Our updated policy platform – the Open Opportunity Society in Action – gives substance to our vision. Each policy put forward by the DA will unpack more precisely the relationship between the state and individuals in that area. But in each case, our policies will:
- Seek to give citizens control over their own lives, and not allow the state to dictate the course of their daily lives or the direction of their ambitions.
- Expand choice, not contract it.
This is because, in acting to extend opportunity to all, the state must ensure that it does not unnecessarily limit the freedom of the individual. To do so, would be to shut down the open society. On the other hand, to neglect those without the wherewithal to direct their own lives and follow their own dreams in the name of freedom is to shut down the opportunity society. Therefore, in an opportunity society that also values individual freedom, the state’s role must be to facilitate, not direct the activity of citizens; if it provides services, it must seek to expand choice, not determine choices. In other words, the free, independent, active individual is at the heart of the opportunity society, both in determining the opportunities required and in taking advantage of them.
The Open Society
There are five key components of an open society:
- A constitution that enshrines the rule of law, individual rights and freedoms, and the separation of powers
- Transparency and accountability, without which governments abuse their power and compromise the freedoms enshrined in the constitution.
- Security of person and property
- An independent and free-thinking civil society, including a free and independent media and a free and independent political opposition that is loyal to the constitutional order
- A general tolerance of difference on the part of the population
- An economy that is characterized primarily by the free choices of individuals
The two key ideas that unite these five components are the related ideas of individual freedom and the limitation of state power. They are related because an extension of state power necessitates a limitation of individual freedom and vice versa. In other words, an open society is one in which individuals are free to be themselves and pursue their own ends, and in which both the law and the attitudes of the population provide the space for them so to be.
In protecting and promoting an open society in South Africa, the Democratic Alliance must identify and oppose attempts to limit the space for individual freedom and actively promote the extension of such space.
The Opportunity Society
Every person in an open society enjoys the same formal freedoms, but those freedoms can be impossible to take advantage of in practice if the people concerned do not have the wherewithal – the money, power and opportunity – actually to be themselves, to develop themselves and to pursue their own ends.
What is required then is for people to be offered the opportunity to develop the capabilities needed to take advantage of the formal freedoms they enjoy; the wherewithal actually to be themselves, to develop themselves and to pursue their own ends.
In an opportunity society, therefore, your path in life is not determined by the circumstances of your birth, including both your material and “demographic” circumstances, but rather by your talents and by your efforts. That is why, in an opportunity society, a child born in poverty should nevertheless be able to become a brain surgeon, provided he has the talent and puts in the effort required to succeed.
Both civil society and the state have a role to play in creating opportunity for citizens, while individuals have a responsibility to make use of the opportunities on offer.
The Caring Society
Only people who are healthy, energetic and mobile are able to properly use their talents, follow their dreams and care for their families. Furthermore, people born in conditions of disadvantage, or with disabilities, face a super-human struggle to take advantage of the opportunities that others take for granted.
In a Caring Society,
- The options available to all individuals to allow them to take advantage of the Open Opportunity Society for All are expanded.
- Every South African has access to hospitals and clinics that deliver prompt, quality service.
- Every South African is able to find a place that he or she can call home, and live safely and reasonably comfortably in a sustainable community.
The Safe Society
People cannot take advantage of opportunities if their lives are under siege, if their rights are not respected by their fellow citizens or if their vision is limited by fear. Yet the web of terror that crime throws over South Africa is so strong and far-reaching that no-one is unaffected by it.
In the Safe Society,
- Crime is not accepted as an inescapable reality;
- Anyone who commits a criminal act knows that they will be swiftly found, prosecuted and punished by a proficient, professional and zealous criminal justice system; and
- The law is respected by all.
The Efficient Society
Citizens, visitors and investors must be able to obtain documents and services they need, and move themselves and their goods around the country and across our borders freely and quickly, to go about their lives reliably, efficiently and impartially. They should be able to do so in an environment that can sustain their activities and those of generations to come.
In the Efficient Society,
- No South African is denied schooling, a job or a grant because of bureaucratic inefficiency or patronage;
- There are rules on entry into South Africa that encourage people who want to contribute to our development, and effective border controls are maintained to ensure that those who do not meet the requirements cannot enter;
- Opportunities expand and the number of jobs available grows thanks to an integrated transport system that ensures that no South Africans are constrained in their work or play by limited transport;
- The environment and energy economy is soundly managed, and human development is integrally linked to environmental preservation; and
- The Public Service is an institution everyone can trust and value, has a culture of service, recognises talent, not political allegiance, and puts in place systems that are efficient and accessible.
South Africa and the world
In an Open Opportunity Society for All, the government must be willing to promote the values that underpin this society in every corner of the world. In addition, citizens know that their government is able to physically protect them from external aggression and, if necessary, defend the integrity of other countries who share our values.
Being a vigorous promoter of democracy and freedom, and a fierce defender of human rights; and
maximising the strength and capability of the defence force by structuring it for more efficiency, by re-instilling discipline and by focusing clearly on creating a professional force.