The political regime pre-1993 encouraged intensive state involvement in the economy, which produced the poverty we see today.
The belief that the Constitution only gave us "political freedom" but not "economic freedom" is false, as the latter was a consequence of the former.
Improvements in the living conditions of South Africans have always come as a result of the law returning to its proper purpose: the regulation of conflict and the protection of liberty and property.
Where law has been used as a tool of social engineering, as with apartheid and the current government’s political ambitions, living standards [and freedom] have fallen.
Of course, the Constitution did not relegate the government to a completely non-interventionist role in society, and highlighted some areas that needed change. But the fabric of the Constitution indicates a clear respect for how economies function.
There is no need for an "economic Codesa" or a "democratisation" of the economy. If left alone, the market is the most democratic phenomenon imaginable. Indeed, we vote with our time, money and labour every second of every day, and each vote has a ripple effect throughout the economy that leads to the success of some firms, the failure of others, and to widespread social change.
Poverty has not been beaten in SA for the same reasons it was exacerbated during apartheid: an overactive state with no respect for the rule of law or for how markets function.
Whenever we have tried freedom, it has worked, but control has consistently produced destitution. This happened on a global scale when the prosperous and free West overcame the poor and socialist East during the Cold War. It happened in SA, where constitutional democracy overcame apartheid.
Let’s stick with freedom, and avoid any notion of overhauling our constitutional order in favour of more paternalistic control.
• Van Staden is a legal researcher at the Free Market Foundation.
This article was first published in Businesslive.co.za on 13 June 2018