VOLA: The Nexus Between Democracy and Free market (2) By Lanre Olagunju

I don’t totally disregard the logic that authoritarian principles at some point in history might have contributed to economic development coming from the perspective that it in a way, concentration of decision making by few decision makers instigates rapid response to economic changes. But making an absurd generalization of what worked at some point in a peculiar situation is unbecoming, let alone prescribing authoritarian rule as a standard recipe for market. Free market aids competition and only democracy can truly aid competition.  Why would any nation institute a market economy and then govern it with a hostile system of government that doesn’t listen! How will innovation, communication and responsiveness which are the premium of market be encouraged by an un-free and undemocratic political system?

Well, the stack reality is that once a country adopts market ideologies, just like Michael Mandelbaum rightly described capitalism as “freedom school” individuals instinctively start learning the habits and values that promote democracy and democratic reforms. Apart from the fact that market has the potential to function as means to builds capacity, it has been discovered that as the economy prosper and develop, more citizens learn to have a stake in the political system knowing fully well that active citizenship is a crucial part of a market economy, and when this happen, individuals learn to respect the rule of law. They get involved in every detail that concerns the economy and politics. The same way Abraham Maslow explained it in his hierarchy of need theory that people only get to attend to their relational needs when they have been able to maintain some level of satisfaction with their basic survival needs. In the same light, when an appreciable level of economic growth has been attained, individuals now begin to search for means to satisfy more complex needs like political liberty and other related paraphernalia.


Is it not a gross act of misconception to imagine or think that giving freedom to all in a market system will then translate to equal outcomes ? That’s not just erroneous it’s very untrue. The basis of market is rooted in the idea that people benefit from their own purposeful actions and also inactions. So certainly there would be differences in our results, resulting into some sort of inequality which certainly would result to different people getting different measure of opportunities and benefit.  Anyway, the less adventurous can always find safety in minimum standard of living that government provide in form of housing, education and health care assistance generated from tax payer’s revenue gotten from the rich. But even at that it remains imperative to note that no society can actually attain the kind of equality or levelled slate that anti market proponent suggest, no measure of wealth redistribution can help to attain that. Even Christ affirmed that the poor will always remain in every society. Economic inequality is basically an inevitable characteristic of any system, regardless of whether corrupt practices prevail or abundance of social welfare packages.  


The upheaval in the Arab world explains the disadvantage of an authoritarian system that concentrates the wealth of all in the hands of few. It all ends in violence and turmoil when the people can’t hold it anymore. There is no way an authoritarian government will possibly oversee an unadulterated market economy. In cases where there seems to be a semblance of it, the real thing is that governments of such nations only ensure to do enough to maximize the juiced out benefit that market provides on one hand, (in form of innovations and ideas) and on the other hand, they prevent the political effect of democratization which ordinarily would birth political liberty.


African nations practicing democracy should look to improve free market system, so the benefits from the combo of these two systems can deeply translate into better living conditions for Africans either directly or otherwise, and not just economic data showing untraceable growth and development. To strengthen both systems, much attention must be paid to education which in my opinion is a tool some African leaders have left to wrath, apparently so they can keep poor Africans in bondage. Also, adhering and enforcing the rule of law at every level remains crucial to actualizing social justice. Moreover, enforcing the rule of law would aid equality which in turn would serve as a strong foundation to tether corrupt practices. 

Lanre Olagunju is an hydrologist turned freelance journalist.  An alumnus of the American College of Journalism, Lanre advocates on several international platforms for the prosperity and absolute well-being of the African continent. He is @Lanre_Olagunju on Twitter

Lanre concludes on expounding the link between democracy and the free market economy