Mr Zakaria notes that those Arab lands without democracy suffer from a weak civil society, and have for eight hundred years. Civil Society is defined by Wikipedia as:
... a society in which acts of aggression, violence, intimidation, and force are absent. In common language usage, "civil society" also implies peaceful and respectful as opposed to belligerent, tyrannical, or oppressive.Mr Zakaria also notes a lack of economic pluralism.
Someone I met on the internet had this comment on the Zakaria piece:
A Peruvian scholar, Hernando de Soto, has done excellent research on this subject and in a series of books asks "Why, in countries where the people have strong entrepreneurial instincts, does democracy and capitalism struggle so?" Anyone who has been to the Middle East can testify that the people on the street have hustle -- the whole Arab Spring series of revolts started when a street vendor was hassled by police.Democracy doesn't come about because a few people wake up one morning and say to themselves that they should vote for the government this time, rather than have a coup. It comes about through a slow evolution that includes respect for people and respect for property.
The answer, de Soto says (and you can see it between the lines of Zakaria's article, below), is that dictatorships and oligarchies fail to safeguard basic property rights that people need so they can own things with clear title. He points out that in Western, capitalistic societies, the right of property ownership is so entrenched that we don't even notice the right to own land, a car, our house. But in many societies, for example Egypt, that is not always so clear-cut, and small businessmen who can't get clear title to property, or where the processes to get clear title are cumbersome and subject to graft, are not only unable to borrow money for expansion -- a fundamental business principle in Western economies -- but are also subject to having their property confiscated at any time by the government or someone who can buy influence to close them down. So the economy stagnates. Our own founders recognized the basic relationship of property to democracy, and it was an eye-opener to me when de Soto reaffirmed that in modern terms.
IMHO, anyone who seriously studies insurgency or instability ought to read de Soto's work. He began it as a counter to the "Shining Path" movement in his homeland, and it is fundamental to understanding why economies -- and democracies -- have a hard time taking root in some places.
We should pray for the Arabs. They have a way to go before they have democracy. But, maybe they don't wish to have the pluralism. Too bad for us.
Regards — Cliff