We all know Robin Hood, the defender of the downtrodden, who clashes with authority and is forced to become an outlaw. He rebels against the injustice of his time, the 12th century, when political plotting leads to imposing taxes beyond all reasonable limits. All this to fill the royal coffers and gain control of the throne. All this making the poor in the kingdom cringe.
Robin Hood, with his band of Merry Men, robs from the rich and gives to the poor.
The legends about Robin Hood are filled with intrigue, suspense, adventure and tricky archery contests.
We’re rooting for Robin Hood, we want him to outwit his enemies!
The unfair gap between rich and poor is more actual than ever today in our country. We recognise all too well the corrupt acquisition of money, the scourge of our 20 years young democracy. Our Nkandla scandal is just another boil bursting open. Money clings to the hands that control the coffers.
While it is hard to picture our Malema as the nimble, green-clad Robin Hood, his rhethoric certainly capitalises on the legend. Malema’s Merry Band of Economic Freedom Fighters tries to ambush parliament. Yet, these antics will not restore a fair economy, because their motives can’t be trusted.
What could possibly turn around the dynamics of a capitalist economy that – seen through a Robin Hood kind of lens – has been revealed to guarantee that the rich get richer and the poor stay poor?
Does there exist an alternative that would base sustainable economic growth on egalitarian development for the whole population?
With globalisation, capital has gained a new power: 98% of the movement of capital around the world is not linked to trade or investment (* Margaret Legum). It moves in buying and selling shares and hedge funds. This footloose capital has implications for the real economy on the ground: wealth does not trickle down. This capital sucks up the money that would be connecting producers and consumers – thus pre-empting the very purpose of what money is for.
Our way forward is not through more capital growth but through distribution.
Bringing this huge challenge close to home, we as BNI business people can constructively do a few things.
First, take heart in the fact that we are creative entrepreneurs, creating employment for others and for ourselves. The availability of jobs can never again be taken for granted in any country. Through running our business, we are part of the solution – not part of the problem.
Secondly, history shows that economies develop best on the basis of local markets. Let us keep faith in the value of what we do locally, to help boost our economically feeble East Cape. We are in PE, but BNI’s network spreads everywhere: we are connected to a network that works globally and with integrity.
Thirdly, ‘Givers Gain’ is a principle that works. The way we generate and reciprocate referrals is a beneficial dynamic.
And of course, in a Robin Hood kind of way, the wealth that we create beyond our own needs we are free to invest in others.
(*) Margaret Legum is a South African economist, with degrees from Rhodes University and the University of Cambridge. She was an advocate for a new economics, in which people matter, and for racial integration. She returned to work in South Africa in 1997, after 30 years of exile, and died in 2007.