The Problem with the “Russian Spring”
You have probably heard that, after some routine mass voter fraud, the Russian populace has risen up in protest. The Wall Street Journal has taken to calling it the “Russian Spring,” after the “Arab Spring” of earlier this year.
The Arab Spring, however, has had decidedly mixed results. While any organic movement against a totalitarian regime, such as the Egyptian citizens’ tossing out Hosni Mubarak, has the potential for vast gains in freedom and prosperity, one must be on guard for the unintended consequences. Egypt has found that deposing a dictator is not enough, as the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood has stepped forward to fill the vacuum. Perhaps even more disturbing, the Salafi Nour Party of fundamentalist theocrats has found mass popularity in the Egyptian Spring’s aftermath.
It seems odd to think that the Russian Spring will have more positive results. Russia has a modern history full of purges, consolidations of power, and repression. The most likely result of the protests is armed reprisal. I doubt much good will come of it.
The source of my doubts is cultural. These various world “springs” are cultural in origin – responses to ideas previously taboo. But while there will always be a fundamental human urge toward freedom (loosely defined), the cultural heft will be absent without a role model. In this case, the United States has abdicated its duty.
To a large extent, the United States is still proof of the efficacy of freedom in promoting wealth, equality, and satisfaction. On the other hand, ever since the Progressives of the late 1800s, and the New Deal of the 1930s, our country has been solidly on a path away from freedom. We are no longer the city on the hill; we are now far more comparable to a European-style social democracy, and there is at least as much citizen unrest in Europe as there is in Arabia.
Selling out our country’s legacy makes it nearly impossible for Arabs and Russians to point to the United States as a success story. And without a success story with a large cultural impact, it is nearly impossible for liberal reformers to convince their countrymen of their ideas.
Ultimately, the United States has sold its legacy for a sack of magic beans and a welfare check. We are suffering for it at home, but I would argue that would-be liberalizing forces the world over are suffering for it too.