Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Tunisian's cry for freedom

The story of the young Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi, whose suicidal self-immolation was the spark that set Tunisia aflame, is instructive. He was 26 and had a degree in computer science. Like 200,000 other university graduates in Tunisia (in a population of 10 million), he could not find a job. He then tried selling fruits and vegetables from a stall. However, he did not have bureaucratic permission to do this—such permission being bestowed by other university graduates, lucky or well-connected enough to have found jobs in the public-sector bureaucracy. The police constantly harassed him because he didn’t have the requisite licenses. It is said that he set fire to himself when a policeman spat in his face.
This is a reminder of just how precious and vital economic freedom is. Ultimately we are all economic creatures who must produce before we can consume -- indeed, who must produce just to survive. Economic freedom isn't just valuable as a means to obtain prosperity, it is a moral imperative.

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