Elton Beard effectively sums up Tom Friedman’s latest ad hoc theory. But what strikes me most about it is that he chooses an example that completely repudiates his thesis:
Is Vladimir Putin’s Russia today a Jeffersonian democracy? Of course not. But it is a huge nation that was tilted in the wrong direction and is now tilted in the right direction. My definition of a country tilted in the right direction is a country where there is enough free market, enough rule of law, enough free press, speech and exchange of ideas that the true agent of change in history Â which is something that takes nine months and 21 years to develop, i.e. a generation Â can grow up, plan its future and realize its potential.
Now, a few years ago you could make a plausible case that Russia had reached a tipping point; it wasn’t exactly a democracy, but was on a strong transitional path. But Putin’s Russia isn’t just unlike a “Jeffersonian democracy”; it’s not like any democracy at all. It’s a one-party state with rigged elections, whose president can use the legal system to punish personal enemies. If you want to argue that Putin’s fairly sofauthoritarianismsm beats Stalinism, I’m certainly not going to argue, but let’s not kid ourselves about what’s going on there.
Indeed, as the case of Russia shows, the assumption that any liberalization creates an inevitable tipping point is actively pernicious; it’s perhaps one reason for the willful blindness on the part of much of the American media about Putin’s Russia.