Middle East

Qaddafi Abolishes Libyan State—Again!

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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."

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  1. I came a lot closer to abolishing the Libyan state then Qaddafi ever did.

    If I were alive, I’d drop another cruise missile through his bedroom.

  2. During my freshman year in college (in 1984), I took a Political Philosophy course. While enduring epithets like “Arch-Capitalist!”, I heard claims that Libya was an anarchist’s utopia. Didn’t believe it then, couldn’t believe even a naive college student would believe it, can’t believe anyone would believe it today.

  3. Don’t worry, Jesse, I’m not getting excited. In fact, no offense, but I’m not sure why I should care at all! I could see maybe it’s amusing, but since we’ve heard this one before…?

  4. Jesse,

    In unrelated middle east happenings, there is this report on The Gaza Bombshell from Vanity Fair. If true, this would be yet another middle east screw up by yet another US administration.

  5. Isn’t it more of an autonomous collective? Or an anarco-syndicalist commune?

  6. Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system!

  7. Isn’t it more of an autonomous collective? Or an anarco-syndicalist commune?

    Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!

  8. Episiarch,

    Are you suggested that Khadafi is some sort of aquatic tart?

  9. Look, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no way to run a system of government.

  10. I love that scene. Al-Gaddafi reminds me of this part (Arthurian dialogue omitted):

    We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week…but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting…by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,…but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more major. . . .

  11. Oh but if I went ’round sayin’ I was Emperor, just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away.

  12. Nothing like Python to completely derail a thread.

  13. Shut up, will you? Shut up!

  14. Derailed?

    This is the first thread to be railed in a long time.

  15. I believe that El-Gadhafi first claimed that Libya had no government around the time Holy Grail came out.

  16. 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.

    Is the correct response ‘Duh’ or ‘No Duh’ ?

  17. Let me know when he opens up the Castle Anthrax…

  18. Did he happen to mention his policy on strip searching 13 year old girls? Because if he allows that kind of thing, we should definitely invade and establish an American human rights regime.

  19. The Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi, has taken the traditional conservative quest for smaller government to a new plane

    I love the way the Economist oh-so-casually implies that Qaddafi is a “conservative” who wants “smaller government.” I wonder, have they ever called Mugabe a “liberal” trying to address “market failures”?

  20. 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.

    As an academic, I naturally applaud his decision to let his people participate in committees. However, the outcomes of these processes need to be assessed. He may wish to form some additional committees for that purpose, and pay large sums of money to Education Consultants who can assist in the process.

    If the Education Consultants make too many demands on the committees, I’ll be happy to help meet those demands. All you really need to do is sprinkle a bunch of buzzwords over some sort of report. If they’re not sure how it’s done, for a small fee I’d be happy to help generate stacks of dead trees with nonsense words all over them.

  21. Dr. T just wants to be able to meet the Q-man’s all-female bodyguards.

  22. The Guardian might say something like that with a straight, and disapproving, face… but I think the Economist was just having its jollies.

  23. The beauty of holding borderline anarcho-capitalist beliefs is that they are so self-evident that they can be articulated by an arguably insane dictator in one of his less sane moments.

  24. Why can’t our “leaders” think things like that?

  25. I wonder, have they ever called Mugabe a “liberal” trying to address “market failures”?

    I got the impression Mugabe was sort of a Third Way-style centrist or neoliberal, just a nutty, racist, and demogogical one.

  26. I love the way the Economist oh-so-casually implies that Qaddafi is a “conservative” who wants “smaller government.”

    uh, i think they were being themselves, and that is to say, british and cute.

  27. SIR – I agree with peachy. The newspaper was having a droll moment.

  28. No matter how hard you “Smash the State”, it never stays smashed.

  29. Hey, I’m all in favor of making fun of silly speeches by politicians, but lets not forget–abolishing 12 ministries is more of a reduction in government than any US President (including Saint Ronald) has managed.

  30. Demolishing Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns in three rounds is more than any US President ever managed either.

  31. I love the way the Economist oh-so-casually implies that Qaddafi is a “conservative” who wants “smaller government.”

    Well, he is. Sort of like JFK. “Ask not what I make the country do for you. Ask rather what I make you do for the country.”

    Given two departments; the Department That Gives Out Stuff and the Department That Takes Away Stuff, shutting down the former will result in “smaller government.”

  32. Hagler really won the Leonard fight, too. He was robbed.

  33. Mugabe Socialism: What’s mine is mine, what’s yours we share.

  34. What is so good about stealing the oil that belongs to the people and enacting a welfare-redistribution scheme?

    Wouldn’t it be more efficient if, say, people could own private property — and maybe even sell their own oil for a price determined by the market?

    It sounds like he wants more state than ever. This is a ploy of course; he really just wants to get rid of the layers of oversight and bureaucracy that prevent him from assuming the military dictatorship he would prefer.

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