CAIRO: The Cato Institute, a non-profit public policy research foundation headquartered in Washington, D.C. and founded in 1977, has started a new program in the Middle East, Misbah Al-Hurriyya (The Lamp of Liberty). The institute promotes libertarianism, advocating individual liberty, limited government, free market and the rule of law. It also seeks to broaden the public policy debate over the principles of limited government, individual liberty, the free market and peace.
Our greatest challenge today is to extend the promise of political freedom and economic opportunity to those who are still denied it, in our own country and around the world, Cato says in its mission statement.
Tom Palmer, a senior fellow at the institute who directs programs in the Middle East and Northern Africa, is on a visit to Egypt with some of his colleagues to promote the program and contact Egyptian writers to write for the program.
The institute is funded privately by foundations, corporations, individuals and the sale of publications. It accepts no government funding or endowments in order to maintain its independence.
The institute started planning the new program two years ago. With the global debate about terrorism, Palmer says that everyone is blaming the Arabs. He says he thinks it is not fair but in many Middle Eastern societies people think the only way to achieve their aim is through violence.
Social revolutions occur when people compare how their communities have done in comparison to other communities, Palmer says. We want to open the world for Arabic speakers. The number of books translated into Arabic is much less than many other languages. Misbah Al-Hurriyya is a program in which we collect articles, books and other publications of Nobel Prize winners and famous novelists, including Arabs and others, and publish them to reach the Arab people.
According to their mission statement, their scope of work aims to bring to the people in the Middle East a message about freedom and to create projects that would replace oppressive rule through books, newspapers, articles about economics, sociology, politics, law and the Internet.
Palmer explains that the lack of information reaching the Middle East is not the only problem creating violent societies. Blaming the oil curse, Palmer explains that one of the disadvantages of oil is that it has supported non-democratic governments in the region. This lack of democracy tends to push people toward violence, instead of peaceful opposition.
Palmer says that they know that their initiative won t solve all the problems of the region and that they want to give information to people to allow them to solve their own problems by knowledge, he says.
Commenting on the Egyptian situation, Palmer comments that it was intelligent of the judiciary to demand independence. Since judicial independence is one of the pillars of democracy, social development and a mark of a prosperous country, it was important to achieve. This judicial independence, in fact, is more important than the elections themselves, as it is responsible for economic freedom and freedom of contracts.
Putting economic freedom on the same plane as political freedom, Palmer stresses the importance of economic reform. Referring to U.S. aid, Palmer says that foreign aid is usually counterproductive, because it doesn t provide an incentive for people to reform their own institutions.
In the end, Palmer stresses that no country can depend upon the help of another. Sometimes the U.S. government isn t the best ally to have, he says. The U.S. government has a poor track record in terms of liability promises. It s a good idea to develop your own resources to develop freedom in your own country. No country is going to solve the problems of any other country. It comes from inside.