The diversity of points that were brought up -from economic to social and political- simply show how broad a definition of 'the modern state' can be. Having studied Economics and Economic History, I would like to contribute a few thoughts on the economic and political aspects of development. After all, isn't a modern state one that has been able to develop organically? (Of course, the relationship between economics and politics can always be seen like that between the chicken and the egg, but I don't want to get into that in this post).
Thinkingman, you referred to the examples of the Asian Tigers: Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore; as well as the new emerging economic forces such as China, Poland, Dubai, etc. I think that it is important to remember that the challenges faced by countries such as South Korea or China were very different from those that the Arab World face. Inparticular, the global geopolitical context has changed. Many countries such as South Korea, Japan and the Philippines saw inflows of US aid at a time when the US were strengthening the front against communism. I suppose now one could transpose this to the Middle East and say that countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia receive aid in exchange for their participation in "the war against terror". Of course, in all development stories there are common economic and political ills like unemployment and corruption, but while the main objective for the governments of the Asian countries was to lift the population out of poverty, the main challenges in the Arab world have become political.
The smaller the state the better?
Many of the countries cited as successes of economic development actually often had strong states. Corruption did not disappear, but it was targeted; for instance in South Korea alliances were forged between the State and the large business conglomerates known as chaebols. What lacks in our region is a visionary plan. Some may argue Hariri may have been such a visionary. But there is no single recipe. Taiwan's economy, for example, was much more based on small family businesses, which paved the way for the emergence of property rights and political representation.
As Hummbumm mentioned, Lebanon already has a developed banking system, and property rights (although are they always enforced?). Yet I have to disagree: I do not think that limiting the size of government on the assumption that it will be corrupt is the right way to go.
lebanon in the 1950-60s did alright, one of the reasons being a limited government, which led to manageable corruption as govt was a small part of GDP, very little debt, no foreign debt etc... But basically the same political leadership who enjoyed their perks but apart from destroying INTRA bank did not affect the economy too much one way or another. (Hummbumm)
Well, Lebanon did do well economically in the 50s and 60s. The state did not intervene much in economic affairs, yet corruption was still there. However the liberal economic model adopted created important weaknesses in the system which were to resonate significantly in the next few decades(much economic concentration occured, great imbalances emerged between Beirut and the rest of the country). Some academics even believe economic inequality widened substantially, exacerbating internal tensions that lead to the civil war. This view certainly downsizes the importance of external shocks and political factors, yet it raises the question of the sustainability of the economic model adopted in the 1950s.
It's education stupid!
if i was to pinpoint what i think is THE most important thing to change for the Arab world to function better, i would say education: (Mustapha)
Education has been identified as a key aspect of development in the last few decades. This shift from the macro perspective of states and markets, to the micro perspective of human development is illustrated by examples such as Sri Lanka and South Korea. Even for those countries which can grow by being the 'factories'of the world (such as China), it is no longer sufficient to have a cheap, unskilled labour force. Recent history has given us more than enough proof of what can happen when the gullible minds of ignorant people are manipulated. Of course, as Raja mentionned, it is not enough to provide education. States and markets should also create the opportunities for the educated to put to use their knowledge and creativity. But education is a double edged sword. The more educated the people, the more potential the country contains, but the weaker the grip of the state. Which brings me to my last point...
Lessons from Schiller
I went to see a play yesterday: Don Carlos, by the German 18th century playright, Schiller. It takes place at the 16th century Spanish court, when Spain's empire was caught in the stranglehold of the Spanish Inquisition. In the play, the larger themes of freedom of conscience and of expression, and the dignity of the individual, clash with the unforgiving and conservative forces of repression. Schiller actually wrote his 16th-century tragedy to challenge the political absolutism of the 18th century. The ideals of the Enlightenment taken up in the play also appealed to early-20th century German audiences who opposed the regime of the Third Reich. Although the global context and the nature of the repressive forces have changed, the struggle against unquestioning power today can still find echos in Schiller's protagonnists.
Domingo to Alba (both self-interested courtiers):
Elizabeth and Carlos were cast in the same mould-
Reformers, innovators, both over-full of zeal.
They have contracted the same terrible disease: Humanity
And Humanity, you know, is very contagious. (Act II, Scene 9)