At Asia Times, Juan Cole looks at the “Arab spring” in the light of economics, arguing forcefully that the economic causes of rebellions in North Africa and the Mediterranean rim have been under reported.
Here’s a bit:
In the “glorious 30 years” after World War II, North America and Western Europe achieved remarkable rates of economic growth and relatively low levels of inequality for capitalist societies, while instituting a broad range of benefits for workers, students, and retirees. From roughly 1980 on, however, the neo-liberal movement, rooted in the laissez-faire economic theories of Milton Friedman, launched what became a full-scale assault on workers’ power and an attempt, often remarkably successful, to eviscerate the social welfare state.
In the global South, countries that gained their independence from European colonialism after World War II tended to create large public sectors as part of the process of industrialization. Often, living standards improved as a result, but by the 1970s, such developing economies were generally experiencing a leveling-off of growth. This happened just as neo-liberalism became ascendant in Washington, Paris, and London . . . .
Egypt and Tunisia, to take two countries in the spotlight for sparking the Arab Spring, were successfully pressured in the 1990s to privatize their relatively large public sectors. Moving public resources into the private sector created an almost endless range of opportunities for staggering levels of corruption on the part of the ruling families of autocrats Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis and Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. International banks, central banks, and emerging local private banks aided and abetted their agenda.
Not that we’ve seen any such corruption and opportunism on our own shores in the last 30 years.
Crashing credit default swaps, Batman, good heavens no.