“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Destruction of Freedom in Russia

Here's an interesting excerpt from a speech in the January issue of Hillsdale College's Imprimus.

Freedom vs. Non-Freedom: View from Russia
Andrei Illarionov
Former Chief Economic Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation

The Destruction of Freedom in Russia

The story of the destruction of freedom in my own country, Russia, is sad. But this story should be told, should be known, and should be remembered—to avoid repeating it and in order one day to reverse it.

First, there was an assault on the people of Chechnya. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the freedom of the Chechen people. People in Chechnya lost their independence, their political rights and many of them—their lives. Many Russians lost their lives as well.

Then there was an assault on the Russian media. This time many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the freedom of the media. As a result, the media lost its independence—first television channels, then radio stations and newspapers. And now the censors are turning their attention to the Internet.

Then there was an assault on private business. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the freedom of private business. So private business has lost its independence and has become subjugated to the caprice of the executive power. This has been accomplished through so-called PPPs or public private partnerships, but it would be more correct to call what is happening CPC—coercion of private business by the corporation in power.

Then there was an assault on the independence of political parties. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the independence of political parties. As a result, independent national political parties ceased to exist.

Then there was an assault on the independence of the judiciary. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the independence of the judiciary. Now, there are no more independent courts or judges in Russia.

Then there was an assault on the election of regional governors. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend free elections of regional governors. Today, regional governors are appointed by the president, and there are no more independent regional authorities in the country.

Then there was an assault on the independence of non-governmental and religious organizations. Finally, some people tried to defend the freedom of these organizations, but it was too late. And now even those who want to resist have neither the resources nor the institutions required to fight back. As a result, Russia has ceased to be politically free. For 2005, Freedom House’s Freedom in the World ranks Russia 168th out of 192 countries. Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report ranks Russia 126th out of 159 countries. The World Economic Forum calculates that Russia is 85th (among 108 countries) in avoiding favoritism in government decisions, 88th (also of 108) in its protection of property rights, and 84th (of 102) when measured by the independence of the judicial system. The Russian government could form another G-8 with countries that destroyed the fundamental institutions of modern government and civil society as quickly as it did over the past 15 years by partnering with Nepal, Belarus, Tajikistan, Gambia, the Solomon Islands, Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

What is the Russian government doing now, when it has destroyed freedom and achieved next to full control over Russian society? Is it stopping its assaults? No. It continues them, both within and beyond Russia’s borders. Inside the country, the government has started a campaign against human rights. It has created and financed detachments of storm troopers—the movements “Nashi” (“Our Own”), “Mestnye” (“Locals”), and Molodaya gvardiya” (“Young Guard”)—which are being taught and trained to harass and beat political and intellectual opponents of the current regime. The days for which these storm troopers are especially trained will come soon—during the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2007 and 2008. Beyond Russia’s national borders, the government provides economic, financial, political, intellectual and moral support to new friends: leaders of non-free countries such as Belarus, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Myanmar, Algeria, Iran, and Palestinian Hamas. At the same time, Russia is attempting to destroy hard-won freedom and democracy in neighboring countries. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia find themselves in a new cold war as Russian authorities pursue hostile policies involving visas, poultry imports, electricity, natural gas, pipelines, wine, and even mineral water. The Russian government has just started a full-scale blockade of Georgia. Meanwhile, the state-controlled Russian media has launched a propaganda war against Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, the Baltic countries, Europe and the United States.

What do non-free countries have in common? What unites such disparate countries as Nepal, Belarus, Tajikistan, the Solomon Islands, Gambia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Myanmar, and yes, now Russia? Only one thing: war, in which governments take away property and destroy society, in which they send people to camps or kill them solely because they have a different perception of the world, of faith, of law, and of their homeland. Only through hatred, fear, and electoral violence can these governments hold on to what is dearest to them—absolute power. Without freedom there can be no open discussion of topics of national and international importance. There is an exclusion from public life of conversation about the most important matters. This primitivizes public life, degrades society, and weakens the state. The politics of non-freedom is the politics of public impoverishment and of the retardation of the country’s economic growth.

The greatest practical lesson of Russia’s recent history is that freedom is indivisible. The failure of freedom in one sphere makes it harder to defend freedom in other areas. Likewise, the fall of freedom in one country is a blow to global freedom. The inability to defend freedom yesterday comes back to haunt us at a great price today and perhaps an even greater price tomorrow.

“Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College,”


  1. Vlad the Impaler Putin...

    The KGB trained him well!

  2. No dearth of new, true believers at BC:
    Check out "fen" on Wretch's "Vortex" thread.

  3. : ) The site gets weirder and weirder as it breaks down the code, eventually trying to link Roswell (yes, Aliens) and U.S. in an unholy alliance!

    You'll never know what you'll find on the web!

  4. And we still can't 100 miles to the gallon!?!

    What good are those little gray guys?

  5. fat fingered "get" 100 mpg ...

  6. Nobody could have planned that better, Rufus!

  7. Bobal: You want Meuths? I got Meuths!
    Australian Aboriginals

    Most people tend to think of Aborigines as a unified, homogeneous group. Yet the Aborigines never used one collective term to describe themselves. No one individual Aborigine, in the precolonial past, would have known of the existence of many of the other Aboriginal peoples and regions of the vast continent of Australia, which covers nearly three million square miles - almost the area of the United States.

    Recent scientific studies have concluded that the Australian Aborigines were the original Americans! In other words, the theory is that ATSI people were adventurers who arrived in the North American continent before the Vikings or Columbus. This theory states that the ancestors of the American Indians. are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. "Separate studies by both Brazilian and US scholars are revealing that the first humans to enter the New World more than 14,000 years ago were not Mongoloid peoples as has always been thought - but were instead people of the same race as present day Australian Aborigines."

  8. Bad news for Bobal:
    Birkhead's the father!

  9. DR,
    Response from several posts back problems.

    "The simple answer is hardly ever the right answer, habu"..
    I believe that is 180 out.
    ..See Occcams Razor..

    I have read your explanations. I have seen how you position your arguements, but most telling is the argot you choose.
    You frame the issues and use the language of the left. You've passed the duck test...walks like, quacks like...
    It is not through any pronouncement of mine that makes you fit in with the anti American leftests but what I outlined in the preceeding paragraph. You fit the template for reasons you feel are justified.
    Experience is a great teacher and I have learned from my early university days in 1966 at Florida, the university that Walter Cronkite called the Berkley of the South that there is no history,logic, or appeal to good old patriotism that will change your mind.
    That same experience through forty one years of debating the left taught that it is a waste of time to engage in any further debate.
    The demarcation between someone like myself, a Goldwater-Ron Reagan Republican and you, whatever you are, is so vast as to make a debate a futile exercise.

    You will never convince me that it is better to leave the field to the enemy and the chaos that ensues, only to have to reengage at another time and place.

    I will never convince you it is better to fight on the ground of your choosing than it is to run.

    As for the killing pissing you off. It is in the manual. Only the dead have seen the end of war. George Washington fought on with practically no hope of winning, with an army in rags and no shoes, until Trenton. Being pissed off at men killing is to remain in a constant state of rage. It will go on for all eternity. What they die for matters and what the US spends it's blood and treasure on are wars that liberate mankind from slavery,or being forced into slavery, the Civil War, WWI, WWII,Korea,The Cold War,Vietnam, Desert Storm. Ours is a long list of trying to do right by mankind.
    Some do not support that. You appear to be one of those in dissent.

  10. I support doing right, habu, not trying to. Losers try, winner do.

    Left, right or middle. Choose the label you prefer, none fit.
    Use the venacular you prefer, but annswer the questions that Mr Cheney posed, please.

    What is the "habu Plan" from here on out?

    One that "could" get through all the levels of the US government.

    Nuke a million of 'em is not a viable plan, heck, the MultiNational Force that we lead will not fire a round over the bow, let alone sink, Iranian patrol boats that sieze Brisish boats, sailors & Royal Marines.

    It cannot stop the daily shelling of Camp Echo in Diwaniyah, Iraq.

    So what is the Plan, habu?
    Where or how is success to be found, given the political realities that prevail.

  11. I am not pissed because men die, but when they are being wasted in a fools errand.

    No US GI should die to empower the Badr Brigades in Basra or Baghdad.

    Nor while defending a Baathist from a Mahdi Army irregular.

    Come on, a three year proposal, what should we do? What keeps the GOP viable in '08? Certainly not more of the same.

  12. Come on, habu, move beyond labels and name calling, give us a serious proposal, if you have one.

    What would you do, that is culturally acceptable, in the Country we have, not the one you wished you had.

  13. DR,
    As I said, I've debated with the left for a long,long time.

    Engaging you in further debate is a waist of my time.
    Believe me when I say it isn't because I can't. Just that I've been there, done that,and as I stated, know nothing will get through the leftest mindset. The left and right talk past each other and life is too short to go back and replay the leftest anti-American-we-are-evil debate.

  14. habu,

    To paraphrase Wittgenstein:
    'Whereof one does not know one should remain silent.'

    Silence befits you.

  15. Might as well pile on the bad news since those present are dealing w/it:
    Third Internet Bombing in Gaza in a Week

    ( Gunmen Monday night bombed a Gaza Internet cafe, the third such attack in a week. Firemen put out a resulting blaze, and no injuries were reported.

    A bomb exploded in a cafe in Jabalya earlier in the week, and a third was detonated in a cafe in Khan Yunis in a continuing escalation of criminal and rival terrorist battles.

    These are the freedom loving people that George Bush wants to give a state too. He is making himself and his whole "war" on terrorism look to be foolish. How can the President of the United States take his nation to war to destroy a terrorist State in Afghanistan, while at the same time reward a bunch of terrorist with a State.

    How is the bombing of an internet cafe any different than the bombing of the statues of Buddha in Afghanistan?

  16. Hewitt was talking to Powerline dude about rumor of trading 1,400 terrorists for two hostages.
    Said to keep tuned to Powerline and Carolyn Glick.

  17. doug,

    there is murder and mayhem in Baltimore - in your books should we deny Maryland statehood?

  18. "What would you do, that is culturally acceptable, in the Country we have, not the one you wished you had."

    I'll have to save this quote.

  19. Likewise, the fall of freedom in one country is a blow to global freedom. The inability to defend freedom yesterday comes back to haunt us at a great price today and perhaps an even greater price tomorrow.

    The domino effect has been more powerful for the democratic revolution than that of the authoritarian revolution - the delayed impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union on Eastern European and Caucasus states and the resulting colour revolutions. Will time eventually render these closeted, repressive regimes vulnerable to external pressures such as to precipitate their dismantlement?

    Russia has been extraordinarily resilient in the face of such threats, and we can expect them to continue to do so. One of the key factors that may nurture a change in the Nation's receptivity towards certain concepts is a change in leadership. Unfortunately, Russia has taken the preemptive steps to ensure that intellectuals don't get a chance to communicate with each other or propagate their ideals.

    Free trade, among other vehicles of democratising potential, is part of a strong argument that time will eventually force these regimes to succumb to the inviolable course of history. But do not forget that terrorism, drug and arms smuggling, oil and gas are equally potent features that have sustained these regimes for decades - if we don't address these problems, we can expect these regimes to stick around for quite a while longer.

  20. DR, the arrogant cynic says,

    What would you do, that is culturally acceptable, in the Country we have, not the one you wished you had.

    Your trap only works if someone steps into it.

    I reject the assumption you seek to impose regarding the culture/country we have. You could have said the same thing before Washington crossed the Delaware, in 1864, or in 1968 and probably many other times when the "progressive" tides peaked. Only losers assume they will lose. Winners keep fighting. Bush continues to fight, but he and his administration are exhausted, partially due to their own mistakes but primarily due to the immensity of the challenge that they must get up and face every morning. Pelosi's face & other body parts would would sag like melting plastic if she had to get up facing the same difficulties everyday.

    What we need is not a new plan, but a communicator with priniciples, another Reagan or Thatcher, who can rally the country out of its avoidance of the reality facing us.

    Maybe cynics just don't/can't have faith in the common sense of their countrymen, a la Jefferson. I do and I will until I leave this earth. What is faith? Belief in the absence of reasons to believe.

    Take your cynical perspective and shove it.

  21. Okay, willie, we need a communicator, I agree.

    What would you do, now.
    More of the same?

    Find a new communicator, who, where and what should they say?

    Explianing how Mr al-Hakim and his empowerment in Iraq is "good" for the US, that'll take more than communication skills. It'll take bending reality with rhetoric.

    I assume we've won. I've read the Authorization, seems to me we've fulfilled it. Looks that way to more and more people, one way or another.

    How do we communicate the good work we've done. I've advocated a proposal for that, I've read of no other proposal from you other fellows. Better or worse

    Just name calling and labels that do not fit.

    What would you do, what happens when the Surge is complete. In August or October or next March. It will end one day and Mr Cheney will be proven correct.

    The animosities will still be there when the GIs leave.And leave they will, on General McCaffery's timeline, more or less.
    How do we make it appear to be a success, rather than not?

  22. Rufus,

    Gotta know when to hold 'em
    And know when to fold 'em
    And when to walk away.

    As I said 40+ years of listening and debating the left is enough. They're not going to change my ideals, nor will I be able to effect theirs.

    I look at it kinda like George McGovern in the case of DR. George flew his 25 missions in WWII and got home. He did his military duty.
    He then turned his war experience into fulminating against his countries policies and the Vietnam War. We know from interviews and documents that he and Jane and the Leftests embolden our enemies. However, there is no way around it cause we need open debate. I've just had my fill of the left, got no use for 'em.

    DR is doing a fine job for the left. I don't consider that name calling. We all have labels because we all have positions that are not original but rather fit well established templates.
    I'm a baby killing mindless member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. I would have bombed the entire country to rubble, moved in and watched the population pee in their pants at our might. They understand and respect that kind of power. I would have then rebuilt the country as we did with Japan. I like my position as much as DR likes his Leftest positions.

    DR wants "culturally" acceptable proposals, culturally defined by his I said I've been down this road for 40 years. He wants to call us "occupiers" at this stage, easily the rhetoric of Leftests. He mocks Iraqi sovereignty, another Leftest tactic of rhetorical sabotaging of US policy and demeaning the efforts of the host country. Same stuff I heard all through the Vietnam debates, same language, same delivery, samey-same

  23. I said that if the Shia do not provide a cut of the oil revenues, there would have to be replacement funding. Oil exploration or Saudi aid. Seems the Marines in Anbar see it the same way. via westhawk

    Conway said he was encouraged to hear from Brig. Gen. John Allen, the No. 2 Marine commander in western Iraq, that he has begun bringing together international businessmen and Iraqi government representatives to discuss investment prospects in resource-poor Anbar, including possible oil exploration deals.

    “Possibly we’re on the verge of something very important there,” Conway said.

    Golly, I'm only hours ahead of the news release curve, but behind the Marines implementation of another Desert Rat idea. Good news

  24. Which side won the practical political debate over Vietnam?

    Why Mr McGovern's team, even after he got wiped out in the Election, beat on worse by Mr Nixon than Mr Goldwater got whipped by LBJ.

    Which side will win the debate over Iraq?
    If my simple questions cannot be answered without name calling?

    How is that to be turned around?
    Who is to be the "Communicator" and what message should they be communicating?

  25. After the initial fall of Baghdad, I advocated "On to Damascus", mat said "No, Iran first, the oil fields are there for the picking" to paraphrase.

    We did neither.

    When the Turks said the 4thID could not disembark, I suggested Haifa as the alternate port, then driving to Baghdad from there.
    The US did not think that best.

    Fallujah I, Ramadi, Haditha, even the success the Brits have had in Basra. To empower Iranian proxies, instead of US allies.
    The US Government and its' Agencies could not even agree on who was an Iraqi ally.
    Mr Chalabi comes to mind. Mr Allawi as well. We allowed Iraqi politics to be rigged against US, and that's a done deal, now.

  26. When are UN sanctions not sanctions at all, when they deal with Iran and Russia, via the Christian Science Monitor

    Meanwhile, Russian newspaper Kommersant reports that Gen. Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, an Iranian official who had been subject to travel restrictions under a UN resolution, recently went to Russia "without any problem whatsoever," which he said demonstrated "the ineffectiveness of the resolution." However, Kommersant reports that Russian officials disputed General Zolqadr's insinuation that the visit was a violation of the UN restrictions.

    "Legally, the visit is unimpeachable," said Andrei Krivtsov, the deputy head of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry. "The UN sanctions in question do not prohibit visits by Iranian officials; they only stipulate mindfulness in relation to guests from Iran who have ties to the Iranian nuclear program. In that sense, everything is above board with Zolkadr — the nuclear program was not discussed during his visit." Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin claimed that Moscow had informed the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council about the general's visit well in advance. Thus, the Russian side did not violate any UN agreements in hosting Mohammad Bakr-Zolkadr.

    However, The New York Sun reports that "Western diplomats were livid" upon learning of the trip, and that US officials saw it as a clear violation of the UN resolution.

    "The resolution is clear," a spokesman for the American mission to the United Nations, Richard Grenell, told the Sun. "Countries must use vigilance and restraint to ban the travel of certain individuals."

    The resolution makes an exception in certain cases, when "compelling reasons" allow for travel. Mr. Grenell said, however, that council members understood those exceptions to include travel only to U.N. conferences or for religious purposes; neither of those applied in General Zolqadr's case.

    Who we gonna call?

    But the NorKs have had their accounts unfrozen, and the deadline to shut down their reactor, extended.

    Two months before North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon, President Bush was asked about a Treasury Department investigation of North Korean counterfeiting of $100 bills, which had ruptured talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear programs. "Counterfeiting U.S. dollars is an issue that every president ought to be concerned about," he replied bluntly during an August news conference. "And when you catch people counterfeiting your money, you need to do something about it."

    Yesterday, the Bush administration agreed to allow those suspected counterfeiters, along with other North Koreans suspected of money laundering and other fraud, to get their money back -- with no strings attached -- in the hopes it will ensure that North Korea shuts down its nuclear reactor by the end of the week. About $25 million had been frozen by Macau authorities, with about half clearly derived from criminal enterprises, U.S. officials said.

    No wonder Mr Bolton moved on.

  27. John R. Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador who has emerged as a critic of the nuclear deal, said the retreat is "an image of surrender that is going to be hard to erase." Returning the money to entities that committed fraud "will have a dilapidating effect on bringing sanctions against Iran and other rogue states," he said. "It is a terrible symbol."

    Well, John Bolton off the "Communicator" list, aye?

  28. me too Rufus

    it's another homily anyway

  29. "Well, John Bolton off the "Communicator" list, aye? "
    He communicates, all right, just that he's a GD Commie Symp.
    I could smell that leftist hack a mile away.

  30. Bobal,
    But what about the Breck Girl?

  31. Funny that an enabler of sharia, open borders, and massive social spending is painted as the conservative we must unquestioningly support.

    Bolton missed that message, I guess.

  32. Ban said he wanted to repair relations between the UN's rich and poor member states who fought bitterly over parts of Annan's reform program, and to build a staff that is mobile, dynamic, accountable and better able to meet the challenges of the 21st century. But his attempt to get speedy General Assembly approval to split the overburdened Peacekeeping Department and revamp the Department for Disarmament Affairs ran into strong opposition, and it took over two months for the 192 members to approve his revised proposal.

    While the assembly wrestled with reform, the secretary-general headed off in late January on a four-nation African visit including the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There, he tried unsuccessfully to get Sudan's al-Bashir to allow the deployment of an AU-UN force in Darfur.

    In March, he made an unannounced visit to Iraq en route to the Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he again put the pressure on the Sudanese leader.

    No Honeymoon

  33. Tancredo blasts decision reached by Republicans and Democrats

    "Handing out legal identification to millions of illegal aliens will expose our nation's Achilles' heal more quickly than almost any single action this Congress could take," he said.

    Tancredo noted that this morning the International Relations Committee heard from a whistleblower at the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service – the agency that would be charged with screening the 10 million illegal aliens – who documented massive fraud and mismanagement in the agency.

    USCIS has a security backlog in the millions, Tancredo pointed out, and, in order to reduce the backlog, is encouraging adjudicators to approve visas in fewer than four minutes.

    "It is no secret that two-thirds of foreign-born terrorists operating in the U.S. committed immigration fraud prior to or in conjunction with their terrorist activities," he said.

    "Piling 10 million more applications on USCIS is suicidal in terms of national security."

  34. Russian nationalists, like Putin, are simply ahead of the propaganda curve.

  35. It's all them apocalyptos that keep you awake at night, Bobal.
    Listen to Dennis Miller instead!
    Today's Guests:
    Wednesday, April 11
    Hour 1: Guests - Christopher Horner, Senior Fellow at Creative Enterprise Institute

    Hour 2: Guest - John McEnroe, 7-time Gland Slam Tennis Champion and former #1 player in the world
    (and a good friend of Dennis)

    Hour 3: Guests - Irshad Manji, Best-Selling Author of
    "The Trouble with Islam Today:
    A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith," and
    Gloria Allred, Lawyer, Feminist, Activist and Media Commentator.