Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Russians losing faith in value of democracy
Winnipeg Free Press ^ | Jan 10 2006 | Dave O'Brien

Posted on 01/10/2006 3:54:52 PM PST by Pharmboy

"I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."

THE American revolutionary Patrick Henry uttered those famous words in 1775 in defiance of what he and others considered British tyranny. The words have come to define what it means to be American and the idea of liberty is one of the most enduring and important myths in U.S. culture.

(I once told an American lawyer who had worked for Robert F. Kennedy that I thought Canadians made too much of the question of national identity. What, for example, was an American? I asked.

"Liberty," he answered immediately, surprised that I did not know what an American was. Canada's national myths -- pluralism, bilingualism, multiculturalism and tolerance -- are admirable, but just not as sexy as liberty and the American frontier.)

Henry himself never had to make the choice between liberty or death; he didn't bear arms in the revolution and he died a natural and peaceful death in 1799 after serving three terms as governor of Virginia. But many brave men did die in the American Revolution, apparently convinced that freedom and democracy were more important than life itself.

Flash forward to present-day Russia, where the story is entirely different.

Some 15 years after tossing aside the tyranny of communism, the Russians appear to have grown weary of democracy and the obstacles it presents to fast, efficient growth.

According to a recent poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the Russian people would choose a strong economy over a good democracy by a margin of nearly six-to-one. For them, prosperity is more important than liberty and the right to bear a megaphone.

The survey found that 81 per cent of those polled believed that a strong economy is more important than a good democracy, and 66 per cent said a strong leader was more important than democratic government.

The results are a startling turnaround from the revolutionary days in 1991 when a similar poll found that 51 per cent of Russians favoured democratic government over a strong leader. (A high percentage of American colonists also preferred British rule to liberty -- the so-called loyalists who moved to Canada or toughed it out on the beaches of Florida).

Liberty without food is, of course, meaningless and impossible, but the last time I checked there was no famine in Russia, a member of the Group of 8 industrial nations.

"Russian disillusionment with democracy may be tied to the country's inability to meet high expectations created in the wake of the Soviet regime's collapse," the study said. "Although the economy has grown impressively since the economic downturn of the late 1990s, many Russians are frustrated by a lack of progress (today only 23 per cent are satisfied with the way things are going in their country) and by what they perceive as growing economic inequality."

In the 2002 Pew Global Attitudes survey, more than 92 per cent of Russians said the gap between rich and poor had widened over the preceding five years. The researchers at Pew, a respected international think-tank, said they were concerned about the drift away from democracy and they urged the world to sit up and take notice.

"These findings can only add to Western concerns that democracy is in retreat in Russia," the study said, noting that a top adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin resigned recently after complaining his homeland "is no longer a democratic country."

There was a time in another powerful nation when a weak democratic tradition combined with economic chaos, social discord and a sense of unfulfilled national purpose opened the door to rule by a strong leader. The result was the Holocaust and the Second World War.

The parallel between Weimar Germany and present-day Russia is flawed and nothing in history is inevitable.

On the other hand, just to be sure, someone should give the Russian people the text of Churchill's comments about democracy: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried."

dave.o'brien@freepress.mb.ca


TOPICS: Canada; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Russia
KEYWORDS: americans; democracy; patrickhenry; revwar
(I once told an American lawyer who had worked for Robert F. Kennedy that I thought Canadians made too much of the question of national identity. What, for example, was an American? I asked.

"Liberty," he answered immediately, surprised that I did not know what an American was. Canada's national myths -- pluralism, bilingualism, multiculturalism and tolerance -- are admirable, but just not as sexy as liberty and the American frontier.)

I thought this was worth the post.

1 posted on 01/10/2006 3:54:54 PM PST by Pharmboy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

They are everywhere here in Kalifornia. They must be leaving in droves.


2 posted on 01/10/2006 3:56:44 PM PST by samadams2000 (Remember our Founding Fathers were REAL men- Unlike today's Rinos)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy


They need to have it first, before they say they have experienced it. IMHO.


3 posted on 01/10/2006 3:57:21 PM PST by in hoc signo vinces ("Houston, TX...a waiting quagmire for jihadis.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: indcons; Chani; thefactor; blam; aculeus; ELS; Doctor Raoul; mainepatsfan; timpad; ...
I am pinging the RevWar list for this post because it brings up some interesting issues related to democracy and liberty.

Please freepmail me to get ON or get OFF this moderate volume ping list.

4 posted on 01/10/2006 3:57:49 PM PST by Pharmboy (The stone age didn't end because they ran out of stones.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: samadams2000

I'm glad that Kalifornia is so famous...help keep them out of Kolorado


5 posted on 01/10/2006 3:58:40 PM PST by CIDKauf (No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: in hoc signo vinces

Excellent point.


6 posted on 01/10/2006 3:58:54 PM PST by Pharmboy (The stone age didn't end because they ran out of stones.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

The Russians have never really had liberty. And they lack the basic necessities of a free market economy--rule of law, absence of stifling regulations, freedom from fear of criminal extortion.

The best economies are built on the rule of law, sacredness of contracts, lack of stifling regulation, and the freedom to do whatever you choose. Those conditions were never present under the Tsars, never present under the Communists, and not present now. The present Russian economy is run by the KGB and the Mob.

Unfortunately the Harvard economists gave people the idea that Russia tried privatization and it failed. It was never really tried.


7 posted on 01/10/2006 4:00:12 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cicero

Yep--I agree...and do not forget...PRIVATE PROPERTY!


8 posted on 01/10/2006 4:01:47 PM PST by Pharmboy (The stone age didn't end because they ran out of stones.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
Drunk Yeltsin and Paranoid Putin are not exactly the leaders that will make a successful Democracy out of Russia.
9 posted on 01/10/2006 4:03:36 PM PST by operation clinton cleanup
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: samadams2000
I think Russia had tried to settle California in the early days (Russian River, Sebastopol, etc.) I think they basically lost interest. Having said that, not a day goes by on the train when there are not a couple of people speaking Russian, they are all over San Francisco.
10 posted on 01/10/2006 4:04:49 PM PST by SF Republican
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

Russia has never had a Republic, or democracy either, so can not actually comment on it. They are just as much a slave as they were under communism, it is still tyranny under a different name. Let them adopt our constitution and follow it to the letter and see how the people react in a year from now. Capitilism is what makes the difference, regardless of what lefties say.


11 posted on 01/10/2006 4:05:41 PM PST by calex59
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
Well the first thing it brings up is the Ordered Liberty along with the Rights of Englishmen were very different from an abstract (and democratic) Freedom and Rationalistic Rights.

Men had Liberty and States had Freedom, not the reverse.

Democracy, as an abstract, is what the twentieth century has sold these formerly subjugated peoples when the Republic structures of mixed governments were what put the West on the high ground.

Self-Government is more important than Democracy. Participatory Representation is more important the tally of the plebiscite.

12 posted on 01/10/2006 4:05:42 PM PST by KC Burke (Men of intemperate minds can never be free....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: samadams2000


They are all over houston. My buddy came back from Washington...all kinds of Russians, but it's not just Russians, it's Georgians, Ukrainians, etc. Lots of slavs are immigrating our way.


13 posted on 01/10/2006 4:13:24 PM PST by in hoc signo vinces ("Houston, TX...a waiting quagmire for jihadis.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: operation clinton cleanup

Democracy is not made by leaders, whatever their surnames and proclivities for the bottle or the paranoia, but by the mass of the population. When a population has over the centuries produced and reproduced a way of life best characterized by a Russian proverb "Ty nachal'nik - ya der'mo, ya nachal'nik -ty der'mo" [If you're the boss, then I'm a POS, but if I'm the boss then you're a POS] - pretty similar to a very bad western workplace with a petty boss whose authority has gone to his/her head, but writ large over all society - what democracy would be possible with such a population? They would need to be transculturated first.


14 posted on 01/10/2006 4:15:33 PM PST by GSlob
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

As someone who spent half of 2004 and most of 2005 living in Russia...I would say that, if Putin wants to be known as really great and go down in history...he will try to be more like George Washington than Peter the Great.

But he has been acting like Peter the Great lately. I would really like to see what happens with Iran before I judge Putin more. Iran in 2006 - that is where we need to watch Russia.


15 posted on 01/10/2006 4:15:57 PM PST by GermanBusiness
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: GermanBusiness

Great comment...if only all the world leaders would be more like George Washington!


16 posted on 01/10/2006 4:18:47 PM PST by Pharmboy (The stone age didn't end because they ran out of stones.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

I'm losing faith in democracy as well. A large part of the problem is that we have a lot of people who don't believe in it at all, and don't want it.


17 posted on 01/10/2006 4:22:59 PM PST by Brilliant
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

"According to a recent poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the Russian people would choose a strong economy over a good democracy by a margin of nearly six-to-one. For them, prosperity is more important than liberty and the right to bear a megaphone."

This sure looks a lot like the Democrat's campaign Mantra: "Its the economy stupid."


18 posted on 01/10/2006 4:25:36 PM PST by Integrityrocks
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
Some 15 years after tossing aside the tyranny of communism, the Russians appear to have grown weary of democracy and the obstacles it presents to fast, efficient growth.
To answer the author of the piece, What democratic obstacles to growth? All we've seen is Putin trying to reimplement the USSR, in all but name, cracking down on the most prosperous, and trying to reimpose state control of everything.
19 posted on 01/10/2006 4:28:56 PM PST by SunkenCiv (FReep this URL -- https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/pledge)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

Russians haven't paid the price yet for Democracy. Gotta have some deaths and violent overturning of the old first, otherwise the old stay entrenched. So how can they be tired of it?


20 posted on 01/10/2006 4:46:31 PM PST by gotribe (Hillary: Accessory to Rape)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cicero

That is why Harvard is Harvard : )


21 posted on 01/10/2006 4:48:10 PM PST by stephenjohnbanker (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our troops at home and abroad!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
Canada's national myths -- pluralism, bilingualism, multiculturalism and tolerance -- are admirable

[Modern liberalism] has equipped us with an ethic too abstract and empty to inspire real commitment. Modern liberalism, he writes, does not offer ordinary men compelling motives for personal suffering, sacrifice, and death. There is no tragic dimension in its picture of the good life. Men become willing to endure, sacrifice, and die for God, for family, king, honor, country, from a sense of absolute duty or an exalted vision of the meaning of history… . And it is precisely these ideas and institutions that liberalism has criticized, attacked, and in part overthrown as superstitious, archaic, reactionary, and irrational. In their place liberalism proposes a set of pale and bloodless abstractions—pale and bloodless for the very reason that they have no roots in the past, in deep feeling and in suffering. Except for mercenaries, saints, and neurotics, no one is willing to sacrifice and die for progressive education, medicare, humanity in the abstract, the United Nations, and a ten percent rise in Social Security payments. - James Burnham

22 posted on 01/10/2006 4:48:45 PM PST by jordan8
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: GSlob

Let me add to what I just said:

Russia's civil war in Chechnya would be like Vermont trying to secede from the USA and sending Green Mountain Boys into the subways of New York City to explode bombs.

Imagine how right-wing we would be if that were happening in Vermont. And leftist journalists would be falling out of windows and getting into car accidents when they go to bed at night.

Russia still has a sphere of influence that includes Kazakhstan that requires a right wing Moscow government for stability. Russia also has huge Muslim areas that would spin out of control if a leftist president were elected by a stupid population whose minds might be bought by George Soros.

Another thing: The Russians who hate communism often feel that communist ideas need to be fought with the same generalized lack of respect that communism gave to conservatism (Christian Orthodox church for example) for 73 years. The pendulum against leftism is still swinging to the right after 70 years of swinging to the left.

Just like the Commies allowed a lot of beautiful churches to exist during the Soviet times...the new Russia allows Lenin's Tomb and Lenin's horrid corpse to remain on Red Square for the sake of the minority of pathetic old souls who grew up believing in Stalin and Krushev, etc. But allow the communist party to really have a say in modern Russia? With morons like George Soros and criminals like the young billionaire Putin had arrested last year...a strong left wing would have been financed by those guys...and Russia would have been recently going through the kind of headaches the Americans went through in 2004 and the Germans have been going through: political gridlock on whether an existential war with Al Qaeda should even be fought or not!

We Americans would not have wanted the headache of watching a Russian election in which George Soros and others bought the Russian media and displayed anti-American rhetoric.

Putin does not stand for anti-Americanism in the leftist sense at all.

We Americans could not win the WOT if Russia got a left wing government like Spain now has...or even Germany's now neutral government. Russia has had to remain like Bush's USA, right wing to the core, to win this war.

We barely squeaked by thanx to the Swift Boat Vets.

Russia got by because a few leftist journalists died, George Soros was banned from the country and a young man was arrested who stole $billions and got powerful...then openly decided to harness (fund) the power of the western left wing and the old Russian communists in order to get even more power for himself.

Would it have been democracy if this ambitious and greedy young billionaire had been allowed to spend the billions he stole from the Russian people in order to get power for himself by promoting far left bull that would have made Putin only as popular as Bush or less by now?

One can argue that America might not have been able to afford democracy if John Kerry had actually won in 2004 and then fumbled the ball in Iraq/Iran and given the USA over to 20 nuclear detonations within 5 years.

But the fact is, John Kerry did NOT win which means the USA has the time to strategically set things in the Middle East so that we could actually afford a Democrat win in November 2008 without having the nation destroyed.

I am glad that Putin is not letting the western leftists make a mockery out of the new Russia via guys like Soros giving billions of dollars to a "movement" that the majority of Russians know better than any of us...was responsible for the deaths of 100 million people in the last century.

Maybe when the American Democrats start acting like responsible human beings...after Iran is democratized and their ideology discredited again...could Russia afford to have a "liberal" opposition party...but even then it should not be funded by leftist western billionaires.

The Russians don't want our brand of leftists constantly grabbing power here and there or all over...promoting racial tension...putting up with debutantes in Savannah getting shot in cold blood by muggers. If they are going to accept democracy...they will probably put safeguards in place so western leftists don't spend billions turning Russia into another USA.


23 posted on 01/10/2006 4:49:58 PM PST by GermanBusiness
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: GermanBusiness
"...he will try to be more like George Washington than Peter the Great. "
According to a well-cherished legend, Peter the Great was called "the Great" on the account of the great size of his peter [eight Swedish matches, no less! - whatever the length of a Swedish match was at the time]. To be like that the pipsqueak Putin will have to be pathological.
24 posted on 01/10/2006 4:56:22 PM PST by GSlob
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: GermanBusiness

I guess my point is:

To Russians, someone like Ted Kennedy is not democracy, but rather cancer. Ted Kennedy does not speak logically. He is not the loyal opposition. Instead, the likes of Ted Kennedy exploit the unschooled masses and uneducated minorities by buying votes and cornering the journalism and education markets so that only lies are told in the media.

Russians see this. They know about this. And they are not yet strong enough financially to withstand George Soros and CNN's Ted Turner moving into a "truly free and democratic Russia" and basically relieving their bodily functions in their backyard.


25 posted on 01/10/2006 5:00:04 PM PST by GermanBusiness
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: Cicero
The best economies are built on the rule of law, sacredness of contracts, lack of stifling regulation, and the freedom to do whatever you choose.

Sort of like we used to have.

Unfortunately the Harvard economists gave people the idea that Russia tried privatization and it failed. It was never really tried.

I think these same economists advised the top Communists to grab all the good stuff for themselves. They did but never abandoned their old ways. They tried to run industries like they ran their old government departments. Couldn't grasp the concept of commerce being a mutually agreeable arrangement between buyer and seller. It is doubtful those Harvard economists really intended for democracy to succeed.

26 posted on 01/10/2006 5:13:28 PM PST by Mind-numbed Robot (Not all that needs to be done needs to be done by the government.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Brilliant
Scr*w Democracy. Give me a Republic.

There's a big difference, a person is uneducated not to know it.

Yeah, it's just a single word. How much difference in reality can a single word convey? Try 'Innocent vs. guilty' or 'benign vs malignant'.
27 posted on 01/10/2006 5:25:13 PM PST by Leisler (HEY LEFTY! FREED TIBET YET?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

I read an article that talked about capitalism being more important than democracy.

That capitalism will grow an entrepreneurial class that will want to have a say in the government and laws that affect their businesses.

And that leaders and idealists in the business and middle class push for, fight for, and finally will install representative government.

The important question in Russia is not how they feel about "democracy", but how they feel about turning back to government ownership and control of all economic activity.


28 posted on 01/10/2006 5:56:20 PM PST by patriciaruth (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1346573/posts)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mind-numbed Robot

We have a lot less room for entrepreneurism than we used to, but it's still possible to start up a business in this country. I don't honestly know where these guys are coming from, given the poor state of our educational system, but the dot.com revolution couldn't have happened anywhere else, and I'm hoping that innovation and creative destruction aren't dead in America yet.


29 posted on 01/10/2006 5:56:31 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: patriciaruth

Capitalism is critical. But you can't have entrepreneurial capitalism without the rule of law. Otherwise the government will confiscate your business, or the mob will extort from you until you're bankrupt, or someone will steal your trade secrets and put you out of business, or someone will sign a contract with you, take your money, and thumb their nose at you.

So, you need a minimal rule of law, at least, to enforce contracts, and a government that won't take everything away from you if you're successful, and competitors who won't break your legs if you do too well.


30 posted on 01/10/2006 5:59:30 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: Cicero

I agree completely about the assessments of what are necessary ingredients for capitalism to work, and don't think you really have capitalism without those ingredients...rule of law, recognition of contract laws, laws and enforcement against extortion, reasonable regulations, etc.

Including private property rights.


31 posted on 01/10/2006 6:04:40 PM PST by patriciaruth (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1346573/posts)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: patriciaruth

Yes--what you say makes good sense. Thanks for the insights...


32 posted on 01/10/2006 6:28:53 PM PST by Pharmboy (The stone age didn't end because they ran out of stones.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
Henry himself never had to make the choice between liberty or death; he didn't bear arms in the revolution and he died a natural and peaceful death in 1799 after serving three terms as governor of Virginia.

Cheep shot! 15 Yard penality.

If the British had got their hands on Patrick Henry, they would have hung him from the closest tree. The same goes for most of the brave and wise men who plegend Their live and sacred honer for the cause.

Not everyone who serves the cause of Liberty, does so in uniform, then or now.

33 posted on 01/10/2006 7:21:33 PM PST by Ditto ( No trees were killed in sending this message, but billions of electrons were inconvenienced.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cicero
The Russians have never really had liberty. And they lack the basic necessities of a free market economy--rule of law, absence of stifling regulations, freedom from fear of criminal extortion.

In Russia, there is a thousand year history of looking to the center (Czar, Party Chairman and now "President") to solve problems that should be solved by individuals. By culture and convention, they are engineered to look outward for strength, not inward.

In Colonial America, because of it's isolation and necessity to be self sufficient, people discovered they could do it yourself. The didn't really need Kings or bureaucrats to survive, prosper, or manage daily or common affairs. It was the first DYI culture since the middle ages.

But now, we are into nearly three generations of ever increasingly looking to government, at one level or another, to "fix it", even on things where the least effort by individuals produces superior results to a government solution.

Not a good prospect, but I still have hope.

34 posted on 01/10/2006 7:40:31 PM PST by Ditto ( No trees were killed in sending this message, but billions of electrons were inconvenienced.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

Maybe they need Abramoff & Co. to teach them the "value" of democracy.


35 posted on 01/10/2006 7:45:16 PM PST by Fester Chugabrew
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
On the other hand, just to be sure, someone should give the Russian people the text of Churchill's comments about democracy: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried."

This saying is a distorted form of an ancient saying - out of the bad systems the worst is tyranny, the least bad is corrupt democracy. Out of the good systems the best is monarchy and the least good is democracy/republic.

In other words the best republic can never be so good as the good monarchy. But the corrupt republic will never be so bad as corrupt monarchy. So the monarchy of King David or Marcus Aurelius was better than any republic, but tyranny of Caligula, Elagabalus was worse than any republic

36 posted on 01/10/2006 9:33:24 PM PST by A. Pole (Thomas Jefferson: "We are infinitely better off without treaties of commerce with any nation.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy

The Democrats would choose a good economy even if the price was having Bill Clinton as President for Life. So would a sizeable number of Republicans unfortunately. Money motivates people more than idealism.


37 posted on 01/11/2006 3:25:26 AM PST by Democratshavenobrains
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Leisler

Even a republic utilizes democratic procedures at some level, though, particularly at the level at which representatives are elected, though our obsession with ballot proposals is another example.


38 posted on 01/11/2006 5:12:51 AM PST by Brilliant
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson