The Arab spring and the economic future of the Muslim world


The early Islamic world was the centre of global commerce. The earliest origins of capitalism can be traced, not to the first commercial firms in Holland and England nor to the trading ventures of the northern Italian city-states, but to two Islamic institutions: the joint-stock venture that invested in caravans and the waqf, a form of charitable trust which created a civil space between the government and citizens.

North Africa, like the EU, needs a dose of moderate free-market conservatism. Free-market conservatives believe in personal autonomy, national sovereignty, open markets, free competition, inherited tradition, free competition, sound money, low taxes and parliamentary supremacy. Those principles work wherever they are applied. God knows we need them on both sides of the Mediterranean.