Seeing all the brouhaha on Twitter censoring itself for certain countries, I find myself puzzled with the idea of freedom when it is applied to societies in turmoil. Unfortunately a lot of the world consists of dictatorships that have crushed their own populations. An example of this could be nations in sub Saharan Africa or countries like Egypt, Pakistan etc.
Many dictatorships have claimed that they exist to "hold the lid" on a boiling pot. The government of Egypt has claimed for years to the USA that they were the last "thin blue line" between us and crazy thugs. Unless we supported them with billions in aid, they claimed that a red tide of savages would take over and make the world "unstable". Seeing images from Egypt today makes it hard to argue with: Islamist types are sweeping to power. The US taxpayers ended up in the bizarre position of sending billions to Israel and Egypt.
Here is my question: what is the proper way to think about this? On one hand, the lid-on-the-boiling-pot theory is thoroughly discredited: pots boil over no matter how harsh the censorship and dictatorship (all the foreign aid could not keep Egyptians under the heel of government). On the other hand, allowing freedom seems to sweep highly unsavory people to power. We may all like Twitter and Facebook but what happens when people use them to organize Marxist or Islamists to power? Should we just grit our teeth and allow societies to evolve as long as they don't threaten us? Note: an increasingly globalized world makes this very difficult since pipelines do not behave nicely and avoid hotspots so we have a major headache. Do we "let" regimes evolve or do we station troops to protect "our" oil/gas pipelines? If we station troops, how quickly does this revert back into the support-the-dictator model that is directly opposed to our principles (freedom). Seeing the unsavory mob-rule that can result from repressed societies gaining liberty, is freedom essentially only a concept for rich, well-fed, educated people?
asked Jan 30 '12 at 09:02
From the perspective of a free (or predominately free) country, I see this question as a question about foreign policy, albeit expressed in the language of optimism versus practicality. What should be the foreign policy of a free country toward an unfree one? Should a free country try to act as a "world policeman"? Should it act as a "missionary," seeking "to bring civilization to the heathens"? And what ought a dictatorship do (or refrain from doing) toward other countries and toward its own citizens? How would such an "ought" be implemented by other countries, if there is no "world policeman"?
An excellent summary of the Objectivist view of foreign policy can be found in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Foreign Policy." The two lead excerpts (from CUI) explain that a proper foreign policy for America would be "a policy explicitly and proudly dedicated to the defense of America’s rights and national self-interests, repudiating foreign aid and all forms of international self-immolation." And: "The essence of capitalism’s foreign policy is free trade...." The excerpts explain these points in more detail, and the original CUI chapters explain them still further. The national self-interests of free nations do not clash; they allow and encourage philosophically unheard-of cooperation on a vast international scale.
The remaining Lexicon excerpts also explain that any free nation has the right to defend itself against attack by other nations (i.e., unfree nations seeking to survive by plundering others), and to retaliate by physical force if or when another nation attacks it. And the scope of the retaliation needs to be sufficient to remove the threat of future attacks as well as merely stopping and punishing an immediate attack. Refer to the Lexicon topic for further explanation.
I see this as another example, among a great many, of how so much confusion over human and national relations and thinking can be clarified and integrated superbly by the philosophy of Objectivism. Free nations do not have to be, and shouldn't even try to be, "world policemen" or "missionaries." They need only pursue their own national self-interests peacefully and productively, using physical force only in retaliation against attackers when free nations are attacked by physical force. Other countries, in turn, are free to participate in an international economy or not, as they see fit, and as they develop the economic means, and to learn what it takes to become able to participate in a process of production and trade. And they can learn, as the actual history of international capitalism has spectacularly demonstrated.
answered Feb 03 '12 at 22:08
Ideas for Life ♦