Cato and Palmer in Iraq:
I am old enough to remember when a very young Tom Palmer used to travel behind the Iron Curtain on behalf of the Cato Institute to plant seeds of liberty in the Eastern block countries. Since the fall of Saddam, he has been doing the same thing under even more dangerous conditions in Iraq, making several trips there with his own personal set of body armor. This story from the National Journal reports on some of the fruits that have grown from those seeds, and explains why Tom is one of my heros.
Last April, Palmer returned to Iraq to give talks on constitutional and free-market principles. At one such talk he met Kamil. Returning to Washington, Palmer connected with other liberal Arabs and, with their help, began commissioning translations: of Bastiat, Mises, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Voltaire, David Hume, F.A. Hayek, and such influential contemporary writers as Mario Vargas Llosa and Hernando de Soto. Most of this stuff has either been unavailable in Arabic or available spottily, intermittently, and in poor translations.

In January, made its Internet debut. Today it hosts about 40 texts; Palmer aims for more like 400, including a shelf of books. (It currently offers an abridged edition of Hayek's Road to Serfdom and Bastiat's The Law. The Norberg book is coming soon.) Sponsored by the Cato Institute, it joins a small but growing assortment of Arabic-language blogs and Web sites promulgating liberal ideas.

"The Internet is a historical opportunity for Arab liberalism," Pierre Akel, the Lebanese host of one such site,, said in a recent interview with Reason magazine. "In the Arab world, much more than in the West, we can genuinely talk of a blog revolution." The Internet provides Arab liberals with the platform and anonymity that they need; helpfully, Arabic-language blogware, developed by liberal bloggers, recently came online for free downloading. During the recent controversy over a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, an Egyptian blog,, made a splash by pointing out that no one had protested when the same cartoons had previously been published on the front page of an Egyptian newspaper — and by calling, sardonically, for a Muslim boycott of Egypt. (The site boasts a "Buy Danish" sticker.)
When Tom was making his trips to Eastern Europe, and IHS was bringing students from there to the U.S. for its summer seminars at which I taught, the situation in Europe and the USSR seemed far more hopeless than does our present position in Iraq. Let us hope for at least as successful an outcome.

Update: I closed comments after they took a nasty turn (NOT about Tom), especially given that I won't be able to monitor them consistently over the next day or so.

Fishbane (mail):
Tom Palmer is truly an amazing man. I don't have anything else; other than interacting with him on his blog a few times, I don't know him. I do admire him greatly, though.
3.3.2006 8:07pm
Nikos A. Leverenz (mail) (www):
How I regret not having the privilege of lessons from Prof. Barnett when I was a Koch Fellow in 1997.

I do have a good recollection of Mr. Palmer, however. What an amazing effort he is spearheading in the region selected for the latest supraconsitutional attempt at nation building. Hopefully appropriately incendiary materials are making its way to Middle Eastern women, too.

Cato should also translate Bastiat, Hayek, et al. into the mother tongue of that tribe known as "neocon," but it is probably too late... much too late.

The libertarian canon should also be marketed to those Americans who style themselves as "liberals" and "progressives." There are some hearts and minds to be won on that front, too.
3.3.2006 8:29pm