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Opinion / Editorial

In the new millennium the flaws of autocracy are fatal for Europeans

In the new millennium the flaws of autocracy are fatal for Europeans

Autocratic leaders may offer thrills, but ultimately figures like Vladimir Putin leave their countries weaker, poorer, less stable and more vulnerable than they need to be. We saw this play out in the 1940s, then in the 1990s, and we're seeing it again today. Autocracy is good at tearing things down, but not very good at building things up. But the most important thing to know is that the promise of power by autocrats is a lie. Do you think Russia is strong today? But they do not appear as such in a real war against Ukrainian patriots. Instead they have degenerated into vulgar terrorism, bombing hospitals and apartment buildings, in an attempt to use cruelty as a substitute for missing victory. Meanwhile, Ukrainian farmers are pulling abandoned Russian tanks with their tractors. The countries of the free world quarrel among themselves and have many strong internal disputes. But the supposedly soft and undisciplined West very quickly put Russia's shoulders against the wall. Putin thought he could turn to the man he sometimes calls his “best friend” for help. Unfree societies are weak. The lure of nationalist governments of authoritarian leaders, Vladimir Putin's Russia, Xi Jinping's China, Viktor Orban's Hungary, the America that Donald Trump and his associates dream of, has always been the promise of power. But whatever examples you can take, the story is always the same: while liberal societies often slip into decadence, illiberal societies are determined to reject free pleasure in order to secure the common good. China, which has tried to manage Covid-19 in its preferred way – through authoritarianism and brutality – is currently being hit hard by a new wave of the pandemic. Beijing's latest crackdown on construction and internet firms has spooked investors. The old truths remain unchanged: the free world is not free because it is rich, it is rich because it is free. Freedom is not only a moral good, but also a practical one. Because we have a system that allows us to go bankrupt quickly and cheaply, we can try many different approaches to social and material problems, throwing everything we have at them, and seeing what works. Authoritarian societies find it very difficult to adapt to fluid conditions, and are often frustrated by problems that cannot be solved with the use of bayonets. Taken individually, Americans, Germans, and Englishmen are no more intelligent than Russians, Chinese, or Saudis, but the institutions of free societies—from free media to competitive elections—allow free people to come together and use their intelligence. collectively, in a way that is difficult or impossible in non-free societies. Authoritarian societies don't even offer the one advantage many might think: stability. If Vladimir Putin were to be struck by lightning tomorrow, the whole character of Russian public life would immediately change, and the country would plunge into crisis. We Americans may indeed treat the presidential election as an existential dilemma, but as you may have noticed, American life does not change radically from one administration to the next. This is why Putin is trying to arrest his advisers, and look for traitors and saboteurs. Some people in the free world are easily swayed by autocrats like Putin and Xi for the same reason that an earlier generation of Americans was swayed by Mussolini and Lenin. While the public life of a free society feels like an endless series of bureaucratic meetings, autocrats give the illusion of action. Peace, prosperity, true diversity can sometimes seem monotonous and boring, especially for young people, who often define themselves not only as citizens, but also as men through conflict. The fatal arrogance of people like Vladimir Putin is the belief that their countries can rise in the world as they once did with a little ingenuity and a lot of cruelty. But except for a period of time, this approach never works. Because it is very, very difficult to build a strong and powerful country without the things liberalism is very good at: property rights, entrepreneurship, long-term investments, social experimentation, cooperation, trust. These are the sources of wealth, innovation, stability and confidence. For all his experience with the dark side of human affairs, Putin apparently hasn't figured this out yet. In fact, he should know better than anyone: The forces that will defeat Russia this time are the same forces that defeated Russia last time. And it's probably a lot more exciting to be a Vladimir Putin than an Olaf Scholz, Germany's current chancellor. In the end, things became very dramatic for Ceausescu, as well as for Saddam Hussein. Surely such examples come to Putin's mind from time to time, even if his Western admirers don't. Little has been written and spoken these days, apart from two or three articles and a few interviews in television studios. Why ? ! Let's hope for the best. are easily swayed by autocrats like Putin and Xi for the same reason that an earlier generation of Americans was swayed by Mussolini and Lenin. While the public life of a free society feels like an endless series of bureaucratic meetings, autocrats give the illusion of action. Peace, prosperity, true diversity can sometimes seem monotonous and boring, especially for young people, who often define themselves not only as citizens, but also as men through conflict. The fatal arrogance of people like Vladimir Putin is the belief that their countries can rise in the world as they once did with a little ingenuity and a lot of cruelty. But except for a period of time, this approach never works. Because it is very, very difficult to build a strong and powerful country without the things that liberalism is very good at: property rights, entrepreneurship, long-term investments, social experimentation, cooperation, trust. These are the sources of wealth, innovation, stability and confidence. For all his experience with the dark side of human affairs, Putin apparently hasn't figured this out yet. In fact, he should know better than anyone: The forces that will defeat Russia this time are the same forces that defeated Russia last time. And it's probably a lot more exciting to be a Vladimir Putin than an Olaf Scholz, Germany's current chancellor. In the end, things became very dramatic for Ceausescu, as well as for Saddam Hussein. Surely such examples come to Putin's mind from time to time, even if his Western admirers don't. Little has been written and spoken these days, apart from two or three articles and a few interviews in television studios. Why ? ! Let's hope for the best. are easily swayed by autocrats like Putin and Xi for the same reason that an earlier generation of Americans was swayed by Mussolini and Lenin. While the public life of a free society feels like an endless series of bureaucratic meetings, autocrats give the illusion of action. Peace, prosperity, true diversity can sometimes seem monotonous and boring, especially for young people, who often define themselves not only as citizens, but also as men through conflict. The fatal arrogance of people like Vladimir Putin is the belief that their countries can rise in the world as they once did with a little ingenuity and a lot of cruelty. But except for a period of time, this approach never works. Because it is very, very difficult to build a strong and powerful country without the things liberalism is very good at: property rights, entrepreneurship, long-term investments, social experimentation, cooperation, trust. These are the sources of wealth, innovation, stability and confidence. For all his experience with the dark side of human affairs, Putin apparently hasn't figured this out yet. In fact, he should know better than anyone: The forces that will defeat Russia this time are the same forces that defeated Russia last time. And it's probably a lot more exciting to be a Vladimir Putin than an Olaf Scholz, Germany's current chancellor. In the end, things became very dramatic for Ceausescu, as well as for Saddam Hussein. Surely such examples come to Putin's mind from time to time, even if his Western admirers don't. Little has been written and spoken these days, apart from two or three articles and a few interviews in television studios. Why ? ! Let's hope for the best. The forces that will defeat Russia this time are the same forces that defeated Russia last time. And it's probably a lot more exciting to be a Vladimir Putin than an Olaf Scholz, Germany's current chancellor. In the end, things became very dramatic for Ceausescu, as well as for Saddam Hussein. Surely such examples come to Putin's mind from time to time, even if his Western admirers don't. Little has been written and spoken these days, apart from two or three articles and a few interviews in television studios. Why ? ! Let's hope for the best. The forces that will defeat Russia this time are the same forces that defeated Russia last time. And it's probably a lot more exciting to be a Vladimir Putin than an Olaf Scholz, Germany's current chancellor. In the end, things became very dramatic for Ceausescu, as well as for Saddam Hussein. Surely such examples come to Putin's mind from time to time, even if his Western admirers don't. Little has been written and spoken these days, apart from two or three articles and a few interviews in television studios. Why ? ! Let's hope for the best.