Lars Christensen, today, posted a question to Hayekian scholars regarding what Hayek might have thought about the recent deposition of the Mursi government by the military in Egypt.
I am no Hayekian scholar; and so will I refrain from attempting interject my own opinions in his comments section. But I hold one principle above democracy and that is preservation of a free society or the minimization of tyranny to the largest extent possible. I look at democracy as being one means to that end rather than an end in itself; whereas I believe the goal of Egyptian liberals, rather than have a democracy, is to have a free society.
Milton Friedman, in Capitalism and Freedom, as well in other works, in print and video, tended to speak of freedom in two distinct categories: economic freedom and political freedom. I don’t have an exact quote handy, but he tended to emphasize economic freedom more heavily, saying that it would eventually lead to the addition of political freedom, while in a society where only political freedom exists, it is unlikely to lead to economic freedom.
In the case of Egypt, it started first with (psudo-)political freedom; and as can be read in its first constitution, economic freedom was severely limited. Additionally, the Mursi government was trending toward a philosophy of one man, one vote, one time; as it most certainly had the power to execute this strategy with the structure of theocracy underlying the democratic portion of government. The eventuality, at least in my opinion, would be that neither category of freedom would ever be achieved; political freedom would exist in name only.
If one is an Egyptian liberal and can read the handwriting on the wall, what choice would there be? I have my doubts that the generalized intent of the revolution to depose Mubarak was to simply shift democratically from one form of tyranny to another – especially one that is more revolting, intrusive, and nearly as brutal as the last.
The conflict, then, is really about whether people in society will be free to live as they wish, free of state violence, or suffer the tyranny of a majority that may not yet understand what personal freedom really means. And I don’t intend to demean the Egyptian population by that remark. Even here in the US, we constantly have battles over respect for personal freedoms versus governmental imposition and regulation of private behavior. There is a point at which it becomes irrational, tyrannical, and counterproductive; and some just do not understand where the line should be drawn between imposition and “live and let live.” In the case of the path taken by the Mursi government, it is clear that line was being drawn at not only severe regulation of private behavior, but also to spiritually enslave posterity.
I cannot predict the outcome of the deposition of the Musri government, but I can say without a doubt that Egypt has a far better chance to achieve both economic and political freedom for society in the longer term than if the military had not intervened. I supported the intervention, and I’ve not yet seen anything that would change my mind.
I am putting in a snip from the preamble of the US Declaration of Independence that leans heavily toward the idea that it’s not they type of government that one has that counts, but what it is intended to do is the key:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.