Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Letter to the Editor: On the Question of the Compatibility of Islam with the West

To the Editor:

I hear it often said by conservatives, Trumpistas, and even some Libertarians, that Islam is incompatible with "Western values."   I even read and hear arguments that Islam and laissez faire cannot coexist.  I specifically recall
the former CEO of Overstock - a rather lightweight libertarian - claim this at a Mises event.  So I thought I would point out a couple of interesting things I've learned from spending many years living in the Middle East, specifically on the two countries I spent the most time in, Qatar and the UAE.  In light of the inability of most readers to compartmentalize, I want to point out in advance that nothing I am about to say indicates that either of these countries is a libertarian paradise. I am going to point out, however, that in some ways important to libertarians, these countries would score much higher than the USA.  And this would be in spite of a large migrant population of people from poor Muslim nations.

The tax burden in Qatar and UAE is practically non-existent.  Both rank in the 99th percentile in the Heritage Foundation's 2018 index of least onerous tax burdens.  During my time there, the individual income tax was zero and the corporate tax rate ranged from 3-10%.  This may be higher now, I don't regularly check.  From a business perspective, freedom of association was strongly supported by policy.  In both countries, the percentage of foreign workers to the overall population was extremely high.  Foreign workers come to these countries on work visas, and should they protest the conditions they are free to leave.  Most importantly, businesses were free to pull sponsorship of their visas.  In other words, freedom of association was freedom for both the employer and the employee, something that is difficult to find in America.  Now, one can make many naive arguments about those downtrodden workers being exploited.  Debating that economic illiteracy is another discussion for another post.  The fact remains that millions of foreign workers seek better wages in these countries every year.

And in spite of these foreign hordes.... these millions of muslim immigrants from poor nations.... these immigrants who don't have any support of love of economic freedom..... Qatar and the UAE have managed to maintain some very important pro-economic freedom policies and overall economic freedom (UAE ranks higher than USA, for example, on the EFI).

So, if Islam is incompatible with the West, and specifically with laissez faire.... And if large groups of Mulsim immigrants would mean the end of whatever it is the West supposedly stands for...  Why have the UAE and Qatar been able to accept so many of these workers into their countries and yet have remained so pro-business and pro economic freedom?


David B
Virginia Beach


  1. Letters to the Editor like this are the reason to bring back CURATED commentary.

    What a fantastic letter. The UAE had several underground bars a few years ago, with a mix of locals and tourists, with many openly gay patrons. There is no way the neighbors didn’t know about them. Fundamentalism is the problem, not the culture/religion in and of itself.

  2. Capitalism and laissez faire are not the totality, or even close to the essence of, Western values. Such is the idiocy of those who prioritize the "right" to cheap imports above all else.

    1. Re: Shimshon,

      --- Capitalism and laissez faire are not the totality, or even close to the essence of, Western values. ---

      Nobody said they were.

      And what is wrong with prioritizing cheap imports over anything else? If you want to make a moral argument, then make the argument and define what you mean by "everything else", don't just leave the assertion out there as if it's a self-evident truth.

    2. I have no idea what Shimshon's comment is supposed to even mean or what the point is, other than to lash out at being intellectually challenged.

      In exchange, a person has a right to prioritize whatever they want so long as they don't initiate force or violence against others. If that means some people prioritize "cheap imported goods", that's fine. Good for them. Why is that Shimshon's business? And what does that have to do with the article?

      David B
      Virginia Beach