On a recent Saturday morning, several hundred pro-democracy activists congregated in a Moscow square to protest government restrictions on freedom of assembly. They held up signs reading “31,” in reference to Article 31 of the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly. They were promptly surrounded by policemen, who tried to break up the demonstration. A leading critic of the Kremlin and several others were hastily dragged into a police car and driven away.
Events like this are an almost daily occurrence in Russia, where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rules the country with a strong hand, and persecution of the government’s opponents, human-rights violations, and judicial abuses have become routine. At a time when democracy and human rights have become global norms, such transgressions do little to enhance Russia’s global reputation. Authoritarian leaders like Putin understand this, but apparently they see it as price worth paying in order to exercise unbridled power at home.
What leaders like Putin understand less well is that their politics also compromise their countries’ economic future and global economic standing.
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Correction. Due to an oversight on my part during the editing process, the sentence that started with “Democracies not only do not underperform dictatorships when it comes to long-term economic growth..” in my original version eventually became “Democracies not only out-perform dictatorships when it comes to long-term economic growth..” in the published piece. The change imparted a superiority to democracy in terms of growth which the evidence does not find and which I did not intend to express. Thanks to Dr. Emmanuel Yujuico for taking me to task over this change, which I had not noticed until he pointed it out.