THE BLOG

Egypt: New Home of the Brave?

There are two types of tyranny, political and economic. Relief from one means relief from the other in practical terms in practical times. So why not roll the dice and make over a government?

For 50 years the U.S. has been supporting the existence of the Jewish homeland island in a stormy sea. A substantial part of that support has been to prop up effective dictatorships in the Middle East with aid and diplomacy. Because of this in part, Egyptians have been subjected to thirty years of suspension of their civil rights. A police state has kept the "peace" by oppressing both left and right of Egyptian political thought. Goon squad security forces, on par to those of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, have ravaged the intellectual and religious communities from top bottom and left to right, a political tyranny. That may be about to change.

Economic tyranny knows no national boundary, though. In a long list of subsistence economies, Egypt is not an exceptionally poor nation. But it's just poor enough, and it's educated enough to suspect that there is an alternative to the track of deepening privation and unemployment. Food prices have spiked along with joblessness, a condition Egyptians share with two thirds of the world. Governments from the U.S. to Karachi stare into the same abyss of economic decline. Did all the world's governments become unable to see to the needs of their publics on the same day and in the same ways?

Political tyranny and economic tyranny do go hand in hand. One does not preclude or precede the other. Corruption and political patronage are a practical fact of many of the world's governments. Governments at their most corrupt use economic oppression to subjugate, and the unrest resulting therefrom elicits more oppression. It's a dance with which the world should be now familiar, even if we do not yet know how to stop dancing.

To the Egyptians, political and economic oppression are seen as one, inseparable. To peoples suffering doubt about the future worldwide, and particularly now the Middle East, the solutions to their tribulations are focused on the political. Seemingly glossed over by the protesters is that the government to whom you might affix blame may not have the power to fix that for which you blame them.

If personal economic conditions for Egyptians, or Tunisians, or any of the other peoples executing or planning insurrections, improve as a result of protest and revolution it will be surprising. Governments are losing the ability to shepherd their economies worldwide. Those that retain control are mercantilists that are displacing workers and damaging the economies of the more open-market nations. Multinational business holds an increasing share of the economic policy making process in even the industrialized Europe and America. Those businesses use that power more to enhance profits than to husband nations.

The net outcome of having business at the helm of governments is that the needs of the peoples are secondary to the profits of business. Food and energy prices are buffeted by speculation in commodity markets and the labor market is brutalized by outsourcing of labor. What is happening in America is happening in Egypt, to the dismay of the respective publics. America, as a model of democracy, seems to fare about as well as any other form of government in terms of controlling the predations of business on publics. In short, we in the democratic West and they in the Middle East have the same problem, and changing governments doesn't seem to help. It will not help as long as the interests of the people are crowded out of policy-making by the interests of corporations and global monopolies.

To be successful then, a new Egyptian government must rededicate itself to the welfare of its people. It must not only root out local corruption but also address the economic stresses pressed upon it from global finance and business. A tall order. But, if successful, Egypt may then truly earn the title of "land of the free and home of the brave."