The Phoenix Arises

Can democracy really take root in Egypt?

I’ve written before how unlocking the economic potential of some 350 million Arabs would be a good thing. But there’s no deep-seated democratic tradition in Arab culture. Is it realistic to expect one to grow there?

The same criticism was leveled at Japan some 50 years ago. Truman’s goal of establishing a liberal democracy in a racist nation that nearly subjugated half the world seemed impossibly idealistic, forcefully transplanting a complex Western ideal into an authoritarian culture—like grafting an olive shoot onto a cherry tree. The result, they predicted, wouldn’t work.

But Japan has been peaceful and prosperous these five decades, and has contributed greatly to the world’s prosperity. Japanese companies have been world leaders in terms of innovation, production, and marketing.

Islam is not incompatible with democracy. Turkey has been democratic for decades. An Islamist party there has to compete for votes. Now democratic sentiments are growing throughout the Arab world. Fed by al-Jazeera, the classical Islamic emphasis on justice has become wedded to the notion of freedom. And it isn’t idealistic to link political freedom with economic freedom. Western intellectuals from Tocqueville on have seen the connection between the two.

If Egypt passes peacefully from autocracy to democracy, it will be a beacon to the Arab world. A free Egypt may make people nervous but the crowds there are affirming Western values. It is sensible for us to encourage this.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
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By | 2014-09-11T14:05:09+00:00 February 9th, 2011|Global Market Update|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Tengdin is the Chief Investment Officer at Charter Trust Company and author of “The Global Market Update”. The audio version of each post can be heard on radio stations throughout New England every weekday. Mr. Tengdin graduated from Dartmouth College, Magna Cum Laude. He received his Master of Arts from Trinity Divinity School, Magna Cum Laude and received his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1992. Mr. Tengdin has been managing investment portfolios for over 30 years, working for Bank of Boston, State Street Global Advisors, Citibank – Tunisia, and Banknorth Group. Throughout his career, Mr. Tengdin has emphasized helping clients manage their financial risks in difficult environments where they can profit from investing in diverse assets in diverse settings. - Leave a comment if you have any questions—I read them all! - And Follow me on Twitter @GlobalMarketUpd

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