In many respects SA in 2019 looks and feels like much of the world did in 1974. It was a year after Opec’s oil restrictions had thrown much of the planet into recession. Inflation and debt were both out of control. The details were different to what SA faces now, but in one respect things were exactly the same: governments appeared to have too little power and too little will to navigate a way through the crisis.

“Democratic states were out of control,” political theorist David Runciman has written, paraphrasing one of the most famous economists of the early 1970s, James Buchanan, “spending more than they could afford, fostering inflation, pandering to interest groups, expanding their bureaucracies and indulging the whims of the voters, who were rarely confronted with hard truths. The only thing that could preserve democracy was the recognition of the need for constitutionally imposed limits on public spending.”

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