- No matter how great the talent or the effort, some things just take time. You cannot produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.
- The raft of measures the government has put in place will not bring about transformative change instantly.
Loose lips sink ships was a slogan promoted by the United States Office of War Information during World War II. This wartime expression warned people in the military, as well as ordinary citizens to watch what they say because unguarded talk could leak sensitive information to the enemy. This slogan was part of a campaign to advice servicemen and other citizens to avoid careless talk that might undermine the war effort.
To illustrate this slogan, one of the most famous or infamous spies in history was the Dutch dancer Mata Hari who performed in Paris in the early 1900s. Her name was synonymous with a seductive female spy. Mata Hari was romantically linked to a number of men most of who were military officers around the time of war.
Both Germany and France believed that some of their officers had loose lips around this beautiful woman. When French officials suspected she was undertaking espionage activities for Germany, they arrested her. She was tried, found guilty and shot by a firing squad on October 15, 1917.
In essence the slogan underscores that loose things move easily. So loose lips move freely and release a lot of words in a careless way. Hence, if you speak carelessly about private or sensitive information, it could be used to damage or ruin something important.
Kenya is a country at war. The enemy is the high cost of living that has been attributed to high taxation and high fuel prices. Some of the causes we are told, are pervasive poor fiscal discipline such as excessive borrowing and debt accumulation, and global phenomena such as price of crude oil, the lingering effects of the global pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war.
The lieutenants who also double up as the Executive arm of government have engaged all manner of ordnances to try and ward of this intangible adversary. They are however, misguided in what they consider to be transformative solutions. They have mistaken inputs for outcomes. The causal pathway to change is a process that starts with preconditions, to inputs, to outputs, to outcomes and finally to impact.
Issuance of subsidised fertilisers, hustler funds, mama pima, electric bodabodas, digitisation of government services or the school feeding programme, while all are very noble causes and must be loudly and widely applauded, are simply inputs into the causal pathway of change. The transformative change will include increased yields, diversified livelihoods and increase of disposable incomes, lower transaction costs, and improved nutrition. These changes will not and cannot be an overnight miracle. They take time.
However, one lieutenant has had loose lips. That is the Cabinet Secretary Investments Trade and Industry who flippantly told the nation to dig their own oil wells to mitigate against the high fuel prices. The Deputy President in trying to assuage the casualties cautioned his high-ranking officers to be mindful of their loose lips. The CS later issued a sarcastic apology.
Granted, the CS did not divulge any sensitive information. And he quipped the remarks as a wisecrack. However, the callousness in the midst of an economic war did not sit well. And the citizenry backlash was as swift as it was virulent.
Mara Hati was executed. This was a consequence of her loose lips. In economic-speak, this consequence is called the Pigouvian Tax. This is a tax imposed to correct negative externalities. A negative externality is a cost caused by a producer that is not suffered by that producer. They arise when one party makes another party worse off yet does not bear the costs from doing so.
The Pigouvian Tax is assessed against individuals or businesses for engaging in activities that create adverse effects on society. The aim of the tax is to redistribute the cost back to the producer of the negative externality.
The tragedy with our politics is that no matter how grave the negative externalities that are caused by our politicians on the citizenry, they do not bear the costs of doing so. And this is across the board from unfinished projects funded by the taxpayers, to driving on the wrong side of the road by politicos late for their appointments, to damaged roads while constructing expressways, to lofty unfulfilled promises and callous flippant remarks. If they get punished, it is merely a slap on the wrist.
I submit that they ought to pay the Pigouvian Tax. After all, they have proposed and, in some cases, implemented a raft of taxes, which if efficiently utilised and distributed appropriately and proportionately will transform us into a prosperous nation.
Those that that were and are still offended by the CSs wisecrack should remember that ngima yumaga mutuini. Loosely translated this means that ugali comes from maize flour. That means that the personal of our leaders is characteristic of us. They mirror who we are.
So it is bemusing to return epithets with epithets and think that we are expressing indignation. We are no different. The illusion of invisibility and disinhibition on the social media has inflicted us with moral myopia. This is the inability to see ethical issues clearly because we do not experience first-hand the implications of our online actions. Hence, when the same moral myopia is displayed publicly by the CS we feign righteous umbrage. We are all guilty of evading the Pigouvian Tax.
Finally, my unsolicited advice is to Wanjiku. No matter how great the talent or the effort, some things just take time. You cannot produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant. The raft of measures the government has put in place will not bring about transformative change instantly. The reality is that it will take time.
And just like a mother who aspires to carry her pregnancy to full-term, certain adjustments must be made, as uncomfortable, expensive, and out of your comfort zone as they are. Indulge the state a little patience while the state also ought to exercise austerity. If the state doesn’t, then we are at liberty to demand they pay the full Pigouvian Tax.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:5-6