Garry Kasparov and Thor Halvorssen in Washington Post Opinion Section wrote:Last month the world’s elite listened politely as Chinese President Xi Jinping offered the keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Of course, the leader of the Chinese dictatorship didn’t mention how he and his cronies jail and disappear human rights activists, persecute ethnic minorities and religious groups, and operate a vast censorship and surveillance system, among other evils. It is striking that a forum dedicated to “improving the state of the world” would offer such an important stage to the leader of a repressive regime. Xi began his remarks in part by asking “What has gone wrong with the world?” The fact is, he’s part of the problem.
At present, the authoritarianism business is booming. According to the Human Rights Foundation’s research, the citizens of 94 countries suffer under non-democratic regimes, meaning that 3.97 billion people are currently controlled by tyrants, absolute monarchs, military juntas or competitive authoritarians. That’s 53 percent of the world’s population. Statistically, then, authoritarianism is one of the largest — if not the largest — challenges facing humanity.
Consider the scale of some of the world’s other crises. About 836 million live under extreme poverty, and 783 million lack clean drinking water. War and conflict have displaced 65 million from their homes. Between 1994 and 2013 an annual average of 218 million people were affected by natural disasters. These are terrible, seemingly intractable problems — but at least there are United Nations bodies, aid organizations and State Department teams dedicated to each one of them.
Dictators and elected authoritarians, by contrast, get a free pass. The World Bank bails out repressive regimes on a regular basis. There is no anti-tyrant U.N. task force, no Sustainable Development Goals against tyranny, no army of activists.
We, the authors, have experienced the ills of authoritarianism personally. One of us has been beaten, blacklisted and forced into exile by operatives of the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin has relentlessly pushed to crush freedom of speech, brazenly annex Crimea and increase his global military activities in ways that hark back to the Cold War. The other author has seen his mother shot by Venezuelan security forces and his first cousin languish for nearly three years in a military jail as a prisoner of conscience. Today Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro runs a regime that regularly imprisons dissidents, abuses protesters and engages in such widespread graft and corruption that the country is now undergoing a catastrophic economic collapse.
Putin and Maduro have co-conspirators in all parts of the world, fellow would-be tyrants who are dismantling the free press, jailing opponents, manipulating elections and committing a host of human rights violations. In Turkey, a once-promising democracy is gasping for air. Its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has shut down 149 media outlets, shuttered more than 2,000 schools and universities, fired more than 120,000 civil servants and jailed more than 45,000 suspected dissenters. In North Korea, Kim Jong Un rules the most totalitarian government on Earth, brainwashing 25 million people and terrorizing them with public executions, forced famines and a vast network of concentration camps that reminded U.N. investigators of Pol Pot’s Cambodia and Nazi Germany.
And there are so many lesser-known dictators in countries such as Bahrain, Kazakhstan and Equatorial Guinea, where tyrants pilfer their countries’ natural resources and pocket the profits in private off-shore accounts. To cover their atrocities, they hire lobbyists, public relations firms and even policy groups in the free world to whitewash their actions.
If injustice and oppression aren’t bad enough, authoritarian governments bear an enormous social cost. Dictator-led countries have higher rates of mental illness, lower levels of health and life expectancy, and, as Amartya Sen famously argued, higher susceptibility to famine. Their citizens are less educated and file fewer patents. In 2016, more patents were filed in France than in the entire Arab world — not because Arabs are less entrepreneurial than the French, but because nearly all of them live under stifling authoritarianism. Clearly, the suppression of free expression and creativity has harmful effects on innovation and economic growth. Citizens of free and open societies such as Germany, South Korea and Chile witness advances in business, science and technology that Belarusans, Burmese and Cubans can only dream of.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dem ... tastrophe/