of October 2017 they state: “the pre-Reformation era can be understood as an equilibrium in which a monopolist religious producer (the Catholic Church) provided political legitimacy to secular authorities at a high price—charged in the form of control over resources, tax exemptions, and some degree of political power. The Reformation represented a competitive shock in the market for salvation. Protestant reformers offered a popular, lower-cost alternative to the Catholic Church… This had implications for the allocation of resources between secular and religious uses…Continue reading “The economic consequences of Luther: Ideas have legs, but some come with leg-irons”

A stand against hierarchical tyranny: Luther’s protest has changed the world

Luther 500A small minority of people will be remembered and known beyond four generations (100 years): mostly by grandchildren and great grandchildren. A significantly smaller number of people will be remembered 100 years after their death for the impact they have had on developments in their countries. The fact that Martin Luther’s protest half a millennium ago against Papal indulgences and Roman Catholic theology and the Emperor was celebrated last week in Germany and most countries with a significant number of Christian believers, testifies to his role in breaking the mould of Medieval society contributing to the dawn of the Modern Era. Continue reading “A stand against hierarchical tyranny: Luther’s protest has changed the world”

The Hammer and Sickle 100 years on… A legacy with larger atrocities than achievements (and lessons for SA)

A starving Ukrainian boy 1933

The focus in South Africa is so much on the State Capture saga and the ANC’s forthcoming elective conference that few realise we commemorate over the next three weeks two of the most significant events that have shaped our world: the Reformation triggered by Luther’s stance against Rome 500 years ago (30 October 1517) and the Bolshevik Revolution of 7 November 1917 (known as the Great October Socialist Revolution). Both had far-reaching implications for society as a whole, also for the world of enterprise. (Luther’s legacy will be assessed in a subsequent contribution.) Continue reading “The Hammer and Sickle 100 years on… A legacy with larger atrocities than achievements (and lessons for SA)”