March 4, 2022
By Frank Knapp Jr.
The businesses in this country overwhelmingly support Ukraine and its efforts to repel the Russian invasion. They stand with democracy in Ukraine and in all nations that recognize that government should reflect the will of its people as determined by free and fair elections.
Russia’s autocratic government is the antithesis of democracy. Its dictator, Vladimir Putin, is following the path of all autocratic rulers who only seek power and riches for themselves and their wealthy supporters. They strive to acquire both without concern for morality, ethics, societal norms, the law, or international agreements.
Putin’s invasion is about reasserting Russia’s control of both Ukraine’s people and its economy.
Putin believes that Ukraine’s democracy must be extinguished, but not because its government would ever pose an external physical threat to the Russian autocratic government. Instead, Putin’s concern is Ukraine’s democracy and resulting growing capitalistic economy threatens to inspire the Russian people to aspire for the same.
A true democracy is essential to a vibrant economy. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive in democracies and grows their economies.
Just prior to the Russian invasion, Putin acknowledged the terrible state of Russia’s economy saying that the threatened sanctions are intended to “keep Russia behind, to prevent it from developing.”
Let us be clear. It is the autocratic Russian government that steals from its people the entrepreneurial spirit needed to grow its economy. The only guarantee for the average Russian who achieves any genuine business success is to have it taken by Russian oligarchs using Putin’s police and courts.
This is what makes the fight for democracy in Ukraine important to the business community and all freedom loving nations.
Autocracy is an existential threat to a democratic nation. Will it continue to have voter-responsive leaders and economic opportunity for all who are willing to start a business, work hard and sacrifice to build wealth for the entrepreneur, their family and community. Or will its democracy die along with its entrepreneurship and economy.
Unfortunately, this is the fight we face in the United States also.
We have politicians, media personalities who mislead Americans and see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as only a border conflict not of concern to the United States. They compliment the invasion as “genius” and praise Putin as “savvy”, “a very talented stateman”, and a leader who should be respected because he “knows how to use power.” They are Putin’s enablers.
Here is the truth. This is an epic battle of democracy vs autocracy, of the right to free and fair elections vs voter suppression and intimidations, and of an entrepreneurial economy vs poverty-for-all except the powerful elite.
Unfortunately, the seeds of an autocratic Russian-style government are being planted and fertilized right here at home by those praising Putin while ridiculing the United States.
That is why small businesses are vocalizing their support for our nation to have free and fair elections, the essence of a real democracy and critical to our economy. We understand the need to stamp out the autocratic seedlings.
National small business organizations are calling on Congress to protect voting rights by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
They also intend to make sure the voters understand that who they elect will determine the path of our country. Will we continue our democratic experiment established by our founders? Or will we give up our government of-and-by-the people and hand it over to the rich and powerful autocrats who only seek to serve themselves.
Democracy is what the people of Ukraine are fighting in the streets to keep.
Our internal fight for democracy will be in our upcoming local, state, and national elections.
American democracy and our entrepreneurial economy will be on the ballot.
We must not lose.
Frank Knapp is co-chair of Small Business for America’s Future, executive committee member of the American Sustainable Business Network, and president/CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.