History speeds up…

This has been a momentous year. On the 17th December 2010, unemployed Tunisian youth, Mohamed Bouazizi, after having his vegetable stall removed by the police, sets fire to himself in protest. He later dies – this was the literal spark the garnered Tunisian youth into rebellion. Within a month, Tunisian President Ben Ali, had fled to Saudi Arabia, his regime collapsing.

This movement was soon adopted by the Egyptians, Jordanians, Palestinians and Syrians, to a greater or lesser degree of earnest application, and repressive crackdown. Syria is ongoing; Libya spawned a Conflict all of its own, involving a myriad of Nato forces – though, no manpower on the ground. So. we heralded the “Arab Spring”…the US, for once impressive in its restraint, adopted  a “wait and see” policy – one it still maintains.

The year moves on: Mubarak finally resigns (“finally” in this context should be qualified: after a 30 year reign, to take a couple of months to oust, is no mean feat.) Libya, however, entrenches – Colonel Gaddafi isn’t going anywhere…months of violence ensue, cities are bombed, thousands displaced, hundreds killed. The western countries follow an aerial bombing campaign, a war of attrition from the sky begins and formal alliances with the rebels are established. The bombing begins to co-ordinate with rebel movement on the ground; Gaddafi flees. He is later captured, physically violated and killed by those he has ruled for 40 years, those who he swore would die to protect him…

Meanwhile, back in Europe, things are not looking quite so rosy either. We enter the fourth year of either recessionary or significantly below trend growth. The countries of the Eurozone experience further problems in their fiscal positions. Europe, in the main (Italy always being the exception), has a recent history typified by stable government. The problems of the Euro and unsustainable debt begin to take their toll – as does almost 40% youth unemployment in areas of some member countries. Individual nations begin circling around that great spiral known as “Default”. The prospect of an ignominious exit from the greatest project of European unity, now seems an all too certain outcome. Greece is likely to be the first taker. Ireland, once the doyen of the Euro enthusiasts, now is littered with entire apartment blocks nobody wants to buy, and heartbreakingly, a new exodus of its’ talents…the first mass emigration out of the western European nation’s…

So…what do we conclude? Simply, that few things are knowable, that history itself  is speeding up and our path uncertain. That mass media and technology act as both a catalyst and spur, and moreover – witness. We are all participants, we are all stakeholders and some of us get to be drivers…which direction shall we head in 2012?


Ideas have consequences…

We have written before about the critical importance of ideas: what they are; where they emanate from; what and who influences them. However, just as it is important to both understand and appreciate ideas, it is equally important to value the efforts of the educators in disseminating those ideas.

Original thought is often complex, provocative, demanding. It can lie dormant in someone’s mind for a very long time, before something prods them out of their complacence – a sharp recognition of the value of one’s position of relative safety. Here, although the ideas in support of both a liberal economy and society haven’t entirely won out, we are on the winning side of the battle. At a time when reactionary and dirigiste forces raise old demons of sub-collectivist rhetoric and neo-socialism, these ideas again demand the weight and attention required to help suppress such forces.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is to stand for re-election in presidential elections due in October. President Hugo Chavez is flexing his economic muscles, at the expense of the United States, purely because of Venezuelan oil wealth. The Americas are again being subjected to the old, statist ideologies.

To counter this, Ideas for a free society (http://ideasforafreesociety.org) have published a CD containing some of the seminal texts from the field. As Linda Whetstone has written: “the CD contains a selection of contributions by some of the primary scholars and thinkers who have developed ideas which relate to the free society. Their contributions explain some of the general intellectual concepts and challenges, and the application of these ideas to public policy.”

“This CD is designed for those who are interested in what these beneficial economic and political arrangements are that lead to economic growth and have the capacity to eliminate poverty. It does not pretend to provide a definitive answer but rather to point people in the right direction. The title of the CD, “Ideas for a Free Society,” was inspired by the observation that the political and economic arrangements that seem to be most conducive to peace and prosperity are those that exist in free societies.

In such societies, there exist certain institutions that guarantee political, economic and social freedom, and those institutions are in turn underpinned by ideas. Such ideas have been explored by individuals from many different perspectives, starting with ancient Chinese, Roman and Greek philosophers and continuing to the present day. The reader will find that a rich intellectual debate about the nature of these ideas exists even among the authors of texts on this CD.”

Information is power, and readily transferable, easily accessible information, more so. We wish this project luck.

%d bloggers like this: