How The Free World Should Deal with Dictatorships

by | May 6, 2022

Dictatorships use their connections to the free world to get unearned respect, steal technology and money, and spread propaganda. The best solution would be to achieve the highest degree of separation possible between the free world and the unfree world.

In a previous essay entitled “Today’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (Jan 3,2022) I noted that four totalitarian dictatorships, China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran were the biggest dangers to world peace today because they had or were making nuclear missiles which they often threaten to use while promoting terrorism and/or acting to forcibly take over other countries or territories.

Warlike countries pose a much greater threat than was the case in World War II mainly due to the number and power of the weapons involved. Today’s nuclear bombs make the Hiroshima bomb look like a toy; they are up to 3000 times more powerful than that. Russia has more nuclear bombs than any other country with the US not far behind. So, it is possible that an all-out nuclear war could end life on earth even if China were not involved.

Pundits worry that we may end up being in a cold war. But actually, we have been in a cold war since the 1950s when Russia stole the secrets to the atomic bomb from us. After that, everyone had counted on the principle of “mutually assured destruction” to prevent nuclear war. So far it has worked, despite an inevitable arms race, but the danger is now much greater because of the addition of the three new Horsemen and their weapons. Two (Iran and N. Korea) are totally unhinged.

The Four Horsemen support each other both morally and practically. Morally they sanction each other’s dictatorships and practically they give each other military and economic assistance. Further, all four have engaged in continual espionage and electronic warfare. They prevent internal dissent through their secret police, including torture, imprisonment, assassinations, and control over media. They hate freedom and they will kill to suppress or destroy it. It is interesting that when Russia decided to take over Ukraine, they expected an easy victory. When did not achieve it, they turned to nihilism. “If we can’t have it, we will destroy everything and everyone.” Russia and their fellow Horsemen are the enemies of civilization.

So, what should we do? The U.N. was supposed to be a mechanism for keeping the peace, but they made a bad mistake. Although they had a declaration of rights that was partly right (they mixed in freedom of action with freedom of results, which are antithetical), virtually anyone could be a member. So, dictatorships got a moral sanction for belonging to a “respectable” international body. The biggest dictatorships are members of the security council and are allowed to veto any proposals they did not like. There is no incentive whatever to change their political philosophies.

I believe that the best solution would be to achieve the highest degree of separation possible between the free world and the unfree world.

  1. There would have to be a new organization, a society of free nations. There would be objective standards for membership, e.g., allowing two or more parties, honest voting, freedom of speech and the press, separation of powers, the right to private property, and no persecution for “political” crimes. The Four Horsemen would not qualify, nor would petty dictatorships such as Cuba and Venezuela.
  2. Free nations would favor trade with each other. Insofar as possible, they would avoid trade with dictatorships.
  3. They would have a mutual defense treaty like NATO and each nation that chose to join would have to contribute their share of the money, troops, and weapons for the common defense. The joint military organization would have to be capable of defeating any enemy—mutually assured destruction on a world scale.
  4. They would work to socially isolate themselves from non-member nations, e.g., no joint sports, no visiting artists or scholars, no professional meetings, no visiting, no sightseeing, etc. No illusion of respectability.

How would ideas like these be received? Maybe badly by both sides. Many free nations would want others to do all the work. Some might not want to be hemmed in by all the rules. Dictators are subjectivists and do not like to be rejected on the grounds that they are objectively immoral. Over and above denial, they become enraged and threatening. Recall that they claim that “we have our own version of democracy” –which is dictatorship. Appeasement of dictators simply increases their confidence in the benefits of aggression.

The constant interaction between the free and unfree worlds has not worked at all. Neither economic trade on the positive side nor economic boycotts on the negative side alone eliminate dictatorships. Their bottom line is rule by the power of physical force or fraud. Dictatorships use their connections to the free world to get unearned respect, steal technology and money, and spread propaganda. When they make agreements, they routinely break them if they see some benefit and can get away with it. They may engage in some honest trade but critical use of the money they make is for upgrading their secret police and military.

Freedom is never secure. Just as there will always be street criminals, there will always be psychopaths who want to rule others by force.


Also in this series on Foreign Policy and Dictatorships by Professor Locke:

What is U.S. President Biden’s Goal in Ukraine?
As Ayn Rand has said, “Morality is the strongest of all intellectual powers.” To Putin, his “moral” crusade is far more important than Russia’s GDP.

Attila and the Witch Doctor Rule Russia Today
Russia today provides a perfect example of the combination of the two philosophical archetypes Ayn Rand described in her brilliant essay, “For the New Intellectual.”

Putin’s Return to Stalinism as Russia Invades Ukraine
What Putin fears is not just NATO’s defensive armaments but their ideas—most fundamentally, America’s arms and ideas, specifically the concept of individual rights.

Today’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Four countries have the desire and potential to destroy the free world and bring us to a new Dark Age with them as rulers—a real Apocalypse.

The Mind of the Dictator
The core problem in opposing dictatorships is the moral self-doubt of our politicians and that of other free countries.

Edwin A. Locke is Dean's Professor of Leadership and Motivation Emeritus at the R.H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial & Organizational Behavior, and the Academy of Management. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (Society for I/O Psychology), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Management (OB Division), the J. M. Cattell Award (APS) and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Academy of Management. He, with Gary Latham, has spent over 50 years developing Goal Setting Theory, ranked No. 1 in importance among 73 management theories. He has published over 320 chapters, articles, reviews and notes, and has authored or edited 13 books including (w. Kenner) The Selfish Path to Romance, (w. Latham) New Directions in Goal Setting and Task Performance, and The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators. He is internationally known for his research on motivation, job satisfaction, leadership, and other topics. His website is:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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