Georgia: Open or Closed
19 July, 2012


The traditional method of categorizing political parties was with the

right-left spectrum.


Today's political parties, however, are very


hard to find on this spectrum.  In America, the supposedly rightist

Republicans have become the party that favors the wealthy, as well as

the party of incredibly expensive debt-financed wars (i.e., Iraq). And

the supposedly leftist Democrats under Bill Clinton ended welfare

payments and balanced the budget.  For Georgia, as for the US, the

right-left spectrum has outlived its usefulness. Trying to mash

political parties today into this spectrum simply does not make sense.



Today in Georgia, all major political forces support a proactive

government, one which fights poverty with employment and individual

monetary payments. While Georgia was very successful in cutting

corrupt, pointless regulation and bureaucracy, it has now given up the

belief that government is dangerous. The government of Georgia is too

big and controls too much now for that to make sense.



The Soviet Union was many things, but perhaps its most distinguishing

characteristic was that it was closed to the rest of the world. That

closed-ness, which was enforced by Moscow, was vital to its survival.

As the Soviet Union died over the course of several decades, the rest

of the world opened up. The first area of opening was capital. Today,

in a world of an almost entirely internationalized market for capital,

it is hard to remember how difficult it was forty years ago to move

money from even just from Paris to New York. Next came people, or

rather the movement of people across borders: the EU granted

unrestricted internal labor movement in the eighties and it was wildly

successful. Migration rates all over the world have gone up. The

proliferation of the internet has aided the opening up of the world by

making it exponentially easier for information to move freely.



But openness has its difficulties: new ideas, mixing cultures and

competition. There are those who worry about these changes,

particularly those who don't know much about the rest of the world.

Change and competition are not easy. The simplest solution to the

confusion and anxiety of change is to hide, by reverting to closure.

And in the short term this works, because in any society where there

are people in favor of openness and tolerance, there are those who are

opposed to it.  Now, as for all of Georgia's recent history, the main

distinguishing feature between political groupings is those who want

Georgia to open further and those that want it closed.



The problem with the latter camp is that the world is becoming even

more open which builds pressure on those who try to close. Openness is

a requirement to be a part of the developed world. Any country that

wants to succeed in the modern world must be very open by historical

standards. There are some countries, particularly big ones, that have

opened up a bit but are trying to stay mostly closed.  Russia, China

and Iran are good examples of this.  But that won't last very long

because it can't.  Among small countries there are none that are at

the same time closed and a part of the international community in any

serious way. Gradually, in a thousand ways, the countries of the world

are opening up, and every people needs to decide whether or not it

wants to be a part of that international community.



It is easy to see the complexity of the decision for many countries. A

good example is Turkey. Many people in Turkey want to join the EU. The

Kemalists, who are secular and strongly connected with the military,

don't like the responsibility of minority tolerance and transparency

that such an arrangement would require. The current party in power is

the AKP, which has vaguely Islamic tendencies and has presided over

great development; it is largely the party of free enterprise and is

sympathetic to EU membership because of the potential for further

growth, but it worries about the cultural aspects of membership.



So which way will Georgia go? On the spectrum of an open and closed

vision of Georgia, which political forces are where? Will Georgia once

again turn in on itself, as many countries in the region have, or will

it continue to open up? The answer to this question isn't merely

academic. It doesn't just help classify political parties, there is no

more important question for Georgia's future. It is a question too

important for nationalistic and ethnocentric comments to be tossed

around casually. Of course as an American my answer to this question

is clear. But my opinion doesn't matter because this is a decision

Georgians will have to make. But to be both is impossible.