Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Mutant

The Mutant
‘Don’t turn off the TV,’ I said, ‘Frank Mubushisha is interviewing Flux Mutant. He’s the one who says that only he can understand windfall tax, the rest of us are too stupid.’
‘He’s talking out of his backside!’ snorted Sara.
‘This evening,’ began Frank, ‘I’m privileged, you know, to be able to interview the Minister for Upside-Down Economics, you know, the Honorable Flux Mutant. Good evening, Honorable Minister.’
‘Good evening viewers,’ replied the Mutant.
‘He looks like a robot,’ Sara complained. ‘His mechanical voice sounds like a computer simulation.’
‘First of all, Mr Minister,’ said Frank, ‘people you know would like to know, you know, why you said, you know, that we’re all too stupid to understand windfall tax.’
‘People think that the windfall tax will make us rich,’ began the computer generated voice of the mutant, but then he stopped himself in mid-sentence. ‘No, I shouldn’t say that people think. People don’t think. People claim, people say, people wish, people dream, but people don’t think.’
‘But you, you know, you can think.’
‘Exactly,’ said the Mutant, in his machine monotone, ‘You know that I know that I can think. I have worked out that if we charge the mines windfall tax, then their profits will drop. Then their share prices and dividends will drop. Then our number of investors will drop. Then our economic growth will drop. Then we shall all be worse off.’
‘He’s talking out his arse,’ declared Sara.
‘But you know,’ said Frank, ‘some people say, you know, that we must tax the mines to provide for schools and hospitals.’
‘Quite the opposite,’ came the continuing flux of words from the Flux Mutant. ‘Mines don’t need schools or hospitals, they just need copper ore. It is people that need schools and hospitals, so they must be the ones to pay for them. This is just simple economics.’
‘Some people say, you know, that this is upside-down economics, you know.’
‘Yes, I know,’ replied the Mutant. ‘But you know that I know that they don’t know, it’s only me that knows, you know.’
‘I know you know,’ said Frank bravely, scratching his bald head. ‘I’m told, you know, that you have even worked out that lower wages increase employment.’
‘Quite correct,’ replied the Machine Mutant. ‘If you pay a man starvation wages then his wife has to grow food to feed the family, and his children have to set up tuntemba to sell produce to earn money to buy their school uniforms. So in the end, all the family are fully employed in economic ventures. This is what we mean by economic empowerment.’
‘But as the country becomes richer, you know,’ said Frank hopefully, ‘money, you know, will begin to trickle down from the rich to the poor.’
‘Quite the opposite,’ continued the monotonous discharge of all-knowing economics. ‘It is only when the workers become poorer that they work harder to earn more wages, and when they worker harder they produce more profit, which makes the country richer.’
‘I am amazed, you know,’ said Frank, ‘at your quite different perspective on economic theory. Let’s go back, you know, to where it all began. Where did it all start, you know? And where were you born, you know? And did you have parents, you know?’
‘I resulted from a computer experiment at Yunza,’ replied the Mutant. ‘My father was Professor of Computer Science and my mother was a computer. Father was trying to get computers to reproduce themselves, to get rid of the need for humans…’
‘So you mean, you know, that you are really a computer?’
‘Not exactly,’ said the mechanical voice. ‘Father accidentally introduced a virus into mother, and she produced a mutant.’
‘I told you,’ screeched Sara, ‘he’s actually a machine!’
‘Half human, half computer?’ asked Frank.
‘No, half virus, half computer,’ replied the Mutant.
‘So this,’ suggested Frank, ‘explains, you know, why you have such, you know, an upside-down view of economics?’
‘Not having a heart enables me to take an objective and dispassionate view of the production of goods and services, without being distracted by the human concerns or emotions that confuse other theorists.’
‘But why is everything so upside-down?’
‘My father the professor, being sick with the virus, wired all the positives and negatives the wrong way round. That’s why I have to sit on my head and talk out of my rear.’
‘I told you!’ shouted Sara, ‘He eats economic theory with his mouth, and upside-down theory discharges continuously out of his arse. No wonder he knows all about windfall tax, it was his wind that blew it away!’
‘And tomorrow,’ said Frank, ‘you’re off to Oslo to receive the Nobel Prize for Upside Down Achievement. Last year Barack Obama won the Upside-Down Peace Prize for waging war in Afghanistan. And this year you’re the winner of the Upside-Down Economics Prize for bringing poverty and starvation to Zed.’
‘I have devoted my life to my country,’ declared the Mutant.
‘What an arsehole,’ said Sara.
‘And the prize, you know,’ said Frank, ‘is worth seventy million dollars, you know. What will you do with all that money?’
‘I shall buy more KCM shares on the London Stock Exchange in order to gain a controlling interest,’ said the Mutant, as a smile finally spread across his smooth mechanical bottom.
‘Then he’ll bring down the wages to increase profits,’ Sara screeched.
‘He may be an arsehole,’ I said, ‘but he’s not stupid.’
[Special thanks to Namukolo Chipola and Patrick Pami for their contributions to the Facebook discussion on backside mutant economics]


  1. Arsehole....you know!!!

  2. very sad that we have ended here after more than 4 dacedes of so called independence.

  3. There is so much political rhetoric about the windfall tax and no intelligent discussion of how it actually works. The bottom line is that taxing revenue without regard to costs can never be justified. The windfall tax as it was structured meant that mines would close the higher the price of copper went because the extra tax ate all the extra revenue. So is it not time to look at how other copper producing countries structure their "windfall" tax, like Chile, so that Zambia can benefit without all the bullshit? The variable profit tax being one example - but then one needs a competent revenue agency to oversee that to ensure the mining houses do not tailor their reporting to avoid tax, and so we get back to the real problem - incompetent government.