F.A. Hayek’s most important insight is that we cannot have political freedom without economic freedom. Hayek’s inexorable Road to Serfdom, from which it is difficult if not impossible to return, describes a number of today’s troubled countries, and it likely portends the future of post-Mubarak Egypt. Those caught up in the euphoria of democratic street demonstrations must confront the reality that the long-run outcome is likely to be bad.
Take Russia and Iran as possible role models for Egypt. Despite their huge differences (a KGB state versus an Islamic theocracy), they share a common and sinister pattern: A revolution occurs (the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Iranian revolution); a nominal democracy is established; the democracy is hijacked by the ruling elite; the ruling elite (Kremlin-favored oligarchs, the Revolutionary Guard) gains control of the commanding heights of the economy; the ruling elite viciously blocks democracy and liberalization as mortal threats to their vested interests. Anyone who stands in their way is dealt with harshly as corrupt or traitorous.