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”.