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Belmont Club

Is Democracy Cool Again?

January 14th, 2011 - 3:38 pm

One of the more interesting Twitter commentaries on the upheaval in Tunisia says “this will be fascinating year for Arab world. And US is at risk of falling on wrong side of history. Time to get on the right side”. And by “right side” they mean the side of democracy. The warning comes none too soon.  Wired notes that the fall of the Tunisian regime comes precisely at the time when the Obama administration began a massive escalation in foreign aid to that country.

The Freedom Agenda is respectable again. After years of laughing at the idea that spreading democracy was America’s most useful foreign policy weapon and touting grand bargains with the worst regimes in world, even the New York Times sees in the departure of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali the startling idea that Arabs will not necessarily tolerate tyranny forever.

Make that tyranny and poverty. The unrest in Tunisia was as much about hardship as outrage. Despite the persistent belief to the contrary, centralized states do not always get the trains to run on time. Food prices have been rising the world over and Tunisia was no exception. Making and growing things, not reducing a “carbon footprint” and tootling around on rickety bicycles, may be what the world needs most. Oil at $100 a barrel reminds us that energy prices are the single biggest driver of food price volatility. The focus on Green Energy has not only pushed up the revenues of exiting oil producers to record levels by restricting new production, but has also increased food prices.

Windmills don’t do much to grow grain or move food across oceans. They don’t run trains or the trucks that deliver goods and services.  The world has been told for a long time that the greatest challenge facing the “planet” is Global Warming. Most people outside of  the Western environmental lobby knew that the biggest challenge has always been putting food on the table. But man doth not live by bread alone. He also liveth, as some would have it, through grand bargains with tyrants which alone could bring peace to the world.

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