Milton Friedman Understood Rhodesia In 1976



“Of the 49 countries in Africa, fifteen are under direct military rule and 29 have one-party civilian governments. Only five have multiparty political systems. I have just returned from visiting two of these five—the Republic of South Africa and Rhodesia (the other three, for Africa buffs, are Botswana, Gambia and Mauritius). If this way of putting it produces a double take, that is its purpose. The actual situation in both South Africa and Rhodesia is very different from and very much more complex than the black-white stereotypes presented by both our government and the press. And the situation in Rhodesia is very different from that in South Africa.

Neither country is an ideal democracy—just as we are not. Both have serious racial problems— just as we have. Both can be justly criticized for not moving faster to eliminate discrimination— just as we can. But both provide a larger measure of freedom and affluence for all their residents—black and white—than most other countries of Africa.

Both would be great prizes for the Soviets—and our official policy appears well designed to assure that the Soviets succeed in following up their victory in Angola through the use of Cuban troops by similar take-overs in Rhodesia and South Africa.

The United Nations recently renewed and strengthened its sanctions against Rhodesia. The U.S. regrettably concurred. We have, however, had enough sense to continue buying chrome from Rhodesia under the Byrd amendment, rather than, as we did for a time, in effect forcing Rhodesia to sell its chrome to Russia (also technically a party to the sanctions) which promptly sold us chrome at double the price.

Rhodesia was opened up to the rest of the world less than a century ago by British pioneers. Since then, Rhodesia has developed rapidly, primarily through its mineral production—gold, copper, chrome and such—and through highly productive agriculture.

In the past two decades alone, the “African” (i.e., black) population has more than doubled, to 6 million, while the “European” population (i.e., white) has less than doubled, from about 180,000 to less than 300,000. As Rhodesia has developed, more and more Africans have been drawn from their traditional barter economy into the modern market sector. For example, from 1958 to 1975, the total earnings of African employees quadrupled, while those of European employees a little more than tripled. Even so, perhaps more than half of all Africans are still living in the traditional subsistence sector. …”

… READ THE REST: “Rhodesia in 1976. A fascinating view from a famous economist.”