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Western values can defeat Russian propaganda and Eastern cronyism: Neamtu

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The fall of the Berlin Wall remains the greatest symbolic victory of freedom over tyranny in the modern age. Yet the triumph of liberty finds itself threatened by corruption and a propaganda war wrapped up in religious sentiment, according to a prominent Eastern European commentator.

Mihail Neamtu, a public intellectual in Romania, warns that Eastern Europe is in danger of backsliding away from democracy and the free market in a new essay for Religion & Liberty Transatlantic.

“Pervasive cronyism is slowly corroding the fragile foundations of Romanian and other post-communist democracies,” he writes. “This corruption is taking place despite enjoying positive relations with international partners such as the United States or the European Union, and despite the strong natural attraction of the people in these countries to Western – and particularly American – values.”

Government intervention in the economy and contracts awarded by the European Union exacerbate the tendency toward corruption residing within everyone made of flesh and blood.

According to Neamtu, Russian propaganda is at the heart of this tug-of-war between capitalism and autarky, between representative government and creeping authoritarianism. Much of this propaganda, he says, comes camouflaged by an element of faith:

Russia’s favourite modus operandi in trying to influence these ideological wars now being waged across Eastern Europe is to use institutionalised corruption and often subtle propaganda. This propaganda is based, at times, on religious arguments. … [R]eligion is being impressed into the service of propaganda.

Russia is able to portray the West, Neamtu writes, as “decaying, declining, and decadent.” However, he contends this is neither an accurate portrayal of the United States nor in keeping with the traditional Judeo-Christian values that still animate much of the West. Unfortunately, the U.S. has not only obscured these values – at home, as well as in foreign messaging – but sometimes promoted a radically different cultural and governing philosophy in Eastern Europe. The Obama administration funded certain NGOs, aligned with billionaire George Soros, which encouraged an expansive and activist government.

Neamtu writes that only if the U.S. again promotes traditional Western values can endemic cronyism and Russian propaganda be driven back under a resurgence of democratic capitalism:

The United States could benefit immensely if it reinvigorated Cold War-era programs, such as Radio Free Europe, as part of a more focused and determined effort to communicate the values of Western civilization in this part of the world. This includes promoting life, liberty, private property, the importance of the traditional family (including the joys of having children), and religious freedom.

Wars are never won by laying down one’s ideological weapons. The peoples in Ukraine and Moldova want not just military protection, but also a glimmer of hope that their lives will prosper, despite the outbreak of high-level corruption, the erosion of democracy, and media propaganda that still poisons the public square.

Neamtu says the East needs the West to stand wholeheartedly behind its own culture and civilization to prevent a future of greater corruption and stagnation.

Promoting Western values need not, should not – indeed, cannot – rely exclusively upon the government. Until such time as the U.S. government fully engages in this war of ideas, Neamtu’s prophetic warning shows what makes initiatives of private scholars who believe in the compatibility of traditional faith and free markets – such as Religion & Liberty Transatlantic – so vital.

You can read his full essay here.

(Photo credit: CIA. Public domain.)

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The Cure for Consumerism

Despite the rapid increase in human flourishing since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, critics of the market economy insist that it leads inevitably to consumerism and other excesses of materialism. Those who make this indictment—including sociologists, political pundits, and religious leaders—also ignore how economic liberty has brought about one of the most remarkable achievements in human history: an 80 percent reduction in world poverty since 1970. The Cure for Consumerism examines popular prescriptions for addressing consumerism that range from simply consuming less to completely overhauling our economic system. In this lively and accessible book, Rev. Gregory Jensen synthesizes insights from the spiritual tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church with modern social science to craft a clear understanding of consumerism, to offer real solutions to the problems, and to put faith and economic freedom to work for both the common good and the kingdom of God.

Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.

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