Thursday, February 12, 2004

It's interesting how people in newly liberated societies -- Iraq now or Eastern Europe in the early 90's -- tend to place economic well-being above fundamental freedoms. The following is from an Iraq correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, interviewing a bookseller on a busy Baghdad street (link via Daniel Drezner):

"Freedom is good and not good," Nowfal grumbled, hunching his shoulders against a cold wind. "The good thing is that now you can express yourself. You can read whatever you want. But the bad thing is competition. There are a lot more bookstores, a lot more people selling books, and prices have gone down."

A few other veteran booksellers shared his dismay, recalling the days during Saddam Hussein's regime when they got high prices for forbidden books about politics or Shiite Islamic topics.

"Now you have bad people," complained Hussan al Fadhli, a seller of maps, among them a large, colorful 1990 chart that showed Kuwait as an Iraqi province. Bad people, he explained with a scowl, are merchants who do not respect each other and offer price cuts to customers....


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