|Ed meets Fidel|
I'm old enough to remember a revolution that got North Americans excited more than half a century ago. The picture shows Ed Sullivan, lord of Sunday night television back when I was a kid (in 1959), speaking to a 32-year-old Fidel Castro about his "liberation of Cuba." Some liberation, opinions on that revolution changed soon after that interview was aired.
Mr. Jonas' column discusses democracy as being a goal of the Mid-East unrest. He points out that democracy is really just a "method of succession or power-transfer." In North America we view democracy as a synonym "for individual liberty, fundamental human rights, private enterprise, separation of church and state, an independent judiciary, freedom of expression - in short, for the sum of the best ideals of Western-style societies." That is just our bias and it has never been true. Jonas continues that: "'Democracy' denotes a system in which governments succeed each other by being elected, usually for a fixed term, by a majority of qualified voters. That's all. Rule by majority mandate says nothing, in itself, about the kind of society such an impeccable mandate is going to rule." Jonas also adds that it is very unlikely for democracy to come from this current unrest "it's more likely for wealth, justice and liberty to bring people democracy," like has occurred in the West. In other words there is virtually no chance that we can expect democratic states, as we think of them in North America, to arise in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, or Libya. So what is going on there?
Two things are happening and both are related to the way government distorts the marketplace.
In both Tunisia and Egypt a post-secondary education is "free," even though the market for graduates is extremely limited. Tunisia particularly has 57% of its young people entering the labour market with a college degree, compared to the US situation with less than one-third of its young people in that situation. An education bubble fuelled by government policy has created unemployment and underemployment in both Tunisia and Egypt. The value of an education to an individual can only be determined by the price that an employer would pay to employ that individual. If the educated individual is unemployable, than of what value was the education received? That is the distortion created by these governments. Countries with groups of educated unemployables, subjugated by dictators like Gaddafi in Libya, together with power of the internet, has created a volatile mixture.
For us in the West the unrest across North Africa has distorted the oil market in southern Europe and as a result everywhere oil is used, "a pain in the gas." A prolonged civil war in Libya threatens to involve the armed forces of NATO and beyond, because it endangers Libyan civilians (no fly zone) and the oil infrastructure of Libya. We are all paying more for gasoline today because the market demands it. Interesting how one government distortion far away can lead to your wallet.