Boakye Agyarko: What do we mean by proprietary democracy?

Dr. JB Danquah in 1961 wrote the following statement, which has become the creed of our party, the New Patriotic Party.

“It is the policy of the party to unleash the energies of the people for the growth of a proprietary democracy in this country, with the rights to life, liberty and justice, as principles to which the government and the laws of the land should be dedicated in specifically to enrich the life, property and liberty of every citizen”.

Like all suggestive political slogans, the phrase itself has become the subject of heated, but distorted, ideological debate, with both protagonists and antagonists tilting it for political advantage.

Our opponents have taken three of the fifty-eight words of this creed, “property democracy,” and sought to turn it into an avenue for selfish greed, no matter that the statement also states that it is for “every citizen” of the field.

A proprietary democracy is a socio-political system in which political authority aims to ensure an equitable distribution of productive property among the population at large, rather than allowing the concentration of that productive property in the hands of a few.

This is to ensure that all individuals have a fair and equal opportunity to participate in the market.

The claim that private property promotes the independence of mind and social stability necessary for the responsible exercise of political power is the origin of the term “property democracy”.

Our party therefore seeks to carve out a distinctive ideological space for itself focused on ensuring greater dispersion of ownership and power, as opposed to the concentration of ownership in the hands of the state or capitalists.

This dispersal of ownership is crucial to the realization of individual independence and autonomy. To create a society of free and equal citizens not subject to the economic and political domination of a wealthy minority.

The birth of property democracy as a means of creating social and political stability dates back to the 18th century and grew out of concerns about the impact of concentrated wealth on politics and society.

It has been argued that the democratic state has a role to play in distributing resources to all members of the community to ensure the material conditions for their equal citizenship.

Rousseau in 1762 said: “Do you want to give stability to the state? Bring the extremes as close as possible, tolerating neither the rich nor the beggars” and “no citizen should be so rich that he can buy another, and none so poor that he is forced to sell himself”.

Thomas Paine, writing in “The Rights of Man” (1792) and “Agrarian Justice” (1797) picks up the argument.

Paine believed that the rise of representative government should be accompanied by a new social commitment to individual rights to material resources, provided by the state through a system of taxes and transfers.

Paine expressed his palpable revolt at the moral depredation of a civilization that made some fabulously rich while others starved to death in the streets.

He further maintained that to enable citizens to possess the independence and security necessary for the exercise of their political functions, it was necessary to provide them with material support “not of the nature of charity, but of a right”.

According to Paine, these social rights should include benefits for the children of the poor, provided that their children attend school; the old-age pension and the financing of universal education.

In AGRARIAN JUSTICE, Paine argued for a universal endowment of capital for every person; man or woman, reaching the age of 21, as well as the payment of an annual pension to those over 50, financed by taxation of inherited assets.

According to him, the accumulation of private property was the “effect of society”, as opposed to the exclusive result of individual initiative and thrift, and concluded that each owner therefore had to give back at least some of his assets to the community that facilitated their development. earnings.

More recently, James Meade has presented and summarized the argument for democracy from property as follows: “A man with much property has great bargaining power and a great sense of security, independence, and freedom, and he appreciates these things not only vis-à-vis vis-à-vis his fellow citizens without property but also vis-à-vis the public authorities”.

He can snap his fingers at those he has to rely on for income; for he can always live for some time on his capital. The homeless person must continuously and without interruption acquire his income by working for an employer or by fulfilling the conditions for receiving it from a public authority”.

The phrase “Property Democracy” was coined by British Conservative Noel Skelton, who hoped to adapt conservatism to the arrival of a mass working-class electorate by proposing the spread of individual ownership as an ideological alternative to collective ownership. proposed and defended by the socialists.

The only interesting option was to ensure a greater dispersion of individual property within the population.

Fundamentally, Skelton’s goal was to address what he saw as the legitimate economic grievances felt by the working class and the resulting political and industrial instability by creating a genuine identification of interests between capital and labor.

John Rawls, one of the most influential political philosophers of the last century, advanced the argument that social justice is indeed not possible within the confines of the capitalist welfare state.

Rawls believed that the capitalist societies we know, in which a small minority hold a massively disproportionate share of the wealth, could not be just.

Instead, justice requires a different form of socio-economic organization, one in which human and non-human capital is widely dispersed, which is what a property democracy is.

Thus, political theorists from Rousseau to John Rawls and beyond have settled on the idea of ​​democratic ownership as a non-socialist model for advancing the goals of equitable distribution of property in society.

What has this meant for the NPP in terms of political choices and governance?

What you believe in and value largely dictates what you do and how you think and act.

In order to grasp the full scope of this issue, we must return to the statement of Dr. JB Danquah, which now serves as the creed of the New Patriotic Party.

Land democracy as our credo is to release the energies of the people of this land.

For too long our energies have been trapped by a statist economic pathway that stifled and stifled the creative intellect and private initiative of citizens.

Patrimonial democracy specifically aims to enrich the life, property and freedom of every citizen. This proprietary democracy must guarantee the right to life, liberty and justice and thus enrich them.

The first time a party born from the UP tradition had the opportunity to fulfill its full mandate was under the presidency of John Agyekum Kuffour.

Guided by the principles of a property democracy, his government implemented pro-poor ideas, projects and programs that sought to disperse ownership rather than concentrate it in the hands of a few.

Programs such as national health insurance, maternal health care, school feeding, free mass metro-bus rides for schoolchildren and the elderly, LEAP and many more were all born out of recognition that such provision to all members of the community was a means of assuring the material condition of their equal citizenship.

The NPP administration under President Kuffour has expanded the scope of social intervention programs with the most creative and innovative program far more than the NDC, which describes itself as social democratic but without any program advancing rights of Ghanaians before or after his administration.

The Akufo-Addo government, also guided by the principle enshrined in the Principles of Property Democracy, is further expanding the boundaries of social rights for Ghanaians.

As early as 1792, Thomas Paine passionately argued for social rights which included benefits for the children of the poor, provided children attended school, and for such schooling for those funded by universality.

Fast forward, the NPP administration under President Akufo-Addo is implementing a transformational free high school program, which will fundamentally guarantee the material conditions of their equal citizenship.

There are many other equally convincing examples, but I refrain for reasons of space: suffice it to say, however, that the principle of a democracy of property which seeks to disperse the ownership of property among our citizens and whom our adversaries have sought to slander and demonize is indeed the surest and surest way to promote the independence of mind and social stability necessary for the responsible exercise of political power in Ghana.

If we of the NPP are to remain faithful and honest to the principles of the UP tradition, we can be sure that these principles will spawn even greater ideas, programs and projects that will further expand and enrich the opportunities that will become available to all our citizens. .

This is how we can act to better secure the material conditions of our equal citizenship.