Jon Utley’s Trip Report: Some Hopeful Signs from Belarus

We often think of Belarus as being an authoritarian dictatorship. And it is. But there is some good news. Jon Basil Utley, associate publisher of The American Conservative, recently returned from Belarus and reports on some positive signs. While the government still owns and runs a large segment of the economy, Belarus ranks twelfth in the world for the ease of starting a business. Austria, by contrast, ranks a dismal 106th. And while President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has a bad habit of jailing political opponents, they tend to be released quickly.

Utley also notes some progress in separation from Russian foreign policy:

Belarus has become more independent of Russia since the Ukrainian conflict, rejected Moscow’s plans to establish a new airbase on its territory, and refused to join Russia’s trade war with Ukraine.

Things can’t be all bad in a country that has a Liberal Institute, where that name is used correctly to refer to classical liberalism, that has an event in a hall called the "John Galt Club."

Read Utley’s report at The American Conservative.

David R. Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and an associate professor of economics in the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School. He is author of The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey and co-author, with Charles L. Hooper, of Making Great Decisions in Business and Life. His latest book is The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. He has appeared on The O’Reilly Factor, the Jim Lehrer Newshour, CNN, and C-SPAN. He has had over 100 articles published in Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Red Herring, Barron’s, National Review, Reason, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Christian Science Monitor. He has also testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. He is an occasional columnist at Visit his Web site.

12 thoughts on “Jon Utley’s Trip Report: Some Hopeful Signs from Belarus”

  1. Anything “liberal” is not worth praising. Even when it is in Belarus. We continue to conjure up the images of gray Soviet style lands — when in fact, Belarus is thriving. Exports of trucks and farm machinery is up, NO unemployment, NO imports of food (except to satisfy the gourmet customers). There was no Russia -style tycoon rampage of the land, so they were spared the liberal-style destruction of economy and agriculture. There are other indicators that prove the successful transition into a contemporary global economy. But the whole drama about the “opposition” is grossly overdone. Belarus is — like most other countries in the Eastern Europe invaded by a locust of “civil society” and “humanitarian” proselytizers, and our media tends to give them an aura of sainthood. They are not. They are not respected by the societies they operate in, and the only reason they are not outright banned, is to please the Western donors. But it is merely the question of patience on the behalf of host countries. Turkey is an example where such interventions in the life of domestic politics has gone far, way too far.
    As for the relationship with Russia — I do dislike the ideological whiff of the article. There is an element of strategic ambiguity between Russia and Belarus, in order to allow Belarus to act in the capacity of peace facilitator, hence, Minsk agreements. Both Russia and Belarus are role playing, and we should be capable to see this — not to be “hopeful” that their relationship is getting sour. We should be by far more concerned by the rise in status and the ideological acceptance of Nazism in Ukraine. Their pronouncements are bone chilling — yet, we act dumb. This is not in our national interest. We do not seem to have the capacity to separate the special interests in US that are driving anti-Russia politics, from what really is our own concern — if any.
    Other countries’ forms of governance, including the absence of “liberalism” should not be at all our concern. In fact, is it really in US interests to constantly promote the “liberal world order”? The only constituency that is promoting such order are those that want borders to be gone, nations to be gone, populations reduced to begging for their group’s narrow interests, and a freedom for banking to roam the globe. We have already seen the signs of the disaster in 2008, but the architects of the system are pushing blindly forward, for as long as a red cent can be sucked out of the economy, transferred into privileged interest pockets, and leave the rest leveraged beyond comprehension.
    And while it is clear that other countries are playing us as a fiddle in order to keep away the wrath of the behemoth, giving us the wide repertoire of strategic ambiguity. Between Russia and China, Russia and Iran, China and India. Russia and Turkey — and yes, between Russia and Belarus. Haven’t we already seen enough of this — to catch a clue? Or we are going to continue down the primrose path of our ideologically blinded elites, while the world is consolidating their positions? We cannot account for trillions of money that “disappeared’ down the rabbit hole of neocon smugness — but we seem to care whether Belarus is getting more liberal! Time to really, really, wake up.

    1. “Anything ‘liberal’ is not worth praising.”

      The choice is between variants of liberalism and variants of fascism.

      Which is the same as the choice between the possibility of peace and the inevitability of war.

      1. GK Chesterton encouraged travel as a means of reducing “bigotry”. I don’t have the quote at hand, so I put the word in quotations, meaning it’s possible I have the meaning slightly off.

        In Europe, nationalism is admittedly concerning, because each nationality seems to desire to reclaim lost territory. What you say applies well to Europe, sadly.

        In an ideal world, each state would be content with what it owns, especially since developed human populations are no longer expanding, no longer pressuring a drive for resources.

        I again have no quote, but Machiavelli wrote how a polity must choose to either expand or decay. I’ve always liked the decay option.

        Also, I think classical liberalism is flawed in how it overlooks Aristotle’s teaching that a middle class brings stability. Marxism relies on, even seems to intentionally expand, the wealth gap that results with capitalism, so as to ride to power on that anger. Also, we see how concentrated power (eg. capitalists) within our societies tend to use their money to buy influence in our governments.

        I don’t suggest what you say is nonsensical though. As with any conservative I tend to say “there is no utopia”, also a more fascist sounding “life is a struggle”, which isn’t to suggest war is desired for some mad eugenic reason.

        I rather like conservatives like Robert Nisbet who warned against extreme individualism. And it’s worth noting that Richard Weaver and Russell Kirk both condemned the nuking of Japan, total war – highlighting how we’re not all fascists, those of us who reject liberalism.

        What’s wonderful about libertarians is you don’t believe in forcing others to embrace your ideas. So if a society arose that resisted Neoliberalism but minded its own affairs, the libertarian wouldn’t demand that it open its markets and cultural institutions.

  2. Was this article meant to be a joke? The only real change in Belarus is that, after years of attempted US regime change, Lukashenko finally sold out to western business interests and turned his back on his former allies in Moscow. I know you guys get all gooey for John Galt (a fictional sociopath on par with Bret Easton Ellis’ Patrick Bateman) but another country’s bow to unfettered market tyranny hardly seems like a reason for celebration.

  3. The fact is we have Russian fighters stationed on Belarussian territory. We were given interceptors and Anti-air missile systems for the combined Belarus/ Russia air defence coordination tasks. We have open borders with Russia, no passprt is needed, propiska is very easy. This anti-war site is pro-war american propaganda. Nothing more. It is lies, misinformation and propaganda. Belarus has not, and never will turn its back to the west away from Russia. Americans are liars.

        1. This is an excellent anti-war site that often counters US government propaganda. (I’m an American.) There is no similar website to this, so you should be more polite.

          It is, however, run by kooky libertarians who accuse everyone of being various degrees of statist. Big business, in their eyes, is only a threat when using big government. It’s silly, but the website works. This is the best anti-war site, and they tolerate about everyone who shares their foreign policy views.

          I’m at the opposite end, philosophically. I’m a conservative (One example of difference: Ayn Rand didn’t like CS Lewis, not to suggest Christians can’t be libertarian.) But politically I love this website.

          And if we had a comparable conservative anti-war website up, it would be hated by the Left. So, this is just the best possible site mere humans can produce.

          1. Luchorpan, we DO have a “comparable conservative anti-war website up.” It’s call The American Conservative. But still, I do somewhat agree with your comments and gave you a vote up.

            What you need to do, though, is distinguish between capital-L Libertarians (who tend to be the sorts who have only ever read one book, too often, Atlas Shrugged) and lower-case libertarians, who are as anti-corporate as they are anti-government, who lean more toward the anarchism of Dorothy Day than the “Objectivist” blahooey of Ayn Rand, and who have actually READ The Wealth of Nations and recognize that Adam Smith was possibly more anti-corporation that Karl Marx.

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