“HOW I BECAME AN ADVOCATE OF LIMITED GOVERNMENT”

James Ahiakpor tells his story:

“The saying that “a conservative is a socialist mugged by reality,” or something to that effect, pretty much explains my journey toward my present views on the beneficence of market freedom, limited government spending, taxation, privatization and deregulation. I grew up in Ghana, West Africa, during the socialist experiments of the first Prime Minister and President, Kwame Nkrumah, to transform the country from a basically agricultural and mining economy into an industrialized one. The process included nationalizing some private manufacturing enterprises, both foreign and locally owned, establishing a myriad of new state- owned enterprises, including a steel mill, boat building, and farms. To fund the effort, the government raised taxes significantly, besides borrowing heavily from the country’s central bank and abroad. The state also took over the control of several primary, middle, and secondary (high) schools previously run by religious organizations such as the Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches. The resistance the government’s actions generated within the country led to the arrest and imprisonment of hordes of people without trial under a Preventive Detention Act (1958), the establishment of a one-party state, and the emergence of a culture of silence, as reporting on friends and neighbors who voiced opposition to the government became lucrative. Of course, some individuals used the opportunity to settle personal scores. Many had hoped that Ghana’s political independence in 1957 would set a model for the transformation of African states, south of the Sahara. The expectation was that the country could be turned into a modern functioning democracy and would enjoy economic development. Instead there was quick disappointment.

The country became both a political and economic disaster by 1965. Many other African countries also have followed the same path to political and economic ruin. Ghana’s awful experiment ended with a coup d’ état in February 1966. Anyone who made the connection between Nkrumah’s avowedly socialist means of transforming the country and the loss of civil liberties, the rise of political sycophancy, bribery and corruption as means of getting ahead, and economic debacle, would be disinclined toward that extent of state intervention as I was then. But I had not yet been fully persuaded of the benefits of free markets and limited government as I would later be. Reading F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom twenty years later (1986) helped to place all of the connections in clearer perspective for me.”

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