Enterprise policies as untested as the practice of bloodletting: no wonder they fail (1)

More than 3000 years the practise of bloodletting was applied to cure a range of illnesses: intense headaches, constipation, abdominal pain, boils or fever… It was administered by barbers (they had sharp blades) and later by qualified doctors. Some of the famous who received this treatment were Marie Antoinette (when giving birth in 1778 to her daughter Marie-Therese) and George Washington in 1799 on the day of his death when doctors drew about 40% of his blood in an attempt to cure him from a severe throat infection. In Washington’s case, the bloodletting did not cure him and one can only wonder to which extent it had contributed to his death. In 1793 acute bloodletting by guillotine definitely caused the demise of Marie Antoinette.

Why did the bloodletting practice with its origins in ancient Egypt continue until a century ago as an esteemed medical practice? Two reasons:

  • The existing paradigm considered bloodletting successful, elevating it to the realm beyond questioning or doubt. It was practised by all the trained practitioners. It was therefore not questioned. Respect for specialist insistence on accepted practice re-enforces paradigmatic reign. Even after the description of the circulatory system by William Harvey in 1628 it took three centuries before the practice of bloodletting was largely abandoned as an unproven cure. One of the most striking examples of this blind acceptance of so-called “expert opinion” is the 1500 years that Greek physician Galen’s doctrines were revered. Galen said of one of his cures: “All who drink of this remedy recover in a short time, except those whom it doesn’t help who all die. It is obvious that it fails only in incurable cases.

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Continue reading “Enterprise policies as untested as the practice of bloodletting: no wonder they fail (1)”

A Cyril Swallow does not make a Summer of Growth: How business friendly is Ramaphosa’s New Deal?

We need to massify the creation, funding and development of black-owned small businesses, township businesses and co-operatives.” Cyril Ramaphosa’s New Deal for South Africa (14 Nov 2017).

This quote from Ramaphosa’s 10 point plan manifesto to get the economy growing forms part of the action steps under Point 5: “we must accelerate the transfer of ownership and control of the economy to black South Africans.

At first take the creation of an immense number of enterprises sounds like a pro-business approach. But is this objective realistic? Will it render the desired outcome? Even more basic: is it sound economics?

The New Deal is silent on how this enterprise factory that will mass-produce black-owned businesses would work. Whilst the manifesto was announced in the context of the ANC leadership contest, the “we” that Ramaphosa refers to is clearly Government and its administrative institutions. Continue reading “A Cyril Swallow does not make a Summer of Growth: How business friendly is Ramaphosa’s New Deal?”