As I experiment with this blog, I’ve been struggling to figure out what if any link there is between the stuff I get paid to write about (business and economics, mostly) and the things I keep posting here about food, soccer, Dutch literature, etc.
Thanks to a loyal reader in Philadelphia, I now see the connection. He forwarded me a link to a story in the Guardian about how my team West Ham United went to Dubai for a training camp last week — and failed to bring along the two Israeli citizens on the team, Yossi Benayoun (pictured at left) and Yaniv Katan, because Israelis aren’t allowed into the United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai is one).
Now I don’t feel bad at all for Benayoun and Katan, who were treated instead to a team-paid vacation in Marbella, which sounds like a lot more fun than sweating on the shores of the Persian Gulf. But it was a reminder that all the talk during the Dubai Ports controversy about Dubai being a bastion of freedom and progressive thinking was maybe a bit exaggerated.
Sure, Dubai is more free and progressive than its neighbor Saudi Arabia. But then, so are many European prisons (although not American ones, of course). Is Dubai a democracy? No. Is speech free there? No. More to the point, would Dubai ever let a foreign company run its port? Probably not, since Dubai is effectively one big corporation itself, with Sheik Mohammed as CEO.
None of this means we need to boycott the place. But maybe the politicians who raised all that hell about a company owned by Dubai’s government taking over operations at several American ports weren’t being completely ridiculous.
It’s one thing to let British or German or Japanese companies buy up big chunks of the U.S. economy — we do the same to theirs. Maybe it’s not so crazy, though, to think twice when those who do the buying don’t play by the same rules back home as we do. Orthodox economic theory says we shouldn’t care, of course: Money’s money. But I say economic theory that isn’t tempered with the occasional West Ham anecdote isn’t worth much.