Sakism: the thinking advanced by certain politicians that just because others are doing it, we should also do the same thing. Other people's actions are the best reasons for your own actions.
We find the recent manifestation of this thought process in the recent discussion of political funding . Sakwiba Sikota believes:
"There was need for the government to fund political parties as a way of strengthening democratic governance in the country....There is consensus in the country and outside that there is need to support political parties to make them relevant and effective. This is happening all over the continent. I recently attended a meeting in Ghana where it was resolved to have state politicalfunding”.
No Zambia does not need political funding, and neither should we ask our poor mothers and daughters to pay taxes just so that some politician in Lusaka could be given a platform to advance further “Sakisms”. Here the clarifying power of economics is most useful. For the economist the question is not what others are doing, but rather whether there is a strong economic rationale for doing it. Is there something that the “political funding" market is unable to do that possibly requires a visible hand of Government? And crucially can Government intervention in itself bring society to a higher welfare function? In other words can Government “fund” parties in such way that "moral hazard” issues and other things are avoided?
It strikes that if a political party is well organised and has a clear vision there’s no reason why it should not get funding from interest groups. If a party is not getting funding it is mainly because the party lacks a coherent set of ideas and a believable platform. Of course I am assuming that there’s indeed “fair play” between parties in the nation that whoever has good ideas will get elected (to the benefit of those that bankrolled him).
However if that is not the case, and “level playing” distortions exist they must come from the belief by political funders that the “incumbent” party cannot be unseated, and therefore it is pointless to fund any other party. Those beliefs are not ideological but possibly driven by observations of the constitutional framework that may give the incumbent greater hope of being retained compared to the opposition. But this is not really a failure in the funding market, it is simply an institutional problem that would be resolved if you had a more robust constitution that guaranteed “fair play”. Funding would therefore be the wrong remedy – the correct economic approach, and dare I say, cheaper solution is to provide a robust constitution that guarantees fair play.