Queuing up for bar-code democracy is a taxing business
I AM still the proud owner of an old-style identity document, the one without a bar code. According to recent media reports this will disenfranchise me when the general election takes place next year. Another 2-million people are also expected to be affected, so I don't feel particularly victimised.
Apart from the certainty of the ANC's losing my valuable vote, this surely calls into question the morality of a government who sends me a tax return every year and regularly siphons off large chunks of my salary without my approval. After all, a basic premise of democracy is that there should be no taxation without representation - so if I am turned back at the polling station maybe I should, in future, return all correspondence from the Receiver with the words "not known at this address" scrawled across the envelope.
Although the identity document I carry is perfectly legal and allows me to open a bank account, it is apparently not good enough for the government.
Bar codes are all very well for packets of corn flakes but I haven't yet worked out why one needs one in addition to having to provide a passport-sized photograph, finger prints and what have you.
What does the bar code actually say anyway? Suppose it is an encrypted message that reveals one is in the habit of writing newspaper columns that criticise the government's complete inability to grasp economic fundamentals. It all looks very sinister and Orwellian to me.
My decision to make do without a bar-coded identity document is more a matter of logistics than non-conformity, though. We appear to have a government which is under the impression that its citizens have unlimited time and are able to queue for hours for an official document.
This is probably true of around 70% of the population, but unfortunately the rest of us have to work to keep the politicians and their lackeys in the grand style to which they have become accustomed. Because the queues are so long and the service so inefficient, most employees need apply for a day's leave just to get a new identity document or a driving licence.
Of course, queuing for an entire day is no guarantee of success. Many people spend a whole day waiting for one of these documents only to be told to return the next day.
For those who are self-employed the problem is even worse. Every hour spent in a queue is an hour of lost earnings. This government-enforced lack of productivity means less money trickles back into the economy to create new employment. Maybe somebody could explain this basic economic principle slowly and clearly to our politicians before the jobs summit in October.
It was no coincidence that the stock market crumbled the week after I wrote about the absurdly high price:earnings ratios of some shares in the information technology and financial services sector.
This is, after all, a highly influential column although it was hardly an earth-shattering revelation. What surprises me is that it took punters so long to realise that they were being sucked into a classic investment bubble.
Now, of course, there are plenty of disillusioned investors wandering around nursing wounded wallets and telling anybody who is interested how much they have lost over the past few weeks.
It's difficult to be sympathetic. If you can sell a share for ten times what it cost you within a few months of buying it and you don't, you are either incredibly na´ve or incredibly greedy.
What will be interesting to see over the next few months is how many investors borrowed money to ride the bull market in hype stocks. The so-called "empowerment groups" are a case in point.
As previously disadvantaged South Africans they presumably had no money to start with. So it's fair to assume they either received generous donations or borrowed money. And as business is not generally a philanthropic operation, let us assume they borrowed the money to make their investments, the lender perhaps taking comfort in the fact that the growth in the investment would more than cover the loan.
When these loans were originally made most people expected interest rates to fall. As we all know, they haven't and so empowerment groups now find themselves in the uncomfortable situation of paying at least 7% more for their money while their investments have fallen by at least 50%. I wonder what they'll tell their investors.