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Egypt: Flip Flop Economics to Debate the Presidential Elections

Egyptians go to the polls in May to election their new president, after 32 years of Hosni Mubarak's rule. Preparations for the big event are in full swing as potential candidates are filing their candidacy nominations, meeting voters in different governorates and mapping out their agendas to the media.

Khaled Aly is one of those potential candidates, and despite that fact that he isn't well-known among the majority of the Egyptians, he has the backing of many leftists and it is said that his strength in the elections will be the votes of the workers.

Egyptian blogger and economics expert, Mohamed El-Dahshan (@eldahshan), wrote a post [ar] welcoming Aly to the presidential elections race, but also decided to give him some advice and criticize his campaign so far in the process.

El-Dahshan writes [ar]:

رئيس الجمهورية ليس ناشطاَ عماليا فقط.
بالتالي لا يمكن أن تكون حقوق العمال هي المحور الأساسي لحواراتك الإعلامية، حتى لو كان ذلك هو موضع قوتك و خبرتك. من المهم كذلك على مساعديك و فريقك الإعلامي … أن يؤكد على ذلك مع معدي البرامج التي تستضيفك.
A president is not just a labour activist.
So, the rights of the workers cannot be the main point for all your interviews, even if this is your point of strength and what you have experience in the most. It's also important that your team stresses on this with the producers of the TV programmes that host you.

El-Dahshan added that workers rights should not contradict with those of business owners, and that Aly's focus on those rights should not prevent him from finding ways to encourage the private sector to elect him as well. The post generated a debate on Twitter, where netizens argued for and against some of the points raised by the blogger.

Tamer Mowafy (@kalimakhus) replied to El-Dahshan telling him that there is contradiction between workers rights and business owners rights most of the time [ar]:

@kalimakhus: @eldahshan حقوق العمال لا تتعارض مع حقوق أصحاب العمل؟؟ .. شيل حقوق و حط مصالح تبقى عبارتك أكيد خاطئة تماما

@kalimakhus: @eldahshan Workers rights don't contradict with business owners rights?? Replace rights with interests and your statement won't be valid any more.

Mowafy continues:

@kalimakhus: @eldahshan يعنى بدون أى تفاصيل معقدة كل حق من حقوق العمال هو إضافة لتكاليف الإنتاج يعنى إنخفاض للأرباح و إلا ماكانوش بيدوهالهم ليه يعنى؟

@kalimakhus: @eldahshan Without getting into complicated details, each of the workers rights means extra expenses in production, i.e. lower profits. Or else, why aren't they given their rights in the first place then?

They then debated whether the increase of profit for a business means better salaries for workers, or whether more profit means lower salaries. El-Dahshan argues that if a company makes more money it will be able to pay more for its workers.

While Mowafy replied that higher productivity and profit come only from longer working hours which mean a lower value for the workers working time.

@kalimakhus: @eldahshan زيادة الإنتاج لو لم يكن نتيجة لتطوير الآلات أو تكنولوجيا الإنتاج يبقى نتيجة زيادة ساعات العمل أو تكثيف طاقة العمل

@kalimakhus: @eldahshan Productivity, if not acquired from more developed means of production, then it comes from more working hours and more intensive effort.

Libraliyya intervened saying not everything has to be a zero sum, and if one sides wins the other has to loose.

The three of them debated the meaning of exploitation, and when it's to be called exploitation, and when should we call it supply and demand. So, Mowafy tweeted an example to clarify his point of view.

@kalimakhus: @Libraliyya @eldahshan هو أنا لو بعت لك شبشب بألف جنيه لأن جزمتك إتسرقت من قدام الجامع مش أبقى إستغليتك رغم إنى مش انا اللى سرقتك؟

@kalimakhus: @Libraliyya @eldahshan Take that case if your shoes got stolen from in front of a mosque, and I decided to sell you a flip-flop then for 1000 pounds, won't this be exploitation, even if I am not the one who stole you in the first place?

@Libraliyya: @kalimakhus @eldahshan حلو. خلينا في المثال دا. لو دا الشبشب الوحيد، يبقى مورد نادر و عليه طلب من الكثيرين. صحبه يديه لمين و على اي اساس؟

@Libraliyya: @kalimakhus @eldahshan Good, based on your example, it means that this is the only flip-flop available, i.e. scarce resources with big demand on it, so based on what criterion its owner should chose who to give it to?

They continued to discuss on what criteria scarce resources should be sold to bigger demand without exploiting those who need it. And Mowafy disagreed that the one in need of something the most, is the one ready to pay more.

@kalimakhus: @Libraliyya @eldahshan ياخده الأكثر إحتياجا له وفق أى معيار موضوعى .. لو تساووا فى كل المعاير نعمل قرعة :P

@kalimakhus: @Libraliyya @eldahshan The one who needs it the most according to an objective criterion … if not, we toss a coin :P

@Libraliyya: @kalimakhus @eldahshan (١)ايه هوالمعيارالموضوعي دا؟(٢)ولوكل حاجة بقت قرعةهل دانظام نقدر نبني بيه مجتمع حتى لوقدراتك تسمحلك بالاحسن من الحظ؟

@Libraliyya: @kalimakhus @eldahshan What is that objective criterion then? And is tossing a coin the best we can do, even if we have better ways to decide.

Like most of the debates between people of different ideologies on Twitter, they ended the debate after a while with a promise to have more debates in the future.

@Libraliyya: @kalimakhus @eldahshan عموما حوار رائع و مفيد بالرغم من الاعتماد على الشبشب. كفاية بقى لحسن الفولورز بتوعنا يدونا بالشبشب. :)

@Libraliyya: @kalimakhus @eldahshan Anyway, it was a great discussion, despite the fact it was based on a flip-flop. Let's stop it here or followers will kick us with the flip-flop.

Libraliyya created a Storify for their debate here.

  • I, personally, find that that both extreme capitalism and extreme socialism fail (and have already failed). I can see that the answer is in some middle ground between both.

    The point is, it is the strategy that matters. Taking Apple for example. Apple’s strategy is to maximize profits, which means a new product is launched for a high price, enthusiasts adopt it early, then at a certain point the price goes down.

    On the other hand, there are corporations that adopt a different strategy which is to provide the new product to as much people as possible given that the price is affordable.

    The first example (Apple), would prefer sweat shops in 3rd world countries, while the other example would not be focused on that.

    In a nutshell, there is some kind of middle ground between both strategies that business owners’ interests does not have to contradict with workers’ rights.

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