Watching the wave of unrest in the Middle East, there are lessons to consider regarding how we view the world and how we manage our lives here at home.
I’d call it getting perspective on what you can control and what you can’t.
It should be pretty clear that the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt came as complete surprises.
No one predicted them.
Is this because no one was paying attention? Of course not.
We’ve got armies of analysts – “experts” – who do nothing but study countries. Not just in the government, but also in the private sector – at consulting firms and investment firms.
Despite the fact that we’ve got “experts” galore doing nothing but studying particular regions and countries, they rarely, if ever, make a correct prediction if it means that tomorrow will be fundamentally different from yesterday.
We can depend on them for plenty of conventional wisdom drawing on reams of information from what’s already happened. But can we turn to them for the entirely new, for the unanticipated, for the inconceivable? Forget it.
It should be obvious that 10 years, 25 years, 50 years from now the world will be as different from today as today is from 10 years, 25 years or 50 years ago.
And it should be equally obvious that we have no “experts” that know what those great changes will be and what they will mean.
Yet we continue to allow ourselves to be persuaded that we can know what cannot be known and that experts can provide us information to control the world and the future. This delusion is true whether we are talking about managing foreign affairs or domestic affairs.
Washington is filled with “experts” who are more than ready to tell us the future and how to control it, whether we are talking about health care, retirement, energy, environment or what have you. The fact that they are wrong 100 percent of the time never seems to discourage us from going down the same path again and again.
On the other hand, there are things we can do that are far more useful ways to use our brains.
We can identify the correct principles by which to live and allow those to guide how we conduct our affairs.
Getting back to the Middle East, the most effective thing we could have been doing, and can do now, is set an example.
If we want to promote freedom, how about starting at home?
The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal publish annually an Index of Economic Freedom in which they rank 179 nations by economic freedom – size of government, regulations, tax and trade policy, monetary policy, etc.
The Index rankings correlate almost perfect with prosperity. The more a nation is economically free, the more prosperous it is likely to be.
When the Index was published in 2010, it showed that the nation with the biggest drop in economic freedom among the world’s 20 largest economies was our country – the USA.
The drop was so large that the U.S. was re-categorized from the top tier of “free” economies and dropped to the second tier of “mostly free.”
It turns out that the most important thing we could have been doing, staying free ourselves, we haven’t been doing.
If we’d been doing what we should have, we’d set an example for others, we’d have better judgment regarding what is wrong with them, and we’d be more prosperous and therefore stronger and more influential.
If we can’t solve our own problems, how can we solve those of others? If we don’t know what freedom is here, how can we know what it is elsewhere?
It’s time to get perspective about what we can do, what we can’t do, and get our own house in order.