The Moorish Wanderer

Milestone 100. Random thoughts & Others

Posted in Flash News, Morocco, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on December 22, 2010

Or so it was. 100th post -after I’d scrapped some I deemed to shameful to display- and blank screen to go, if not a desperate yearn to put together 2 ideas. I do have some drafts on economics, which I neglected a bit, but these are not enough. Although I can aver that I am going pretty well on my thesis.

So, what’s to talk about? random thoughts indeed, which should certainly not degenerate into desultory soliloquies of a fitful madman. Perhaps Wikileaks. I did not discuss the stuff, and I certainly am not going to do so -in depth I mean- in this post. Perhaps I could venture some thoughts on the matter. Wikileaks is very embarrassing. Not only to the US -they will get over it eventually, but damage has been done- but to one of the perks modern states enjoyed throughout the ages, i.e. secrecy, is about to disappear. Leaks are not a new phenomenon in the Western hemisphere: There was an earlier occurrence when the Lyndon administration had the unfortunate honour to deal once with mass-scale leaks during the Vietnam War -what came to be dubbed as ‘the Pentagon Papers‘-  and in 1971, beans were being spilled about how the war was conducted, contrary to official claims. It did contribute to the downfall of Lyndon Johnson. Of course, these leaks were massive because a document was compiled, and then put into the public domain. Wikileaks, on the other hand, benefited from new technologies, and was initially focused on ‘War Logs’ of Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.

Secrecy goes with one of the modern state features: bureaucracy, with its specific and specified rules of process, extensive description of procedures and the like, is a quasi-institution that inevitably produces mass amounts of written documentation, some of which is deemed not to be made public. It could be motivated by the claim that it could hurt someone’s career, or reveal sensitive information damaging the national security, stability, institutions… the argument is contingent on how open the political master is about information. ‘Top Secret’ is the word. In that case, the bureaucracy produces its own rules protecting its individuals, or rather, the positions, a protection that is justified to the extent that the edifice need wholesome credibility. However, evidence and literature did underline the human aspect to it: Michel Crozier did point out, through the example of French civil service, that bureaucracies tend to create their own rules, and when consciously so, try to protect themselves from outside inquiries.

This, however, changed a bit. Partly due to the rise of libertarianism to prominent political thinking, and an increasing suspicion towards large bureaucracies and the State more generally. The Official Secrets Act gave way to the Freedom of Information Act, and secret agencies are required to disclose documents after a certain amount of time. Group pressure and individual citizens in the post-industrialized world are increasingly holding governments to account, a trend that is likely to be observed in the newly democratic countries in other parts of the world. Wikileaks, is therefore just “fast-tracking” these documents and quite frankly, they would not threaten much interests, save perhaps for some US officials to be roughed-up for their blunt style in diplomatic cables. On the other hand, it would be good to read some confidential memos from Morocco, least of which on the true nature of agreements with France after 1956, or perhaps what happened exactly to Ben Barka in 1965.

I did not grasp fully the implications of the Sahara issue: media in Morocco are still drumming up domestic support for the cause, as I watch on television the Foreign Affairs minister congratulate himself on negotiations about which we know very little, and about which the Moroccan people have very little if anything, to say in it. It is either a matter of media manipulation (as a cover-up for something else) or just as a under-the-table kind of deal that would contradict the domestic line on “Moroccan sovereignty or bust”. As far as I am concerned, Spanish and Algerian animosity, if anything, account very little for the current issue. It is a matter of institutional resilience, a deeper problem to address, something the policy makers do not have the incentives, nor the means, nor even the will to tackle. As for the Moroccan people, they have been rendered, well, as they say in Arabic: صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ. C’est pas demain la veille !

I finally got my new ID Card. It took me about 3 months to get it. To my dismay, they mistyped my family name (which is a bit complicated, granted); A Kafkaesque discussion with the local clerk followed:

Me: “My family name is not typed correctly”

Clerk: “Central used the official paper you have put in your application”

Me: “Well, yes… I have the document here, my name is typed like so”

Clerk: “This is not my problem. You’ll have to do the application all over again, or perhaps just the fingertips bit”

Me: “I thought it was electronic; Why do I have to start from square one ?”

Clerk: “I don’t know, please stand aside, let 3ibad Allah yi choufou ch’ghoulhoum”

I did state my belief in civil service, but sometimes, I wonder how the Moroccan service is holding the country together. I always thought I was listed on the DST file -and I have no problem with that, it’s a family tradition, plus it’s their job to keep an eye on troublemakers, even harmless ones such as myself, but if they fail to transfer correctly my name on a computer file, then on the ID card, I have serious doubts on their ability to ensure security and to run effectively national register database. Oh, and that’s the tip of the iceberg: I still have my passport to renew, too… I am a Public Service loving person at heart, but, as far as Morocco is concerned, it’s high time they abolished the cosy rent civil servants are benefiting from, and start whipping them up for the common wealth, and to get value for their salaries.

I was thinking about social engineering as well: the first duty of government -left wing government of course- is to ensure common welfare is maximized, which implies redistribution, and thus making some people less well off, though they redistributed amount does not hurt their wealth to significant extent. This, among other things, can be achieved by means of public policies, the so-called public choice, subject to ideological tendencies: for instance, pro-family governments would for instance grand generous allowances for married woman to quit their job to take care of children, or indeed build kindergartens nearby. Pro-individual officials would on the contrary facilitate non-marital partnerships by passing laws allowing for it, or by introducing fiscal incentives. Econometric studies do show that individuals do respond to incentives of such features. Now, some could argue, and it could be sensible, that authoritarian tendencies lie in these policies. Sure. However, as the British Conservative Party advocated once, “We’re all in this together”; that’s the textbook trade-off that makes civilized societies what they are: individuals abdicate part of their individual freedom in exchange to larger, more secure collective privileges. Public policies, social engineering are just part of this explicit pact.

These policies are necessary to discuss in my opinion. I belong to a group of people that advocate a constitutional reform in Morocco, that would emphasise on human rights and genuine democracy, and these are views I subscribe to. But there is a fine line between romantic idealism and down-to-earth, bread-&-butter policies to put them to practise. Liberals and left-wing radicals did not, or failed to provide precise measures. I mentioned something about legalizing prostitution, on how defence spendings should be allocated among the Armed Forces; I would gladly do research on how to rethink taxation and budget spendings. We need more social engineers, and certainly less human rights activists. Too much time, energy and resources are spent lamenting on the lack of liberties -which is perfectly true- and very little is spent on actually putting forward proposals to achieve greater wealth, greater responsibility and wider freedom margins.

Last thing: Maroc Blogs Awards is closing nominations. Do vote for me, I’d appreciate it. thank you.