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IT’S A BRIGHT Sunday in November—perfect weather for a braai, South Africa’s cherished barbecue tradition—and in the hot stillness of the afternoon even the skittish, deerlike duikers that roam the backyard have paused their grazing to lounge. Yet despite the soothing influence of brandy and grilled lamb liver, Roodt’s intensity is palpable. His jaw, half shaded by a leather safari hat, appears spring-loaded, as though ready to snap into argument. “The state is collapsing,” he says with a glint in his eye, “and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Roodt is the chief economist at a midsize financial firm in Pretoria, but he’s better known to his compatriots as a rabble-rousing pundit. A ninth-generation Afrikaner, he tells me he especially enjoys going on TV and debating communists, who are, in his opinion, the very people running his country into the ground. Roodt reserves special ire for South Africa’s dominant party, the African National Congress, which is presently engulfed in yet another high-level corruption scandal as the economy teeters on the brink of recession.
As Roodt sees it, this political dysfunction presents both a menace and an opportunity. “South Africa is a very exciting place for us libertarians,” he says. “People are forced to do what the government is supposed to do for them.”
Take, for instance, Roodt’s neighborhood. It has the sprawling, denuded character of a Phoenix exurb, with a few important differences: The homes here are equipped with high perimeter walls, a private water system and sanitation facility, and a rapid-response security team. (A few years ago, armed burglars invaded Roodt’s estate, took his family hostage, and left him with a stitched-up scar on his left bicep.) Roodt plans to install solar panels that will buffer against power cuts triggered by scavengers digging up buried copper lines for scrap, as they do from time to time.
But all of this is just a preamble. Eventually, Roodt says, there will be self-sufficient communities like his across South Africa, maybe even the world. He draws an analogy to feudal Europe, before the kings got too powerful and started reining in individual freedom. In certain ways, people were better off under that system, he says.