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William Ratliff has published another interesting article, this one titled Cultural Values, Not Dictators Like libya’s Qaddafi, Are Chief Obstacle to Arab Progress.

The demands for freedom, democracy, and better lives for poor and often repressed peoples are compelling, but these outcomes are unlikely unless basic challenges are clearly recognized before inevitable frustration settles in. Real progressive change requires time and patient commitment.

To be sure, a rapid transition to some form of democracy would be a source of pride and accomplishment. But would it aid Arabs in confronting the deeper obstacles that have for so long prevented their political and economic development? The fever of revolution has not encouraged enough sober thought about the morning (and the decades) after.

For me, the point here is that these revolutions in the name of freedom and democracy are probably about something else. Ratliff mentions “traditional culture and values” as a possible motive, and later mentions Max Weber’s European Protestants, and that brings the real motivation. Those materialistic values of having a society where everyone has opportunity for success, financially or otherwise.

Ratliff claims that Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East are not there yet, but I believe he is wrong. I think those Protestant Ethics are widespread enough to bring great discontent to those living in authoritarian regimes.

It is largely a Marxist idea, that significant historical change happens  for materialistic reasons. That is also different than a revolution that is driven by ideals of freedom and democracy.


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