Egypt's Real Problem: Decades of Authoritarian Socialist Rule

There has been a huge volume of "expert" commentary on origins of the revolution in Egypt.  Much of this commentary has centered on the repressive and undemocratic nature of the Mubarak regime as a root cause for discontent and as the primary instigator of the rise of radical Islam as an opposition force.  And as usual, much of this supposedly expert commentary coming from our government officials and our media outlets is superficial and misleading.

The fact of the matter is this: Mubarak is a socialist dictator, and his ruling party espouses socialist ideology.  The revolution in Egypt is a direct result of the failure of authoritarian socialist ideology and policy.  For over fifty years, the ruling political clique in Egypt has espoused a home-grown form of Arab nationalist socialism.

The policies, goals, political rhetoric, and governing philosophy of Mubarak mirror that of our home-grown political progressives and related Euro-based socialist parties in striking detail.  And Mubarak and his immediate predecessors as rulers of Egypt have had a monopoly on unlimited political and state power to implement those same socialist policies -- the very same type of unlimited, unchecked government power that our very own progressives continually seek for themselves.

Mubarak, the current dictator of Egypt, can trace his political lineage back to the original Egyptian Arab national socialist, Gamal Abdel Nasser.  Nasser rose to power during the Cold-War era in a Soviet-backed officer revolt against the Western-allied monarchy.  His foreign policy prominently featured Pan-Arab nationalism and anti-Israeli rhetoric and violence, but his domestic policy was centered on socialist economic policies and ideology:

Nasser announced a list of nationalizations that cut more deeply into the private sector than had occurred in any country outside of Eastern Europe. The decrees nationalized all private banks, all insurance companies, and fifty shipping companies and firms in heavy and basic industries. Eighty-three companies were obliged to sell 50 percent or more of their shares to public agencies.....The nationalization program continued in successive waves through 1962 and 1963 and involved shipping companies, cotton-ginning factories, cotton-exporting companies, pharmaceutical producers, ocean and river transport companies, trucking companies, glass factories, and the largest book-publishing company in Egypt. Between 1952 and 1966, £E7 billion in shared and public assets were transferred to public ownership.

Nasser's immediate successor, Anwar Sadat, further built upon this state-controlled socialist political and economic system by forming the National Democratic Party, which is the current Egyptian ruling party.  The National Democratic Party has been a member in good standing in the Socialist International right up until this present week (January 31, in fact, when, to save political face, it became politically necessary to expel them).

The Socialist International may want to hide this fact, but the plain truth is that Mubarak and his political predecessors had the unlimited power and pursued for many decades exactly the same type of top-down, expert-devised, and centralized government-run collectivist development and investment programs of the type that are now proposed by progressives in this country and by socialists around world.  And the results, or lack thereof, of fifty-plus years of authoritarian socialist policy in Egypt were the same as in every other nation (like the old Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China) that has experimented with similar economic and political systems: poverty, political repression, institutionalized government corruption, and ultimately, social chaos.

At its core, socialism is an ideology that uses government force and coercion to make people behave in a manner that they would not if given the freedom to choose.  Therefore, violations of basic inalienable human rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) are the inevitable result of this attempt to socially engineer economic and other ideological outcomes from the top down.

Likewise, centralized state control of the economic decision-making and resources in the hands of an elite few, no matter what collectivist or populist ideology they profess, invariably leads to poverty and political corruption.  The notion that a small group of experts can centrally plan an economy and make the correct choices for tens or hundreds of millions of people is a core tenet of socialist ideology.  The purported necessity of this control, according to the collectivist rhetoric of socialism, is to ensure equality of economic outcome.  But the real-world result where it has been tried has been equality of economic poverty.

The only people who escape this economic poverty and prosper under Socialism are the political class who run the system (who, after all, are still chosen from the ranks of us self-interested humans and not the Angels) and the super-wealthy who can buy influence and favoritism from the government for their business interests.  This leads inevitably to the kind of political corruption and rent-seeking we see rampant in Egypt today:

[An Egyptian mother] added that she hoped in a future Egypt her daughter's ability to get a good education and good job would not depend on "wasta," which translates roughly as connections or influence -- a requirement that many Egyptians bemoan.

Predictably, our socialist-leaning experts in government and in our mainstream media outlets have chosen to highlight only the surface-level symptoms of the anger amongst the Egyptian people (platitudes like "40% of the nation living in utter poverty" and "lack of human rights") rather than the root causes (authoritarian socialist rule and policies) which created the conditions of revolution.  Thus, the experts prescribe entirely the wrong cure for the unrest.

Instead of recognizing the problem for what it is -- decades of government-sanctioned violations of inalienable individual rights and liberty (to include economic liberty, which in turn stifled economic prosperity), which are part and parcel of socialist policy -- many choose instead to further promote their favored collectivist ideology by claiming that what is now needed in Egypt is a government that promotes "a society that cares for the poor and vulnerable" -- i.e., yet more socialism.  Therefore, the dominant theme currently being espoused by Western governments and media outlets is that nothing is wrong with the idea of centrally imposed socialist policy; the only problem is that this socialist policy wasn't brought about via elections or democratic methods in Egypt, as it has been in the West or other parts of the world.    

The idea that the same failed socialist ideology can somehow fix the problems it created in Egypt or that it can now somehow be made to work now if imposed there through democratic processes is farcical to say the least.  The cold reality is that the breakdown of civil society in Egypt followed by the rise of radical Islamic elements is the predictable outcome of exactly the type of top-down socialist/collectivist polices our experts in the mainstream media and in the highest levels of the American government think are the solutions to the chaos we see occurring now in that nation and, to a growing degree, in our own.

What is not needed in Egypt -- or in our country for that matter -- is simply a doubling down on or continuation of old-fashioned and failed central-government imposed collectivist policies that are simply repacked through democratic political structures.  What is needed in Egypt -- and in this country -- is an embrace (or re-embrace in our case) of the American Revolutionary ideas of popular sovereignty, inalienable individual rights, personal and economic liberty, and limited government.  Only through adoption and adherence to these timeless and universal principles can personal freedom, economic prosperity, and ordered liberty be achieved in Egypt -- or, in the case of our country, retained.
There has been a huge volume of "expert" commentary on origins of the revolution in Egypt.  Much of this commentary has centered on the repressive and undemocratic nature of the Mubarak regime as a root cause for discontent and as the primary instigator of the rise of radical Islam as an opposition force.  And as usual, much of this supposedly expert commentary coming from our government officials and our media outlets is superficial and misleading.

The fact of the matter is this: Mubarak is a socialist dictator, and his ruling party espouses socialist ideology.  The revolution in Egypt is a direct result of the failure of authoritarian socialist ideology and policy.  For over fifty years, the ruling political clique in Egypt has espoused a home-grown form of Arab nationalist socialism.

The policies, goals, political rhetoric, and governing philosophy of Mubarak mirror that of our home-grown political progressives and related Euro-based socialist parties in striking detail.  And Mubarak and his immediate predecessors as rulers of Egypt have had a monopoly on unlimited political and state power to implement those same socialist policies -- the very same type of unlimited, unchecked government power that our very own progressives continually seek for themselves.

Mubarak, the current dictator of Egypt, can trace his political lineage back to the original Egyptian Arab national socialist, Gamal Abdel Nasser.  Nasser rose to power during the Cold-War era in a Soviet-backed officer revolt against the Western-allied monarchy.  His foreign policy prominently featured Pan-Arab nationalism and anti-Israeli rhetoric and violence, but his domestic policy was centered on socialist economic policies and ideology:

Nasser announced a list of nationalizations that cut more deeply into the private sector than had occurred in any country outside of Eastern Europe. The decrees nationalized all private banks, all insurance companies, and fifty shipping companies and firms in heavy and basic industries. Eighty-three companies were obliged to sell 50 percent or more of their shares to public agencies.....The nationalization program continued in successive waves through 1962 and 1963 and involved shipping companies, cotton-ginning factories, cotton-exporting companies, pharmaceutical producers, ocean and river transport companies, trucking companies, glass factories, and the largest book-publishing company in Egypt. Between 1952 and 1966, £E7 billion in shared and public assets were transferred to public ownership.

Nasser's immediate successor, Anwar Sadat, further built upon this state-controlled socialist political and economic system by forming the National Democratic Party, which is the current Egyptian ruling party.  The National Democratic Party has been a member in good standing in the Socialist International right up until this present week (January 31, in fact, when, to save political face, it became politically necessary to expel them).

The Socialist International may want to hide this fact, but the plain truth is that Mubarak and his political predecessors had the unlimited power and pursued for many decades exactly the same type of top-down, expert-devised, and centralized government-run collectivist development and investment programs of the type that are now proposed by progressives in this country and by socialists around world.  And the results, or lack thereof, of fifty-plus years of authoritarian socialist policy in Egypt were the same as in every other nation (like the old Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China) that has experimented with similar economic and political systems: poverty, political repression, institutionalized government corruption, and ultimately, social chaos.

At its core, socialism is an ideology that uses government force and coercion to make people behave in a manner that they would not if given the freedom to choose.  Therefore, violations of basic inalienable human rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) are the inevitable result of this attempt to socially engineer economic and other ideological outcomes from the top down.

Likewise, centralized state control of the economic decision-making and resources in the hands of an elite few, no matter what collectivist or populist ideology they profess, invariably leads to poverty and political corruption.  The notion that a small group of experts can centrally plan an economy and make the correct choices for tens or hundreds of millions of people is a core tenet of socialist ideology.  The purported necessity of this control, according to the collectivist rhetoric of socialism, is to ensure equality of economic outcome.  But the real-world result where it has been tried has been equality of economic poverty.

The only people who escape this economic poverty and prosper under Socialism are the political class who run the system (who, after all, are still chosen from the ranks of us self-interested humans and not the Angels) and the super-wealthy who can buy influence and favoritism from the government for their business interests.  This leads inevitably to the kind of political corruption and rent-seeking we see rampant in Egypt today:

[An Egyptian mother] added that she hoped in a future Egypt her daughter's ability to get a good education and good job would not depend on "wasta," which translates roughly as connections or influence -- a requirement that many Egyptians bemoan.

Predictably, our socialist-leaning experts in government and in our mainstream media outlets have chosen to highlight only the surface-level symptoms of the anger amongst the Egyptian people (platitudes like "40% of the nation living in utter poverty" and "lack of human rights") rather than the root causes (authoritarian socialist rule and policies) which created the conditions of revolution.  Thus, the experts prescribe entirely the wrong cure for the unrest.

Instead of recognizing the problem for what it is -- decades of government-sanctioned violations of inalienable individual rights and liberty (to include economic liberty, which in turn stifled economic prosperity), which are part and parcel of socialist policy -- many choose instead to further promote their favored collectivist ideology by claiming that what is now needed in Egypt is a government that promotes "a society that cares for the poor and vulnerable" -- i.e., yet more socialism.  Therefore, the dominant theme currently being espoused by Western governments and media outlets is that nothing is wrong with the idea of centrally imposed socialist policy; the only problem is that this socialist policy wasn't brought about via elections or democratic methods in Egypt, as it has been in the West or other parts of the world.    

The idea that the same failed socialist ideology can somehow fix the problems it created in Egypt or that it can now somehow be made to work now if imposed there through democratic processes is farcical to say the least.  The cold reality is that the breakdown of civil society in Egypt followed by the rise of radical Islamic elements is the predictable outcome of exactly the type of top-down socialist/collectivist polices our experts in the mainstream media and in the highest levels of the American government think are the solutions to the chaos we see occurring now in that nation and, to a growing degree, in our own.

What is not needed in Egypt -- or in our country for that matter -- is simply a doubling down on or continuation of old-fashioned and failed central-government imposed collectivist policies that are simply repacked through democratic political structures.  What is needed in Egypt -- and in this country -- is an embrace (or re-embrace in our case) of the American Revolutionary ideas of popular sovereignty, inalienable individual rights, personal and economic liberty, and limited government.  Only through adoption and adherence to these timeless and universal principles can personal freedom, economic prosperity, and ordered liberty be achieved in Egypt -- or, in the case of our country, retained.

RECENT VIDEOS