Revolution And … Recession?

Niall Ferguson worries that the sagging economies of Arab Spring nations may spark further destabilization:

In a report published last month, the Institute of International Finance predicted that growth in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia will fall from 4.4 percent in 2010 to -0.5 percent this year. Egypt’s economy will contract by 2.5 percent, Yemen’s by 4 percent. … The bottom line is that economic conditions have gotten worse, not better, as a result of the Arab Spring. Inflation is now above 12 percent in Egypt. Unemployment is up, too.

None of this should surprise us. Such is the life cycle of revolutions. What begins with euphoric crowds soon slides into a second phase of economic paralysis. The same happened in France after the initial “bliss” of 1789 and in Russia after 1917. In each case, exuberance at the overthrow of the old regime was swiftly succeeded by exasperation at the decline in living standards. And that was what gave the political extremists their opportunity to peddle their radical ideology of war against internal and external foes. Yesterday, the Jacobins and Bolsheviks. Tomorrow, I fear, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda.

But the alternative was shoring up Mubarak?