Is “prosperity for all” still useful?


Interesting as it is noted by Edmund Burke about the difficulty of speaking in some circumstances, BUT Burke proceeded to speak on the subject matter nevertheless.

Since, it was, he argued, ‘impossible to be silent’ on grave matter of the kind he was dealing with.

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s, counsel for silence when we cannot speak clearly enough would be, in many ways, the opposite of Burke’s approach.

In a letter to Paul Engelmann, written in 1917, Wittgenstein made a wonderfully enigmatic remark: ‘I work quite diligently and wish that I were better and smarter person.

And these both are one and the same. One and the same thing – being smarter human being and a better person.

If choices do exist and yet they are assumed not to be there, the use of reasoning may well be replaced by uncritical conformist behavior no-matter how rejectable they may be.

Typically, such conformism may have critical implications in a great many youth’s lives if not subjected to scrutiny. Has prosperity for all outlived its usefulness? Can it still expand opportunities for all?

A conversation on this subject from two Ugandan youths is of some special interest.

As the conversation is reminisced, a lady named Amanda and her friend, Dez, proceed rapidly to a bigger issue than ways and means of becoming income secure.

How far would the current government job creation policy/strategy and prosperity for all discourse go to help me get what I want? Amanda wonders whether, it could be the case that if “all the prosperity for all money” were hers, she could attain immortality through it.

“No,” responds Dez, it is “like the income of corrupt people were yours.

But, “there is no immortality through prosperity for all”.

Amanda remarks, “What should I do with that by which I won’t lead the life I have reason to value?”

Amanda’s rhetorical question has been ruminated again and again to illustrate both the nature of human frailty and the limitations of NRM’s prosperity for all.

I have too much skepticism of otherworldly matters than to be led here by Amanda’s worldly frustrations.

But, there is another aspect of this exchange that is of rather immediate interest to understanding the nature of youth income deprivation in Uganda.

This concerns the relation between youth income deprivation and our ability to live, as we would like.

While, there is a connection between income and realizations, the linkage may or may not be very strong and may well be extremely dependent on other conditions.

The issue is not the ability to live forever on which Amanda strives for but rather the ability to live really long (without being cut off in one’s prime) and to have good life while alive (rather than a life of misery and deprivation).

As Aristotle noted in the very first chapter of the Nicomachean Ethics (resonating well with the conversation between Amanda and Dez, millions of kilometers away in Uganda), “Income is evidently not the good we are seeking, for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else and that something else is what we have to seek’.

If the Amanda has reason to want more income, we have to ask; what precisely are these reasons? How do they work? On what are they dependent?

And what are the things Amanda can “do” with more income? In fact the youth always have brilliant reasons for wanting more income.

The usefulness of income lies in the things that it allows us to do and the substantive ‘handicaps’ it helps us to remove.

Of course, it is common knowledge that very many youth like Amanda often suffer from varieties of deprivations.

Many have little access to health care, to sanitary arrangements or to clean water and spend their lives fighting unnecessary morbidity, often succumbing to premature mortality.

The youths can consider rewriting Uganda’s history and secure their future. It can be done. They should play their part.

Walter Ochanda, the author, is an international development specialist



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