This month Anthony de Jasay reflects upon the implications of admitting Turkey to the European Union. A problem which distinguishes Turkey from the newly admitted ex-communist states of Eastern Europe is Turkey's historical failure to develop an independent landowning class. Jasay argues that by missing the economic stage of "feudalism" which characterized European history Turkey never developed a landed nobility and aristocracy and progressed straight to a highly centralised absolute monarchy. The result was a long tradition of endemic corruption, military interference in politics, and state direction of the economy which persists to this day. In most of the other European states it was this land-owning, "middle class" which demanded and often won an independent and protected sphere of action vis-à-vis the monarchy and the military. It was upon this economic base that constitutionalism, the rule of law, and economic freedom flourished. Furthermore, it is this factor which historians like E.L. Jones believe helps explain why economic freedom developed first in Europe and not elsewhere such as "Araby".
Jasay also touches here on issues with which he deals at greater length in his books: the economics of corruption and the problems democracies face in moving away from a politically controlled economy. To cure the latter, Jasay argues that reforming societies like Turkey need to take the "bitter medicine of freedom" in quite large doses and wonders whether it will be possible in this case.
The following websites provide economic information about Turkey and other states which would like to be granted admission to the EU:
- European Parliament - http://www.europarl.eu.int/
- European Central Bank - http://www.ecb.int/
- European Union - http://www.eurunion.org/profile/facts.htm
Anthony de Jasay, Justice and Its Surroundings (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
Anthony de Jasay, The State (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998).
E.L. Jones, "Islam and the Ottoman Empire" in The European Miracle: Environments, Economies, and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia (Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 175-191.
Tom Bethel, "Property in Araby" in The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity through the Ages (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998), pp. 225-42.
David M. Hart
is Director of the Online Library of Liberty Project.
For more articles by David M. Hart, see the Archive.