Benchmarking is a vitally important exercise. Corporate bosses spend significant amounts of time studying operational methods of highly successful peer companies. In doing so, leaders not only measure their own organizations’ performances against those of the best-in-class, more crucially, they go to great lengths to identify the best practices of the flourishing firms and then try to incorporate them into their own operations. The ultimate goal is to turn their own entities into industry superstars.

Many nations go through this exercise as well. Those who do it well end up with prosperous societies. But there are others who don’t bother to learn from anyone. When I lived as a student in the Soviet Union, I heard the Communist Party bosses say quite often that they were not rigidly wedded to their socialist concepts. They maintained that they always looked around the world, and that if they found good ideas anywhere, they were willing to integrate them into their thinking. That was mostly lip service. Or perhaps they couldn’t find anything anywhere that they liked. They just doubled down on whatever bad policies they had pursued for decades, until the entire edifice collapsed on them.

As I follow the raging debate in Ghana about the recent passage of the bill criminalizing LGBTQ+ orientation, the main argument I hear from the lawmakers who voted for it is that LGBTQ+ rights constitute an insidious foreign cultural import that has no place in their socially conservative country. It is precisely the same reason cited by ardent opponents of same-sex relationships everywhere.

In Ghana, the hypocrisy of that claim is not lost on me. For the past two decades, there has been a steady Westernization of the socio-economic culture of the country. It has changed Ghanaian society beyond recognition. Ghanaians have imported everything that is wrong in Western societies, and completely ignored all the positive attributes. Those have all been conscious actions by both ordinary Ghanaians and the country’s elite. They have done the exact opposite of what a good benchmarking exercise should be about.

Consumerism is the worst of the imports. In Accra and other major cities, American-style shopping malls can be found everywhere. They sell all kinds of goods, ranging from ordinary to ultra-luxury. Many of the large numbers of fancy hotels built in the metropolitan areas charge significantly more per night than comparable hotels in America do. And then there are the luxury vehicles. During my recent visits to Ghana, I have seen much greater numbers of fancy and large, gas-guzzling vehicles on the country’s dusty, potholed roads than I’m used to seeing on the streets of Chicago, Washington, DC, and elsewhere in America. All that in a poor country that lacks properly functioning schools and hospitals.

Some of the nation’s religious leaders who are said to have lobbied heavily for the bill are themselves guilty of this extravagance. They are adherents of the prosperity gospel that glorifies material wealth. They use all kinds of dubious means to acquire riches that they then use to over-consume just like the non-religious people do.

America’s insane gun culture is another favorite import to Ghana. Armed robberies and use of guns in carjackings are rampant in the country nowadays. Ghanaians have also acquired a taste for big, fancy houses that have become juicy targets for these armed criminals. In response, increasing numbers of citizens are buying guns for self-protection due to lax law enforcement by the state. The country might soon find itself dealing with the same gun saturation problem that plagues America today.

The thing I love the most about the Western world is the culture of discipline that exists here. It is what makes the trains run on time, and allows everything else to function well. Many societies elsewhere are blessed with abundant natural resources that are mostly wasted because of indiscipline. Large numbers of African countries, including Ghana, fall in that category.

Discipline is the one foreign culture that I would dearly love to see Ghanaians import into the country. But unfortunately, most people there seem to be allergic to it. There is little evidence that the broader society is interested in acquiring that trait. A large majority of the population just wants to enjoy the good life without having to work too hard for it.

Ghana’s perennial electricity crisis has been well documented. The problem is entirely due to lack of discipline. I have had a decades-long front-row seat as a professional to observe how America’s electricity grid operates. The lights stay on pretty much all the time in America simply because the engineers and the general population, collectively, do some very basic things well. The system works here because it is a chain without weak links.

In contrast, Ghana’s electricity supply system has many brittle parts. The most fragile is the distribution sector, which for years has been unable to carry out its simple mission of issuing invoices and collecting payments for the power it sends to homes and businesses. The entire system is therefore starved of the funds it needs to operate, hence the constant blackouts. Instead of addressing that simple problem, the government spent millions of dollars on expensive foreign consultants who prescribed solutions that were mostly wrong. The country has ended up with generation capacity that is more than double what actual demand is, and a byzantine electricity grid that the engineers are struggling to operate. And because all that capacity was procured under long-term contracts, Ghana is stuck paying hundreds of millions of dollars for something it doesn’t need, while the distribution system, where the real problems are, continues to wither.

The country’s house of parliament is one of the many national institutions that don’t pay their electricity bills. It has accumulated such a large amount of unpaid bills that the electricity company recently cut power to the parliament building. The power outage is said to have disrupted a parliamentary proceeding, and trapped a number of lawmakers in an elevator. The indiscipline is clearly systemic, and the rot runs from head to toe.

These are the same lawmakers who recently decided that what a handful of LGBTQ+ Ghanaians do in the privacy of their homes is the most urgent national problem, and thus spent precious time and energy discussing and passing that bill. Those legislators are some of the primary patrons of the shopping malls and fancy hotels, and they drive many of those gas-guzzling vehicles imported with scarce foreign currency. Though they fully know, they pretend to be unaware of the immense damage they do to the nation by living so extravagantly. They seem to find nothing wrong with those Western cultural imports.

Nothing any LGBTQ+ Ghanaian does causes sky-high inflation and high unemployment. That sexual orientation choice doesn’t trigger blackouts. The suffering citizens of Ghana need their political leaders to devote their energies and attention to solving the problems that really matter.