Two pairs of other people’s shoes

Everyone reading this post has pretty comfortable shoes. All it takes to know that is that you have internet access. Would you want to swap your shoes for those of a typical South African? Quite likely unemployed, living far from work and struggling with barely functioning public transport to get to work, reliant on public healthcare (so, given the strikes at the moment, reliant on staying healthy) and not having ADT to protect your home from criminals.

Yes, and no broadband internet.

Pair #1: Citizen shoes

It is exactly because we are not a typical South Africans that we must be so careful when diving into policy debates. It is incredibly easy to argue self-serving points from the comfort of our own shoes.

Ideally, policy should be discussed under the threat or promise that you will be instantly reincarnated into a random person in our country. Free public healthcare is too expensive for the tax payers to afford?  Perhaps, but what about those who cannot afford to pay for healthcare?  What about if you were born tomorrow into a family with a single bread-winner supporting an extended family?

Think the tax burden should be shared more equally with a less progressive tax system? Compare the salary you earn to the wages you pay. Imagine you were on the receiving end of the wages you pay.

I’m not saying you can’t argue against protective labour laws or free electricity, I’m saying make sure you first put on someone else’s shoes.

Pair #2: Government shoes

The great irony for me is that our illustrious revolutionary government, after five decades as the outside party struggling against the rules, abuses and self-serving policies of an incumbent government, has stepped so quickly into that those same Apartheid-style  government shoes.

Control the media, restrict access to public information, allow floor-crossing (which benefits majority parties and hurts minority parties), spit and fume apopletically when questioned – government policies that protect the ruling party at all costs are blind to the possibilities that the current ruling party might end up on the outside again one day. Is this an ability or unwillingness to play fair and put themselves in other people’s shoes, or religious fervour providing visions of an eternal ANC majority in office?

Or maybe just for the lifetime of the current politicians in power?

Published by David Kirk

The opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and other commenters and are not necessarily those of his employer or any other organisation. David Kirk runs Milliman’s actuarial consulting practice in Africa. He is an actuary and is the creator of New Business Margin on Revenue. He specialises in risk and capital management, regulatory change and insurance strategy . He also has extensive experience in embedded value reporting, insurance-related IFRS and share option valuation.

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  1. I especially like the notion of being rocketted into the other guy’s shoes when making a policy decision.

    1. Would be great if we could make that a literal reality. I wonder if there is science fiction book / movie in that idea?
      (Just to be clear to everyone else, the above comment is a “different” David Kirk. I don’t know what size shoes he has.)

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