The Moorish Wanderer

The Radical Manifesto

Posted in The Open Society Project, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on March 22, 2011

Political organizations (political parties, trade-unions and the monarchy alike) have focused too long on political symbolism rather than policy agenda. This is partly true because the political institutions in Morocco have not got past the ambiguous distribution of powers, or the perpetual re-assuring rituals that confirm the supremacy of one institution over the others. Very few put together ideas of actually improving public welfare. And if they did so, it has been done so a long time ago, and these policies need to be either profoundly reviewed, or simply cast aside.

I. Political distribution of power: We cannot go on like this. It is a blatant contradiction with basic democratic proceedings to have a monarchy that concentrates all kinds of legitimacy. As it is, hegemonic political power stifles dissent not by repression, but by denying any conceivable mechanism that would allow this opposition to accede to power. As Mohamed Sassi put it most elegantly, the only viable compromise between a hereditary monarchy and a real democracy is a parliamentary kingdom.

I understand there are (few, but they exist nonetheless) Moroccans that would prefer a Republican instead of Monarchical regime. Such political opinion in a genuine democracy not only has to be respected (and as such, any piece of legislation that outlaws it should be aborted) but constitutional proceedings have to recognize it as a potential outcome.

There was an earlier discussion on why I would oppose the scheduled new constitution. The primary criticism, i.e. the appointment process, can be addressed by introducing a constitutional protocol that describes precisely why and how major constitutional amendment can be set. Obviously, the ultimate source of legitimacy resides within the people of Morocco (as Article 2 of the present constitution theoretically recognizes) and they should be the ones asked to put forward their representatives to meet, debate and then –only then- agree on the ‘national consensus’ that would be the underlying spirit of any major constitutional amendment.

We need to accept that idea of a Constitutional Convention is not a Pandora box. Under conditions of diversity, convention representatives are all set on an equal footing: political parties, unions, human rights charities, civil society, representatives of civil service (including the military and security apparatus), Islamic scholars, intellectuals and academics. There is no need to be coy, or cautious, or even sceptic on the outcome of such a motley convention: “Loin de m’appauvrir ta différence m’enrichit” as St Exupéry once stated. The process of constitutional reform or change does need a national census, to be sure, but a consensus that is freely discussed and in perpetually put to the question in a never-ending debate. If anything, the worn-out view that we should stick to the ‘consensus’ (broadly speaking, an imposed taboo on he Sahara, Religion and the Monarchy) is the main roadblock to the kind of change Feb20th or anyone angling for a new start are calling for. Dissent does not destroy democracy, and it strengthens it further if present opposition has a potential to become future government.

II. The Social project: the Open Society; Living in a strict Islamic society is a nightmare for non-Muslims. Living in an open society is merely an annoyance for the true believer. Political diversity calls necessarily for social diversity too. The Umma myth has long since crumbled (with the Pan-Arabism Nasserism, as well as the Islamic Internationale. The Moroccan nations (the plural is not a typo, believe me) do have a strong Islamic identity, but this has turned more into a set of rituals (that merged Islamic beliefs and ancient pageantry the Arab conquerors failed to weed out and had to live with).

Harry Popper and The Open Society

Image by bowbrick via Flickr

The open society is indeed a complex thing to define. It is however easier to define what it can avert: it prevents difference to be interpreted as dissent. It allows understanding in order to avoid fear. It prevents the “One Nation” rhetoric from turning into a moral dictatorship. Even though the professed collective set of values or norms does not allow for, shall we say un-Islamic behaviour, diversity (the very essence of an open society) does not allow for individuals, or any institution to stifle other individuals (or other institutions) that do not fall into that collective value/norm.

Individual and Collective freedoms are paramount to whatever majority belief, especially to that fallacious argument of Social Cohesion. Perceived deviant behaviour cannot be eternally repressed: prostitution, drug consumption, alcohol consumption and homosexuality are as ancient deviant practises as more approved patterns of behaviours. State apparatus is much more efficient when it is not tasked with morality enforcing (like Death Penalty). The Radical side needs its ‘Great Society’ project: “The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all” bit. On social issues, that means a breakaway from tribal solidarity and submission to the common norms, the emancipation of individuals from the very fetters that stifle their humanity.

III. Economic renewal: Economists in Morocco (those with serious understanding of economics, that is) do their best to disabuse the public: Morocco has slipped into a rent-seeking economy. Its structure does not seek change and renewal. From top to bottom, the trend is in favour of ‘safe endowment’: public service for the unemployed, private monopolies and unproductive investment for the well-off. Numbers are not in favour of Moroccan economics: though we are sustaining good levels of economic growth, benefits of expansion are still concentrated among a core of few privileged (some 10% most affluent that capture 40% of Morocco’s disposable income)

Scheduled state intervention may not be construed as symptomatic illustration of ‘Tax and Spend’ stereotype. It can be easily proved that public finances are under funded (meaning, that new sources of receipts have not been considered yet). Consumption taxes, food and commodity subsidies and Income taxes are not commensurably shared by the community, and as such, profit largely to the more affluent. For all the changes and reforms that need to be introduced, as well as the forward-looking investments that are needed to push our potential further, state finances (expenses and receipts alike) are to be radically altered: out of MAD 219 Billion, only 12.5% is devoted to Public investment, and double this amount (24,8%) goes to pay wages. In addition, real executive power bypasses ministries and departments, which creates an addition burden on the taxpayer. And yet, there is a need to double the budget for reforms and projects public authorities need to undertake: there is a need for funding downsizing and improving the civil service recruitment, provision for legislation and coercive actions against private monopolies (the proposal of temporary nationalization of SNI-ONA and its subsidiaries for instance) and the implementation of social investments such as the introduction of the universal benefits program.

These expenses are necessary to improve our exports (which destroy value rather than create it) and our terms of trade. We also need these undertakings to catch up a long-lost 1 point GDP growth over the last 20 years (which would have placed our GDP per Capita on par with that of Tunisia’s) And finally, these investments are more than needed to expand our GDP potential and move from a catching-up process to a productive and innovative venture.

[More to come on that open society bit. The idea of a Moroccan diverse society and consciously admitting so might bring some benefits]

12 Responses

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  1. fawzi said, on March 22, 2011 at 18:13

    Never pegged you for someone familiar with Popper’s work. You never fail to surprise.

    I reread your 2nd post here, and I can only applaud how far “we” have come in making the reform agenda mainstream.

    With regards to the “Islamic identity”, I suggest that you read the following paper.

    P.S: You claim that anyone with a “serious understanding of economics” would arrive to the same conclusions you do, but that’s far from the truth. Economics is NOT science. It’s a social science. Face it!

    • The Moorish Wanderer said, on March 22, 2011 at 18:23


      Sorry your comment was withheld (because of the 2 weblinks you put, Akismet has an automatic rule) it’s funny you brought up that old post, it reminds me how isolated the pro-reform were 😀
      Economics is a social science, there is no doubt about it. However, those advocating the ‘Grand Designs’ like Les Grandes Chantiers and such like fail to put up a coherent economic argument. But other than that, issues of scientific methodology should not be underestimated (look, I don’t claim to make econ an exact science you know…)

      thank !

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  7. mouka said, on March 23, 2011 at 08:31

    An open society does not necessarily have to give up its values. Just look at the Japanese society. It is very conservative, yet it allows for differences to exist and even thrive. So we can definitely consider it an open society.
    What is happening to the Moroccan economy has always puzzled me. Real estate speculations run amok, rent-seeking that is just as crazy as the real estate speculations, just consider these high-ranking official with fishing and transportation licenses rights, even those simple individuals with “grima” (agrement). It has become endemic in the Moroccan economy.
    Add to it the monopolies the monarchy has over some basic commodities, i.e. milk, cooking oil, etc, and you get a very grim economical picture.
    As Fawzi has rightfully pointed in his response to your post, economics is not a precise science, but it follows some general principles. One of those principles states clearly that an economy cannot flourish unless the right policies (politics) are in place, and that a judicial system is implemented to protect properties and individuals. Both of these are obviously missing completely in Morocco.
    We need profound changes in the policies, politics, and judiciary systems if we want to see a more equitable distribution of the wealth being generated by the Moroccan economy.
    I don’t deny that things are slowly improving, but they are not improving fast enough to keep up with the huge influxes of new comers to the job market.
    I have always been convinced that societies need to implement the right policies to allow their citizens to thrive. It’s a matter of the system in place rather than anything else.
    Just look at the US system, it doesn’t matter who is at the helm of the country, I am thinking about Reagan and Bush, and yet, the economy still fires on all four. Put a competent, and decent, person at the helm, and you get amazing results. It is the system in place, not the people that matter most.

    • fawzi said, on March 23, 2011 at 10:41

      Excuse my intrusion, but today’s Japanese society has values which are almost diametrically opposed to the values it held in the 19th century. Indeed, beginning around the 19th century, the Japanese elite pushed for the adoption of the values of the Enlightenment, knowing it was the only way to move forward. The ultimate blow to the Japanese values came after the second world war, when state Shinto was shattered. I lived in Japan for 6 years, and I spent most of my time there learning about the country’s history and culture.

      Shinto and Islam are pretty much the same story. Both aspire to control people and dominate the world.

      Besides, it doesn’t matter that the Japanese (or American!) society is conservative. What matters is that the state guarantees certain rights, chief among them is free speech.

      • mouka said, on March 23, 2011 at 15:36

        Exactly my point. The separation of powers is one of the pillars of a free, democratic, and generally, thriving society.
        Another important criteria for a thriving society is the separation of religion and state. This allows for personal freedoms. Freedom breeds creativity. Closed societies, like Morocco, stifle creativity, promote abuse, and downright encourage abuse.
        I remember my teachers beating us crazy, for any mistake we make. Our parents would never believe us, they were programmed, mostly through religious beliefs, to trust authority, never question it. Think about how we were raised “7esham, hadak bak, 7etaremou”. even if our parents were wrong, we were taught, indoctrinated might be a better term, to never question their judgment. And so it goes. It is an entire system that is at fault. The King is, in the makhzen’s own words, our father, and we can never question his decisions. He is “sacred”.
        This system is fraught with abuses, with incompetence, with all sorts of injustices. Our society is not healthy. We need some profound psychological changes before we can achieve our true potential.
        As for our economy, as well as our governance system, it is what it is because it cannot be otherwise. Montesquieu has rightfully said once “Chaque peuple a le gouvrnement qu’il merite”.
        Once literacy, in the true sense of the term, not just learning to write and read, but to become knowledgeable, has exceeded 50%, we will start questioning everything. Including the way we are governed, and the way the state is run.
        The foreign investors are plundering Morocco, period. They also get ripped off, because the judicial system is so messed up, that investors cannot recover their investments if they are subject to spoliation.
        Look at Marrakech for example, the rent-seeking economy, as practiced by Europeans, is killing the local hotel industry. And the government is sitting and watching.
        Morocco has become a sort of Florida state for the Europeans. Moroccans provide services, and no other types of investments are being considered. So much so, that the only logical explanation for these useless marinas, and the high speed trains, the so called “injazat” are nothing more but futile attempts, by an incompetent government, with the king at its head, to cater to Europeans. Where are the REAL investments? Where are the long term efforts to better educate and equip Moroccans of tomorrow? There is NOTHING of the sort. Just a desert landscape, and useless attempts by the makhzen to push the economy forward.
        Everything is stifled, because only ONE person gets to decide what gets done and when.
        The system is completely corrupt and incompetent. There is no fertile ground for new ideas and new initiatives. The economy is under lock and key.

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  9. […] The Radical Manifesto […]

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