In his lecture, “The Past, Present and Future of Libya,” Alqadafhi explained that Libya is not known for its strong civil society organizations or democratic institutions. This legacy, he insisted, is not due to Islam or the influence of Arab culture, but rather is an effect of colonialism. His vision for democracy in a region of the world, the Middle East, not known for democratic governments, is for countries to move away from authoritarian security structures and reliance on oil wealth to bolster economies, allowing people to let go of their distrust of central administration. “The challenge is to move from a militant society to a free society, from an artificial economy to a real one,” he said.
He acknowledged, however, that democracy as it is practiced in the West is not without its shortcomings. Particularly, in the party-based system of the United States where voter participation is relatively low, the voice of many is not represented. His aim for Libya is to blend deliberative, direct and representative democracy in a way that maximizes the voice of the people. As he explained, “In theory, Libya is the most democratic state in the world. In practice, it has fallen far short of those ideas.” He cites a lack of independent media, civil society organizations and non-engagement with political dissidents as part of the problem.
Contemporary efforts at reform have tried to tackle these problems, as well as to find ways in which to strengthen the economic livelihood of the Libyan people. Alqadafhi spoke at length about public to private measures designed to transfer the wealth of the state to its people to empower them without disempowering others or what he called “a more just distribution of wealth.” Efforts on that front have included fixing standard rates for corporate and income taxes, the introduction of school vouchers and a dollar matching plan by the state for people’s savings accounts, as long as the money is used for education, health insurance, mortgage payments or other necessary expenses. These measures will help diversify the oil-dominated economy by increasing the access of individuals to capital and eliminating the cumbersome bureaucracy that now plagues the government.
With a myriad of economic changes, coupled with political changes like the rehabilitation and release of hundreds of state terrorists, Alqadafhi thinks Libya is poised to join the world community. Particularly, by abolishing the enigmatic visa structure, he hopes that Libyans will have the opportunity to study in other countries and vice versa. Still, amid these efforts, he explains that the road forward will not be easy. “The challenges facing us are really daunting, but we’re moving in the right direction. We still have a long way to go.”
Alqadhafi received his PhD from the London School of Economics in 2009. The topic of his thesis was “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratization of Global Governance Institutions: From ‘Soft Power’ to Collective Decision-Making?” In addition, he received a master’s degree in business from Vienna’s IMADEC University in 2000 and graduated with BS in engineering from Tripoli’s Al Fateh University in 1994.