The 2022 polls campaign used two terms regularly - hustlers and bottom-up economics.
The narrative had given an impression that hustling is bad and should be dispensed with soonest.
The truth is that hustling will always be there and is an integral part of the capitalism or market system. Communism: The antithesis to capitalism did not work and was retired in the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War. Why is hustling so intertwined with the market system?
First, hustling involves taking risks. A hawker or a labourer seeking work takes a risk; to make a sale or get a day‘s job. In developed countries, this risk may be underwritten by the government with welfare checks or subsidies.
Two, hustling by its nature involves some inequality. Whether it’s in our ambition, our IQ (intelligence quotient), or resources endowment, we are unequal.
We take different factors of production to the market; some take labour like most hustlers.
Others take capital like shylocks while others take land like brokers. And on entrepreneurship, we combine the factors differently leading to a diversity of outcomes such as success, failure or frustration.
Protestant work ethic
Three, working is part of our life. We must work. On that, hustling involves too much work, without the benefit of technology and underwriting from the government. Remember the concept of Protestant work ethic by the German sociologist Marx Webber?
Four, the transition from bottom to up takes a long time, at times generations. Individual efforts to leave the bottom are supplemented by societal efforts like the provision of public goods from schools to hospitals. Like defying gravity, moving up is not easy.
There are handles like traditions, and the simple fact that those at the top hate competition. Five, let’s add that there have been great efforts to reduce hustling. The best approach has been progressive taxation and religions which call for caring for one another.
Innovation and technology have also reduced hustling. You see that in modern construction sites, road building and other once labour-intensive sectors.
Except for the tea sector where we think “muscles“ are better than technology. Let’s not forget meritocracy can too reduce hustling.
A visit to a developed country like Germany shows that hustling is universal. Like energy, it can only be transformed from one form to another using laws, regulations or jettisoning some traditions like slavery. And allowing innovations to flourish. It took developed countries centuries to tame hustling or make it honourable.How long can it take us? Can we take hustling faster? Over to our new leaders. [XN Iraki]
The author is on an academic pilgrimage in Germany.