“And the chief captain answered, with a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, but I was free born” – ACTS 22: 28.

Recently there have been many issues which have aggressively invaded my intellectual space and stimulated my thinking activity. They all seem to be related and I hereby attempt to rationalise them through a single concept and thereby suggest preventive action so as to avoid the continual repetition of devastating outcomes which have a deleterious impact on the lives of many, primarily the most disadvantaged among us.

The first relates to the financial chaos in the US which has had a big ripple effect throughout the world. The liberty that we hold so dearly in our heart has been abused by an unscrupulous and selfish group and there seems to be a general opinion that we could have been more vigilant in ensuring compliance of our financial regulatory systems. Our liberty is being threatened by the lack of vigilance.

The second relates to praedial larceny in Barbados which seems now to be an accepted enterprise among those who think that it is the fashionable thing to harvest and sell what others toil to produce. We could have been more vigilant in enforcing the laws on the statute books which are more diligently pursued in homicide cases, drug related crimes and road tax compliance. If we continue to neglect this issue then farmers will get more and more frustrated and will go out of business. Then some of us will wake up to the reality that food is not grown in the supermarket. There are many ways of tackling this praedial larceny problem but the will to solve it as a matter of urgency is simply not there. Our liberty is being threatened by the lack of vigilance.

The third relates to enterprise development where there is a high number of start-up enterprises which cannot boast of sustainable success. National economic growth is the yarn from which the sustainable development fabric is woven. Economic growth can only happen through the implementation of one successful enterprise after another.         If enterprises are more closely supervised then the failure rate is reduced thus demonstrating the importance of good management to enterprise development. It behoves us therefore to assign a shepherd to these enterprises to reduce the risk of failure. Our liberty is being threatened by the lack of vigilance.

The fourth relates to the monitoring & controlling function of management. If an airline pilot is heading from Barbados to New York, he normally plots his flight path and if there is no change in the conditions from what they were at the start of the journey, he would expect to get to New York in about 4.5 hours. If he were to put the plane on auto-pilot and then check every hour to ascertain its position, then he would have the opportunity of take corrective action if the plane were off course due to a change in the flight conditions. If he were to check three hours after the start and the flight conditions had changed to a significant degree, then the opportunity to take corrective action would still be there but it might be more costly to bring the plane back on course and on schedule.

Similarly the manager of an enterprise needs to formally monitor the performance of the business with respect to marketing, operations, human resource development and finance, on a monthly basis, to determine whether the performance of the business is consistent with the projections in the plan. Failure to undertake this monitoring & controlling function can lead to a departure from the plan with the resulting costly consequences. Our liberty is being threatened by the lack of vigilance.

A web definition of liberty is “the ability to be self-determining and to control the fruits of one’s labour without force and coercion, and without trespassing against that same ability in others”. Whether we are regulating financial institutions; enforcing the praedial larceny laws on the statute books; shepherding a start up enterprise; or managing a business; all these are rationalised through the single concept by Thomas Jefferson that “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. If we want to preserve our liberty we must pay the price of regulation, enforcement of laws, shepherding and management.

According to the United States Department of State “Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, but the two are not synonymous. Democracy is indeed a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of a set of practices and procedures that have been moulded through a long, often tortuous history. In short, democracy is the institutionalization of freedom. An instrument of democracy is the rule of law or law and order. When the law is not enforced democracy may be invaded and the freedom of the people compromised”.

We are free born but we have allowed our freedom to be compromised. To preserve our democracy, in whatever our field of endeavour, we need to pay the price of vigilance.   We have not been very diligent in this respect and our freedom has been found wanting and the value of our democracy is gradually being undermined. We must be proactive; we must take preventive action and let our vigilance protect our liberty.