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Independent writer. Bylines in The National Interest, City Journal, Foundation for Economic Education, Law & Liberty, and other publications.
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The enemies of the open society often cite examples of the successes of authoritarian regimes as a proof of their superiority and an argument against liberal democracy. It is true that centralized regimes often succeed. Examples include the resurgence of the Soviet Union following the end of the Second World War (with the Soviet Union becoming the first nation to put a man into space and challenging the West’s economic, military, and ideological dominance), as well as China’s spectacular growth following Deng Xiaoping’s reforms.

However, the success of centralized regimes does not imply that dictatorships are preferable to free and…


Progress is provisional, incomplete, and continuously shifting

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At the heart of the idea of an open society lies the principle of fallibility. Fallibility implies that individual knowledge of reality is provisional and incomplete. Humans are incapable of measuring and analyzing the entirety of the world. As a result, we resort to the use of mental shortcuts and theoretical constructs.

Constructs are models, but no model is a perfect reflection of the underlying reality. Maps, for instance, are used to navigate across the territory, but they do not reflect the territory as it is. …


Finding strength in a liability

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Reflexivity refers to our ability to change reality as our knowledge of the world increases. A typical example of this phenomenon is Karl Marx’s prediction of communist revolution. His forecast of the eventual collapse of the capitalist system and the proletariat revolution affected reality: Western governments undertook steps that improved the living conditions of the working class, hence eliminating potential sources of discontent.

Reflexivity is what distinguishes social disciplines from natural sciences. Denying reflexivity, as totalitarian ideologies like Marxism do, puts social doctrines on the same level as natural laws, undeniable, immutable, and eternal, like the Marxist belief in class…


How open societies thrive on uncertainty

photo by Simon Zhu @smnzhu

We are in the midst of a democratic recession. According to Freedom House’s latest report, for the 15th consecutive year, the number of democracies is declining. More worryingly, the pace of this change has accelerated to a record pace: in 2020, 73 countries became less democratic, while only 28 moved away from autocracy.

The liberal democratic model of governance, threatened by the rising influence of authoritarian regimes abroad and acute social challenges at home, is losing its appeal. In the United States, the January 6 storming of the Capitol, the raging coronavirus pandemic, an economic crisis, toxic culture wars —…


How Twitter’s censorship backfired

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One argument in favor of the imposition of constraints on the ability of some individuals to disseminate their speech is that our discourse would benefit from having fewer conspiracy theories, false information, and irrational beliefs in general. This is why, for example, Twitter has been regularly flagging Donald Trump’s tweets that falsely asserted election fraud, adding labels like “Official sources have called this election differently” and “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”

Arguing that some speech can inspire actions that could potentially lead to violence, Twitter ended up suspending Trump’s Twitter account altogether. This followed the deadly storming of…


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American democracy has survived a serious test — but it is weakened and delegitimized in the eyes of many

In the last four years, America has experienced the early stages of democratic backsliding. Like the authoritarians in Hungary, Poland, Turkey, India and other countries that used to be democracies, President Donald Trump has flouted both formal and informal restrictions on executive authority and used the power of the state to his advantage. While the traditions of the rule of law, division of power and checks and balances are more deeply embedded in the United States than in perhaps any other country, these ideals do not seem as unshakeable or well established as they were four years ago.

Donald Trump…


Protection of even the most radical, pseudoscientific, and irrational ideas is necessary to prevent the distortion of truth

Mohamed_hassan (Pixabay)

A typical defense of the freedom of speech focuses on the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to the pursuit and acquisition of truth. We need other people to tell us when we are wrong by criticizing our ideas, since the quest for truth is a self-correcting process based on learning from trial and the gradual elimination of error, a process of collective discovery based on the recognition of individual fallibility — something which is impossible when there is no freedom of expression. …


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Why polls could be wrong — again

A Californian plans to vote after work in what she believes to be a close presidential election … The day is rainy and as she approaches the polling place she sees a long line. On the radio she hears that one presidential candidate has a substantial lead in other states. She says why bother and turns her car around and drives home. — Seymour Sudman

With one month left until the 2020 US presidential election, opinion polls have taken center stage. And as Joe Biden continues to maintain a sizable lead over his opponent, debates over pollsters’ ability to accurately…


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To make democracy work for everyone, we should apply the tenets of capitalism to politics

Free-market capitalism is the most successful economic system in history, as it has brought unprecedented prosperity and powered vast improvements in all aspects of human well-being.

However, in spite of capitalism’s success, the application of economic ideas to politics is limited — which is very unfortunate, for many of the challenges characterizing contemporary politics could be solved if we apply the principles underlying free markets, such as free competition and dispersal of power. …


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

How we should tackle climate change

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has recently unveiled his approach to climate change: his “plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice.” The plan calls for $2 trillion in government spending over four years and aims to set the United States on the path towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, rebuild infrastructure, create new jobs, invest in R&D and attain “environmental justice,” among other goals.

The proposal has already been dubbed by some observers the Green New Deal without the name — which Biden’s campaign has recognized as “a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”

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