by Norman G. Kurland, President, Center for Economic and Social Justice
Presented at the Conference on “Alternative Political Structures for Saudi Arabia” Sponsored by the Center on Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia Freedom House, Washington, D.C., February 24, 2005.
While few Americans can fault President Bush’s commitment to freedom and democracy for ending tyranny in the Middle East, is economic plutocracy compatible with political democracy? Can there be a peaceful transformation toward lasting political democracy in Saudi Arabia without a free enterprise version of economic democracy? And can that occur without creating a level playing field in which every Saudi male and female can have an equal opportunity to become an economically independent capital owner,starting with the sharing of ownership, profits and governance of a denationalized Saudi Arabian Oil Company?
If a referendum were held today in Saudi Arabia, would Saudi citizens, if they had to make a choice, choose equal access to the political ballot and political power, or would they choose equal access to wealth-producing assets and economic power? Are there universal principles of justice imbedded in the birth of American democracy and consistent with Islam, Christianity and Judaism that could help guide and expedite a bottom-up process of achieving full democracy and universal human rights for women as well as men? These are the questions that America and its democratic allies have not yet addressed.