Shores of Tripoli.
December 31, 2005 10:07 AM   Subscribe

A vacation in Libya for Michael Totten, who confirms some things you might expect and uncovers a few you might not. Lonely Planet has some advice, or go straight to the source: Totten's blog has more.
posted by bardic (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – the most oppressive country in the world after North Korea –

I'd like to ship Totten to Myanmar, and see if he changes his tune.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:15 AM on December 31, 2005

Turkmenistan is pretty bad too.
posted by k8t at 10:32 AM on December 31, 2005

It's a good story. Thanks for posting this.
posted by wsg at 10:52 AM on December 31, 2005

With an incarceration rate of 724 per 100,000 inhabitants, the United States is the unchallenged world leader in both raw numbers and imprisonment per capita. With a global prison population estimated at nine million, the US accounts for about one-quarter of all prisoners on the planet. In terms of raw numbers, only China, with almost four times the population of the US, comes close with about 1.5 million prisoners. Our closer competitors in incarceration rates are Russia (638 per 100,000) and Belarus (554), according to the British government's World Prison Population report.

Not that Libya, NKorea, or Turkmenistan are fantastic icons of human rights brilliance. But they do lock up fewer of their people than the US.
posted by cleardawn at 10:56 AM on December 31, 2005

That was a good post, I'm glad people are willing to visit and describe places that I cannot afford to invest interest in visiting. Now lets all ignore cleardawn.
posted by furtive at 11:06 AM on December 31, 2005

I'd go to see Leptis Magna. A visa looks much easier to get than I expected (speaking as a USian). Easier than getting to Pyongyang, no doubt.
posted by bardic at 11:28 AM on December 31, 2005

various comments:

The article made me very sad.

Myanmar has a very oppressive government indeed but at least it's not a burned-out ruin like Libya.

furtive: Thoughtful people might find it's significant that, even though Libya is a totalitarian wasteland, it has a far smaller portion of its people in jail than the United States. Regardless, people usually respond better to some sort of reasoned argument rather than a content-free "let's ignore xxx".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:38 AM on December 31, 2005

Really interesting article.. sad that so many historically important/interesting places are in non-free/dangerous areas.
posted by fet at 11:39 AM on December 31, 2005

What's wrong with pointing out the US prison population? What are some other metrics you can use to measure totalitarianism besides prisons?

Of course, in a lot of those countries, they just shoot you, rather then putting you in jail. But I think the Chinese only execute about 1,000 people a year, so that's not much of a factor.

I wonder what percentage of our GDP is used for incarcerating people.
posted by Paris Hilton at 12:04 PM on December 31, 2005

You can have a much smaller prison population if you just simply 'disappear' those who commit crimes. Then again, it doesn't look like there's much to steal in the first place...
posted by JB71 at 12:15 PM on December 31, 2005

Well, this in no way interferes with my holiday in Cambodia.
posted by maxsparber at 12:29 PM on December 31, 2005

Don't forget to pack a wife.
posted by huskerdont at 12:43 PM on December 31, 2005

Whoah! Thanks for the reminder!
posted by maxsparber at 12:51 PM on December 31, 2005

It is always funny to hear about westerners arriving in some random arab country and realizing that the populace isn't foaming at the mouth, trying to kill them, and/or screaming anti american epithets.

Most people in the oppressive / police state countries I've lived in are too busy trying to get by.

p.s. my brother just got back from Libya.
posted by mulligan at 12:57 PM on December 31, 2005

the ironic thing about libya is that when the Afrika Korps were fighting at the end of their supply lines through libya to get passed the British in Egypt and eventually the oil fields of Iran -- they were fighting mere (tens of) miles from Libya's massive oil fields.

Libya is an interesting, interesting riddle. A real armpit of a country, physically, compared to its neighbors, it has the potential of producing 2 million barrels/day for the foreseeable future (60 years). With a population of 5 million people, and $40/net/bbl, that a (putative) annual per-capita citizen's dividend of ~$6,000/yr. This is ignoring the trillions of cubic feet of natural gas Libya has.

$6000/yr, $500/mo of hard cash, is plenty of money to live on if land rents are factored out (these rents are basically uneconomic wealth redistribution and not really GDP at all).

The problem with $500/mo of hard cash coming in, is finding people willing to clean the toilets or man a cash register. I love the economics, it's basically the study of artificial scarcity.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:24 PM on December 31, 2005

That was a lovely tale; almost a venture into a forbidden world.
posted by jouke at 1:25 PM on January 1, 2006

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