The following was written by Alex Njeru.
Over a period of time the Kenyan system of education has been heavily laden with socialist dogma and ideology.The idea of ‘hey let’s share wealth in brotherliness’ has been adored and political demagoguery that promotes equality and near compulsory wealth distribution has attracted swathes of followers. Politicians who promote individual ingenuity and diligence have received close to zilch headlines, perhaps because there are so few in between and they have so feeble a voice to command any attention. Indifference and hate for the capitalist has been institutionalized, whereas the collectivist has been adored and placed on a pedestal. Our streets bear the hallmarks of this adoration with numerous socialist street names in Nairobi.
In my high school literature class I had to study copious volumes of socialist literature. I had to study a Swahili book by Ali Mazrui, titled ‘Kilio Cha Haki’, the book pretty much blurred the line between capitalism and neo-imperialism. Capitalists were to be confused with the imperialist and both of them were to be hated in equal measure. We also studied a book named ‘Walenisi’ a pretty utopic book that condemned private property ownership. The book pilloried individual acquisitiveness and questioned the very core of morality of capitalism. Defenders of capitalism have had very little to lean on.
But now there is a new battery of institutions, turning the table on prevalent economic wisdom. The Caravan of Liberty-Kenya project exposes students to a plethora of ideas that were hitherto unknown.
Most university students in the country are oblivious about other schools of thoughts. At the Caravan of Liberty Seminar at Nairobi University, we asked students whether they we would rather live in a free society or an egalitarian society. Most students said they would prefer life in a free society. All acquiesce that attaining equality in society might mirage, but freedom for all is not a mirage. After all, doesn’t freedom emanate from respecting the rights of being of all individuals? Isn’t freedom allowing individuals free expression in society?
Libertarianism addresses the desires of the youth in Kenya. Most young Kenyan’s want to live in a free society, a society where circulation of elites is possible. The youth in Kenya want to live in a society where enterprise, diligence and talent can be used to extricate one from poverty. The youth in Kenya want to live in a society where rule of law and reason reigns.
The Caravan of Liberty in Kenya brings in something different. It deconstructs systemic institutionalization of collectivist ideas in the system of education in Kenya. During outreach seminars, we not only go back to Africa’s history. We debunk the myths, one of the most prevalent myths being that Africa has had a collectivist history, that society in Africa always prescribed collective production and collectivist wealth allocation. That has never been true. Africa’s economic history shows us that private property and individual acquisitiveness were not frowned upon. In pastoral communities there were men with heads of cattle numbering into the thousands and in farming communities there were men and families with lots of land under cultivation.
The caravan of liberty aims at making students understand that there are fallacies that have been forced down our gullets that hold no water. It helps them understand that societies that value individual freedom do not curtail free will and respect for property rights achieve strong and sustained economic growth. This is a message that reverberates well with today’s young aspirational Africans.