The Libyan Revolution appears to have successfully toppled the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, although the fat lady may not have sung yet. We’ll see over the next few days if the army switches sides, but in essence, the game is up for another Middle Eastern dictator. The rumor is that Hugo Chavez in Venezuela is taking him in, though Chavez’s government denies it — certainly no Arab regime will take Gaddafi in, for fear that the news will cause this “revolution infection” to spread further.
Later on, I’ll speculate on the problems this causes, like should the Internet have an “off switch” (no), but for right now I want to turn everyone’s attention to Wisconsin at the moment. As Paul Krugman pointed out in his column yesterday, Governor Walker of Wisconsin is portraying the crisis in his state as one of undeserving public employees reaping too many rewards — but it was his own tax-cutting follies that replaced Wisconsin’s surplus with a deficit.
Middle Eastern dictatorships, for the last 30, 40, 50 years — in some cases a century — have run on the principle that the leadership is entitled to empty the coffers of the state for their own personal enjoyment. Yet that’s not why we the people form governments. We the people form governments — representational or dictatorial, monarchical or oligarchic — to secure certain rights to ourselves and our posterity.
The Arabs of North Africa and some of the Gulf States no longer feel that they can be protected, or have their rights secured, by the governments which have ruled them for so long. They do not have secure access to food, they do not know whether they will be arrested in the middle of the night, and they do not know whether their children will have lives — much less whether they will be better or not.
Wisconsin is not analogous. Certainly not to the extremities to which the Libyan and Egyptian governments responded to the populations of those countries with violence, repression, intimidation and torture.
Yet at least some of the states in the United States, and some of the actions of our federal government, are sucking money and prosperity out of the middle class and depositing it in some very wealthy, very deep pockets. And I cannot help but wonder if we are moving toward some of the same chaos?