We ask only for a process, a direction, a basic code of decency, not for an instant transformation … . While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings.

—Ronald Reagan. Speech to the House of Commons, June 8, 1982.

It would have been easy to tone down my criticism of the Soviet regime. But I was not prepared to do so. Too often in the past Western leaders had placed the search for trouble-free relations with foreign autocrats above plain speaking of the truth.

—Margaret Thatcher. The Downing Street Years, 1993.

Countries which have indicated they wish to reform and are actively striving towards that goal should be encouraged. China and Russia are both autocratic countries which have made gigantic steps towards greater liberty for their people in recent decades. The biggest single indicator of this is their openness to the outside world. So long as this continues, it will be difficult for them to regress. Nevertheless, the Free World should not allow either country to believe their half-free system is anything but utterly repugnant. It should be made clear that the limited recognition they receive is solely on account of the speed at which they are traveling in the right direction—not on account of their current position. If either country were to stall or reverse course, they should be treated as unrepentant tyrannies.

The constant message to reforming tyrannies is that they must implement the institutions of freedom. The peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union and the adoption of many of the institutions of freedom by its constituent states has shown that issuing such a challenge is not futile.

As Winston Churchill explained in his Iron Curtain speech:

We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English Common Law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence. All this means that the people of any country have the right, and should have the power by constitutional action, by free unfettered elections, with secret ballot, to choose or change the character or form of government under which they dwell; that freedom of speech and thought should reign; that courts of justice, independent of the executive, unbiased by any party, should administer laws which have received the broad assent of large majorities or are consecrated by time and custom. Here are the title deeds of freedom which should lie in every cottage home. Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind. (Speech at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, March 5, 1946.)

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove