We the People of Turkey, Brazil, and Syria


Protestors outside the municipal theater in downtown Rio de Jainero June 17th, 2013
Photo Courtesy of Christophe Simon, AFP/Getty Images via USATODAY

Danny Zeng | June 25th, 2013

This week as we wrestle with landmark decisions from the Supreme Court, the controversial “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, and the President’s climate change agenda, we are reminded of the robustness of our democracy. All three branches of government are acting in concert to engage in issues of immense importance to the public. They are leading the political discourse at our nation’s capital that filter through news organizations, talk shows, blogs, YouTube updates, and podcasts to the American people, who then have the luxury of consuming these daily soundbites – and oftentimes boiling tirades-  from people of opposing views without having to give concern to our physical safety or that of our friends and families. And yet these precious freedoms that allow us to have constructive, heated, and  ultimately vibrant discourse about the direction of our country, the merits of a legislation, and the conduct of our public officials are foreign to so many across the globe who enjoy so little freedom in the public sphere.

As I read about what is happening in Turkey, Brazil, and Syria, I am ever so grateful for the kind of hard fought freedoms that we enjoy here in the U.S., even though we are constantly reminded of their slipperiness.  Despite the public ire over IRS targeting conservative groups, government wiretapping reporters, drone attacks against American citizens, or NSA tapping of our phones, the American people largely vocalize our disagreements, peacefully, through non-violent democratic channels. On the other hand,  over 93,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, and over thousands are injured and four confirmed dead in Turkey in recent weeks as result of the anti-government protest. The Turkish police was firing tear gas and rubber bullets at their own people.  Most of these issues can be understood from the perspective of freedom: a perennial political and economic ideal that mutually sustains each other through capitalism and democracy, a political notion popularly articulated by the late Milton Friedman in 1962 and many others.

Oftentimes in a democracy, people take their issues to the streets, a sign of either economic or political distress. The mix of the two could be fatal to a sitting regime, as evidenced throughout the history of great kingdoms and empires. Present protests happen for the same reasons. The source of protest in Brazil stems from “a strike against a 9-cent bus-fare hike,” a seemingly small if not utterly incomprehensible fuse – for many Westerners at least – that it’s simply awe-spiring. The episode strikes me as a non-graphic replay from a similar incomprehensible-to-the-West display from Arab Spring two years ago, when a Tunisian vegetable peddler set himself on fire in front of a governor’s office. These massive protests against government corruption and graft are testaments, to the chagrin of many big-government advocates I’m sure, that governments with incoherent economic policies are doomed to fail from within as college students, working class, and middle class citizens rise up against an administrative state and layers of public fat that take away from productive sectors in the economy. Economic freedom is invariably linked to political freedom. Both, in my mind, have to harmoniously co-exist for true prosperity and progress.

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If Not Us, Then Who?

By Danny Zeng

Today is the last presidential debate between the two candidates in this heated election season. The subject will be over foreign policy, an area that most Americans, I would say myself included, are not educated enough to to know fully what is going on. But I believe common sense suffices to have a broad position on foreign policy. After all, simplifying complex issues using principles as guidance is the closest approximation to good decision making. If we all exercise a certain level of common sense, then we all be better off.

A brief review of the last four years signal that we have not lived a quiet four years: Gaddafi is dead; Mubarak is done; Bin Laden has been decimated; Arab Spring fanned across Middle East and Norther Africa, providing hope for millions living under totalitarian regimes; even places like Russia and China, pockets of democratic idealism sprung up and challenged the status quo. This administration has achieved some deserved victories, but it has failed in larger part to lead the free world without a coherent vision; indeed, challenges remain and the world searches for the proactive leadership in us.

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