Tough Times for the Voices of Freedom in Georgia

The voices of freedom in the Republic of Georgia (the former Soviet republic, not the home of the Bulldogs) will be substantially less audible thanks to a new law passed by Parliament. Organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from foreign sources must be designated as “agents of foreign influence.”

Nonprofits in Georgia that have advocated for freedom and free markets receive a substantial share of their funding through grants from foreign foundations. That is likely to come to an end.

This article offers some details on the new law, which is similar to a law in Russia that brands organizations that receive foreign funding as foreign agents. Most Georgians appear opposed to the law, and the real foreign influence here is Russia. As the article notes, Georgia has been trying to move away from the sphere of Russian influence and toward the EU, but that move is proving difficult.

Some readers may know that after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia was one of the more corrupt former Soviet republics. That changed in the mid-2000s when new leadership brought free-market reforms, more freedom on all fronts, and, as a result, growing prosperity.

Those reforms were supported by Georgian nonprofits that promoted the ideas of freedom. A Georgian friend of mine tells me that the politicians who are promoting this legislation are branding those organizations as “enemies of the state,” resulting in attacks, sometimes violent attacks, on those who are so accused.

This law will mute the voices of freedom in Georgia and turn the country, which for two decades moved away from Russian influence toward the West, back toward heavy-handed Russian-style governance.

Why would Georgia’s political leadership turn their backs on the institutional reforms that have shown such success for two decades? The main goal of those who have political power is to maintain and increase their power. The well-being of the masses is, at best, a secondary consideration. We can hope for the sake of the Georgian people that this is not the first step that will turn Georgia into another Venezuela.

Randall G. Holcombe is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, and author of the Independent Institute book Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History.
Beacon Posts by Randall G. Holcombe | Full Biography and Publications
  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless