In his recent remarks about the challenges that China presents to free societies, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a strong defense of democracy and freedom. 

Speaking to an audience of business leaders and policymakers around the globe at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, Pompeo underscored that the choice confronting today’s world is “between freedom and tyranny.”

He noted: “While I do not believe for a moment democracy is fragile, it does require careful stewardship and constant vigilance.”

In an era of uncertainty and anxiety, the world is indeed watching how countries across the political and governance spectrums respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse impact on their societies. As this critical effort continues, it’s vital to preserve institutions and policies that advance democratic governance, transparency, and freedom.

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In many ways, America and the world are at a critical crossroads. Will we be able to continue on to the path of liberty and international economic cooperation, which has brought increased prosperity and profound reductions in poverty, particularly in the past three decades?

Or are we really heading back to an earlier era, when short-sighted protectionist policies heightened tensions and kept more dynamic growth and development from taking place?

As demonstrated repeatedly throughout history, the human spirit and ingenuity thrive on freedom. Yet there are still those who call for more collectivism and government control, often in the name of social justice. These false idols of a socialist nirvana may have emotional appeal for some.

However, the real-world results of more collectivism and government control, as catalogued by The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom, are unambiguously counterproductive: economic stagnation, lingering poverty, dependence on government programs, and oppression.

If we are going to continue to safeguard societies from errors that have brought nothing but misery throughout history, we must win the battle of ideas against non-democratic, authoritarian approaches.

The fight for freedom is a never-ending struggle, but people will not fight for freedom unless they understand it, value it, and believe it is at risk.

At this critical juncture, America cannot afford complacency. We must guard our democratic values and work side by side with our allies, new and old, around the globe.

In the midst of what is now both a health crisis and growing economic turmoil, the COVID-19-infected world needs to be remobilized to uphold the basic principles of democracy and the free-market system: law and order, limited government, and market openness.

Free individuals and free enterprises will supply the creative and practical solutions to pressing world problems that are needed now.

As Pompeo reminded us in the conclusion of his speech at the Democracy Summit: “Let’s speak clearly, and more importantly, let’s act decisively. Let’s not leave any confusion about the choice between tyranny and freedom.”