I am not an expert on the unfolding situation in Egypt and other countries of the middle east. But I suppose it reminds me of what a very unjust distribution of income and wealth exists in some many countries of that region. Whether this is the result or a cause of inadequate economic development is a false dichotomy: the two work hand in hand. An authoritarian regime that has served US and Israeli interests quite well is now under threat, and who knows what will replace it.
Conservatives consider themselves realists about human nature. They think the free market is the answer to the question of how we organize society. I don’t know what answer they have to the rioters in Egypt: some cliche about freeing market forces, that have not lead any country into development unaided by government policy, education, medical care, tariffs and national will to develop .
And that it is naive to think that people work for anything other than self interest. There is clearly some truth in this, but there is also the reality that we are social creatures and that we have a passionate striving for justice: political and economic. It is the point of view of this blog that we need to ensure that there is both political and economic justice. That means we need an economic system that creates sustainable wealth AND one that distributes that wealth reasonably equitably. That sees our economic activity as something we can have some control over, rather than as some free market random weather.
There are strong arguments for sustainable wealth creation being more evenly distributed rather than the creation of unemployed/underemployed under classes supplied only with food to keep them alive. That means rigorous education needs to be more evenly distributed and not largely inherited. It means that wealth inheritance needs to be constrained. And of course, the political influence of wealth and media ownership needs constraint too.
These it seems to me are the lessons of Egypt: that ultimately very unequal societies are unstable because they are profoundly unfair. And fairness is as much as strong human trait as self interest. Let us hope Egypt can move to a more just society without major bloodshed and without tipping over into fundamentalism of either the Iranian religious or the Algerian military authoritarian variety.
These young men deserve a good education, good jobs and a fairer society; and their sisters too. This is young talent that deserves a better economic landscape and only the combination of market forces and less elite driven government policy can deliver it: