The Revolution Blows Up

By Ferguson, Niall | Newsweek, June 20, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Revolution Blows Up


Ferguson, Niall, Newsweek


Byline: Niall Ferguson

Egypt's stock market is tanking and its rich are taking their money to Zurich. Will an economic plunge ruin the Arab Spring?

I recently sat at the desk where John Maynard Keynes wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace, his coruscating 1919 polemic against the Versailles Treaty. I asked myself what Keynes would be writing if he were with us today. I think the answer is The Economic Consequences of the Arab Spring.

The point of Keynes's original tract was that the victors of the First World War were bungling the peace. The punitive reparations they were demanding of Germany, he argued, would plunge that country into an economic crisis. After that would come the political backlash.

"If we aim deliberately at the impoverishment of Central Europe," Keynes concluded prophetically, "vengeance, I dare predict, will not limp. Nothing can then delay for very long that final civil war between the forces of reaction and the despairing convulsions of revolution, before which the -horrors of the late German war will fade into nothing."

True, we are not demanding reparations of the people of the Middle East and North Africa. But ask yourself: what are we doing today to help them achieve a successful transition to liberty and prosperity? The answer is, not enough.

It is now nearly six months since the Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi made himself the fuse for a regionwide revolutionary explosion. His self-immolation not only toppled Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, but also his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak. A wave of protest swept through Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, and Syria. Rebellion turned into full-blown civil war in Libya. The same seems close to happening in Yemen.

Western journalists flocked to Cairo's Tahrir Square and wrote euphoric articles echoing William Wordsworth's lines on the French Revolution: "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!" With a blithe disregard for historical accuracy, they dubbed it the Arab Spring, an allusion to the (unsuccessful) 1968 Czech uprising against Soviet communism.

Well, it's not so blissful now, and least of all for the youthful Arabs who began this revolution.

This crisis had economic origins. Young people took to the streets because of rising food prices, high unemployment, and the corruption that pervades economic life in the region. Expensive food has been a global phenomenon in the last two years. So the key to the revolution was the disproportionately high unemployment of young Arabs and their dissatisfaction with a parasitical state. Last year 90 percent of the unemployed in Egypt were young (15 to 24). The unemployment rate among high-school and college graduates in Tunisia was 24 percent, far above the official rate.

For some countries in the region the revolution has brought an economic windfall in the form of sharply higher oil prices. The oil exporters of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain) have thus far been earning enough from their black gold to buy off or coerce their populations into behaving themselves--though oil alone is no guarantee of stability, as is clear in Libya and Yemen. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Revolution Blows Up
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.