Why The Dead Capital Theory By Dr. Bitange Ndemo Is Wrong
By Donald Kipkorir
Dr. Bitange Ndemo is a Public Intellectual, tradition that goes back to Socrates. These are individuals that are gifted intellectually and stand in the public square to teach. The other leading Kenya public intellectuals are Professors David Ndii and Makau Mutua …. And so, the late Prof. Calestous Juma. It is as such that when these public intellectuals publish their thoughts, we listen. Dr. Ndemo, whom I hold in the highest esteem published his article “Dead Capital “ that went viral.
In his article, the good Public Servant argues that Dead Capital refers to the houses we have built in our villages. And that such houses is wasted investment. He proceeded to say that no one has studied the value of Dead Capital. I demur on the article and its premises.
For starters, Dead Capital is a field of economics that was founded, developed and expounded by Prof. Hernando de Soto Polar, a Distinguished Peruvian Economist. To Polar, Dead Capital is all landed property with no title deeds, most of which were informal settlements. Without title deeds, he argued that the property is useless as you can’t use it as collateral. He estimated Dead Capital globally at us$9.3Trillion. His lifelong fight has been to make it possible for all people and especially the poor to get title deeds. His entire economics theory is built around empowering the poor through property rights, rule of law, equal opportunity for all and equity. His theories gave human face to the capitalism in Latin America.
If Dr. Bitange wanted to “copy & paste” Dead Capital from land without title deeds to our rural homes which have title deeds, then it fell flat.
Kenya is generally a rural country. Unless we built our rural homes, no roads, power or water will go to the village. Unlike my friend who comes from an illustrious family in Kisii with a patriarch grandfather with a famous name, I grew up poor in a mud house in Cheptongei. Till I built my big house, all houses in Cheptongei were of mud,and we had never seen electricity or piped water. In building my house, which I sleep two nights in a year, I changed the direction of my people. I brought power and piped water to the village. They realized that a boy who grew up with no shoes all his primary school life can built a big house with an helipad. Our Parish Priest is no longer the only role model in the village.
Countries develop because of a strong and big middle class. Kenya has 1% upper middle class and 99% struggling to survive. If we open up our villages, we will increase the middle class to a critical sum.
Karl Marx grew up privileged but realized that majority of the people laboured on land and factories owned by a tiny minority. He theorized that there was going to be a clash of the two leading to a revolution. His dialectical materialism was the fight between Owners of Labour and Owners Of Capital. In Ndemo’s theory, Kenya will be forced to slide back to pre-industrial age. Rural Kenya will be left wallowing in poverty, misery and diseases. The select few will move to the cities. Ndemo’s theory conjures an Orwellian State like North Korea.
Socrates, the original Public Intellectual was a proponent of public counter arguments to get the correct position. Societies that have developed, developed on the shoulders of its giant intellectuals. A society without public intellectuals is one with no future and no hope. I respect our Public Intellectuals, but on Dead Capital, my friend Ndemo erred.