The biggest challenge facing free societies today is our lack of belief in them. I am seeing too many self-inflicted wounds, most of all the recent democratically derived decisions in the United Kingdom and the United States. To make this more troubling yet, many other societies seem to be evolving in a less free direction, autocracies included. A list of societies moving in the wrong, less-free direction would include Russia, China, Turkey, much of the Middle East, and much of eastern Europe, in addition to some key countries in the West...
Here’s another way to put my concern. The percentage of global GDP which is held in relatively non-free countries, such as China, has been rising relative to the share of global GDP held in the freer countries. I suspect we are underrating the noxious effects of that development.
Just think back to the 1930s, and some other decades, and consider how many Westerners and Western intellectuals were infatuated with communism and also Stalinism, even at times with fascism, at least before WWII. I would say that if a big idea is around, and supported by some major governments, some number of people will be attracted to that idea, even if we don’t understand the mechanisms here very well. Nonetheless that seems to be an unfortunate sociological truth. Today that big idea isn’t so much communism as it is various forms of authoritarianism. Authoritarians have more presence on the global stage today than has been the case for a while. Furthermore, a lot of the authoritarian states are still in their “rising” forms, rather than their decadent forms, as was the case for Soviet communism in say the 1980s. For instance, while predictions about the future of China are difficult to make, the Chinese Communist Party hardly seems to be on the verge of collapse, and thus its authoritarianism may not be discredited by current events anytime soon. On the global stage, Putin’s Russia has won some recent successes as of late, including in Crimea and also by interfering with democratic elections in the West, apparently with impunity.
To put it simply, global authoritarianism is probably poisoning our political climate more than many people realize.