The spirit of free enterprise

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English: The historical centre of Simon's Town
English: The historical centre of Simon’s Town (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My father would go down to the small bay in Simon’s Town, down from the high sand dunes in the palm trees, to the strip of beach where before the early morning sunrise he would cast out his throw net from the shore. On those mornings he was there to net harders and other small fish that he could use for bait when he went out on his ski boat to catch yellowtail off the Bullnose and kabeljou and geelbek off Strandfontein or Cape Point.

Sometimes he wouldn’t even have to cast his throw net because the trek fisherman who he knew over the years would give him small live bait when they had finished their early morning trek. My father, who was one of the pioneer ski boat fishermen in False Bay, was friends with a fisherman called Boetie who was part of the Simon’s Town traditional fishing community. Boetie would go out fishing on my father’s ski boat and the two would complement each other because both had much experience and skill in fishing off the South African coast.

Much later, the Navy expanded their military facilities in Simons’ Town and the magical small beach that had been the livelihood for many traditional fishermen disappeared. If you go to Simon’s Town today, you won’t see any evidence of the beach nor the generations of fishermen who earned their living there. You will also be hard placed to find any photographs or written evidence of the beach, except maybe in the Cape Town archives. That beautiful little bay has disappeared into the mists of time.

We are seeing today the taking away of freedoms to practice one’s livelihood. In Hout Bay 70 traditional Cape fishermen were locked out of the gate of the harbour because of laws that provide Goliath fishing companies with quotas but deny the traditional fishermen of every spectrum access to those quotas.

If you are far removed from the traditional livelihood of the fishermen, you may wonder how this affects you in any way, if at all. But freedom is indivisible. One unjust restriction or removal of freedom eventually hurts everyone. How is this possible? Simply because once one freedom is taken away others follow.

I need not go into the freedoms that are under attack including in the areas of minerals, land, agriculture, fishing and even street walking. You probably know something about most of these anyway. The area that you may not have considered is the Internet.

The World Wide Web has given the start-up and small business a massive platform on which to operate businesses of any and every kind. It’s like one giant marketplace where you can do business with people anywhere in your own country and anywhere in the world. But how long is this freedom going to last? Already, I see worrying signs of restriction of this freedom.

Just the other day I tried to buy online but couldn’t. The German producer and seller of the app wrote back to me saying that there were certain countries in the world that restricted access to simple voice encryption software.

Then there are attempts by governments around the world to not only regulate the Internet but also to identify what they see as lucrative targets for taxation.

It might be hard now to imagine trade restrictions on the Internet and trade barriers as opportunists seek to feather their own interests. Don’t be surprised when you see a tax on economic freedoms on the Internet.

I can’t give you tips, tools and tactics on how to duck and dive to avoid this attack on economic freedoms. All I can say is be wary of putting all your eggs in one basket, be cautious about making too much noise about your progress in your business and carefully watch developments on Internet trade so that you can plan and change direction on a dime when the marauders come to take away economic freedoms.

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