Barack Obama vs Ayn Rand

Posted in Uncategorized on April 15, 2013 by chanda chisala

Buy New book by Chanda Chisala:


The book is an imaginary debate between Obama and Rand that I conceived in 2008 when I was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University, and then wrote some it when I was a visiting scholar later at the Hoover Institution. I edited it recently to include some new revelations in Mr. Obama’s philosophy.

This edition contains only their debate on economic issues, while also laying their fascinating foundational philosophies of collectivist salvation versus individualist salvation. Both of them have in fact used the term “salvation” in this context and defended their moral ideals on the basis of this religious-sounding term. It is the best way of understanding the basis of both Obama’s and Rand’s ideas.

Zambia’s chipolopolo shows the power of determination.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 13, 2012 by chanda chisala

Many of us in Zambia cannot recall feeling as much joy as we felt when Zambia scored that winning goal against the highest ranked team in Africa, the Great Elephants of the Ivory Coast. When the copper bullet (chipolopolo) finally struck that fatal blow into the Goliathic elephant’s heart, a sudden mixture of pride, relief and amazement overwhelmed the hearts of Zambians watching from all over the world. For those of us old enough to remember the team that perished and in whose honour the tournament was being played, the moment was also a teary acceptance of final closure that we failed to find for the past twenty years. May your souls finally rest in peace, Chipolopolo 1.0.

Such great achievements are never short of deeper lessons for the human soul. I believe the biggest lesson from Zambia’s historical achievement is simply the idea that great determination, great self-belief, can achieve anything. It’s a lesson that was artfully displayed before us in concrete fashion for three full weeks as an underrated team kept beating much more fancied teams boasting players from top European teams (its own players are almost all from local African clubs). The team had resolved from the start of the tournament that they would win in honour of the team that died in a plane crash in Gabon in 1993 as they were trying to achieve national glory for the first time. To understand how great this perished team was, you have to recall that the team that was built to replace them managed to reach the finals of the Africa Cup in 1994. And yet most of the players in that new finalist team that lost by one goal to Nigeria could not even make it to the reserve bench of the perished team!

The captain of that perished team (the legendary Kalusha Bwalya), who was also the first and last player to be crowned African footballer of the year from Southern Africa, had luckily survived by simply taking a different late flight from Europe. As the current executive president of the Football Association of Zambia, he took this tournament very personally, and he is the one who led the young team to the site of the plane crash on the coast of Gabon to lay wreaths and dramatically absorb their inspiration.

It was this simple resolution to win at all costs, no matter who stood in their way, that led to that final momentous victory. This heroic and deeply infectious resolve also inspired the people of Zambia at home, many of whom had started their celebrations days before the match was even played. It’s the first time Zambian expectations have been that high. I even spotted at least one car that was fully painted in the colours of the national flag in anticipation of the victory. In short, the self-belief of both the players and the fans was bordering on insanity, given all the reasonable odds against our young team!

But when a person believes that strongly in his ability to achieve a seemingly impossible goal in which he has sufficient skills, he will achieve it. We thank the chipolopolo boys and their passionate coach for making that lesson permanently coloured on our minds as we pursue our own individual dreams.

Raising minimum wage is a mistake.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 3, 2011 by chanda chisala

Mr Sata’s decision to raise the minimum wage is his first economic mistake as president of Zambia. Hopefully there won’t be too many such mistakes on balance, compared to good decisions. When he was announcing this he asked the professionals present in his audience if they would accept 450,000 kwacha as their salary (the minimum wage). Do unto others as you would want them to do to you, he admonished (in consistence with his promise to lead by Christian principles).

But this was the wrong rhetorical question to ask his audience. The fact is that even these professionals are grossly underpaid. If they moved to a better economy most of them would more than quadruple their salaries. So by the president’s logic, even they should have their salaries at least doubled.

I am surprised that the Economics Association of Zambia has not already reacted to this policy statement and the fallacies embedded in it since there are many economists who now (should) know the error of such policies, from all the examples already available. Or perhaps I’ve misunderstood their function as an association.

An economy’s wage situation can not be fixed by simply ordering employers to increase wages or face jail. If this was the solution then the president could easily solve the problem of brain drain to greener pastures by simply ordering Zambian employers to increase the salaries of these professionals too. Why stop at the lowest workers? If he could order all hospitals to quadruple the wages of nurses and doctors, for example, the problem of these professionals leaving the country for better paying jobs elsewhere will be solved, right?

That’s obviously ridiculous. The hospital can’t afford to pay a nurse 3000 dollars because it doesn’t make that much money from patients. If it increased patient fees to meet this need, no one will go there, because its patients don’t get that much money.

This makes sense to many people. But the logic is the same even for the lowest paid workers. A nurse or teacher who takes home 3 million kwacha from his job can not pay 1 million kwacha to his house servant. There’ll be too little money left for his own family’s needs.

Just like a hospital this house servant employer can only manage to increase his servant’s wage if he can also receive more money from his job. But he won’t because his company can’t just increase its charges to its customers in an economy where people make so little money in general.

It is clear then that the answer lies only with the growth of the whole economy. The reason Botswanans pay their nurses more (and these nurses in turn pay their house servants more) is not because their bosses believe in “doing into others as you would have them do to you”. They are not any more Christian than Zambians are. The president was wrong to imply that the reason zambians pay such small wages is because they have no empathy for their workers. Botswanans pay more because they make more. This is because their economy is much stronger.

Botswana’s economy became that strong because of its powerful pro-growth economic policies. Botswana in fact holds the world record for average economic growth rates since its independence. This is why their people can afford to pay higher wages and even attract brains from Zambia and other African countries. It did not happen by government ordering them to pay higher wages. Shortcuts don’t work. And for a small economy, shortcuts can be disastrous. When people are forced to pay above what they can afford, they will just fire some workers. That will mean higher unemployment.

This is just another example of how good-hearted intentions can lead to unintended negative  consequences that are bigger than the problem they were trying to solve.

The Ford CEO Bonus is immoral?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on March 23, 2011 by chanda chisala

The popular argument given against financial industry executives who got big bonuses a couple of years ago was that it was immoral to reward them for failure. This argument from the intelligentsia was so convincing that the public outcry against these “fat cats” almost turned violent.

But was this a genuine argument?

Today we have what we call in science experimentation, a control experiment, to test if that argument was indeed sincere. The CEO of Ford Motor company managed to turn his company around, saved many jobs, and did not even get any bailout money. For this he has now been rewarded handsomely in stock options. So, what is the reaction of the critics now that we have a guy who is not being rewarded for failure but for success? Are they now satisfied?

Believe it or not, they still say it’s immoral! The dishonesty involved in maintaining these two contradictory positions is simply overwhelming.

Here’s the story.

How Kenneth Kaunda aborted the Zambian Dream

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2010 by chanda chisala

That’s the title of my  latest article published at Zambia Online.

Today is Zambia’s independence day. Looking back at our nearly 50 years of independence (46 to be exact), I think the last statement of this article sums up my pensive mood:

Let our history books be reset. The struggle for African independence was not always as hard (or perhaps even as urgent) as our old “freedom fighters” and their “historians” claimed. What has been really hard is the struggle against tyranny – after independence.

Gregg Zachary, a professor of Arizona State University (formerly a Wall Street Journal and New York Times correspondent/columnist) also blogs generously about my article here.


How Black Pride produces Black Poverty – part 4.

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9, 2010 by chanda chisala

Culture is not something inherent or genetically determined. It is a result of choices made by a group at one time, choices that could have been wrong at the time due to insufficient information or right for that time but not for a different time. These ideas and practices become automated over time until they begin to look like they are inborn.

It is not just ethnic groups and communities or even nations that have culture. Even corporations, for example, have cultures. When you visit Google in Mountain View, you can almost immediately see their culture of intellectual independence, passion and freedom (when I visited the Google offices with a Stanford group, I was shocked to observe that they are even allowed to bring their dogs to work!)

Another older software company, say IBM, that might have developed a culture of great managerial efficiency but not enough creativity will try to copy what Google does so that they can also achieve great results. That’s what the Harvard Business Review exists for: to study the habits of winning companies so that others can simply copy.

If this other company instead said, “let’s not copy anyone, let’s be proud of our culture, after all we have achieved so many things in the past that others even copied from us; we were once the kings in software, that’s a great heritage …” (and so on), we can all tell that such a company will continue being left behind, it will never catch up with Google. It even risks death.

If we can see this with companies, why is it so hard to see that the same applies to communities and even nations?

Indeed there is plenty of evidence in history showing this very attitude and how it destroyed once successful people. China, for example, was once upon a time the most advanced civilization in the world. It had the attitude of learning from others no matter who they were, as they came to trade with it and as the Chinese went out to them, until it became the most knowledgeable and most envied society in the world.

So how did they ultimately lose this status? They suddenly decided that they were too good to associate with others – the “barbarians” – and they now deliberately kept to themselves.  Meanwhile other societies continued to humbly copy the advances of Chinese culture and to add to it other practical lessons from elsewhere. By the time China came into conflict with them, it was easily conquered. It was by now far from being the greatest, it was a mere shadow of its past.

Black pride has had an even worse effect on blacks all over the world, as they have continued to see other people, especially whites, as moral barbarians.

Leaders of black communities, including some now famous former community organizers, get surprised when they fail to get many young blacks interested in things like education, hard work, etc. But the reason is that the same leaders present the white people as moral barbarians, as “greedy capitalists” who are in fact responsible for their poverty, both historically and presently. Once these kids associate something with white culture, they will rebel against it even if you try to turn around and encourage them to embrace it. Why should they act the way evil people act? These evil people love school, so we shouldn’t love school, because we don’t want them to control us by giving us their things. We should have pride.

That’s the deeper, sometimes subconscious, logic that makes the black underclass rebel against the civilized practices discovered and internalized by other people who are more humble when it comes to learning from others.

Heritage is nothing to be proud of if it’s still not taking you to the top.

How Black Pride produces Black Poverty – part 3

Posted in Uncategorized on September 6, 2010 by chanda chisala

Some of my fellow blacks have argued against my proposal by pointing out blacks who have had some tremendous achievements or who have always practiced these positive habits practiced by other successful groups.

But I am not arguing, like a racist white supremacist, that there are no blacks who are great, intellectually or economically. The very fact that some blacks have practiced good cultural habits and succeeded well in their intellectual or business ventures is proof that such cultures are not the genetic property of certain ethnic groups. A black man can be disciplined even when he lives amidst a culture of general indiscipline, in short.

But this does not change the fact that the culture of his group is still backward. It means that a child who grows up in that community is more likely to grow up undisciplined than disciplined due to the general influence of those around him: his (absentee) father, his (jailed) uncles, the neighbor who boasts about gang rape, drugs, etc. Whether we like it or not, groups of people do have certain cultural habits that they promote, certain things that they value or disvalue. Some are fortunate enough to have parents who abandoned such a culture, sometimes by physically moving to an area where the reach of such influence is largely dissipated. But sometimes their children can still be influenced through the omnipresent reach of the media, unless they take some very deliberate steps to train them in another culture they observe from other people.

I remember a line in one of Tupac’s songs: “I come from a family tree of killers, thugs and drug dealers…” the legendary artist boasted. Using a talent that is definitely superior among blacks (music), many black artists have expressed a very negative culture from their communities that does not lead to true achievement. Economic measures might exclude such drug dealers and thieves from the brackets of the poor because of what they stole or because of a bestselling song they made about it, but in actual fact they are still poor because that’s not a sustainable way to live as a human being. Real success has to come from cultivating real virtues that will enable you to succeed anywhere and at any time, like the ability to always improve your education, for example. And an ability to always work hard, no matter what job it is or whether or not someone is watching over you. And of course the ability to always keep time, and so on.

One of the best brain surgeons in the world is a black doctor named Ben Carson. When my country (Zambia) had a very complicated case of Siamese twins born with joint heads who needed to be separated, they had to fly in the best surgeons in the world to do this. The operation was led by the famous Ben Carson.

But Dr. Carson’s life story only underscores my point about culture. He was going to a predominantly white school but he was the worst student in his class. He was coming from a community that did not value such discipline as the one demanded by school. His neighbors were only boasting about gang membership (at worst), or basketball skills (at best). And he came from a typical young single mother headed home in his community.

And then his mother just suddenly decided that she had had enough of this culture and resolved to save her children from their inevitable tragic future. She forced Ben Carson and his brother to start spending many hours a day just reading, even though she didn’t have any education herself. She didn’t care if they were accused of “acting white.” Learning from (or copying) more successful communities or nations does not mean you are trying to become them, it means you are trying to have what they have. If you want the results they have, you also need the same cause: the habits they culturally value.

From having the lowest IQ, Ben Carson soon became the best student in this predominantly white school and went on to become one of the best brain surgeons in the world (contrary to what some experts say, any normal person can raise his own IQ very significantly). He was also the youngest to hold his prestigious position at John Hopkins hospital.

His life confirms my theory that those who make the biggest cultural leap tend to become superior in ability due to that extra effort they have to make, especially when this even requires going against the trends in your own community. But the best is for the community itself to change its culture, as other groups have done in the past, by abandoning this strange postmodern concept of having pride for nothing.


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