From Dr William Dixon.
Sir, Any reasonable person would welcome this second Egyptian revolution but, of course, have doubts about any resolution by army coup. Here we can turn to the unlikely source of the economist David Ricardo. It is little observed that he considered democracy as akin to a force of production like the steam engine. What he was getting at was his preference for “quality” over “agenda”; that quality coming from free activity, but agenda, of course, tending to be an imposition, in his day by the aristocracy, on a living process.
The true fluidity of his thinking is expressed in his response to the fears of Hutches Trower to whom he said: ‘‘What security for freedom should we have if no meeting, larger than a parish meeting, was legal?’’ And to which he then added that ‘‘the fear of insurrection, and of the people combining to make a general effort are the great checks on all governments’’. Without reform it was only the ‘‘fear which the government and the aristocracy have of an insurrection of the people ... [that] keeps them within the bounds which now appear to arrest them’’.
The time and personnel are different but we recognise a common situation. And here even a formal majority is insufficient basis for an imposition when the quality of ordinary people has become the matter at hand; when, as Ricardo said, the people are “improved in morals and knowledge”. One must hope that the army will already be aware of this point.
William Dixon, London Metropolitan Business School, London Metropolitan University, UK
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