A Libertarian in Saudi Arabia


A lot of people ask me how or why I would be such a fan of Saudi Arabia when I’m such an advocate for liberty and freedom.  Saudi Arabia is not a brand associated with freedom. I ran for US Senate and have been politically active on a platform of libertarian ideals and freedom.  I also have been traveling to Saudi Arabia for many years and have lived and worked there. 

I think about this topic every day.  Here are some thoughts: 

  1. Misconceptions — much of what people think is true of Saudi Arabia just isn’t correct.  There is anti-Saudi propaganda and misinformation that portrays the nation as anti-women and anti human rights. Much of the reasons for this are simply false. There are outright false claims, half truths and a great deal of incorrect info.  So a key first step is to be speaking about accurate facts. 
  2. Islam and peace - Islam is a religion of peace and Saudi Arabia is an Islamic based society.  There are all kinds of human rights, morality and true social justice components of the Quran and Islam which are part of Islam and therefor part of Saudi law and society. For example, people have excellent control of their homes and their privacy. It is very difficult for authorities to gain the right to enter someone’s home or violate a citizens privacy. They have strong property rights and extremely strong parental and family rights. 
  3. Reception & openness — I have shared my libertarian ideals with Saudis for many years, including government and other influential people and the reception is usually very good.  This is especially true of economic freedom - which is one of the most important foundations for all other freedom. 
  4. The trend and direction — Saudi Arabia isn’t perfect, neither is the US or any other country - but it’s very important to look at the trend.  I once met an overweight man who was talking about his diet.  I rolled my eyes to myself and silently judged him. Then I found out he had already lost 300 pounds!  Even though he was still heavy, my opinion of him instantly changed from loser to winner.  It’s key to look at the trend of Saudi Arabia — which is excellent.  In the last 20 years and especially the last five years we’ve seen massive positive change and increased freedom. 
  5. Freedom does not mean abdication of responsibility — I still believe that it is legitimate for government or a government-like entity to protect life, liberty and property.  In the US we see things like rampant open theft of store inventory and even homes. This isn’t freedom - it’s a form of tyranny on the victims - especially in places like NYC or San Francisco where the state steps in to make sure people *can not* defend their own property. 
  6. The US, the West and double standards — while Saudi Arabia has vastly improved, tragically the trend is the reverse in the US and EU as we descend into totalitarianism and central control.  It’s key to look at how things actually work and the general quality of life improvements for citizens.  I think the vast majority of Saudi citizens feel more free and more prosperous while many Americans feel our country is becoming unrecognizable and spiraling downward. 
  7. Fourth turning and a time for based leadership - My friend Svetski made a great point - I used to say “authoritarian” as a synonym for evil.  Svetski fine tuned my language and noted that it’s not powerful authority that’s the problem - it’s when they are oppressive and harmful - it’s totalitarians that are the issue. Saudi Arabia has a strong government with strong central leadership and control - but they are also doing great things for the people. In times of epic change and evil and chaos we can benefit from strong leadership that puts the people first. 

I’ve grown to love Saudi Arabia and encourage everyone to visit and see for themselves.  As mentioned, it’s not perfect - but neither is my own country and I still love America as well. Saudi Arabia is on a great trajectory and I am very bullish and optimistic about its future.