Biden's approval falls to 38%, nears record low: Poll

Biden's approval falls to 38%, nears record low: Poll

President Biden’s approval rating dropped to 38% in March, nearing the lowest rating of his presidency, according to a new poll released Thursday.

The survey from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs and Research said Mr. Biden’s approval rating slipped from 45% in February.

Fears of an economic recession triggered by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank contributed to the drop, the survey found.

Among those surveyed, 31% approved of Mr. Biden’s handling of the economy. Mr. Biden did fare much better among Democrats with 63% approving of his economic performance. But only 3% of Republicans said the president was doing a good job on the economy, according to the poll.

Respondents were also more pessimistic about the direction of the country than they were a month ago. The poll found that just 21% of the public say the country is headed in the right direction, down from 28% in February.
Only 37% of Democrats and 5% of Republicans say the country is headed in the right direction, the poll found.

The March approval rating is Mr. Biden’s lowest since July 2022 when record high gas prices and soaring inflation left 36% of voters approving of how he was doing his job.

Not since August 2021 has Mr. Biden had a net-positive approval rating — that is, an approval rating higher than his disapproval rating. The bungled withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan sent his approval/disapproval numbers underwater and it has remained there since.

The poll of 1,081 U.S. adults was conducted March 16-20 and has a 4 percentage-point error margin.

Source link

House China panel turns focus to plight of Uyghurs

House China panel turns focus to plight of Uyghurs

Two women who experienced life in Chinese “re-education” camps for Uyghurs will be among the witnesses Thursday as a special House committee focused on countering China shines a light on human rights abuses in the country.

Qelbinur Sidik is a member of China’s ethnic Uzbek minority who was forced to teach Chinese in separate detention facilities for Uyghur men and women. In advance of the hearing, she described through an interpreter hearing the screams of men being tortured in interrogation rooms nearby as she taught at the men’s facility. At the women’s facility, she said, inmates were routinely raped.

“Each time, when you see them walking in the hallway or when they walk in the classrooms, you can see, you can feel what kind of horrific torture they faced because of the mobility, the difficulty of moving around,” Sidik said.

Gulbahar Haitiwaji is a Uyghur who wrote a book about the experience of being held in two “re-education” camps and police stations for more than two years. She described being accused of “disorder” and detained with 30 to 40 people in a cell meant for nine. She also said she was chained to a bed for 20 days at one point, but that others had it even harder. A pressure campaign undertaken by her family in France led to her release in August 2019 with the admonition that she should not speak about her experience.

“If I do, my family members, relatives, will face consequences and their lives will be in danger” she said she was warned.

The U.S. and many other governments, the United Nations, and human rights groups accuse China of sweeping a million or more people from its Uyghur community and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups into detention camps, where many have said they were tortured, sexually assaulted, and forced to abandon their language and religion. China denies the accusations, which are based on evidence including interviews with survivors and photos and satellite images from Uyghur’s home province of Xinjiang, a major hub for factories and farms in far western China.

The accusations also include draconian birth control policies, all-encompassing restrictions on people’s movement and forced labor.

The early focus on the plight of Uyghurs by the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party is designed to show the Chinese government’s true nature, said Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, the committee’s Republican chairman.

“For the past 80 years, the world has said ‘never again.’ But a genocide is, in fact, happening again,” Gallagher said. “Now, it is time to do everything we can to stop it and ensure that no American – individual, company, investor, or university – remains knowingly or unknowingly complicit.”

In advance of the hearing, human rights experts talked about the importance of focusing on treatment of the Uyghurs, including Elisha Wiesel. He is the son of the late Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and the author of the memoir “Night” about his experiences during the Holocaust and living in concentration camps.

“Looking at the world stage right now, it’s clear to me that there is no crime on such a massive scale taking place as what’s taking place with the Uyghur people,” Wiesel said.

Wiesel said that both the Trump and Biden administrations had been active on the topic, and pointed to passage of a bill on forced labor and sanctions against companies shown to be using forced labor of Uyghurs. “This is exactly the sort of pressure that needs to be continued,” he said.

Laura Murphy, a researcher at Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom, specializes in American businesses that draw on forced labor. She said it was important for the United States to keep identifying and penalizing companies using Uyghur forced labor.

“Most companies … they not only don’t know, they intentionally don’t know,” Murphy said.

Outside of the sectors of cotton and components of solar panels, two industries in China that the U.S. and others say relies heavily on forced labor by detained Uyghurs, companies that draw on supplies from China “would prefer not to look into it,” she said.

“So long as businesses continue to do business with the Uyghur region … they are financing a genocide,” Murphy said.

The U.S. should step up legislation rewarding companies that have shown they make no use of Uyghur forced labor, in terms of access to U.S. markets, and increase information-sharing on companies that haven’t, she said.

The hearing also comes following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Russia to show support for President Vladimir Putin, underscoring just how badly U.S. relations with China have deteriorated.

“What we’re seeing here is increasingly a de facto alliance against America and our allies to try and undercut our interests,” Gallagher said.

The formation of the special China committee this year was a top priority of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., but close to 150 Democrats also voted for the committee’s creation, and its work has been unusually bipartisan so far.

“This hearing is important because what happens to the Uyghur community in China impacts Americans at home,” said the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. “It’s in the goods produced with slave labor, it’s the degradation of human rights that makes the world less safe, and it’s the ceaseless persecution of Uyghurs abroad that includes those living in America.”

Haitiwaji, the ethnic Uyghur woman testifying before the committee, said she is speaking out because she feels an obligation to speak for those still languishing in detention centers. She is calling on lawmakers to follow the example of Canada, which has adopted a policy of accepting 10,000 Uyghur refugees from around the world.

“Please rescue Uyghur and other Turkic refugees, like Canada has done,” she said in her prepared remarks. “Please stop American companies from continuing to be complicit in surveilling our people and profiting from their labor.”

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.

Source link

Manhattan DA rejects GOP demand for info on Trump case

Manhattan DA rejects GOP demand for info on Trump case

Republicans have criticized the grand jury investigation as an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.”

WASHINGTON — The Manhattan district attorney investigating Donald Trump rebuffed House Republicans’ request Thursday for documents and testimony about the case, dismissing it as an “unprecedented inquiry” with no legitimate basis.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the general counsel for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg slammed the congressional request as “an unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty.”

“The Letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene,” Leslie Dubeck wrote in the letter. “Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry.”

The Republican chairmen of three House committees on Monday sent a letter to Bragg seeking information about his actions in the Trump case. The Republicans criticized the grand jury investigation as an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.”

The chairmen requested testimony as well as documents and copies of any communications with the Justice Department to be turned over by Thursday. The request came as Republicans in the House quickly rallied around the former president as a grand jury in New York weighs whether to bring an indictment against him.

“If a grand jury brings charges against Donald Trump, the DA’s Office will have an obligation, as in every case, to provide a significant amount of discovery from its files to the defendant so that he may prepare a defense,” Dubeck wrote.

The five-page response from Bragg’s office provides a rare insight into what has remained a secret grand jury process, marking one of the first public acknowledgments that there is a sitting grand jury currently investigating Trump. The DA’s office has adhered closely to centuries-old rules that have kept grand juries under wraps to protect the reputations of people who end up not being charged and to encourage reluctant witnesses to testify.

In proceedings closed to the public and members of the media, grand jurors listen to evidence presented by prosecutors and hear from witnesses. There is no judge present nor anyone representing the accused, and prosecutors do not have to offer any evidence favorable to the defense.

The disclosure comes as the grand jury appears close to finishing its work, after hearing last week from Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, but the timing of a possible decision on whether to charge the ex-president remains uncertain. Prosecutors canceled a scheduled grand jury session Wednesday and planned to hear testimony on other matters Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter. But law enforcement in New York has been making preparations for any unrest, should Trump face charges.

The case revolves around hush money payments during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign to women who alleged sexual encounters with him. Bragg’s team appears to be looking at whether Trump or anyone committed crimes in New York state in arranging the payments, or in the way they accounted for them internally at the Trump Organization.

On Thursday, one of the GOP chairmen, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, expanded his probe into the handling of the Trump case by demanding testimony and documents from Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, two former Manhattan prosecutors who had been leading the Trump case before quitting last year in a clash over the direction of the probe.

“Last year, you resigned from the office over Bragg’s initial reluctance to move forward with charges, shaming Bragg in your resignation letter — which was subsequently leaked — into bringing charges,” Jordan, an Ohio Republican, wrote in the letter to Pomerantz late Wednesday. “It now appears that your efforts to shame Bragg have worked as he is reportedly resurrecting a so-called ‘zombie’ case against President Trump using a tenuous and untested legal theory.”

Requests for comment from Pomerantz and Dunne were not returned.

Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak in New York contributed to this report.

Source link

Will schools be closed for the 9th District special election?

Will schools be closed for the 9th District special election?

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Next Tuesday, Virginia’s 9th District will vote to choose their next state Senator. But on voting day, how will kids who attend schools that double as polling places be affected?

The special election on Tuesday, March 28 will fill Virginia’s 9th District Senate Seat, which was left open after Jennifer McClellan was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in February. The race is between Democrat Lamont Bagby and Republican Stephen Imholt.

The 9th Senate District consists of all of Charles City County and parts of Hanover County, Henrico County and the City of Richmond. This will be the 9th District’s final election before the new state legislative district lines will be used in the General Assembly elections in November. 

Several schools will serve as polling locations throughout the 9th District on March 28. Because of this, some kids may have their school’s hours adjusted for the election. Here is a list of schools in the 9th Senate District that will be impacted by the special election, and how each school will adjust its day.

Charles City County

Charles City County has three polling locations — New Vine Baptist Church, Charles City County Courthouse and Charles City Social Center. Because no schools serve as voting locations for the county, no schools will be impacted on Tuesday, March 28.

Hanover County

Two schools in Hanover County — Elmont Elementary School and Patrick Henry High School — will serve as polling locations while also remaining in session.

According to Chris Whitley, Assistant Superintendent for Hanover County Public Schools, the school has modified where voters will enter school buildings both to ensure safety and to prevent disruption for students. He also added that Hanover Schools has worked with the County Registrar’s Office to create a smooth voting process at the schools.

Henrico County

Tuesday, March 28 will be a student and staff holiday for all Henrico schools. No Henrico schools, regardless of if they serve as an election location, will be in session on this day.

City of Richmond

In Richmond, eight schools will be serving as polling locations during the special election:

Albert V. Norrell School

Barack Obama Elementary School

George W. Carver Elementary School

John B. Cary Elementary School

John Marshall High School

Linwood Holton Elementary School

Mary Munford Elementary School

Richmond Community High School

On the day of the election, these schools will have asynchronous learning. All schools will return to in-person learning on Wednesday, March 29. 

To check if you live in the 9th Senate District and to view your polling location, visit the Virginia Department of Elections online.

Source link

TikTok CEO faces off with Congress over security fears

TikTok CEO faces off with Congress over security fears

Shou Zi Chew’s testimony comes at a crucial time for the company, which has acquired 150 million American users but is under increasing pressure from U.S. officials.

WASHINGTON — The CEO of TikTok will make a high-profile appearance Thursday before a U.S. Congressional committee, where he’ll face a grilling on data security and user safety while he makes his own case for why the hugely popular video-sharing app shouldn’t be banned.

Shou Zi Chew’s testimony comes at a crucial time for the company, which has acquired 150 million American users but is under increasing pressure from U.S. officials. TikTok and its parent company ByteDance have been swept up in a wider geopolitical battle between Beijing and Washington over trade and technology.

Chew, a 40-year-old Singapore native, is making a rare public appearance to counter the volley of accusations that TikTok has been facing. On Wednesday, the company sent dozens of popular TikTokers to Capitol Hill to lobby lawmakers to preserve the platform. It has also been putting up ads all over Washington that tout promises of securing users data and privacy and creating a safe platform for its young users.

Chew plans to tell the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce that TikTok prioritizes the safety of its young users and deny allegations that the app is a national security risk, according to his prepared remarks released ahead of the hearing.

TikTok has been dogged by claims that its Chinese ownership means user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government or that it could be used to promote narratives favorable to the country’s Communist leaders.

“We understand the popularity of Tiktok, we get that,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “But the President’s job is to make sure again that the Americans, national security is protected as well. ”

For its part, TikTok has been trying to distance itself from its Chinese origins, saying that 60% percent of its parent company ByteDance is owned by global institutional investors such as Carlyle Group. ByteDance was founded by Chinese entrepreneurs in Beijing in 2012.

“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew said.

A U.S. ban on an app would be unprecedented and it’s unclear how the government would go about enforcing it.

Experts says officials could try to force Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores, preventing new users from downloading it as well as preventing existing users from updating it, ultimately rendering it useless.

The U.S. could also block access to TikTok’s infrastructure and data, seize its domain names or force internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to filter TikTok data traffic, said Ahmed Ghappour, a criminal law and computer security expert who teachers at Boston University School of Law.

But a tech savvy user could still get around restrictions by using a virtual private network to make it appear the user is in another country where it’s not blocked, he said.

To avoid a ban, TikTok has been trying to sell officials on a $1.5 billion plan called Project Texas, which routes all U.S. user data to domestic servers owned and maintained by software giant Oracle. Under the project, access to U.S. data is managed by U.S. employees through a separate entity called TikTok U.S. Data Security, which employs 1,500 people, is run independently of ByteDance and would be monitored by outside observers.

As of October, all new U.S. user data was being stored inside the country. The company started deleting all historic U.S. user data from non-Oracle servers this month, in a process expected to be completed later this year, Chew said.

A number of Western countries including Denmark, Canada, and New Zealand, along with the European Union, have already banned TikTok from devices issued to government employees, citing cybersecurity concerns.

In the U.S., the federal government, Congress, the armed forces and more than half of states have banned the app from official devices.

David Kennedy, a former government intelligence officer who runs the cybersecurity company TrustedSec, agrees with restricting TikTok access on government-issued phones because they might contain sensitive military information or other confidential material. A nationwide ban, however, might be too extreme, he said. He also wondered where it might lead.

“We have Tesla in China, we have Microsoft in China, we have Apple in China. Are they going to start banning us now?” Kennedy said. “It could escalate very quickly.”

Chan reported from London.

Source link

Where People Want a Dictator

Where People Want a Dictator

He’s dead and yet still everywhere. With the many mosques, schools, and even sports complexes that bear his name, it is impossible in Oman to escape Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who died in 2020 after ruling for 50 years. 

When I visited in December, it was eerie to feel as if Qaboos was still walking among us. He remains everywhere: his face is in people’s homes, his name on their lips. There is still genuine admiration for him because, unlike the many strongmen whose rule produced disaster, Qaboos genuinely served Oman, transforming his country from a wasted empire—that once held Zanzibar (now Tanzania) and the port of Gwadar (now Pakistan)—into a modern country in less than a generation. Because he provided genuinely good governance, he never faced a democratic challenge; for that same reason, neither does current Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, a cousin of the childless Qaboos. Haitham may not enjoy the legitimacy Qaboos had as the country’s founding father, but he is well-respected and all but set to rule for life.  

Like other Gulf states—including World Cup host Qatar and the United Arab Emirates—Oman seems to have cracked the code for becoming a “successful” autocracy, even as their approaches to political freedom and their stances on issues like LGBTQ and women’s rights fall short of what we in the West consider basic decency. Yet all it takes is to visit one of these countries—or one like Singapore—and speak with locals to better understand why they believe autocracy, not democracy, is better equipped for the 21st century. Indeed, these autocracies are set to endure because their systems work well enough for most Omanis, Qataris, Emiratis, and Singaporeans, not because the government harshly represses its people, as in Iran or Russia. They credit the government for making their countries the peaceful and rich ones they are today. They don’t want regime change, and they don’t wish for democracy. They want a dictator—as long as that dictator continues to serve them well. 

When the 29-year-old Qaboos, a member of the Al bu Said family that has ruled Oman since 1744, deposed his reactionary father in his 1970 coup, Oman was a desperately poor, disease-ridden, and largely illiterate amalgamation of warring tribes and religious powers.  

Sure, they had oil, but natural resources are hardly a recipe for national success when dealing with state weakness, ethnic divides, and poverty. The chaos that has plagued Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for decades could very well have claimed Oman, as well (to say nothing of neighboring Yemen).  

But Qaboos was headstrong and dedicated to developing his country. His first move was to quash a Soviet-backed separatist movement in Dhofar province. How? By building roads and schools.  

He continued to peacefully subdue the rest of his people with public goods. Over the following 50 years, Qaboos wielded the country’s oil resources, which were only a fraction of those of the United Arab Emirates or Qatar, to give more and more to Omanis. The roads are well built and extensive. The airports are clean and well conceived. The government has long provided free education and substantial social security. People take real pride in having a “good,” “caring,” and “rich” government that they believe is truly looking out for them, as I heard throughout my recent visit. They credit Qaboos for making all this a reality. “Before Qaboos, we were nothing,” one man in his mid-30s told me in December. “He made us.” 

Still, Oman was not immune from the 2011 Arab Spring, which saw anti-regime protests across the Middle East and North Africa. But unlike protesters in those regions who demanded the ouster of their autocrats, most of Oman’s demonstrations focused on a specific problem they wanted the ruling government to solve: a lack of jobs. Whereas protesters abroad called for their authoritarian leaders not to govern at all, Omanis simply called on Qaboos to govern better

He responded by expanding government spending and promising to create jobs. These moves mostly quelled the discontent, and the Omani miracle continued to chug along. 

Yet there are some lingering pressures facing Qaboos’s successor, Haitham. Oman’s economy has recently stagnated due to declining oil prices and COVID-19. How the country will replace oil as the world shifts to green energy remains unclear. People are increasingly calling for economic reforms. The country remains reliant on migrant labor from South Asia, creating a quasi-underclass that invites foreign criticism, even as the government works to bring more Omanis into the workforce through the “Omanization” policy. And while Qaboos’s 2020 death left open the door for elite political tensions, Haitham has deftly navigated the difficulties that afflict familial succession. 

The numbers speak for Oman’s success. The country remains in the top fourth of human development globally, according to the United Nations Development Program. Omanis actually live longer, on average, than Americans—some 78 years. The UNDP in 2010 declared Oman to be the most improved nation in terms of development during the preceding 40 years—above even China. Things may not be perfect, but life is pretty good for most Omanis.  

That success is largely the result of Qaboos’s vision, which comprised much of what citizens in both autocracies and democracies continue to want: public goods. His ability to deliver for his people created such enormous public trust in his government that nobody was or is calling for democracy. (Haitham’s apparent commitment to these same goals— “He’s making plans for the future,” a young man told me—has won him the public’s backing, even if there remains more emotional affinity for Qaboos.) 

Other young men who took the reins of their impoverished lands as the colonial era ended won such social trust. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emitates are chief among them.  

When Lee took over Singapore in 1959, much of the population was unskilled and illiterate, as in Oman. He, too, had to deal with the difficulties inherent to diversity; Singapore’s population comprised Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and even a few Jews. Like Qaboos would a decade later, Lee prioritized development over democracy, believing that Singaporeans wanted food, cash in their pockets, and strong hospitals more than they wanted liberty.  

Because Singapore had no natural resources to harness, Lee and his aides directed the government to focus on laying the groundwork for economic growth, which turned the city-state into a major financial hub. In Singapore’s first nine years of full independence, the gross national product nearly tripled—raising the average per capita income to the second highest in Asia, trailing only Japan. By the mid-1980s, many Singaporeans enjoyed a lifestyle rivaling the West’s. Singapore was and remains what Lee called a First World oasis in a Third World region: a clean, safe, and well-governed country. 

Lee was an autocrat, and Singapore remains an authoritarian country today. The government has long restricted a host of liberties, severely constraining any potential political competition.  

So have the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, which is far more repressive than Singapore. 

People everywhere today know the UAE for the opulence oil has provided: the gold, the gleaming Burj Khalifa, and the pristine Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. But what makes the country more incredible is that within living memory, some 50 years ago, the UAE did not exist. Its current major cities, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, were little more than fueling stations for European empires. The country’s population were nomadic desert wanderers and coastal pirates; they lacked the traditions and collective identity needed to form a nation, let alone a functioning, prosperous state at the forefront of international politics. 

In 1971, however, Zayed’s persuasion skills brought together the UAE’s seven emirates into a single country—even though several of the emirates’ ruling families had been feuding with one another for centuries, often fighting low-level wars in the desert.  

Since unification, the country has followed a relatively simple recipe to success: using oil profits to fund development and guarantee its people a high quality of life (all while importing a staggering number of South Asian, African, and other migrant workers to do the service and construction jobs that Emiratis, accustomed to wealth, will not). From 1975 to 2019, the country’s GDP jumped from $15 billion to $358 billion—an increase of around 2,280 percent. In this same period, life expectancy increased from 65 to 78. The UAE today stands tall, not only because of the renowned Burj Khalifa.  

As in Oman and Singapore, that rapid development has produced widespread respect for Sheikh Zayed and the ruling family. He “was the father of our nation,” one middle-aged woman told me when I visited last year. “He treated us as well as his children.” 

Yet modern autocracies, like all autocracies throughout history, are fundamentally flawed. Lacking feedback mechanisms hampers their ability to deliver. Repression stifles creativity and innovation. Succession troubles are more likely to eventually rear their head than not.  

But many—like Oman, Singapore, and the UAE—have proven durable. They have not just survived but thrived. Much the same can be said to varying extents of China, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, and Vietnam. These countries face economic and structural challenges but provide their citizens enough comfort to quell most democratic demands. Majorities are not calling for revolution because the system serves enough people. These autocracies have very well suppressed the innate human yearning for freedom through relatively good governance (and, at times, repression). 

That fact is a profound challenge to democracies today: More and more people worldwide want to live in an autocracy to emulate the successes of countries like the UAE and Singapore, not the dysfunction of the West.  

These autocracies are nothing like our last great autocratic competitor, the Soviet Union. The West won the Cold War partly because Soviet illiberalism was never successful; it was, as the German writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger said, “the highest stage of underdevelopment.” The system never achieved legitimacy at home or abroad because it never worked.  

Today, on the other hand, because successful autocracies “work” for a significant enough swath of their populations, fewer people are looking at democracy as a reasonable alternative. Why would anyone in Dubai, Muscat, or Hanoi look at the United States post-January 6 insurrections or the United Kingdom post-Brexit and think, “I want that?” Egyptians in Cairo have told me they want their government to look like the UAE, not a democracy; Cambodians in Phnom Penh and Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City have told me the same about China and Singapore. 

What’s most concerning is that people within democracies are beginning to feel the same. Several Silicon Valley leaders have made it clear that they would prefer it if the United States operated in a top-down, authoritarian corporate way—that is, like Singapore. Brexiteers have argued that their country could follow the “Singapore model.” Polls show that a disturbing number of Americans would prefer an authoritarian strongman to a democratically elected leader. Some Europeans feel the same, believing autocracy is better able to handle complex issues like climate change. They would prefer a Sultan Qaboos to a Rishi Sunak, a Sheikh Zayed to a Joe Biden, a Lee Kuan Yew to an Olaf Scholz.  

The authoritarian impulse promises a magic wand that one strongman, or a cadre of strongmen, can wave to make unbelievably complex issues disappear. The chief problem with this theory is that authorizing the state to coerce people into doing things they do not want would, by extension, authorize the state to punish those who do not obey those rules. “Benevolent” autocracy would devolve into repression quite quickly. 

The second problem is that—appearances aside—autocracies do not perform better than democracies. The social science is clear: If you live in a democracy, you will almost surely receive a better education, become wealthier, live longer, and have a richer cultural life than your counterparts in autocracies worldwide.  

But voters are inherently correct. They generally have a rational view of their political institutions; they tell decision-makers what is working, what is not, and what needs to be addressed. For all the elite laments about their supposed ignorance, voters know what they want, whether that be lower taxes, greater personal agency, or improved health care. And what Brexit, Trump, and Le Pen voters are telling politicians is that the system is not working for them, and they want to try something new—perhaps even autocracy. 

To combat this belief, we will need to emulate the countries that have successfully established meritocracies, developed accountable systems, won social trust, built top-class infrastructure, and invested in human capital while embracing the volatility intrinsic to democracy. We can learn from democratic countries like Denmark as much as from authoritarian ones like the UAE while retaining the character of our own nations. It is our openness and commitment to liberalism that will allow us to implement these reforms better than any autocracy ever could. 

The Omani Sultan, Saudi Crown Prince, Singaporean Prime Minister, and Emirati Sheikh may claim to hold the keys to the future. But there is a reason why they continue to educate themselves and their children in the West. It is the same reason their governments and people rely on our innovations, read our novels, watch our movies, and import our art. Something about our system is better, and deep down, even the dictators know it.  

Source link