Qaddafi Abolishes Libyan State—Again!


The Economist reports:

The Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi, has taken the traditional conservative quest for smaller government to a new plane by calling for the dissolution of the country's existing administrative structure and the disbursement of oil revenue directly to the people. Colonel Qaddafi's tirade against what he described as the "octopus" of government, which has sucked up Libya's massive oil wealth and provided little of value in return, came during his opening address to the General People's Congress (GPC), an annual gathering of the popular committees that notionally hold power in his "jamahiriyya" (entity of the masses)….

His premiss was that the GPC every year considers the annual budget, on this occasion US$37bn, based on estimated oil export revenue. The funds are paid into the central bank and disbursed to various government departments, or committees, and public sector companies in the hope that the capital spending targets are achieved. However, Colonel Qaddafi said that it doesn't happen like that: "It is like the cloud that fills the desert, and you think it is water, but when you reach it you find that it is nothing." He said that the people had lost confidence in the government and the public administration, and had grown to believe that the country's wealth was being systematically plundered for personal gain.

He proposed that from now on oil revenue would be paid directly to every Libyan family every month. They would then decide on their spending priorities, individually or in the form of ad hoc committees interested in investing in a new agricultural or industrial project, or in education, health or housing. These committees would also decide how much tax to pay to the remaining centralised institutions.

Don't get excited; we've been through this before. As reason reported a few years back:

On at least three occasions, the colonel has made a big show of abolishing the Libyan state. His most recent display began in March 2000, when he eliminated 12 ministries and declared that the remaining five would soon follow. "You have no government to complain against," Qaddafi declared to the masses. "Now everything is in your hands and in the future you can complain to yourselves."

Nonetheless, the state stuck around. (Just ask Amnesty International.) It'll stick around this time, too. The Economist notes: "The Libyan leader, having let off steam, can be expected to acquiesce in a somewhat less dramatic change in the system of government than that suggested in his speech—indeed, he said at the end of his oration that the current system could be maintained on a temporary basis." I assume "temporary" means "until the next faux-anarchist outburst."