This blog offers no opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict – to make any informed comment on such a complex problem is well beyond
our sphere of competence.
Yet history is made up of details, most of which end up as
no more than footnotes in books, and one
of those details says something about human enterprise, a subject on which we
feel we can comment with a little authority.
The Israelis have blockaded the Palestinian enclave of Gaza,
which is ruled by Hamas, an organisation implicated in attacks on Israel.
As usual in such circumstances, the actions of governments
provide an opportunity for enterprising individuals, so it is no surprise that
smuggling is a growth industry.
Human ingenuity being what it is, many entrepreneurs have
dug tunnels to smuggle in much needed trade goods. Such tunnels have become a
major investment opportunity in their own right, but, because their legal
status is dubious, to put it mildly, there is no real protection for investors
and some have been defrauded. Money has also been stolen from workers.
This story shows the unstoppable power of enterprise. Where
governments try to block it, enterprise will always find a way round – or, in
this case, under – the obstacles. Indeed, the obstacles themselves may become
opportunities. Wherever there is demand, there will be clever and active people
inventing new ways to supply.
Yet, at the same time, this story also illustrates the need
for the rule of law and the enforcement of contracts.
Where people are not allowed to do business legally, they
will do business illegally.
Governments all around the world, who are burdening their own
countries’ businesses with more and more taxation and regulation, should pay
attention. Is Gaza their economic model? If we are not careful we will end up
with a global tunnel economy, with smuggling as the norm, and no protection against
fraud. Although some entrepreneurs might do well in such a free-for-all, most
of us would rather live in an honest world where we can do business openly.