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The Land of the Free

By Matthew Yglesias  

"The Land of the Free"

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Jeff Madrick published a book a bit over a year ago called The Case for Big Government which notes that “there really is no example of small government among rich nations.” Donna Wiesner Keese, from the conservative anti-feminist organization The Independent Women’s Forum, deemed this “unsupported nonsense. Think Dubai, free and rich.” At the time some of us thought it was strange to call an absolute monarchy “free” irrespective of its tax rates.

I thought of that incident when I read this anecdote from Shadi Hamid:

A friend just told me that his flatmate, a British citizen named Ayman Najafi, is facing a month in jail and deportation for allegedly kissing someone in a Dubai restaurant. I met Ayman a couple months ago in Dubai and we hung out a bit. It’s weird to find out that someone you know is being tried – and going through an undoubtedly difficult personal ordeal – for what he has told the court was nothing more than a peck on the cheek. This is more than a bit frightening: most American expats living in the Gulf, myself included, kiss on the cheek as a customary greeting with members of the opposite sex. Even that, now, can be grounds for arrest.

It’s not the greatest human rights violation in the history of the world, but certainly a potent reminder that taxes and government regulation of the health insurance industry aren’t the most serious threats to liberty on the planet. Meanwhile, Dubai’s prosperity is looking pretty illusory these days.

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