WSJ Again Confused About Freedom
By Staff News & Analysis - January 13, 2010

After the West won the Cold War, democracy flourished in the world as never before. No more. The tide of political and human freedom hasn't merely slowed but in recent years has turned in the other direction. Seeing that the U.S. midwifed the post-1989 world, these trends are of more than passing interest. Democracy's troubles are summed up in "Freedom in the World 2010," the yearly report card published today by Freedom House. We're in a "freedom recession," the advocacy group says. For the fourth consecutive year, more countries saw declines in political and civic rights than advances, the longest such period of deterioration in the 40-year history of this widely cited report. Start with the "axis of engagement" states that President Obama sought to butter up diplomatically in his first year in office. The authoritarian regimes in Russia, Venezuela, Iran and China all became more repressive in 2009, according to Freedom House measures. America's attempts to play nice didn't make the other side any nicer. Military coups rocked four African states. Central Asia's one democratic hope, Kyrgyzstan, was demoted this year from the "partly free" to "not free" category. The Mideast remains the world's least fertile soil for democracy. Only one nation-Israel- qualifies as "free." Most of its Arab neighbors went further down the path of repression. There were declines even in Jordan and Morocco, whose moderate kings moved in the past year to concentrate political power. Iraq and Lebanon are notable exceptions. Along with Turkey, both can lay a claim to being Muslim democracies. Both, not incidentally, were beneficiaries of George W. Bush's "democracy agenda" in the mid-2000s. The picture isn't all gloomy. Eighty-nine countries-which represent nearly half the world's population-are "free," according to the Freedom House measures, and 116 are electoral democracies. Twenty years ago, only 61 and 76 fit those respective categories. Never before have as many people lived without tyranny. – Wall Street Journal

Dominant Social Theme: Freedom passes …

Free-Market Analysis: We remember when the West won the cold war. Immediately hundreds of Harvard-types descended on Russia recommending all the accoutrements of Western Civilization: central banking, regulatory finance, stock markets, etc. It didn't work for very long because these are generally corrupt institutions anyway (they are reducing Western economies to shambles), and Russia had no culture of freedom to begin with. We realized then, watching what was going on in Russia at the time, that the West's financial and sociopolitical institutions were focused on governance – and lousy governance at that. The Western impetus as we could see it had little to do with freedom or "democracy."

This article in the WSJ brings back memories of those observations. It is yet another good example of the difficulty the Journal is having in the age of the Internet. This editorial, which seems to be unsigned, reminds us yet again of why newspaper readership in the West is eroding and why trust in mainstream news is ebbing lower on a regular basis.

It is common knowledge now, for those who read the Internet, that a republican form of government is far preferable to a democracy, which is the rule of the mob, yet this article we are analyzing is actually called "Democracy's Wane." Why would anyone be worried about the ebbing of democracy, which is merely the brutalization of the majority by the minority? The article should be entitled "Freedom's Wane." But this might bring up uncomfortable questions about what freedom really is. Here's some more from the article:

The recent reversals coincide, however, with America's own waning interest in democracy promotion. This didn't start with the Obama ascendancy. Chastened by the 2006 midterm election debacle and sinking public support for his Mideast policies, President Bush took rhetorical and practical emphasis off his own flagship foreign-policy agenda.

The current Administration has changed the focus entirely. In its dealings with Russia and China, strategic issues trump any talk of democracy or human rights, which earlier this year in China, strategic issues trump any talk of democracy or human rights, which earlier this year in Beijing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton notably called a distraction to bilateral relations. Ditto in Iran. If in the days of Jack Kennedy or Ronald Reagan, we worked to fashion the world into a better place guided by the belief that the urge to live in freedom is universal, today we act as if we are resigned to taking the world as it is. We used to nudge countries toward liberal democracy. Now we assume the price of nudging is too high.

The excerpt above implies that first Bush and now Obama have de-emphasized "democracy" as a worthwhile goal, worldwide. And the article implies that Ronald Reagan and Jack Kennedy were stronger proponents of freedom than the current crop of American leaders. Is this so? Kennedy was a Democrat and as a major political player he was a captive of the entire post-war military-corporate juggernaut of mid-20th century America. (It is likely that he died trying to disentangle himself somewhat.)

And what of Reagan? True Ronald Reagan cut taxes, but he worked within a gigantic federal government system that supported the largest military in the world, an abysmal graduated income tax, and a regulatory democracy that despite Reagan's rhetoric owned 30 percent of the nation's land outright (and still does) and supported a private central bank that hugely aggravated the business cycle. The Crash of 1987 occurred during Reagan's tenure, and had little to do with the free-market.

The article implies that there is a good deal of freedom in the world, but also seems to make the case that America itself is a free country that ought to more forcefully insist on its freedoms. We believe, along with many others, that once the states lost the power to secede after the Civil War (War Between the States) that America also lost its place as the European "exception." Ever since then, the Federal government has reigned supreme and as a result now recycles trillions – some 30 percent of the nation's gross national product. How can this be considered freedom?

It is articles such as this one that make our case for how difficult it is for the mainstream press to retain credibility in an Internet era. Anyone who wishes to can find plenty of material on the ‘Net to rebut this article. America was founded as a republic not a democracy. The erosion of freedom in America began in earnest after the Civil War not with the Bush and Obama administrations. Whether democracy wanes or waxes has little if anything to do with freedom in the world.

After Thoughts

There are very few countries that would be considered even minimally free by the American Constitutional forefathers. Certainly the countries that this survey doubtless classifies as free – European countries as well as America – are places where citizens pay up to half of their income in taxes and see the rest eroded by central banking monetary mismanagement. America especially with its overlay of civil rights violations as a result of the war on terror – warrantless wiretapping and no-fly lists, etc. – is losing freedoms at a rapid rate. None of this is discussed in this little squib of an article, nor even alluded to. But nonetheless, it appeared online prominently as a WSJ opinion-piece and thus has contributed a little more to the erosion of WSJ credibility.

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