Democracy is A Winning Idea, but So too is …
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Democracy is A Winning Idea, but So too is …

I was watching Fareed Zakaria’s interview of Bill Clinton this morning on CNN.

Fareed threw Clinton a complete softball when he asked him whether the US was responsible for Russia’s behavior and unlawful war against Ukraine today as a result of having been pushed into a corner by NATO’s expansion in the 1990s.

The answer is that of course Clinton and the US weren’t responsible. Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Baltic nations (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) became sovereign nations in the early 1990s and made the democratic decisions they made to join their own alliances and to move towards Europe and the West.

So too, incidentally, did Ukraine, but the US and the West adopted an arm’s length policy towards Ukraine – making it dispose of its nuclear weapons to not alienate Russia, and to continue to keep Russia close.

And, by the way, so too did Russia. In fact, more than any country in Eastern Europe, Russia rushed towards the West, adopted democracy and democratic institutions. The US government, through its own institutions and agencies and international institutions and agencies, invested heavily in instituting democratic foundations throughout Russia. It wasn’t a fleeting moment. It was a real investment in Russia’s transformation that was wholeheartedly adopted by Gorbachev, Yeltsin and the Russian people.

I know. I practiced law in Moscow from 1994 to 1997. I saw it.

But, another winning idea is wealth, and wealth, even if concentrated in the hands of a few, can be completely perverted. With the advent of social media, it can be used to create and energize tremendous anger in those that aren’t wealthy to the degree that it obviates democracy as an idea.

This is what happened in Russia in a slow moving form in the two decades since Yeltsin resigned. It happened in China and Brazil over the same period. It happened in the US in a much more condensed form (beginning, or at least only becoming apparent, when Trump came down the escalator and announced his campaign).

Wealth is an absolutely great thing. We’ve used it over the last Century to take scores of people from poverty and to make tremendous expansions in the areas of transportation and communication.

But, the challenge of our time that is so apparent from the war in Ukraine is that it must be used to preserve democracy and create and pursue a transformative climate agenda. If those converging on New York for the UN General Assembly this week again fail to understand this, then these windows on preserving democracy and taking urgent climate change worldwide will both be closed very quickly.

Ari Socolow
Ari Socolow: Ari Socolow is the Chief Economist and Editor-in-Chief at BestCashCow. He is particularly interested in issues relating to bank transparency and the climate crisis. Since co-founding BestCashCow in 2005, Ari has been frequently cited in the media as an expert on local and national savings accounts, CD products, mortgage and loan products and credit card rewards products.

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  • Rudy

    October 24, 2022

    There are three types of government. It's importiant to understand this fundimental societal law, governance is not etched in stone but fluid as political forces even good and evil tug away at each other and in this tug of war there can be only one winer.

    Here they are:
    1. The Republic. This was the form of government that established these United States, a Republic is an honest government with its roots in law and order, many famous people have been quoted as saying it is the greatest form of government if you can keep it, as Ronald Regan Stated we are just one genertion away from loosing the republic and it is up to us to teach the next generation.
    2. A Democracy. A democracy is the form of government that is run by the people, the problem is everybody wants their own way and it creates confusion, one day it is legal to do what is deemed the next day to be unlawful, there is no set rule to follow, esentually it is mob rule, the people with the power want to keep it and will do anything to keep it, even stooping to violence and murder. This is the popular type of government found in Banna republics in third world countries.
    3. The final form of government follows the 1st and 2nd it is called Dictatorship. As a resultof the ups and downs that come with a Democrcay eventually the people have had enough and will be glad to take any form of governance that will bring peace and stability and so the country moves into the final phase of its own destruction as tin pot dictators take charge and if you don't toe the line its off with the head, we see this around the globe, Iran is a good example. It is also the final form of Government of Rome and where its leaders considered themselves Gods.

    So, I would not brag about this being a Democracy because were on the road of total destruction with out Law and Order the Republic brings.

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