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May 15, 2004 9:15 pm


More Kristof, More Iran



As a follow-up to my posts on important changes in Iran, take a look at Nicholas Kristof's ongoing series in today's NY Times. In"Velvet Hand, Iron Glove," Kristof inadvertently makes a Hayekian-friendly point about how the radical dispersal of knowledge and information is contributing to the unraveling of a repressive regime. As people get information from sources other than the regime, that regime becomes more unstable. The Iranian press may not be"free," but the proliferation of the Internet, blogs, and satellite TV is having an insidious effect on the regime's legitimacy.

As Kristof puts it, if the Iranian theocracy constituted

an efficient police state, it might survive. But it's not. It cracks down episodically, tossing dissidents in prison and occasionally even murdering them (like a Canadian-Iranian journalist last year). But Iran doesn't control information—partly because satellite television is ubiquitous, if illegal—and people mostly get away with scathing criticism as long as they do not organize against the government.

Kristof continues to maintain

that the Iranian regime is destined for the ash heap of history. An unpopular regime can survive if it is repressive enough, but Iran's hard-liners don't imprison their critics consistently enough to instill terror. ... In the end, I find Iran a hopeful place. Ordinary people are proving themselves irrepressible, and they will triumph someday and forge a glistening example of a Muslim country that is a pro-American democracy in the Middle East.

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