Advice to Hamas

Congratulations to Hamas are in order. The party, once funded and supported by the Israeli government as an offset to the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Arafat, will now dominate the Palestinian parliament.

Unlike George W. Bush, I’m not interested in wars on "terror." They are neither factual, logical, nor reasonable. Last year’s terrorist is this year’s statesman, peacemaker and governing bureaucrat.

Thus, I look at the election of Hamas simply as a fact, as a logical outcome of regional interference in the affairs of others. A certain populist cry resonates, and finds its stage. And why not?

The Palestinian elections — conducted by a country contained, dominated, emasculated and manipulated by her neighbors and other outsiders — are a point of light. There is a certain well-deserved pride to be taken in holding an election, peaceably and fairly, and refusing to elect the candidate or party the United States has backed. Much of Iraq knows this kind of political independence, and bless them for it.

We Americans ought to leave people and countries as they wish, and take care of our own affairs first and last. Thomas Jefferson’s voice of modernity applies, "Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be [America’s] motto."

Having said that, I have a bit of advice for Hamas.

Defenders and critics of the Hamas electoral success alike point to another experience with terrorism, violence, violent political parties, and healing. As in Palestine, there was once another place Americans cared about with a Palestinian-style heritage of bad blood, religious rage, and political strife. A small, dangerous place rife with external governmental interference and plenty of old know-it-alls promising it would never end. The troubles were genetic, endemic, infinite. Evil was at work, and it had to be stopped.

We hear little about these troubles today, and while theories abound to explain why they ended in Northern Ireland, I think the one least talked about is actually the most important. In this, the Irish evolution provides a way ahead for Palestine.

What happened to Ireland? I surely don’t know, and as an American, whatever I think I know about some other country’s history and political condition is probably way off base. But I do know this. The current Heritage Economic Freedom Index places Ireland number three in the world. Ireland has scored 1.99 or less every year since 1998, and scored 2.19, 2.19, and 2.2 in the three years preceding 1998. Scoring below "1.99" is Heritage-speak for systemic economic freedom!

How did Ireland do it? Well, they dropped barriers to investment and they tried to keep government out of the way. Government consumption is at 34.3% of GDP, and more impressively, the top corporate tax rate is 12.5%. Ireland also has developed excellent protection of private property rights. The Irish approach has changed that country from a political and economical basket case into a place of not only freedom, but production, growth, and low unemployment (4.2% last year). How indeed did Ireland do it? Hamas leadership should definitely take a moment and read this 2003 article by James B. Burnham published by the Independent Institute.

Exhausted, berated, poor and frustrated Palestinians and their current leadership should take special note of Burnham’s conclusion in his explanation of the Irish turnaround. Burnham writes, "The lessons learned may have particular relevance for smaller countries and for regions within larger ones, where the dependence on u2018external markets’ is extremely high and monetary policy in large part is determined elsewhere."

Interestingly, nowhere in the discussion of the Irish economic turnaround are the words "violence" or "terror" found. Like light flowing into a dark room, these angry aspects of the human condition are displaced — sometimes by things as simple and mundane as productive employment and hope for the future.

Of course, the Irish economic experiment — freedom — has a price. The EU feels that Ireland doesn’t play fair, and behaves incredibly spitefully towards her. But the Irish, like the Palestinians, ought to be used to that kind of treatment from the neighbors by now.

Thus, I congratulate Hamas, and the Palestinian people. My impression is that Palestinians are tough, independent, remarkably religiously diverse, and ready for change.

A Psalm from the Old Testament says "Seek peace and pursue it." Allow me to humbly put in a kind word for economic freedom as well.