Cabbies: the same the whole world over

What is it about taxi drivers?  They always seem to want to harangue their customers.  In London I often appreciate this, as I find that cabbies are a great fund of good common sense and homespun wisdom — at least they usually seem to agree with me about Europe and climate!

But after a late evening in Jerusalem at the weekend, I really didn’t need a lecture from the lugubrious driver.  But I got it anyway.  He told me he was a Canaanite, which I gathered means a Palestinian.  And he was unhappy with his lot.

He wanted a One-State solution to the Israeli/Palestine issue.  But as that would make the Israelis a minority in their own country, and would effectively be the end of the State of Israel, I didn’t think that was a very credible negotiating position.

All the problems, he said, came down to Capitalism.  That’s what was causing the difficulties.  I offered him the Schumpeter quote that I’d got from Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute the previous week, but he wasn’t impressed: “Princesses have always had silk stockings.  It took capitalism to give silk stockings to shop-girls”.

I asked if he would be better off in Syria or Saudi.  “You can’t tell me to leave my country”, he said.  “But I didn’t tell you to leave”; I replied.  “I just asked if you would be better off”.  Harrumph.

He told me that democracy had failed, that the Middle East needed dictatorship.  “That doesn’t seem to be playing too well in Egypt”, I said.  “Aha” he replied, “We need the dictatorship of the proletariat“.  “That didn’t work out too well in the USSR”, I replied, adding that you couldn’t have the dictatorship of the proletariat, only the dictatorship of the leaders of the proletariat, or the Party machine.

Thinking about it, probably the nearest you can get to the dictatorship of the proletariat, or at least of the people, is democracy itself — the one solution that my cabbie rejected.  As Churchill put it, “Democracy is the worst form of government we know, apart from all the others”.

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10 Responses to Cabbies: the same the whole world over

  1. I have sometimes considered the significance, of the fact that many citizens in the Middle East (and elsewhere) have economies which do not necessarily require capitalism. Or at least, not as a necessity for survival. In addition, we should allow for the fact that urban populations in these countries tend to have very different lives (and needs) to those living in relatively remote areas. Indeed, in particularly isolated regions, traditional systems may well be more appropriate than alternatives which western governments might advocate for them?

  2. I would agree that transposing our model of democracy to these countries can lead to problems. But I am convinced that the basic principles of liberal capitalism — property rights, enforceable contracts, free markets — apply anywhere.

  3. Quite so, Roger. I was simply making a reference to the fact that many of the “luxury” (i.e. non-essential) fruits of capitalism are not always wanted by people in remote regions (e.g. poor farmers). For example, luxury cars are little use in desolate areas with few (or damaged) roads. As you imply, free market principles probably are universally valid. Indeed, even the poorest world communities engage in free trade activities – such as “barter”, negotiate over the prices of basic foods and so on.

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  5. Churchill had said it all. Nice post. I was intrigued by the driver.:)

  6. Sean O'Hare says:

    It’s the same the whole world over
    It’s the poor what gets the blame
    It’s the rich what gets the blame
    And it’s all a bloody shame

    Standing on the bridge at midnight

    You obviously know the rest!

    • Sean O'Hare says:

      Got that wrong. Should have been:

      t’s the same the whole world over
      It’s the poor what gets the blame
      It’s the rich what gets the pleasure
      And it’s all a bloody shame

  7. Mike Spilligan says:

    Getting back to the original question; being, formerly, a semi-world traveller, I coined the epithet “Never judsge a nation by its taxi-drivers”.

  8. Kyle From Silverton says:

    Maybe the government should allow bartering when cash isn’t available to help keep the economy going so we will always have something:

    Namely it’s freedom and inventions that allowed mankind to prosper from begging for food in the streets.

    Believe it or not the Black Plauge actually enforced freedom because who were once slaves know could choose who they worked for as their was a shortage of workers and too much housing that were not being used.

    One could literally just move into a house unlike today where that same person will have to go thru a bunch of red tape plus a fluctuating economy since we rely on dollars without gold to back us up in case of a crisis which opens up another can of worms.

    The Printing Press allowed the poor to get their hands on books that were previously only available to Lords and Barons.

    Now we are just like the old days when their was a huge gap between the rich and the poor with the king imposing un payable taxes and the liberals doing things that actually harm mankind more then help in the long run.

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