This week we’ve seen the Egyptian people rise up against their leader, Hosni Mubarak. President since 1981, the former Egyptian Air Force officer has not given Egyptians voice or good leadership. The country has been racked by unemployment and a lack of democracy. Egyptians have finally had enough. No longer supported by the military, Mubarak’s regime will officially end soon.
Gleeful Egyptians will be happy when Mubarak leaves the country and goes somewhere like Saudi Arabia. However, the Egyptian people have a problem, namely, what kind of government will replace the Mubarak regime? They have no constitution that provides for an orderly transition to democracy. What will be the role of the military? How will elections be held?
With the governmental vacuum that now exists, people are forced to protect their own homes, prisoners have escaped, and there is anarchy. Egyptians now find themselves without police, courts, or an enforceable set of laws. The cradle of civilization has yet a lot to accomplish if the desires of their populace are to be satisfied. The Egyptian mess makes me grateful for the founding fathers who, over 235 years ago, gave us our democracy and our constitution. That constitution has served us well.
As the Egyptians now know, anarchy is really bad. Having an honest cop on the street and a fair and just court system are also hallmarks of a civilized populace. When government provides a national defense, a court system, and a local police force to enforce the decisions of the court, this is what I call limited government. This is a government that protects the rights of all citizens equally, but does not interfere with the creative activities of its citizens.
The Egyptians, who temporarily have “too little” government, are now faced with the task of forming a limited government. Ironically, here in the United States we also are engaged in forming a limited government, except that we have “too much” government. While the Egyptian needs a cop on the street to keep the neighbor from tearing down his fence, in the United States a fellow can’t build a fence because city hall won’t issue him a building permit.
May this wave of democracy in the Middle East continue. Let’s hope that the Tunisians and the Egyptians can get it done right and not replace one radical government with another. As for me, I’m feeling pretty fortunate today. I’d rather fight city hall than establish a constitution.