What We Owe Egypt

by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson are the co-authors of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. 03.05.2012


"The protesters in Tahrir Square perceived the cause of Egypt’s poverty in its non-responsive, repressive political system, its corrupt government, and the general lack of equality of opportunity in every sphere of their lives. They saw their current leaders as part of the problem, not part of the solution. By contrast, most outsiders, asking “What can we do?”, emphasized geographic or cultural factors, or some purely economic “poverty trap,” whose effects should be countered by foreign aid and advice.

There should be no illusion that the transformation that the protesters started will be smooth. Many previous revolutions have deposed one set of corrupt rulers only to bring in a new bunch who are equally corrupt, vicious, and repressive. There is also no guarantee that the previous elites will not be able to re-constitute similar regimes.

Indeed, the military, the bulwark of Mubarak’s regime, is now in charge in Egypt, and has been repressing, jailing, and killing protesters who dare to stand up. Most recently, it has unveiled plans to write a new constitution before the presidential election, and its electoral commission has disqualified 10 of the 23 presidential candidates on flimsy grounds. And, if the military loosens the reins, the Muslim Brotherhood could take over and form its own authoritarian, non-representative regime.

But there are also grounds to be optimistic..........."

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