Thursday, March 22, 2007


From Egypt, we have this NY Times report on a protest by villagers threatened with eviction that is strikingly similar to stories from China:

"The Gurna standoff... illustrates the challenges facing an authoritarian government that for decades imposed its will on the people, keeping them poor but fed, underemployed but employed, but now seeks to adjust the social contract without sparking widespread unrest...."

"Political analysts say the dynamics here are similar to those all over the country as the government tries to transform a centrally controlled economy. In recent months thousands of workers in bloated state-owned factories have staged wildcat strikes, out of fear that privatization will take their jobs, or demanding pay raises."

While I appreciate that the reporter, Michael Slackman, sees in the old Egyptian system a "social contract", his article still misses something of the deeper sense of fairness that underwrit "bloated state-owned factories" in many systems, the sense of being in something together and of workers having a priviliged position in society.

This feeling will be hard to recapture, whatever efficiency gains privatization may yield.

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