Friday, March 11, 2011

Catching Up: Their Riots

More evidence that the riots are not about food: “Since the fall of Mr Mubarak, numerous mini-revolutions have taken place across Egypt. Journalists have overthrown their editors, workers their union leaders, professors their university deans. Even the police have returned to the streets, striking to demand the removal of the senior officers they blame for their disgrace.” The Economist likens them to the 1960s youth revolutions in the West.

Rockwell at Mises addresses the indifference of a segment of the right wing toward the Middle East revolutions. Some right wingers are worried about loss of US influence, as Rockwell points out. I note that his reliance for evidence on Beck and Coulter, both of whom make their living as provocateurs, weakens his case somewhat. It would not have been hard to find neocons who are clear about their priorities and consistent. Many others on the right are worried about whether the revolutions will bring real and lasting freedom while still celebrating the steps that have been taken. Why should it be the case that someone who believes in both freedom and stability cannot worry when one or the other is threatened?

Speaking of freedom, what are the most important parts of governance? According to ngrams, freedom has beaten all other topics hands down for two centuries, though it peaked in the late 1960s. Corruption was a topic of greater interest in the 19th century (#2) than the 20th (#4). Participation and effectiveness took off in the early 20th, but peaked in the 1980s. Transparency, accountability, and the rule of law, however, are the most neglected topics.

CGD proposes a way to nullify the resource curse in the new governments being formed by protest by giving cash grants to citizens and then taxing the money back. “There can be no meaningful representation without taxation. When governments have access to easy money, they have no need to tax and hence no incentive to foster conditions needed for growth and wealth creation. Worse, the surfeit of money gives governments the means to suppress dissent and buy-off political opposition.”

A little known fact about resource curses: “Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest crude supplier in 2009; OPEC’s share of production has gone from around 51% in the mid-1970s to just over 40% now.”

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