March 19, 2014

"They feel left out of the good life, unable even to strive for it."

This is a great piece on Hernando de Soto, De Soto's Excellent Path . I was especially struck by this...

...The team discovered that, in the two months after Bouazizi self-immolated, 63 more men and women had done the same. They did it in country after country. Like Bouazizi, they were entrepreneurs, or would-be entrepreneurs. ILD talked to their families, and they also talked to survivors: Thirty-seven of the 63 failed in their suicide attempts. In the documentary, one of these 37 shows the scars all over his body. "I tried every possible way to get my rights in society, to find work," he says. "I tried a thousand things," with no success. He felt trapped, finished. De Soto testified to the U.S. Congress about the Middle East last year. In an understatement (as I see it), he said, "Mass suicide in defense of property rights is hard for the modern Western mind to understand." Why would someone like Bouazizi kill himself over the confiscation of some fruit and the scale with which to weigh it? But Bouazizi's act was motivated by a lot more than that, de Soto has explained -- to Congress, in his film, and to me: Bouazizi was under the whim of local authorities, who could choke off his every avenue. There was nowhere to go, no other authority to appeal to, no veritable rule of law. His last words, before he lit the match, were, "How do you expect me to make a living?" ILD asked Bouazizi's family what they thought he had died for. They answered, "For the right to buy and sell."

To Congress, de Soto said, "The average Arab entrepreneur needs to present 57 documents and faces two years or more of red tape to obtain a legal property right over land or a business." In Egypt, the legal opening of a business "requires dealing with 29 different government agencies and navigating 215 sets of laws." Arabs, like the majority of the world's population, lack basic property rights and related rights. They feel left out of the good life, unable even to strive for it. In his film, de Soto says that the Arab Spring amounts to "a huge shout for inclusion."...

Jefferson's original phrase for the Declaration of Independence was "life, liberty and property." We should have stuck with it.

Posted by John Weidner at March 19, 2014 8:51 AM
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