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Expansion Of Freedom


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“It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," President George W. Bush said in his inaugural address. "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world," Mr Bush told the gathering.


It may have impressed some naive believers in self-sufficiency of freedom as we know it. Unfortunately, people, who happened to be born somewhere else, can tell us a different story. For instance, between February and October 1917, Russia was one of the most democratic nations in the world. The Weimar Republic in Germany (1918-1933) had a very democratic constitution. We all know how it all ended. Actually, Mr Lukashenko is first democratically elected President of Belarus, and still has strong support there. And Mr Putin, who recently got on our watch list for extending presidential powers, is also seen as the best and only choice by the majority of the Russians.


What on Earth do they think? Why do they show so little appreciation for freedom? My guess is that people, who struggle to make ends meet, hardly feel free under the most democratic rule in the world. Viable democracy can only be built on stable economic ground. Until people have means to take care of themselves, they will trade their freedom for guaranteed income to meet their basic needs. It took the Marshall Plan to save Western Europe from becoming red.


Frankly speaking, “expansion of freedom” sounds a bit scary. Does it mean that we see it as our way to peace? I doubt that, say, removing Mr Lukashenko from power – even without dropping bombs on Minsk - would be widely welcome in Belarus unless it improved the economic situation for most of the people there. If we want to help, our policy should rather stimulate economic development and make transition to market less painful. There are a number of ways to do that. Former Soviet republics need investment capital and new technologies to modernize their production capacities and become competitive on world markets. Privatization is a necessary component of this process. Growing unemployment makes people and leaders there look at small businesses more favorably. Let us help them put together tailored programs of economic development. Let us assist them with credits, trade agreements and training. People less dependent on the government economically will be less willing to accept tyranny. Sure, this kind of approach is unlikely to make news headlines. So, what do we really want?

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