To the Youth of Egypt: How Can We Help?

Here in America it has been difficult to get good reports about everything that is happening in Egypt. Every reporter has some agenda; they are more interested in making you fit their story, than making the story fit you. Still, even with the limited information available, I can see that what you managed to do is impressive.

Organizing non-violent protests to stand up to a brutal dictator takes courage. Bringing down a government supported by a super-power takes dedication. That you managed to do this without waging a war makes your success all the more admirable. You have given hope to the oppressed and energized the defenders of liberty in every nation. We are all inspired by your example: in the midst of the chaos, Muslims and Christians took turns protecting one another’s religious worship; in the absence of police, private citizens organized security to protect lives and property; when confronted by armed thugs, you held your ground in defense of liberty. For all that you have done, and for all that I hope you will achieve, I salute your bravery, integrity, and honor.

As you may know, many in the west are not as inspired or as hopeful. As Lew Rockwell highlighted, many hypocrites have questioned whether your commitment to liberty is sincere. Among those who believe in your desire for liberty, some doubt your willingness and ability to obtain it.

To those who say that Egypt has no national history, no culture of liberty, I can but laugh. Rule of law, the very cornerstone of liberty, what has been called the “distinctive characteristic of the English constitution,” is not a doctrine of European origin. This idea came to Europe when the Normans learned it from the Islamic rulers of Sicily. The common law of England, long celebrated for its protection of property and commerce, did not create these ideas anew. The crusaders left Europe a barbarian horde, they returned as civilized men. They had seen a wealthier, freer society first hand and would no longer tolerate the poverty and squalor of Europe. The legal institutions they learned paved the way for the commercial revolution that pulled Europe out of the dark ages and led to the flowering of western civilization.

Commentators who say that Egypt has no identity, no answers to its problems, reject history. Civilization was absent from Europe for centuries, and yet, civilization did return. Liberty has triumphed before and it can do so again.

Still, there is some truth to the skepticism. Most revolutions fail. The ink on the Treaty of Paris was not yet dry when many Americans set out to recreate a national government with more potential for abuse than the government they had just fought to escape. The storming of the Bastille gave way to the Reign of Terror. The Russian Revolution was widely supported by Russian Jews, but the government that emerged was hostile to Judaism beyond anything they had imagined. The American civil rights movement ended Jim Crow on paper, but white flight kept many schools just as segregated. Despite all that was accomplished, much was not. Blacks in America are disproportionately oppressed and victimized by the police. The government has adopted policies to systemically destroy their communities and trap the majority of their people in poverty.

Judging by the historic record, your odds of success are not good. Still, you are no worse off than anyone else who has tried to free themselves. In many ways you are better equipped than most. As I’m sure you are well aware, Egypt is suffering from an economic apartheid. Efforts to reform your economy were blocked in 2004. Perhaps now the reform will move forward. The constitutional amendments you are demanding are a start, but as you must know, unless you follow the lessons of England’s Glorious Revolution and systematically dismantle the institutions that abused and oppressed you, your new found freedom will not last.

The road ahead will be long and hard, and your failure would cause hope to give way to despair. What can we do to help? Please, have someone (or several someones) get in contact with the libertarian movement. At a minimum we can help you speak to America in your own words. In all likelihood, what we’ve learned in our struggle to preserve and restore liberty here can help restore liberty in your country. Let’s share what we’ve learned and see if there are other ways we can cooperate.

I wish you great success and look forward to hearing from you.