Bremer the socialist?

Recently I complained here about the American adminstrators banning elections at state-owned factories in Iraq.

Now E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post suggests that L. Paul Bremer, the chief US official in Iraq, has ditched simplistic free-market dogma in favor of a more pragmatic approach to rebuilding the country’s economy.

Bremer recently wrote in the New York Times that “a method should be found to assure that every citizen benefits from Iraq’s oil wealth.”

And he added, “One possibility would be to pay social benefits from a trust financed by oil revenues. Another could be to pay an annual cash dividend directly to each citizen from that trust.”

Imagine the reaction if someone proposed similar schemes for the USA or the UK.

And now Bremer apparently has concluded that the issue of state ownership may actually be something for the Iraqis themselves to decide: “We have discussed, really, for two weeks running now what to do about the state-owned enterprises and whether to privatize them or not and in what sequence,” he said at a news conference in Baghdad a couple of weeks ago. “And I have to say at the moment I don’t see any consensus view among the Iraqis on this matter, which, again, suggests we need to wait until a responsible group of Iraqis can make their views known to us.” The promise here is that something approaching democratic deliberation might take precedence over economic dogma.

If this is a sign of clearer thinking among US officials, perhaps there are more grounds for optimism than I thought about the fate of postwar Iraq.