June 22, 2004

Dishevelled Autocracies

"In a lawless and consequently weak state, man is defenceless and unfree. The stronger the state, the freer the individual." -- Vladimir Putin, "Open Letter to Russian Voters", 25/2/2000 (quoted in the LRB, 20/5/04).

Somewhere in there -- hiding behind the creepy totalitarian NewSpeak -- he has a point. Successful Western democracies (and the associated freedoms, however limited) typically evolve slowly from dishevelled and unravelling autocracies; they're not imposed, they don't arise spontaneously from revolution or anarchy (anyone who thinks the US "Revolutionary War" was anything much more than a small evolutionary step along a long and interesting road to something like Democracry probably can't quite see the wood for the trees...).


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