This last point seems vital: even if the Muslim Brotherhood were to take control of Egypt are there any grounds for supposing they can meet the economic and political demands any new government must address? Islam does not have an answer for poverty or frustrated opportunity. If it pretends to and then fails then it too will surely and eventually be seen as yet another bogus bill of goods. ~Alex Massie

To answer Massie’s first question, no, I don’t think anyone expects this group or any other in Egyptian politics to be able to meet Egypt’s economic and political demands. The “Bolivarian revolution” in Venezuela hasn’t delivered good governance, but once Chavez and his allies were in power they rigged the system to make it extremely difficult to remove them from power. Political movements don’t need to succeed in serving the public interest in order to keep their grip on power, and Egypt doesn’t need to suffer from an Islamic revolution to experience even more catastrophic misrule than it is currently experiencing.

While we’re on the subject, it is worth citing Chua again:

On the contrary, for at least a generation, the effects of marketization in the Middle East would at best produce only marginal benefits for the great mass of Arab poor. However correct in theory, free trade agreements and privatization–in the absence of major structural reforms, which are highly unlikely to occur–cannot in the short term alter the pervasive illiteracy, corruption, and Third World conditions prevailing throughout the Arab states. (p. 226)

A generation is an exceptionally long time in politics, especially democratic politics, and it is difficult to imagine that a democratic electorate is going to tolerate a generation’s worth of free trade and privatization policies that mostly benefit the upper and upper-middle classes. If Egypt were subjected to the sort of shock therapy privatization and democratization that Russia experienced in the early ’90s, it is easy to see how a democratic system would turn into an authoritarian populist one in very short order. Poor countries in economic distress are just about the worst candidates for democratization, and any democratic government that has to confront such problems is going to become rapidly discredited because it will not be able to address them all in a satisfactory way.

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