Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Liberalism in Arabic

I have quoted before the UN Arab Human Development Report regarding its figures for translations done into Arabic. To wit, fewer translations in a year than Greece with its 11 million people; 10,000 translation over a millenium - the same number as into Spansih in one year. Jonathan Rauch quotes them too in this article, but only as context to a wonderful figure of a man. A man who

somewhere in Baghdad ... is working in secrecy to edit new Arabic versions of Liberalism, by the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, and In Defense of Global Capitalism, by the Swedish economist Johan Norberg. He is doing this at some risk of kidnap, beating, and death, because he hopes that a new Arabic-language Web site, called -- in Arabic -- can change the world by publishing liberal classics.
The man cannot be named for fear of the consequences. Here is a list of some of the authors he is putting into Arabic, including the two above.
Frederic Bastiat (The Law); Mises, Norberg, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Voltaire, David Hume, F.A. Hayek.
I am ashamed to say that I have never read them. Not only that, but apart from the British and Voltaire, I've never even heard of them. Yet it is just these thinkers who have been shown to be right again and again in the last 200 years or so. Why, at university, was I encouraged to read Marx, Trotsky, and Foucault and sundry French wankers, and not these? Why must I rely on blogs (in this case RC2) to learn what it is that has built this civilisation? Why wasn't I told?

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