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Democratic West

The secret of the West’s success

The Palace of Westminster: home of parliamentary democracy. Getty

The world’s autocrats are having “a very bad year”, says Gerard Baker in The Wall Street Journal. In Russia, a modern-day tsar finds his imperialist ambitions thwarted by an army “a fraction the size of his own”, while thousands of his subjects flee to avoid his hated war. In Iran, the mullahs feel obliged to prove their virtue by “beating to death quietly defiant young women” and shooting dozens of their own citizens. In China, Xi Jinping’s “lunatic” zero-Covid policy and “ham-fisted economic management” reveal a regime in peril.

Yet instead of watching all this with satisfaction, the democratic West remains convinced its own system is “intolerable”. Joe Biden says half his opponents are “semi-fascists”; Donald Trump insists he is a victim of a “repressive police state”. This is the central paradox of liberalism: “Since we’re free to air our faults, we can talk about nothing else.” There is no denunciation of the West in any “politburo or revolutionary council” in the world that can match what you hear every day in a Western university campus or TV studio. Of course, liberals are correct to challenge the “dangerous extremism” of the right, and conservatives are right to criticise the “suffocating intolerance” of the woke left. Constant, sometimes exhausting, scrutiny of those who govern us is the secret to the West’s success. Winston Churchill was right: democracy is the worst form of government, “except for all the others”.