The most telling aspect of the anti-regime demonstrations that have rocked the Arab world is what they are not about: They are not about the existential plight of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation; nor are they at least overtly anti-Western or even anti-American. The demonstrators have directed their ire against unemployment, tyranny, and the general lack of dignity and justice in their own societies. This constitutes a sea change in modern Middle Eastern history.-- Robert Kaplan
It is interesting to think about the current debates happening in the United States over the role of government in relationship to its people in light of what is currently taking place in Egypt. Should the government have a large role or no role or some role in administering health care? How about Social Security? Should it be kept as it is? Should it be privatized? Perhaps a hybrid solution?
I have come to believe that there really is not much consistency when it comes to the positions people take on these and other issues. We tend to believe that the left in general wants more government intervention while the right wants less, but I am increasingly coming to believe that is a mischaracterization of both sides. The truth of the matter is all of us are libertarians in some respect on some issues. And while American political discourse continues to center on what kind of role government should have on matters versus the freedom of the private sector, I think most would agree that government does have a role in the lives of its people and that role should be as effective as possible; and that there are spheres where the government should be reserved and allow for its citizens to be left alone so they are not stifled under the thumb of unnecessary government rule.
Framed in this way, I think it helps us understand the current unrest in Egypt. I do not believe the events in the land of the ancient Pharaohs is about a dictatorship versus democracy per se, although I very much support the latter and abhor the former. Rather it is about a government that has not been effective and efficient in its responsibilities toward its people on one hand, and has muted the possibility of its citizens to flourish by simply being left alone on the other. In other words, while we in America may debate how our government should walk that tightrope between intervention and individual freedom, in general the government of Egypt has failed on both counts. And when rampant government corruption is thrown into the mix, it creates a perfect storm for an unhappy and angry populace.
I suppose for me personally as I look at it from my vantage point, while there is much emotion on both sides of the current health care debate and how our tax code should be tilted, at least our government is delivering its responsibilities in a way that it is at least efficient and effective enough, and also adequately staying out of our way elsewhere leaving the private sector to take care of what it can do well, that while we may protest and scream and yell, there are no tanks on American street corners. Of course, nothing is perfect and some will wish for more government in some areas while others will want those same arenas to be a government-free zone. And all of us will continue to enjoy making fun of politicians and rolling our eyes at earmarks and feeling the heat on the back of our necks when corruption is revealed and crooked politicans are named.
But watching and listening and reading the news from Egypt today gives me a little bit of a different perspective on our American situation. One portrait can all of a sudden look very different when contrasted with another one.
Let us pray for the Egyptian people and all those who find themselves caught in the middle of the unrest.