Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why is Revolution Spreading Across the Middle East?

Aljazeera's English Website issued the following statement explaining the origin the populist movement which is embroiling the Middle East, from the Maghreb to Transjordan:

"December 17: Mohammed Bouazizi, an 26-year-old man trying to support his family
by selling fruits and vegetables in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, douses himself in paint
thinner and sets himself on fire in front of a local municipal office.

Police had confiscated his produce cart because he lacked a permit and beat him up when he resisted. Local officials then refused his hear his complaint. He is taken to a
hospital near Tunis for treatment of his third-degree burns. "

Later, Bouazizi would die from his wounds, and so would the corrupt, autocratic, kleptocratic regime which had robbed him of his means of livelihood.

The brief synopsis published by Aljazeera reveals the gross extent to which hyper-regulation and government intervention hindered free enterprise and unjustly confiscated from one citizen a means for making a living.

Having to provide a permit just to own a cart and sell fruit from it: that alone is an onerous burden. But then for state officials to beat him without pity and deny him any redress in a court of law, it becomes apparent that the Tunisian state would go to any lengths to profit from its businessmen before allowing them to earn a profit on their own. A country which bars the free market from flourishing will stifle creativity, innovation, and expand poverty. With no recourse to remedy one's pitiful economic plight, Bouazizi had little choice but to immolate himself in order to protest his nation's rapacious economic policies.

Egyptians faced similar limitations on free enterprise under the Mubarak regime. To open a business required paying immense fees, usually entailing bribes to significant state officials. Just as the fruit seller from Tunisian suffered the arbitrary confiscation of his livelihood, so too could any entrepreneur in Cairo or elsewhere in Egypt endure the same cruel power grab. It is widely reported that many Egyptians, to safeguard their businesses interest, would run for political office. As newly elected officials, they could then tailor the law to protect their own investments at the expense of rivals, or at least compel competitors to pay bribes. Cronyism and corruption corrode free market capitalism, which in turn denies to many a meaningful and sure path out of poverty to prosperity.

Media analysts must recognize that the systemic repudiation and repression of the free market ultimately defined the poverty-stricken nations which are now in populist uproar.

Now, casting out greedy autocrats is an important first step toward achieving lasting liberty, and democratic reforms will furnish a means to success. However, the necessary mechanisms of free enterprise and proper government enforcement of trade and contract, those are the most important elements which the newly-freed peoples throughout the Middle East must implement. Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time before the dreaded history of uprising, revolution, and tyranny repeats itself, with expanded poverty and repression soon to follow.

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