Amy Chua on Egypt (Sarah Palin, Twilight, Lindsay Lohan, Hunger Games not mentioned)
February 09, 2011, 11:45 PM
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Look, if Arianna Huffington made $315 million out of search engine optimization, I can give it a shot, too.

The American Conservative's intimidatingly well-informed blogger Daniel Larison digs up some quotes from Amy Chua's 2003 book World on Fire of relevance to optimism over Egypt of the all Egypt needs is democracy to become a prosperous free market nation variety:

Amy Chua assessed the likely effects of rapid democratization in the region in World on Fire, and her judgment still seems correct:
Meanwhile, even if the turn to fundamentalism in the Middle East is a product of closed or repressive political regimes, it sadly does not follow that political liberalization in the region today would lead to moderation-or, for that matter, to pro-market regimes. On the contrary, rapid democratization in the Arab states would likely be a recipe for extremist politics, dominated by ethnonationalist (if not fundamentalist) parties unified in their hatred of Israel and the West.

She wrote at the end of the same chapter:

While free market democracy may well be the optimal end point in the Middle East, the simultaneous pursuit today of laissez-faire markets and immediate majority rule would almost certainly produce even more government-sponsored bloodshed and ethnic warfare.

... While we're on the subject, it is worth citing Chua again:
On the contrary, for at least a generation, the effects of marketization in the Middle East would at best produce only marginal benefits for the great mass of Arab poor. However correct in theory, free trade agreements and privatization-in the absence of major structural reforms, which are highly unlikely to occur-cannot in the short term alter the pervasive illiteracy, corruption, and Third World conditions prevailing throughout the Arab states. (p. 226)

A generation is an exceptionally long time in politics, especially democratic politics, and it is difficult to imagine that a democratic electorate is going to tolerate a generation's worth of free trade and privatization policies that mostly benefit the upper and upper-middle classes. If Egypt were subjected to the sort of shock therapy privatization and democratization that Russia experienced in the early '90s, it is easy to see how a democratic system would turn into an authoritarian populist one in very short order. Poor countries in economic distress are just about the worst candidates for democratization, and any democratic government that has to confront such problems is going to become rapidly discredited because it will not be able to address them all in a satisfactory way.