Dr. Leon Aron’s speech at the American Enterprise Institute makes it clear that what is being attempted in Russia is the reverse of what is occurring in America.
Dr Aron explains that before a stable democracy can prevail in Russia a change in the mentality of the citizenry is necessary. In his words, a renorming of society must occur: a belief in the moral absolutes of good and evil, the ability to tell them apart and prefer the former to the latter. He notes that John Adams came to a similar conclusion. “Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul.” The only serious aspect of politics, Aron says, is its relation to morality.
People must take control of their lives and not expect the state to fulfill personal responsibilities. The tentacles of the bureaucracy must be removed from every day life so that citizens no longer depend upon the state for their needs. Private property must be respected and protected because it is the citizens’ defense against the tyranny of the state. Thus, private property has a moral dimension more important even than its economic one.
Aron also lists the conditions necessary for a democratic system to prevail. Among them are private property, the rule of law, and a press independent of the state.
The foregoing is a poor summation of Aron’s trenchant remarks but it will suffice to contrast a renorming of another kind now taking place in America.
The extension of the welfare state encourages a growing number of people to rely upon the bureaucracy for their sustenance. Private enterprise is attacked through regulations and bailouts. Small businesses are squeezed out of the economy and corporations beholden to the state do the state’s bidding. GM produces a car that few want to drive and fewer still will buy, but never the less is leveraged with citizens’ money.
The rule of law is eroded to such an extent that the president is now telling defense contractors to violate a law that requires employees be notified of coming layoffs, (notification would take place shortly before the election), and he promises that the rest of us will pay their legal fees. Executive orders bypass the legislature; the president issues waivers for laws he dislikes and makes appointments without Senate consent while the Senate is in session. Perhaps most disturbing, the media have voluntarily become a subsidiary of the state and are no longer trusted as honest brokers.
When asked about the future of Russia under Vladimir Putin, Aron described him as “very clever politically’ because he practices the politics of division and envy by denigrating pro-democracy protesters as “fat bourgeoisie with mink coats who travel abroad” and contrasts their lifestyles to ordinary Russians.
Aron describes two Russia’s: big city Russia that gets its information from the uncensored Internet and pro-democracy groups congregate, and rural and small town Russia dependent upon government-owned industries for jobs and government-controlled television for news. Putin is very successful with the second group.
In summary, Aron says that before a free and democratic society can be established In Russia, the people need to restore their souls. In America we are encouraged to lose ours.