- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Benevolent dictators

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( The PCC, MA, USA ) on March 26, 1999 at 17:03:04:

In Reply to: Dictatorships posted by Jazz Yacinthe on March 25, 1999 at 19:25:41:

: Can anyone outhere provide me with some benefits of dictatorships? They can't all be that bad! Or are they?

Depends what you call a dictator. There have been many benevolent "authoritarian" rulers who have ruled without the benefit of free elections, generally for one of 2 reasons. 1) they ruled for too short a time to hold free elections (like Sankara in Burkina Faso). 2) they were forced to restrict free speech, elections, etc. in order to defend themselves against external hostility. Like Castro in Cuba. Rulers who, in contrast to tehse two good reasons, just restrict free speech and political assocaition arbitrarily are generally merely power-seking, and thsi in some ways makes them a priori bad leaders. Castro at least has a reason to be repressive; how repressive was teh US the last time it felt a froeign threat of this magnitude?

Some unelected leaders have nevertheless allowed a large measure of participatory democracy, and have also made major strides in social progress for their people. The major advantage of restricting certain forms of political expression is taht it allows you a free hand to advance your people's welfare, without self-interested parties interfering. Of course, this can VERY EASILY degenrate into power-seeking, so you ahve to be VERY careful.

Examples of this type of benevolent authoritarian include Castro (probably the best example), Grenada under Maurice Bishop (hard to say he was authoritarian, he wasn't in power long enough to hold elections), also Congo-Brazzaville, Jerry Rawlings in Ghana, Ahmadou Ahidjo in Cameroon (both of teh above made significant econmic progress without being wildly repressive),France-Albert Rene in the Seychelles, Velasco in Peru, arguably Ho Chi Minh?
Even some more-or-less absolute monarchs have been fairly benevolent- in Bhutan, for example, they have free health care. Some trickier cases incldue Sankara in Burkina Faso (although unelected, he had a lot of grassroots democratic participation). Also Cape Verde and Sao Tome- although one-party states, the governments were too weak to be repressive.

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