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Protecting the Democratic Dividend

The close connections between democracy, creativity, and economic progress are subtle and long-term, but they are real. In the face of a growing authoritarian challenge worldwide, democratic governments must act together to protect them.

NEW YORK – During my years as a policymaker in India and at the World Bank, one of the few leaders I met whom I came truly to respect was Madeleine Albright. The former US secretary of state was a master strategist, but behind the strategizing lay empathy and a moral compass. That is why we should take seriously her recent essay on the need for urgent global action to fight authoritarianism, which the all-out invasion of democratic Ukraine by Russia’s autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin, only serves to underscore.

History is replete with grotesque forms of human oppression, including slavery, racism, and oligarchies crushing people’s aspirations. Today, the continued rise of authoritarianism in countries such as Brazil, Turkey, and of course Russia highlights the need to shore up democracy. What is new is that this effort now must be global.

Even as the shadow of authoritarian misrule spreads, there is a growing aspiration for democracy among ordinary people seeking greater freedom and dignity. A Pew Research Center survey of 17 advanced economies in 2021 shows disaffection with the lack of individual freedom in authoritarian states at an all-time high. Additionally, according to the survey, a median of 74% of people in these countries had no confidence in Putin doing the “right thing in world affairs.”

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