October 14, 2004

Libertarian Socialism

Yeah, I know. That title contradicts itself. But what else can I say when a libertarian magazine like Tech Central Station advocates something like this?

As vicious as the struggle for power in Iraq is, the new government has a war-winning weapon that could, at a stroke, undercut the insurgency, enrich the Iraqi people and create a powerful, long-term force for democracy, national unity and economic development. That weapon is oil.

To deploy it, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government should announce that as of a date certain, a new national investment fund — call it The Iraqi People's Freedom Trust — will be credited with a major share of all future Iraqi oil earnings. Revenues directed to the Trust would be invested in government bonds, with a small cash reserve to cover withdrawals by individual Iraqis.

All 27 million Iraqis — men, women and children — would to eligible to claim an equal, personal investment account in the Freedom Trust. All they need do is prove Iraqi birth and pledge allegiance to the government. Registration for shares in the Trust could go hand in hand with voter registration for the upcoming national elections. Adult citizens should be free, at any time, to ask for a calculation of their account's value and withdraw up to their full balance — no questions asked.

The mere announcement would be electric. For starters, it would dispel the fantasy that this war was waged by the U.S. to somehow steal Iraqi oil. What's more, the Trust's financial — and political — power would compound over time. For the first time in the history of Iraq, indeed, of oil nations generally — the new government would be offering every citizen an ownership stake in Iraq's vast oil wealth. This is an asset long-since nationalized — allegedly on behalf of the people — but routinely looted in practice by the former dictator and his cronies. Creation of the Freedom Trust would instantly redefine the current war as a struggle between a young democracy seeking to share wealth with its people — and an old elite fighting to get back the power to steal from the people.
Brilliant, I say. And right, too. I recall Glenn Reynolds, also a small-l libertarian, floating something similar a while back.

Come on, lefties. This is right up your alley. Let’s see if we all can agree on what might be good for Iraq for a change.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 14, 2004 9:55 PM
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