Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute is back home, and he has some concluding thoughts on Saudi Arabia. I fully expect Thomas “I love how China can get things done” Friedman to sign on to this model of social change versus the messiness of our democratic ways:
Over dinner one night with several Saudi academics, an IR professor explained how change actually occurs in the Kingdom. There is a lot of debate about different social conventions, especially about the rights of women, he said. The most conservative within the religious hierarchy oppose extending certain rights — say, for example, to obtain an education — and then one day the king will say “Women shall be educated.” End of debate. The clerics and imams, after all, derive a paycheck from the government (as does about 80 percent of the total Saudi workforce). This professor predicted that that is how women in the Kingdom will someday be allowed to drive: by decree.