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Methodological Individualism as a development Model and its Critics June 27, 2011

Posted by OromianEconomist in Economics: Development Theory and Policy applications, Temesgen M. Erena.
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JEL: A11, A23, B13

Methodological Individualism as  a development Model and its Critics

Temesgen M. Erena (DPhil), Economist

The orthodox (neoclassical) world view comprises research programmes that are basically concerned with applying the tenets of neoclassical economics to the study of developing economies. From such a perspective, the principles underlying the economics of developing economies are the same as, or can be considered extension of those governing the economics of developed nations. This implies that meaningful epistemological activities within the development economics cannot be conducted without first determining its inextricable intellectual and analytical ties to mainstream economics.

According to Rostow (1960), the critical intention of development  has been seen as the achievement of ‘high mass consumption society’ that can be measured by the level of per capita income.  In this context, the inherent aim of development seems to materialise a society that reproduce  the political economic system of the western Europe  and North America, i.e., a competitive private enterprise  based on the foundations of   free market economy and a representative and democratic political system. Rostow (1960) has detailed this historical process of development in his schema of   stages-of- growth model. Charles K. Wilber (1988)  argues that  the application of this model as centre of assay  of the course  of development  supposes that  present day developing countries  reckon  to the ‘traditional society’  stage  or at the ‘preconditions’ stage in relative to the present stages of western developed countries. Like so, the contemporary developed countries were formerly underdeveloped,  hence, all countries  progress in the course of  these stages.

In the extreme, the Orthodox (Neoclassical) strand theorises that since principles of economics are universal, there is but one economics, whose basic tenets are equally valid for both developing and developed economies, David (1986). In other words, it is considered inappropriate to speak about two distinct economics- one for developed countries and the other for developing countries. In this case, the, the dominant interpretive model of thought is based on a ‘universalist’ epistemology or ‘one world’ ideology and ‘aesthetic’, which assumes the existence of a continuous and homogenous world, David (1986). Contextually, knowledge and society are viewed in terms of discrete individual elements that become the continuous and homogenous phenomena of economic and social life through a process of aggregation.

The neoclassical paradigm stands on universalist, rationalist and positivist methodological pillars. In addition to the influence  of positivism and other rationalist  patterns of reasoning, neoclassical economic thinking  also makes heavy use of the concept ‘mechanical equilibrium’, which is explained by the self-regulating operation of equilibrating forces. Such forces, it is argued, not only tend to maintain equilibrium of the economic system but also to restore this equilibrium once it has been disturbed by external forces.

In its evolution, the concept of equilibrium has had to be based on some conception of the economic system. Accordingly, it was thought that the evolution of any logically consistent economic order required some institution of private property as well as a sharp conceptual distinction between the economic system and other aspects of social reality, David (1986). This led to an emphasis on capitalistic, free enterprises ethic based on the principle of individualism. In the conception, individuals are considered to be at liberty to organise their social relationships in accordance their own interests, cole, etal (1991). Society hence, becomes no more a collection of individuals, and an individual behaviour, the goal and standards of moral behaviour.

The neoclassical paradigm is based on individualistic and libertarian philosophy. The philosophy postulates that the ultimate constituents of society are individual people who act appropriately in accordance with their own dispositions. In other words, the argument is that no social tendency exists that theorising about classes and other activities can only be represented by mental constructs, which are abstract models for interpreting certain relations among individuals. One implication is that it is impossible to have laws about society. Another is that the good of individuals is primarily objective of society as opposed to the neo-Marxist which emphasis that of the society as whole, Cole etal (1991).

Economic models, theories, and conceptual systems should be considered as device that merely helps the analysts to remember certain predictive regularities in observed phenomena, David (1986).

A related implication follows from the widespread acceptance of the “science as science” methodology. These are based on the claim that search for knowledge should be governed by scientific objectivity and the commitment to universal values that cut across national frontiers. Adherence to universal epistemological principles implies that there are common standards of scholarship and, as others argued there cannot be Chinese, Nigerian or Egyptian criteria for truth and validity. Commercial farms can be nationalised, criteria for truth cannot.

The universality epistemology finds a foremost representation in the study of resource allocation. The underlying principle that all societies must make decisions about the degree of sacrifice that must be made if resources must be allocated efficiently. This is based on the assumption of the universal scarcity of resources relative to human needs.  Given scarce resources, it is impossible to satisfy all of the society’s goals simultaneously. Therefore, if scarce resources are to be efficiently utilised, they must be properly allocated.  The possibility of deriving meaningful benefits from the use of these resources is therefore forecasted upon the nature of sacrifice. The problem of economic decision making in conventional economics is therefore coined in terms of a “cost-benefit” calculus. The neo-classical approach to this problem emphasise the need for rational choice in the use of scarce resources. The basis of this approach is that if the alternatives presented to us are not rationally chosen, resource scarcity is likely to increase within the passage of time, hence, impairing current standards of living and decreasing the possibility for future economic growth, David (1986). In this regard, the neo-classical, explanation of economic behaviour tends to rely heavily on competitive equilibrium, which assumes  that the behaviour of free markets and prices provides the necessary conditions for individual economic agents to achieve maximum economic welfare and personal liberty, Todaro (1991)|.It is based on the methodological individualism mentioned previously, the implication being that individual economic decision-making units (household), firms, national governments, and so on)| are free and rational actors whose behaviour is guided by harmonious equilibrating force, David (1986)|.

The whole economy is assumed to consist of a large number of interacting markets that have a tendency to clear, that is, reach equilibrium, with the latter defined in terms of equality between demand and supply, and price. (These conditions are assumed to take place for individual markets, that is, partial equilibrium, or in other aspects where there is a set of relative prices for all goods and services, resulting in a simultaneous clearing of all markets that is general equilibrium. Given the quantities of resources of all kinds available to economic agents, consumer tastes and preferences, and production technology, the problem of general equilibrium revolves around the determination of the relative quantities of goods of all kind that will be produced and consumed, the prices at which they will be exchanged and how the earnings derived from resource utilisation will be distributed, Cole et al (1991)|.

Income distribution is thus treated as a special case of the general theory of price relations. The over all argument is that it is possible for self-interested individuals in a market-oriented economy to strive for and receive, their fair share of income and wealth created by the competitive process. In this context, the neo-classical model indicates that the marginal productivity forms the basis for payments to all factors of production. The assumption is that individuals have at their disposal a set of factors endowments and that income merely represents the sum of the product of these factors and their marginal products. The evolution of factor shares and incomes over times thus depends on factor prices and quantities, the elasticity of substitution among factors, changes in demand patterns, and the capital or labour savings bias of technological change.

It is therefore assumed that, given completive conditions and perfect information, resources will be efficiently allocated. Adjustment in factors prices are expected to bring equality in factor shares, with each factor receiving its ‘just’ or equitable reward. Under the circumstances, any attempt to enforce equality in the prevailing pattern of income distribution is considered inimical to economic growth and efficiency. To the extent that inequalities exist, they should be considered necessary for guarantying productivity levels, David (1986)|.

The implications of the marginal productivity theory of income distribution can be further explained by considering the distribution of labour and capital incomes. In the case of returns to the human factor (wage and salaries), the theory suggests that differences in marginal productivities can be explained by differences in both innate and acquired abilities. These differences tend to be particularly acute in those societies, for example, developing economies where highly skilled labour is in short supply relative to the large supply of unskilled labour. The argument, as is that individuals with relatively scarce skills would receive quasi-rents. These rents and other payment differences would disappear as more people acquired skill through education and training, David (1986). Hence, they argue that any attempt to equalise wages and salaries would prove to be inefficient. The implicit assumption is that pay differentials  not only reward those with superior natural abilities  but also serve as an incentive to those not so blessed to acquire skills to increase their productivity  and efficiency, Hunt (1989). Given a set of competitive prices, the actions and reactions  of individual economic agents will determine the quantities of goods and services demanded, and these will be matched with the quantities supplied in the various markets of the economy, David (1986). The achievement of such an over all equilibrium requires two sets of conditions.  First, these is a subjective one in which the individual pursues the goal of maximum income satisfaction. The second is an objective one in which the market provides for these incomes and wants based on the maximum profit goals of business people. Thus, through the equilibrium between demand and supply, with all markets cleared, the optimum economic position reached by each individual economic agent becomes compatible with that attained by others.

The general equilibrium analysis (Varian, 1990)  postulates that, in principle, the set of equilibrium prices tend to provide all the information that each individual economic agent needs to have in order to be able to co-ordinate its activities with those of all other economic agents in the economic system, Cole et al (1991). It is therefore, based on the assumptions of perfect competition and knowledge and foresight, and the absence of uncertainty. This ensures that the essential adjustments would take place of a disequilibrium situation were to arise.  Where prices diverge from their equilibrium values, inconsistencies will arise in the plans economic agents, and they will be forced to adjust to an equilibrium situation. The underlying  assumption is that the operation of the market is based on  a negative feedback mechanism that reduces differences to zero through iterative price adjustment processes are also assumed to be stable.  This means that once the system diverges from its equilibrium with a process of automatic readjustment would take place. Full employment is also implicitly assumed.  With demand for goods and services equal to their supply, labour market will also clear. Neoclassicals consider this equilibrium to be the most efficient one, and thus the standard against which particular sectors of the economy as a whole should be appraised. The reasoning is that when over all economic agent will have reached an ‘optimal position’, that is, one that it cannot possibly improve by altering its behaviour. This is the ideal state described by Pareto and also known as a Pareto efficient allocation. It is considered to be the most efficient state and implies that any attempt made to improve a given economic agent’s position would have to be at someone else’s expense (David, 1986, Varian, 1990).

The general framework outlined above is also replicated in analysis of international economic relationships. In this case, trade and exchange are considered to be two of the most effective weapons for promoting resources allocation, distribution, and growth. This follows from assumptions of harmony of interests among nation states, patterns of trade based on comparative advantage, an equitable distribution of the gains from trade, and the free international flow of resources. The same normative forces are assumed to operate both nationally and internationally, with the private market considered to be the most effective mechanism for allocating distributing resources in all spheres, Hunt (1989|).

Consequently, the  neoclassical (orthodox) school of thought attribute  problems of developing economies essentially to the ‘dirigiste dogma’ and the ‘denial of economic principle’  (Lal, 1988); to over extension of the public sector; to economic controls which distorts the market and have unexpected and undesirable side effects; and to an over emphasis on investment in physical capital (spending on lavish prestige projects such as sport facilities, conference centres, brand new capital city, roads leads to nowhere, irrigation schemes that damage soil) compared to human capital. And they have proposed these setbacks to be neutralised to overcome inadequate development, Toye (1987). They took the form of supply side macro-economics and the privatisation of public corporations and call for the dismantling of public ownership, planning, and regulation of economic activities. By permitting free markets to flourish, privatising state owned enterprises, promoting free trade and export expansion, welcoming  foreign investors, and eliminating the plethora of government regulations and price distortions in factor, product and financial markets, the neoclassical argue that economic efficiency and economic growth will be stimulated, Wilber (1988). Contrary to the claims of the political economy strands (neo- Marxist world views) which are subjects of subsequent discussions, the neoclassicals (Orthodox) argue that the third world are underdeveloped not because  of the predatory activities of first world and the international agencies that it controls, but rather because of the heavy hand of the state and corruption, inefficiency, and lack of economic incentives, Todaro (1991).

It is assumed that development  experience of western industrial countries is a model for the developing economies of today and therefore, neoclassical economics is universally applicable. It is held that the international capitalist economy does not discriminate against developing economies, but when conformed to it acts as an engine or motor of growth. What is needed, therefore, is not a reform of the international economic system or restructuring of dualistic developing economies or an increase in foreign aid or attempts to control population growth or amore effective central planning system. Rather, it is simply a matter of promoting free markets and laissez faire economics within the context of permissive government that allow the magic of market forces.  And the “invisible hand” of market prices to guide resource allocation and stimulate economic development, Todaro (1991). They are quoting to us the failures of the public interventionist economies of African countries, Toye (1987).

Neoclassical policy is based on  faith in  the price mechanism to bring about an equilibrium in the economy which maximises welfare and growth, (i.e. development by their terms), “Efficient growth… raises the demand for unskilled workers by getting the prices right… is probably the single most important means of alleviating poverty,” Lal (1983). This process of development raises the standard of living of the poor via the ‘trickle down’ effect. Intervention by the government is unnecessary as a measure to alleviate poverty and would retard growth by distorting the market mechanism, holding up sustainable development. According to Lal, government policies dealing with  basic needs, surplus labour, decreasing terms of trade, etc., are misleading and incorrect.  He argues that developing countries are following the same economic patterns of development as developed countries.  Therefore, the same economic rules and considerations apply. Both he and Bauer criticise ‘dirigistes’ for implying, by their policies, that people of developing countries are not rational that the ‘market decisions’ have to be made for them. That would suggest Toye’s argument- governments fulfilling the desires of frustrating individuals has some validity. Being rational does not necessarily make people able.  It is within this context that the planning, growth with equity approach and a social market economy operation have come into considerations. However, such interventionist approach have been criticised by laissez faire economists as a reaction to far a recipe to failure. Lal (1988) points out that inefficient and incompetent bureaucracy as a cause of government failure. Attempts to intervene in imperfect markets serves to make things even further from the equilibrium of maximum efficiency and welfare. This is an over-sight, a generalisation which dismisses all past, present and future government intervention to make influence on disparities in income and accelerate development, as ineffective. This is clearly not the case.

The rapid development of South Korea and Taiwan in both intervening for growth and equity demonstrate this. Government policies concentrated on rural development, export oriented industrialisation were directly and indirectly dealing with inequality and poverty whilst promoting growth. It would be argued that all government intervention is not good. As is clear, some government intervention is and has bee ill advised- for example ‘the white elephants.’

But what is also becoming increasingly apparent is that the neo-liberal (Washington consensus) policies of liberalisation which the IMF and World Bank have made conditions for accepting loans have also created many problems. Not only have they quite often caused increasing inequalities in income distribution, but they have also failed to encourage growth in these countries. In many countries they have led to near chaos and crisis, in the economy as in many African countries, Lawrence (1986).  External influences, such as increasing oil prices, MNC transfer pricing, increase in debt burdens, increased protectionism  by developed economies, etc, mean that following free market principles lead to decreasing  terms of trade and created economic problems within the countries. D. Lal (1983) would say that this is acceptable because it is a step in the right direction towards free market economies. Toye (1987)  believes the neoclassical  approach neglects the issues and treats  and treats  the solutions, In a reductionist manner, over looking  the complexity of the issues and gives an over simplified solution.” Lack of past successes cannot simply be blamed on government interference with the price mechanism to account for the relatively poor performance of these economies would require a very detailed historical analysis of class forces and class struggle within these countries, of the effects of international strategic and geo-political factors as well as the effects of drought other climatic/ecological disasters, Sender et al (1986).

Neoclassical according to Sender and Smith, have paid too much attention to anti-interventionism- when it would be more beneficial to concentrate on improving what intervention is necessary. It is harmful for economists to adhere to policies which can only be relevant in a hypothetical ‘perfect market’ economy. The post- colonial period has been characterised by an astonishing absence of any coherent, analytical/ideological framework within which to formulate state intervention of an effective and suitable kind,” Sender et al (1986). Neo-classicalists need to address the conclusive historical evidence concerning the role of the state in all late industrialising countries in considering policy formulation.

The laissez faire economists edge on economic growth through the operation of the market mechanism (Adam Smith’s the famous invisible hand) as the key to development. There are also economists  who emphasised planning (government intervention) to supplement or supplant the market. As in the former, the latter  and economic growth has been taken as the essential of development. Meanwhile, the growth with equity economists contemplate on the distribution of the remunerations  of growth to the deprived.

Neo-Marxist  and dependency theorist, two main school of thoughts in the  Political economy paradigm,  are broadly apprehensive of the nature of the progression by which development is attained, Wilber (1988).

Classical Marxism was always, of course, a theory of development, i.e., of capitalism and its development, and transition to socialism. The theory was never adequate, however, in dealing with development problems of third world especially underdevelopment issues. Classical Marxists, after all, consider capitalism as historically progress, in every way an advanced over previous production systems, even if it is to be replaced by socialism one day. “ Imperialism was the means  by which techniques, culture, and institutions that had evolved in western Europe over several centuries… sowed their revolutionary seeds in the rest of the world,” Warren (1980).

Seers (1987) argued that Marxism thus arrived at conclusions similar to those of many neoclassical economists, since both derived from Smith and Ricardo and the economics of the 19th century. He further pointed out that both doctrines assume competitive markets and the overriding importance material incentives. They are both basically internationalist and also optimistic, technocratic and economist. In particular, both treat economic growth as development and due primarily to capital accumulation.

According to Hunt (1989), the neo-Marxist paradigm derives from an attempt to develop and adapt classical Marxist theory to the analysis of underdeveloped economies. The paradigm gained widespread influence in the late 1960’s, providing an ideological and analytical framework for radical critiques of contemporary theories. Drawing their inspiration from the ideas of Marx and Lenin, and influenced also by other early Marxists, particularly Rosa Luxemburg, the neo-Marxists set out to investigate a problem that Marx himself had touched on only briefly- the process of economic change in the economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

With respect to the third world, the primary concern of the neo-Marxists is with what is happening to national output and to its distribution, and why. Particularly in the 1950s and 1960s there was little concern on the part of leading neo-Marxists to explore the essential  nature of the models of production  that prevail within the periphery. Instead the emphasis was on the economic and political relations between the ‘centre’ and the ‘periphery.’ In the analysing these issues the neo-Marxists use a terminology for the key concepts in their analytical framework that appears to drive from Marxism with different interpretation to certain concepts.

The neo-Marxist school which is tracing back to the  work  of Paul Baran, differs from Marx in arguing  that capitalism will not be spread  from the ‘centre’ to the ‘periphery’  but rather that existing underdevelopment  is an active process linked to  the development of the centre by the transfer of the surplus, Baran (1957, 1988). As economic surplus was extracted, capital accumulation stopped, and budding industries were killed off by ‘centre’ competition. Development in colonies was forced off its natural course and completely dominated by imperial interests. The colonies stagnated between feudalism and capitalism  or the mix of both systems.

For Baran (1957) the real problem  in developing economies is not the presence of  the vicious circle- a phenomenon  whose existence  is acknowledged – but the lack of  a significant stimulus to development aggravated by the surplus drain.  Here again  we have  a polar view she said, something like a zero-sum game, in which the continuing primitive accumulation by the ‘centre’ implies a simultaneous negative accumulation for the periphery.  Surplus then, generate and maintain underdevelopment in the developing economies, a phenomenon whose existence is acknowledged – but the lack of a significant stimulus to development aggravated by the surplus drain. As Frank (1988) (dependency scholar) has called this leads to “the development of underdevelopment.”

Amin, too, adopts Frank’s Motto, but with an altered meaning; for Amin, it means a “dependent development,” that, is, an inappropriate pattern of growth imposed upon the country through its ties with the centre-  literally, through its being included in the world capitalist system. This view in turn allows for the possibility of growth aggregate income, an observed fact in many developing economies, Hunt (1989).

The crucial problem of how the available surplus is utilised in developing economies leads the political economy worldview to the examination of local elites. Writers like Baran and Sweezy argue that no local development is to be expected from such elites. On the contrary, the elites are by their very nature a factor contributing to underdevelopment.  The analysis is based on the “objective function” in which these elites find themselves. Their economic behaviour- conspicuous consumption, investments in real estate and extreme risk aversion, the export of their savings to be deposited with foreign banks for security, their avoidance of investments in industry- is, from the sand point of private advantage, essentially a rational response to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Their fear of foreign competition where they to invest in more productive activities is seen as fully justified. They argued that most elite members lack the capital retained for the establishment of enterprises able to compete with foreign oligopolies. Also lacking are entrepreneurial skills and attitudes to work and innovation conducive to growth, see Wilber (1988).

Amin offers the view that many members of the developing economies elites profit, too; from foreign activities in their country. What enables Amin to say this is his adoption of Emmanuel’s theory of unequal exchange, in which the level of wages is the major determining factor. That wages are lower in developing economies means that the labour force of these countries carries the burden of exploitation both by its local capitalist class and by the capitalist class at the centre. It is burdened by the “regular” exploitation of the home capitalists and the “primitive accumulation” of the capitalist class at the centre. The higher wages that the centre’s working class enjoys are in turn attributed not solely to its higher productivity; it does not partake of the proceeds of the continuing primitive accumulation, Todaro (1991).

That there is also a disheartening lack of entrepreneurial and administrative talent in the countries of the third world that the neo-Marxists do not deny. But they view those who place this fact at the centre of their explanations of underdevelopment as being eclectic and arbitrary. The claim that entrepreneurial and administrative skills will make their utilisation possible and necessary appears- conditions that cannot exist in an environment of dependence. This problem, they claim, is secondary: It is consequence of the fundamental problem, which is the discouragement and systematic sabotaging (or, for Amin, the guiding into incorrect path), of the local development efforts by the centre, Todaro (1991).

They recognise the existence of a ‘comprador states’ or class and bourgeoisie classes in developing countries but they maintain that their positions are solely dependent on the advantages they give to an imperialist power- not exist in their own right.

So the main consideration for government intervention would be, for neo-Marxists, the ability to make a complete and absolute change “the third world was and is an integral and destined to play a major role in the attempt of capital in the world capitalist economy to stem and reverse the tide of growing economic crisis, “Frank (1981, 1988). This is manifested in increasing repression of the workforce in developing countries, not increasing equality, or alleviating poverty. So in order to achieve sustainable development with equality it would be necessary for a developing country to withdraw from the world capitalist system. The present system only maintains present inequalities due to the interest characteristic of capitalism. They would advocate complete autarky facilitated by a socialist movement.

Generally, the political economy school advocate equity oriented development. The fundamental assumptions of this perspective regarding capitalism and international capitalist economy are essentially opposite to those of neo-classical economists. They not only believe that international capitalist economy discriminates against developing economies, but that is directly responsible for their dire condition. Thus any solution to the poverty predicament requires a fundamental break from the international capitalist economy. A distinction here, more for historical relevance than for the logic of the argument should be made between neo-Marxian and the Marxian of Marx, with (Marx) essentially regarded the capitalist commodity production process as progressive, in that it was required for the realisation of the ultimate inevitable tools of communism. Thus, capitalism for Marx is a necessary phase of societal change. Furthermore, for Marx the capital commodity production process is universally applicable.

The other fundamental disagreement these theorists have with neo-classical school concerns ethics. Equity, for these theorists is an ethical ideal, an end by itself. The logical extreme of this view is that equality must remain the primary objective, even at the cost of efficiency.

It is argued by this perspective that it is contrary to the interests of the international capitalist commodity process, which is essentially and exclusively concerned with maximisation of profit, to redistribute wealth. Instead of a y ‘trickle -dawn’ tendencies, the inner- logic of capitalism with only lead to greater accumulation, and concentrate of wealth. Thus, it is imperative for any comprehensive development effort to break with the internationalist political economy. Since weak political position of the poor prevents them from changing the system, empowering the poor becomes the means to meaningful development. These theorists contend that attacking the symptoms of poverty with basic needs provisions, or welfare laws will not suffice, it is crucial to attack its cause. The answer is the empowerment of the poor.

The general tendency is towards the satisation of the modes of production, at least those sectors of the economy that are essential to the public goods. Thus, only the intervention of a populist state, resulting on the commanding heights of the economy can restructure the relations of production that benefit  not a privileged few, but the unprivileged many.

This perspective defining the ‘left’ contours of the continuum in its logical extreme are diametrically contradicts the neo-classical perspectives.The obvious point of departure on the debate on development between the neo-classical and the political economy  strands  must be a definition  of development. This is inescapably a normative exercise, but one that should not be avoided  for this the reason. Development, by the very meaning  of the word, can only be a process  of the ‘becoming’.  The argument holds regardless of whether the tendencies are rectilinear, cyclical or both (or neither).  According to orthodox school sometimes implicitly  and sometimes explicit value judgement in the definition of development has been westernised. This tendency has been challenged  by the ‘development of another civilisation in East Asia, that is quickly achieving standard of  living comparable to the west. One conclusive inference that can be drawn from the experience of  Japan, China and the Asian Tigers is that a protestant ethic or generally a western social arrangement  or socialist revolution of neo-Marxist is not a prerequisite for economic development.

http://rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/2013/05/what-is-wrong-and-right-in-economics.html

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Oromian Condition: The way forward June 19, 2011

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

 

DEL:D2, D6

Oromian Condition

The Oromo civilization preceded and might even have given birth to that of Egypt. The upper Nile was peopled by a progressive decent of the Cushite peoples from the region of the Great lakes to the upper and lower Nile were the cradle of    humanity. The Nile civilization includes Baro, Gibe, Shebele, Awash and others in the region. Previous studies discounted these and marginalized (limited) the space of history and civilization. There is a limit with oral history and also the classical written history to link Oromo with   origin of civilisation. Radical African history also has a limit.

Oromia is the first habitat of man, a garden of Aden.  Madda Walabuu was the centre of Cushitic world. The crisis of habitability has been emerged primarily because of Abyssinian tyranny. Oromos were from nowhere and always there and will be there. The Oromos were not newcomers to the region. They were not the expansionist (migrant). Oromo and the other Cushite are native to the region and had occupied more than the present location. Their geographical position has been subjected to contractions rather than expansions.  The so-called Oromo migration was not happened in history. There is a limit to oral history and of course distortions of written history on this and other Oromo matters. History on Oromo has been written in vertical approach. Oromo were recorded as people without origin, history and civilization. Archaeological, linguistic and anthropological studies are limited on Oromo.

Because of colonization and other distortions the cradle of mankind has been in a very serious despair. Thus, our study exposes the tragedy caused by history and fable of   human reductionism. It also reshapes the spoiled and the injured magnificent black beauty and the gist’s of Oromian history and the entire Cushite generation. The study expresses that Cushites are the origin of humanity and the original home of prime human civilization. Our argument  is not an original work by its own but it is the extension of the scholarly studies of Beyene (1992), Diop (1991), Demie (The Cushitic roots of Oromo, in Oromia Quarterly, 1998 &2000) and others.

The history of reductionism has been caused by and also the product of racism, politics of depossesion, impoundment, aggression and transgression of humanity. The catastrophic tragedy was not only in the past but still persists that it has been the root cause and the mother of all conflicts imposed on the Oromians and the entire Cushite people of East Africa today.

Based on the historical condition and their consequences, we have discussed in various ocassions the political conditions prevailing in Oromia under the Abyssinian domination, which are well known. What is still not so well known, and needs to be, is the enormous significance of these conditions for underdevelopment. The Ethiopian colonial elites, in their feudal mentality, view an Oromian economy as a pie of fixed size; hence they can cut for themselves a bigger piece or all of it, but only by taking away a portion or all that originally belonged to the Oromos. They have not even seen the possibility that the size of the pie itself can be increased in fertile and potentially rich Oromia. To achieve this at least as a precondition cluster bombs and the environmental and human consequences of militarism must be eluded. Then, under just social system and efficient system of resource management, with the application of   improved industrial and farm technology there can be a way for better humane life. With the just and efficient system, the fertile Oromo fields in the south and west can supply the material needs for better humane life not only for the 90 million people of Ethiopian empire but also for more millions in the entire North-East Africa. The Oromo farm lands and rives banks can play much more role for the Northeast than what the Nile delta and Aswan high dam has played for Egypt. To realize this potential, it needs not colonial control of Oromia but it essentially needs the liberation of this nation of wealth from the looting and misuse of Ethiopian militarism.

Moreover, the Oromo people are the objects of development in every sense. If development means anything at all, it must mean the development of people’s potentialities, but development is not really possible by outsiders who have other conflicting intentions. Furthermore, whenever pursued, development should be participatory. If it is not, it can only be the development of alienation and domination. This is what happened in Oromia. The people who talk most about development and who make and implement ‘development policies’ are alien leaders, their agents and supporters. But these are not the people who understand the development needs of Oromia. Most importantly, the interests of these groups are at odds with those of the subordinate people.

Historians, concerned scholars and humanitarians should work day and night to restore the self-possession power of the people whose identities and history have been not only confiscated but also intentionally manipulated, spoiled and tribulated.

Therefore, the development of Oromia should involve the liberation of Oromos from the conditions of deprivation and suppression. Politics should not only be the cause of underdevelopment but can also be tamed to remedy the problems of development. In this context, the development of Oromia essentially requires freedom as a prerequisite and that freedom involves, firstly, the national freedom, which is the ability of the Oromia citizens to determine their own future, and to govern themselves. Secondly, it is freedom from hunger, from disease and poverty. Thirdly, it involves personal freedoms; namely the right of the individual citizens to live in dignity and equality with others, freedom of speech, freedom to participate in decisions which affect their lives, freedom of making choices, freedom to control their own resources, freedom to education, freedom from servitude, and freedom from arbitrary arrests.  Freedom, both at national and personal level are absolute and positive freedom that Oromos enjoy as a people. It should expand in terms of Sen (1985) argument that it makes the ‘ minimum entitlement’ and the  ‘minimum capabilities’ that the Oromo people must acquire to live in ways they have reason to value. It should not be measured in relative terms whether in comparison to other individual, society or nation. Thus, the above three conditions are absolute minimum entitlements and capabilities the Oromos need in the process of expansion of their positive freedom, material, technological and social development.

Thus, the people of Oromia should be left free to choose both their political and development destiny. History teaches us imperial conquest and domination whether ‘the scramble for Africa’ or ‘the forward movement’ in South East Asia hardly brought development to its subject people except depriving their liberty, plundering their resources and causing underdevelopment. The Oromia’s reality is the reflection of this historical reality. The Oromos should have their own political rule in order to tackle development problems in their own particular environment. What keeps the Oromos in development crisis is their powerlessness to remove predatory Ethiopian colonial rule.

Oromia is the most centre in the Horn of Africa not only geographically but also politically, social linkage and economically. Militarily one of the most marginal. Economically the wealthiest in the region. Oromia’s political leverage on its and the region’s affairs is the lowest. What are the implications of physically and economically central and politically peripheral?  Military weakness was what led to   colonization and it sustainability. The question for the future is whether Oromia should pacify the region, forcing democratic transition in the region from pax Abyssinia =Pax Tyranny to Pax democracia. Should Oromia enter the politics of democratic power with strong military presence or remain colonial subject?

At the same time, since political and economic crises are fused, it is futile to solve one without the other. Conceivably, the colonial settlers would not concede freedom and do not promote genuine development. Therefore, political independence is a primary and essential condition for Oromia to make sustainable modern economic growth possible.

Conquest and dominations are social phenomenon as are dying elsewhere will die in Oromia and of course must die.

Copyright © Oromianeconomist 2011 and Oromia Quarterly 1997-2011. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.

Tokkummaa for Development and Freedom June 14, 2011

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African Land Grabs Controversy as on CNN and World Media June 14, 2011

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http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/06/11/africa.land.report/index.html

http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/11784/global_land_grab/#.TmoGri4oCeo.facebook

 

The International Bill of Human Rights: The Covenants June 14, 2011

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8kP3pr6XPU&feature=related

Freedom is not Negotiable June 11, 2011

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Freedom is not Negotiable.        

The concept of Time, Space, Universe and Earth in Oromo from the Ancient Time June 10, 2011

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZ4wYXu9kWM&feature=share]

Ó Oromianeconomist 2011

Perverted Development: What role for Institutions June 8, 2011

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Perverted Development: What role for Institutions

By Temesgen M. Erena (DPhil), Economist

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little  else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.  
Keynes, John Maynard

JEL: B13, D2, D6, O1

Introduction

       The force of human reductionism that had assaulted on Oromia’s history, civilisation, politics and economy for many centuries in the last three Christian millenniums and particularly of the last two centuries has continued in the new millennium to enfeeble the endeavours of its people towards progress and development.

Oromia is not the poorest of the nations of the world in resources but it is one of the most underdeveloped, characterized by thwarted advancement, declined progress and cataclysm.

In Oromia today immense agricultural potential, mineral wealth and human capital coexist with some of the lowest standards of living in the world. Part of the problem lies in the nature of the economic change the Abyssinian colonialism fostered in Oromia.  The Oromo economy   has been distorted to serve the Abyss interest and needs.

Oromos are the most brutalised and humiliated in modern history. The genocidal treatments, which Oromos have received from Abyssinians, have been as gruesome as anything experienced by Jews, Native American and native Australians and the Armenians received from the Nazi, Europeans, white Americans, and the Ottoman Turkey respectively. Oromos have also been humiliated in history in ways that range from the level of slavery, segregation and treated as second-class citizens in part of their own country to the present day in spite of being numerically the majority and geographically the largest territory.

In the early 1990s the old Amhara settler colonialism (Nafxanyaa system) was substituted by Tigrean ‘federal colonialism’ (neo- nafxanyaa system) the facet of exploitation seemed to take on new dimensions. In fact, the pattern of colonisation and domination has remained the same since it instated century ago with the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, which had approved the scramble for Africa among European colonial powers. It was a time when the cruel Abyssinian Empire was given an ordinance of Christianising and ‘civilizing’ the Oromos; though it is a historic derision how a backward and barbaric empire was to ‘civilize’ the society of prime civilisation, high culture and social structure, the ‘natives’, whose development levels and potentials were diverse and by far advanced.

The very idea of Christianising and civilizing was an external imposition often upheld by external protagonists. In the pre 1974 Ethiopia, this took the form of substantial military and economic aid from the US America and Europe. During the Cold War era, the mission of oppression of the Oromos maintained and supported by fresh military and economic aid from the then Soviet Union scheme of spreading its sphere of dominion and its ideology to Africa. In the contemporary ‘new world disorder’, the support has got new momentum in which the old Christian missionaries are replaced by an army of western neo-classical economists who peddle a ‘free market’ ideology, which they hope, will take care of the imprisoned market agents, in this case the Oromos.

According to the new Gospel, the Tigrean colonizers are given the mandate and the necessary financial backing to pursue ‘economic liberalization’ while keeping strict control that Oromia remains the Abyssinian colony. The liberalization agenda has served as a precursor of the making of Tigrean version of crony capitalism or more appropriately advanced feudalism in the age of economic globalisation. It is alien to Adam Smith’s invisible hand, social justice and the free-market ideals of relying on legal contracts, property rights, impartial regulations and transparency.  It is no wonder that the political and economic prescriptions that the Ethiopian colonial rules implemented and or pretend to implement are in line with the advice of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and The US administration’s The Horn of Africa Initiative all of which have exacerbated the problem of the Oromo nation. It has also betrayed the ideals of free market, social justice, self-determination and human rights.

The sorrowing fact is that shared interest and solidarity between the West and the Abyssinian colonizers are impoverishing the people. Pretentious and ill-conceived measures are being taken in the name of free market and above all development. Currently, there are a number of regime-sponsored ‘associations’ of this or that ‘Region/State’s Development’ anti-terrorism, poverty alleviation, renewal process, revolutionary democracy, etc. Given this, the people’s last resort is to defend their own interests is the exit option or to retreat from the colonizers. What has become more apparent than ever is the need to rely on the Oromo initiatives to solve the problems of the Oromo.  The Oromo poor need to defend themselves from the bogus free market invaders and their phoney local allies. This is necessary, since, in the absence of property rights, social justice, and individual and social freedom and democracy, no free market economic gimmickry is able to reserve the tragedy of the oppressed. It is within this context, that we discuss, how the Ethiopian colonial rules, in collaboration once with international socialism and now with the global capitalism has impoverished and underdeveloped one particular community in Africa, the Oromo nation.

Sclerotic to development: The Abyssinian Colonial Occupation and Its Alliances

Economists are inspired to point out the weight of political factors, captured by the term ‘governance’ and its role in economic development. Concerns about political factors in economic development is revitalized because of the dearth of economic development reform and structural adjustment programs to yield definite success and prosperity, particularly, in Africa. The main problem pointed out is ‘poor governance’ (World Bank, 1989; Moore, 1992). There are three different aspects to the notion of governance that can be identified as:

The form of political regime (independent, colonial government, multi-party democracy, authoritarian, etc.),

The process by which authorities exercised in the management of the country’s economic and social resource; and’

The willingness, the competence and the capacity of the government to design, formulate, and implement genuine development policies, and, in general to discharge development and government functions.


As there is no antithesis concerning the conviction that ‘good’ governance is an important and desirable ingredient of development, scholars are cautious not to attach specific regime type and political reforms to good governance. Broadly, however, good governance is legitimated by developmentalist ideology while poor governance is characterized by  ‘state elite enrichment ‘ (Jackson and Rosberg, 1984), the ‘rent seeking society’ (Krueger, 1974) or ‘politics of the belly’ (Bayart, 1993;Tolesa, 1995) such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zaire). The latter in fact are characterized by sclerotic behaviours and are obstacles to development.

The Oromia’s underdevelopment (negative development) and its associated problems are never going to be understandable to us, much less contain it, as long as we persist to ponder it as a mere as an economic enigma. What is before us momentarily is in essence an enigma of political colonialism whose economic after-effects are severe.

Not only the problem is basically political and colonial in character. It arose largely from Abyssinian imperial conquest and its associated colonial disposition, which is characterized by reliance on sheer force, state terror,  genocide, plunder, authoritarianism and violence.

The story goes back to the days of the Abyssinians crossed the Red Sea and seized the territory and resources of the Cushites ( Bibilical Ethiopia, the present Horn of Africa  and Oromia) making concerted aggression on the latter’s history and culture in the name of settlement and civilizing the ‘non-believers.’

As it is discussed above and elsewhere, in the first millennium BC the Abyssinian group crossed the Red Sea from South Arabia (source: the debtras’ records and   memories of Abyssinian  high school history text book) to the present North East Africa to conquer and resettle the land occupied by endogenous Oromo and the other Cushitic people. Recent research recognises that the Semitic culture of the Abyssinian  empire’s northern highlands was built on the Cushitic base for which not genuine credit has been given, and the Axum obelisks which were attributed to the (Sabeans Abyssinians) do not have corresponding existence on the Arabian peninsula while they are abundant in the Nile valley stretching from Egypt to ancient Kush in today’s Sudan. This most probably indicates that the earlier phase of Axum civilization was predating the Sabean infiltration/invasion.

Cleansing as a policy was initiated to conquer the Cushite territories. The territory they conquered was divided among numerous Abyss chiefdoms that were as often at war with each other as with Oromo and the entire Cushite. The population of conquered territories were considered as dangerous thus; Abyssinian cleansing, up rooting, forced labour and killings of the vanquished were conducted as the means of crushing resistance, securing the conquered territories and even to expand their occupation further. Though the Abyssinian gained some territories and resettled in the northern highlands of the Oromo and other Cushitic regions among others Afar, Agau, etc., their expansion was checked for a long time in history by wars of resistance and liberation they encountered by the endogenous people. These wars of resistance led to a decisive victory for Oromo, Afar and Somali nations particularly from 12th to the second half of 19th century. As a result of such a defeat Abyssinians started to wage particularly anti-Oromo propaganda battles to alert themselves and attract foreign support against the Oromo. The derogative name ‘Galla’ and the ‘16 century Oromo migration’ were all the Abyssinian fabrications and to serve the war against Oromo. In fact, the Oromo oral history shows that the 16th century was a massive Abyssinian further southward migration and intensive campaign to entirely control Oromia and other territories. For the Oromo this period was characterized by political and military dynamism and at the same time it was a period of victory, massive dislocations, rehabilitation and displaced communities returning home.

According to M. Bulcha (see Oromo Commentary), it was only during the second part of the 19th century that the Abyssinians ultimately succeeded to make significant in roads into the Oromo territory. Tewodros (also known in different names Hailu, Kassa, Dejazmach, Ras, etc., as other Abyssinian shiftas and present Woynes, is on record for his brutish hostility towards the Oromo nation. He was not the first or the last of his kind. They were many before and after him, for concrete evidence even today, this time and this second. All of them have been gangsters of very abnormal characters and Abyssinian detested figures. The Abyssinians remembered Tewodros and his type not only as the romanticized hero figures but also portrayed them as a modernises. Tewodros the lunatic and bandit   declared and conducted a war of extermination against the Oromo. In order to help them to bargain for the western support, he and all his type including Yohannes, Menelik, Haile Sellasie, Mengistu and currently Meles declared anti-Islam and anti-Muslim nations. They mobilized all their resources and the entire Abyssinia (Amhara &Tigre) against the Oromo to achieve their goal. Tewodros made every effort to obtain the European military support claiming his fictions of Christian identity and ideology (the then dominant political ideology though he had not any biblical ethics and values, not at all). Tewodros is a symbol and an element of Abyssinian barbarism that was conducted at particular historical stage (1850-1868). Such barbarism has been conducted since the Axumite period (3000 years) but has never achieved its ultimate goal of elimination of the entire endogenous people of the North-East Africa. But it eliminated millions of and it thwarted the civilisations of Cushite people. They have used all the devastating means the: Christian civilizing ideology, European army, settler colonialism, Soviet Socialism, Stalin collectivisation, Mengistu’s villegisation, and America’s structural adjustment, terrorism, etc. They have always tried to change names after names for the same ugly & old expansionism, feudalism and empire (the legendary land of Sheba, Ethiopia, Ethiopia first, socialist Ethiopia, republic, mother land, federal etc.). The very name Ethiopia is Hellenistic Greece. It was the name used in the ancient Greece occupation (before Romans) of North Africa people and southward expansion. This name was colonialism from the beginning and it has been, it is and it will be. It is not African in origin as the people who invented it. This name was adopted and maintained to conquer the entire Cush and then the entire Africa in the shadow of christianisation. It is a sinister name that has no boundary and ethnic identity. It is not only the conquered people of North-East Africa but also all Africanists that must understand, including its sinister philosophy. It was designed and adopted to deconstruct an endogenous African identity.

One implication of the doctrine of Abyssinian ‘civilizing mission’ was that the Oromos needed to be ruled by Abyssinians and could not responsibly be granted civil liberties. Authoritarian as it has always been, the Abyssinian colonial rule in Oromia whether under Menelik II, Haile Selassie, Mengistu and currently under Meles has been characterized by the ‘politics of the belly.’ The underlying ethos remains self-aggrandizement and those elites are alien to growth whereas corruption, brutality, inefficiency and grotesque incompetence have tainted their politics. Time and again, they siphoned off Oromia’s wealth and indulged in conspicuous consumption and stashing millions of dollars in remote secret accounts in Europe, America and Asia. Scholars understand that development is about the future. However, the Abyssinian elites are living for the present. They came for quick self enrichment. The Oromos have no opportunity to invest in their country. They disowned everything.

While the Abyssinian colonial settlers in Oromia do no want and support policies that promote development, they find military and other forms of support abroad to stay in power. In more than one time, this force of underdevelopment has been strongly reinforced by external forces (Holcomb and Ibssa, 1990). Despite generous foreign assistance, this hardly commanded legitimacy to mobilize the colonized masses behind their rule. To the contrary, people who have waged legitimate struggle to reclaim their freedom, cultures and history has fiercely resisted their rule.

As it has been discussed elsewhere, Oromos have their own political power, which was fully operational before they were colonized and occupied by Abyssinians put under the strict control of   Ethiopian empire state. Their political system is based on the Gadaa (Gada) system. The Gadaa system has been the foundation of Oromo civilization, culture and worldview (Jalata, 1996). The Gadaa political practices manifested the idea of real representative democracy with checks and balance, the rule of law, social justice, egalitarianism, local and regional autonomy, the peaceful transfer of democratic power, etc. (Jalata, 1966). The Gadaa political system also facilitated property rights, stability, and the expansion of free trade, commerce, improved farm techniques and permanent settlements, gradual diversification of division of labour. The Gada state was non-taxing state. Military was not the focal point, only defensive which is democratic. It was the opposite of expansionist, imperial, genocide or conquering state, e.g. Roman, Sparta, Abyssinian and Serbia, etc.

One of the distinctive virtues of Gadaa state was the weight of civilian power as compared to military power, military aristocracy was practically absent and in normal times, the army executed only an inconspicuous, if not nonexistent, political function. The military aristocracy was not the focal point of society.  War had rather a defensive mission.

Nonetheless, particularly since the last decades of the nineteenth century, the Abyssinian colonial rule and its state disallowed the Gadaa political system and expropriated the Oromo basic means of subsistence, such as land cattle while it established an Ethiopian system of rule over Oromia. The Oromo commerce and industrious activities were not only discouraged but also ridiculed and obtained the lowest social status. Productive relations were imposed through the process of commodity production and extraction between those who control or own the means of production, the state, and those who do not.  Those who control the means of coercion had the opportunity to reorganize productive relations through dispossession of the colonized Oromos in order to expedite more product extraction.

The process of dispossession is multi-faceted and far-reaching. As the result of it, the Oromos have been denied power and access to education, cultural, economic and political fields while at the extremes, the Abyssinian colonialism has been practiced through violence, mass killings, mutilations, cultural destruction, enslavement and property confiscation.

Apart from the splendid crop farm and animal husbandry, in his 1896-1898 travels in Oromia Bulatovich (2000, pp 60-61) described the Oromian industrial and commercial   economy as the most vibrant with conducive endogenous institution as follows:

“Artisans such as blacksmiths and weavers are found among the [Oromo]. Blacksmiths forge knives and spears from iron, which is mined in the country. Weavers weave rough shammas from local cotton. The loom is set up very simple. … There is also the production  of earthenware from unbaked clay.  Craftsmen who make excellent morocco; harness makers who make the most intricate riding gear’ artisan who make shields; weavers of straw hats (all [Oromo] know how to weave parasols and baskets), aromers who make steel sabers; weavers who weave delicate shammas, etc.

Bulatovich Observed that commerce in Oromo was both barter and monetary based. The monetary unit was the Austrian taller and salt. The former was rather little in quantity and was concentrated in the hands of merchants. He witnessed that Oromos have great love for commerce and exchange economy. According to Bulatovich (2000, pp, 61-63):

“In each little area there is at least one market place, where they gather once a week, and there is hardly an area which is relatively larger and populated which does not have marketplace strewn throughout. Usually the marketplace is a clearing near a big road in the centre of [Oromo] settlements…. Rarely does any [Oromo] man or women skip market day. They come, even with empty arms or with a handful of barely or peas, with a few coffee beans or little bundles of cotton, in order to chat, to hear news, to visit with neighbours and to smoke a pipe in their company. But besides, this petty bargaining, the main commerce of the country is in the hands of the [Oromo], and they retain it despite the rivalry of the Abyssinians. Almost all the merchants are Mohammedan. They export coffee, gold, musk, ivory, and leather; and they import salt, paper materials, and small manufactured articles. They are very enterprising and have commercial relations with the Sudan, Kaffa, and the Negro tribes.”

The Oromos have also valued both the collective and personal independence and freedom very much. Their peaceful and independent way of life was broken and their freedom lost with the coming of the utterly vicious and sever authority and hard school of surrender and obedience of the Abyssinian conquerors. As Bulatovich (2000, p.65) further described:

“The main character of trait of the [Oromo] is love of complete independence and freedom. Having settled on any piece of land, having built him a hut, the [Oromo] does not want to acknowledge the authority of anyone, except his personal will. Their former government system was the embodiment of this basic trait of their character- a great number of small independent states with figurehead kings or with a republican form of government. Side with such independence, the [Oromo] has preserved a great respect for the head of the family, for the elders of the tribe, and for customs, but only insofar as it does not restrain him too much.”

Jalata (1993) sees the Ethiopian colonial domination as the negation of the historical process of structural and technological transformation. This is the case where the Abyssinian colonial class occupies an intermediate status in the global political economy serving its own interest and that of imperialists. The Oromos have been targeted to provide raw materials for local and foreign markets. Inside the empire, wherever they go, the Abyssinian colonial settlers built garrison towns as their political centres for practicing colonial domination through the monopoly of the means of compulsion and wealth extraction.

The Abyssinian colonial system was more cognated to a tributary system whereby the rulers extract tribute and labour from colonized lands. The Abyssinian peasants supported their households, the state and the church from what they produced. After its colonial expansion, Abyssinians maintained their tributary nature and established colonial political economy in Oromia and in the Southern nations. Although the colonial state intensified land expropriation and produce extraction from colonized peoples, capitalist productive relations did not emerge. Gradually with the further integration of the Ethiopian empire into the capitalist world economy, semi-capitalist farms seemed to emerge by extracting their fruits mainly through tenancy, sharecropping and the use of forced-labour systems.

The colonial exploitation has been maintained under Mengistu’s so-called socialist collectivisation/ villegisation campaigns and in the current Meles’ regime under the mask of structural adjustment and  ‘free’ market economic system.

It should also mentioned that in addition to authoritarian and coercive rule, the Ethiopian colonialism depended on an Oromo collaborationist agents that were essential to enforce Ethiopian colonialism. This second rate clique is merely an expandable appendage which devotes most of its energy to the scramble for the spoils of slavery, picking up the leftover in economic and political advantages. The main task of this class is to ensure the continuous supply of products and labour for the settlers. Of course this class was not always loyal to the Ethiopian colonial state (Jalata, 1993). Broadly speaking, the state itself is a battlefield for two exclusive claims to rule and political competition among the Ethiopian colonizers, the Amharas and Tigreans. In effect, this makes the Abyssinian colonizer politics effectively a zero-sum game and the very practice of politics become a negation of politics, i.e. politics are practiced with the inert ending of politics.

The Abyssinian rulers, who have inherited power used to believe that their interests were well served by depoliticising, muting and suppressing the Oromos and the Southern peoples’ quest for national-self determination under the guise of maintaining the unity of the Ethiopian empire. So they convinced themselves and tried to convince others that there were no serious socio-political differences and no basis for political opposition. Apoliticism has been elevated to the level of ideology while the political structures become ever more monolithic and authoritarian.

The political structures and political ideologies, which have been used to effect depoliticization and suppression, are all too familiar. The process entailed political repression, which the Oromos endured and suffered for more than a century. The implication of depoliticization is to deny the existence of differences, to disallow their legitimate expression and, therefore, to deny collective negotiation. Whatever the degree of repression, the process did not remove the differences. The ensuing popular frustration and resistance has led to even more repression. That is how political repression has become the most characteristic feature of the colonial political life and domination as its salient political relationship. All this means that political power becomes particularly important; so the struggle for it gets singularly intense.

In Abyssinian Colonial regime and psyche Seize power is supernatural and a magical axiom and power itself does not mean influence on policies but it means license over their colonial subjects.  People have been so frightened and constricted by fear and indoctrination. Besides, they have been overwhelmed by deceptive rhetoric, crude, systematic misinformation, and hypocrisy, which made it virtually impossible to see through the situation and to form an intelligent judgement.  The Abyssinian rulers including Tewodros, Menelik, Yohannes, Hailessilassie, Mengistu and Meles in resemble wanted an absolute power both on earth and heaven. All mobilised Abyssinian myth to enhance their cults. Loyalty and submission to them was being shrouded in an illusive appeal to be a good citizen.  We heard and observed, childhoods dominated by a miasma of poverty, misery, starvation, with no shoes, slavery, slave soldier, premature and painful deaths. The power of the Abyssinian colonial empire has been not only absolute but also arbitrary, extraordinarily statist and hostile. It tightly controls every aspects of its subject’s economy. In the state where politics is driven by the calculus of power,  everyone in arena only focused in the accumulation of power. Politics has been  reduced to a singular issue of domination. It has never afloat  restraint and  dispensation.  There have been regime changes within  the empire but the new  has accustomed to reproduce and reinforce  the past. None of the the Ethiopian rulers including the present regime fundamentally  had any  firm interest in transformation , and all of them  were only  too alert that they could  afford to broaden the social base of the state power.   Power has been maintained by politicising  and manipulating the Abyssinian myth  and chauvinistic nationalism  and depoliticisation of the occupied. In doing so, they  engaged in weakening. They produced not only  fanatical divisions within their own echelon  but antagonism  and exclusivity in society and . the solidarity of the oppressed at any  price.  It is so clear that  such political condition  has been profoundly  hostile to development. The struggle  for power  within itself and to sustain the occupation of the oppressed majority  has been so engrossing that everything else, including development must be sacrificed

The oppressed  are exposed to  all kinds of onslaught by state  that is hardly subject to any constitutional or institutional fetters.  The colonial power barred Oromos from engaging in their own industrial enterprises, export trade, domestic commercial venture, modern and relatively productive farm, private, free media, education and philanthropy etc. Unlike the Hobbes’s state, it is so backward, uncivil sing, further underdeveloping and essentially a military institution that imposes subordination and maintains colonial condition. In this context, it is more colonial and barbaric by the standard of other colonial experiences observed elsewhere in the Americas, Asia and other parts of Africa.

There are two major aspects in which this situation has severely thwarted Oromia’s development. The first enigma lies in the incompatibility between the pursuit of development and the crusade for survival, reproduction of the existing forms of social control and domination. The deleterious after-effect of this animosity is that it leads to misuse of human resources, inefficiency and corruption. Unquestionably, appointments into the positions of power, even when they are positions, which demand specialized knowledge, tend to be made by political criteria, particularly by regarding these appointments as part of survival strategy. Each time such appointment is being made, the friction between political survivals, economic efficiency and development crops up.   The ruination to efficiency and development derives not only from the performance criteria and likely incompetence of the persons so assigned but also from the general demoralization of the technically qualified and competent people purveying under them who are often repressed and frustrated by their subjection to the surveillance and regulations of people who are powerful but inapt. Here lies the role of Ethiopian ministers and parastatals: incompetent personnel used to obstruct productive use of resources. Wasted are also competent people. They lose at both ends. In the midst of waste, the Oromos have been denied basic civil and political rights and the right to development. Alien leaders who channel the meagre resources into unproductive uses imposed the related economic problem, the very rights over which the people are fiercely struggling.

Development projects were initiated for wrong reasons; they may, on account of political considerations, be located in places where they are least beneficial both economically and socially. One could site familiar cases where important contracts and licenses have been given to politically significant people. Higher positions are created and new rule and regulations are established just to benefit people whose political support is considered important. Oromia pays for all these disservice. The Ethio-crats are overpaid and creating demoralizing disparities between reward and effort. That is how; the persistence of Ethiopian imperial and colonial domination is imperilling to the integral tenets of development.

Abyssinian academics and international development agencies offer many factors for the apparent failures and crises  of development industry  in the Abyssinian empire: lack of capital, lack of technology, entreprenuerial skills, corruption, poor planning and management, socialist system,  lack of infrustracture, falling commodity prices,  cyclical drought, unfavourable international terms of trade, low level of saving and investment. These factors and the long lists of related factor are undeniably crucial factors in development. However, we have to address the  misleading assumption that has commonly  been taken that   there has been development failures and  crises.  The Oromia experience exhibits the  terrible realites that development  has never been on the agenda. The business of the  politics of occupation  has prevented the pursuit of development and the emergence of relevant and effective development paragims and programs.

The burning question is, can the people of Oromia try to trade, farm, imitate and innovate then develop their economy in this state of siege? The question is vital and congruous; but the answer is doubtful, as it is impractical. Development strategies as such are comprehensive programs of social transformation. They call for a great deal of ingenious management, confidence in the leadership and commitment. They require clarity of purpose for a society at large; they need social consensus especially on the legitimacy of the leadership. Yet these are not common features of an institution, which does not represent the society. Besides, development is about change and that change may not work to the survival of the colonial rulers. In this sense it runs against the instincts of the rulers whose preoccupation is to survive and maintain its dominant position. One of the most amazing things about development discourse in Ethiopian empire is how readily it is assumed that the rulers are interested in development particularly when they profess commitment to development and negotiate with international aid organizations for economic assistance. People making this assumption forget the primacy of maintaining colonial power and its conflict with other social and economic goals.

Why the Ethiopian rulers embark on a course of societal transformation just because it is good for the nations under its empire like Oromos if it is bad for their own survival?

The ideology of development has been adopted to grapping resources from external aid agencies. In the name of development people are forced to obedience and conformity.  Billions of dollars was  looted by tolitarian regime and its cliques. Structural adjustment,  privatisation, liberalisation, investment, rural development, fertiliser for farmers and democratisation have been the slogans of Mele’s regime for the last 20 years.   There have not been:  appropriate political structure and practices, administrative system,  institutional framework to conduct development in Abyssinian empire. There have been also  failures by international development agencies that have taken the responsibilities of financing development and transferring resources ignoring the specificity and historicity of the Abyssinian empire. This has also exhibited the mounting anarchy of development studies and development practices that has been based on modernising paragim.

The Abysinian rulers and their elites, especially the Amharas regard the ideal  characters of  themselves as the end of evolution. The application of this evolutionary schema meant advancement is a matter of assimilating to Abysinian culture.  Abyysinians have established  the negative view of the Cushite people, institutions  and their culture. The colonial regime discourages any belief in the integrity and validity of the Oromo society and have offered the notion that  Oromos can find validity only in their total transformation, that is, in their total self-alienation. On practical level , the result has been frustrating.They have assaulted on Oromo governance (Gadaa), Oromo culture, Oromo religion (Waqeffannaa) and Oromo names.They have changed Oromo names to Amharic (e.g. Finfinnee changed to Addis Ababa). They assaulted on the use of Oromo language. They evicted Oromos from cities and towns.  They instituted the negative image of the Cushite and the superiority of the Abyssinians. How people in such state of mind, behaviour and attitude pursue development? According to Claude Ake “Development  requires changes on a revolutionary scale; it is in every sense a heroic enterprise calling for consummate confidence. It is not for people  who do not know who they are and where they are coming from , for such people  are unlikely to know where they are going,”(Ake, 1996, p. 16).

When we think of development, it is about society at large and the paradox is that it is often the leader who is not in a position to think of the objective interests of the society. For thinking in this way entails profound democratic commitment, which cannot usually be expected of such leaders. By virtue of their position, colonial rulers suffer the disadvantage of confusing what maintains the existing social order, which they dominate, and they are tendentiously suspicious of change; it is all the more so when it comes to fundamental changes.

Finally, we need to remember some of the implications of development with respect to alien colonial rulers. As it has already been mentioned, they have been more interested in taking advantage of the social order inherited from their predecessors rather than in transforming it. To all appearances, they are colonial rulers.  Oromos have been oppressed and humiliated for over a century. The political history of the last hundred years of colonial rule of Oromia has vividly indicted that the Oromos lacked freedom; it means that they did not have control over the products of their labour, it means that their natural resources and environment were tarnished by others; and eventually it means that they witnessed chronic poverty, destitution, killing forces, the forces of abuse & alienation, human misery and less and less of humane life.

In these circumstances, it is not surprising that where development is pursued in Oromia, if at all, it is full of ambiguities and contradictions and it is just a mere posture. Even taking these postures on the face value, in so far as we are critical of development strategies in Oromia, our criticism runs in the direction of their sloppy conception and hence their failure to come to grips with sclerotic of imperial domination.  If we raise the question of the contradiction between political survival and social transformation, we commence to behold that it is doubtful and equivocal where development is, or it has ever been, on the colonizers’ list for Oromia.

The other aspect of economic consequences of colonial domination has been militarism, which is but the outcome of over-valuing of political power. Associated with it is the intense struggle to obtain and keep it. Therefore, the politics of the empire is sustained by warfare and force than by consent. In this atmosphere, force is mobilized and deployed: the winners are anxious to take absolute power into their hands while the losers forgo not only power but also lose liberty and even life.  As politics relies solely on force, the vocabulary and organization advocates coercion. For that matter, the Ethiopian empire is a political formation of armies in action and this is in itself a serious development problem. In an institution in which the political formations are organized as warring armies, differences are too wide and far, the scope for co-operation too limited; there is too much distrust; and life is too raw to nature commerce and industry in subject nations like Oromia. Currently, the militarism of life in general and politics in particular has reached its logical culmination in Ethiopian military rule and its negative consequences have wider regional implications.  This too hinders the course of development not only in Oromia but also in entire North East Africa.

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Corrupt Leaders in Africa June 8, 2011

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Gadaa system June 8, 2011

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Theorizing Development June 8, 2011

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JEL: A11, A23, B13, D2, D6, O1, O5

Theorizing Development

Temesgen M. Erena (DPhil), Economist

From historical perspectives, the urgency underlying the contemporary development quest of developing economies has been recognised for the last seven decades. Of course, this should not be considered as that there were no problems of development prior to 1940’s.  However, paralleling the increasing for economic self-determination and development of developing economies, there has been a tremendous growth in intellectual activity concerning the development problems.

The past 70 years have also witnessed a gluttony  of models, theories, and empirical investigations of the development problem and the possibilities offered for transforming Asia, African, Latin American, and Caribbean nations. This body of knowledge as come to be known in academics and policy circles as development economics.

In these perspectives development is discerned in the context of   sustained rise of an entire society and social system towards a better and ‘humane life’. What constitutes a better and humane life is an inquiry as old as humankind. Nevertheless, it must be regularly and systematically revised and answered over again in the unsteady milieu of the human society. Economists have agreed on at least on three universal or core values as a discernible and practical guidelines for understanding the gist of development (see Todaro,1994; Goulet, 1971; Soedjatmoko, 1985; Owens, 1987).  These core- values include:

Sustenance:

 the ability to meet basic needs: food, shelter, health and protection. A basic function of all economic activity, thus, is to provide a means of overcoming the helplessness and misery emerging from a lack of food, shelter, health and protection. The necessary conditions are improving the quality of life, rising per head income, the elimination of absolute poverty, greater employment opportunity and lessening income inequalities;

self-esteem:

which includes possessing education, technology, authenticity, identity, dignity, recognition, honour, a sense of worth and self respect, of not being used as a tool by others for their own exigency;

Freedom from servitude:

 to be able to choose. Human freedom includes emancipation from alienating material conditions of life and from social servitude to other people, nature, ignorance, misery, institutions, and dogmatic beliefs. Freedom includes an extended range of choices for societies and their members and together with a minimization of external restraints in the satiation of some social goals. Human freedom embraces personal security, the rule of law, and freedom of leisure, expression, political participation and equality of opportunity.

Sustained and accelerated increase and change in quantity and quantity of material goods and services (both in absolute and per capita), increase in productive capacity and structural transformation of production system (e.g. from agriculture to industry then to services and presently to knowledge based (new) economy), etc. hereinafter economic growth is a necessary if not a sufficient condition for development.

As elaborated in Hirischman (1981) and Lal (1983), this corpus of thought and knowledge denotes economics with a particular perspective of developing nations and the development process. It has come to shape the beliefs about the economic development of developing countries and policies and strategies that should be followed in this process. While development economics goes beyond the mere application of traditional economic principles to the study of developing economies, it remains an intellectual offspring and sub discipline of the mainstream economics discipline. The growth in economic knowledge and the corresponding intellectual maturation of development thought and policy debate has led to the appearance of various perspectives of thought on the theory and reality of development and underdevelopment within the same discipline of development economics. The two  main paradigms are neo-classicals (orthodox), and Political economy (neo-Marxists). There are also eclectics.

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