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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


DU BUISSON, Theuns. The economic importance for the state of the protection of minority groups. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.3, pp.608-619. ISSN 2224-7912.

Governments tend to encourage so-called nation building, in order to create a united citizenry. In homogenous societies, this occurs fairly easily, as people already feel that they are united in terms of culture and language. Therefore, they naturally feel that they are working towards the same end-goal. In multicultural societies, or in societies with minorities living with the majority, certain groups are always excluded from this. It will be argued that this has always been the case ever since the origin of state. Certain governments, with specific reference to South Africa, deliberately set out to undermine certain minority groups. The modern state is evaluated in terms of Adam Smith's set role for the state. Smith identifies the role ofthe state as protecting citizensfrom attacksfrom other countries, protecting citizens from injustices and harm caused by others and, finally, providing infrastructure as well as a good business environment in which business can thrive. By excluding certain minorities, the last two roles are neglected and the rights of those minorities are infringed upon. As maintaining a good defence force is dependent on developing a thriving economy, the first, and perhaps most basic, function of the state is undermined. Therefore, undermining certain minorities would be against Hobbes' social contract, as it misrepresents some individuals. It also clashes with Adam Smith's set notion of the state's responsibility, according to which it must ensure that its citizens are provided with the freedom and infrastructure to facilitate economic growth. When failing in both of these aspects, serious questions about the legitimacy of such a state are raised. In order to evaluate the role of nation building and representativity, in terms of the actual functions of the state, one must start with the origin of the state. This is because the origin of state power must be understood in order to legitimize the use thereof in terms of governing the cultural and economic practices of subjects and citizens. According to d'Entreves, the state's only legitimization comes from itself, therefore the core of any political theory should be to establish whether the state has any right to exist, apart from the rights that it grants to itself. Hobbes and Rousseau chose the path of the social contract in their political theories. In these theories, the sovereign represents everyone. When using this approach to legitimize state power, minorities are often entirely excluded, as they do notform part of the contract, or they are pushed to the margins by the tyranny of the majority. As the government is supposed to safeguard the rights of all citizens, this seriously questions the legitimacy of governments who advocate for expanding the rights of some groups at the expense of others. In this regard, the South African government since 1994 is used as an example. Nation-building generally refers to non-racialism and representativity. The major instruments whereby such goals are to be attained in the formal sectors are by means of affirmative action and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Certain examples are referred to, such as the government's aim of establishing 100 black industrialists. This is questioned, as becoming a major industrialist usually requires certain skills and experience. Similarly, forcing companies to hire certain people when they are not the best suited or qualified for their positions would put strain on the entire economy. Besides this, it hampers the natural transfusion of skills and assets which would have occurred if the state had not intervened. Rather than creating a united nation or social cohesion, such projects cast doubt on any appointments from the designated groups. Furthermore, it creates doubt amongst minority groups as to whether the government has their best interests at heart. Although trickle-down economics have been questioned, it is without a doubt true that cultural groups cannot empower themselves in isolation. If one group flourishes economically, others will share in it too. The government's restrictions on growth amongst minority groups therefore does not only impact negatively on the specific group, but on society as a whole. By deliberately sabotaging its own economy, such a government proves itself to be illegitimate.

Keywords : Economics; Adam Smith; South Africa; Politics; Culture; Identity; Economic Growth; Minorities; Black Economic Empowerment; Affirmative Action; State Legitimacy.

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