“The fundamental value in relations among people is to respect the dignity and the individuality of fellow men, to treat them not as objects to be manipulated for our purposes or in accordance with our values but as persons, with their own rights and their own values – as persons to be persuaded, not coerced, not forced, not bulldozed, not brainwashed.” –Milton Freidman, American Economist
I am reflecting again today about the turbulent, yet predictable, changes sweeping the Middle East. First in Tunisia, then Egypt, Bahrain and now Libya. The Saudiis are throwing money at the problem to placate their people, bribery through which they intend to put out the fire of democracy.
Milton Freidman’s quote seems like an anecdote to all of this. What if we treated people as though their aspirations for freedom and democracy were a human right?
What if the wealth of a nation, confiscated by tyrants who believe it is their entitlement, were enshrined as a national resource rather than a job perq?
What if young, educated people were able to find meaningful work because their governments placed it as a top national priority rather than a risk to totalitarian rule?
What if women in first, second and third world nations actually felt empowered to lead their countries?
What if the armies of all nations were the instruments of peace rather than war?
What if the world declared the end to dictatorship as a legitimate form of government? What if powerful western nations refused to support dictators?
What if the $87 billion dollars being spent by the US government to wage war in Iraq and Afghansitan were used to support the economies of the developing world?
What if coercion was extinct?
What if values and principles were the currency of international politics?
© Patrick O’Neill 2011. All rights reserved.