dictatorship or democracy

Written by Asadullah Malik 11:47 am Articles, Current Affairs, Pakistan, Published Content

The Perfect Dictatorship or Democracy?: Analyzing Countries Under Dictators

Democracy is dubbed as the only model of excellence for governments, while dictatorship is always viewed as a malicious model of governance. The author notes that every form has its merits and demerits, and so explores the dictatorships that have advanced the economy and equality in the state. The author makes reference to several instances of dictatorships – Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Russia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China, and Pakistan – that worked in favour of the country and the people. These countries experienced economic growth and better implementation of social rights throughout the course of dictatorship. Consequently, the author believes that even dictatorial governments are politically viable.
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About the Author(s)
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Mr. Asadullah Malik is an economics graduate from University of London.

Dictatorship or Democracy?

Liberals like Immanuel Kant and Woodrow Wilson advocated democracy as a panacea for most of the ills of the world. After World War II, the United States emerged as a torchbearer of democracy in the whole world. It pledged to promote democracy – and shun dictatorship – around the globe so that people could live in peace and have access to every sort of human right. On the other hand, it has killed thousands of people under the veneer of promoting democracy.

The sanguinary war in Vietnam and a 20-year war in Afghanistan are amongst the most prominent instances of atrocities done under the notion of promoting democracy. Masses around the world clamor in the favor of democracy, but they never thought about the alternate systems, taking the former as something flawless. This attitude of the masses has inflicted too much damage to many of them.

The Arab Spring is a sheer instance of this damage. The question here is why people cannot think about alternate systems. Can one solution fit all problems? Why thinking about other kinds of systems is perceived as a sin or vice? The answer is that it is due to the blind following of the West-dominated media which portrays that all other systems are evil and atrocious, but when one takes a look at some of the non-democratic systems of the world, it appears that sometimes dictatorships have done far better than democracy.

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For instance, the recent control of Covid-19 by China and other non-democratic countries has been far better than that of democratic countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, or Italy. Similarly, the plight of the people of Iraq and Libya depicts how the notion of promoting democracy has induced destruction and chaos in these countries.

Keeping in view the difference between the literacy rate, the attitude and the history of the people of different countries, it is cogent to surmise that one form of government could never be suitable for all. There are many countries including China, the upcoming superpower of the world, and Singapore where the non-democratic system has succeeded and elevated the countries from the trenches of darkness. On the other hand, there are a lot of examples of countries where democracy has failed and has resulted in the destruction of the whole fabric of the societies.

President Muammar Gaddafi

Oil is the backbone of the Libyan economy. Unfortunately, this oil has proved to be a disguise in the form of a blessing for Libya. In 2011, a NATO-backed revolution hit the Gaddafi government. The movement succeeded in ousting President Muammar Gaddafi and people perceived that the democracy would turn out to be good for the people of the country, but just like the case of Iraq, it also turned out to be otherwise.

Libyan production of oil was 1.6 million barrels per day under the government of President Muammar Gaddafi but after his death, the country faces a continuous war and chaos. President Muammar Gaddafi stated, after the attack of NATO and Libyan rebels, that it is a conspiracy to control the oil of Libya, to control Libyan land, and to colonize it. His prophecy has come true and the predicament of the people of Libya is not a secret to anyone in the world.

This is just another example of how the West has exploited a country for its vested interests under the veneer of promoting liberal values and democracy. It also delineates how dictatorship is more suitable for some countries in the world keeping in mind the literacy and attitude of the society of that particular country.

Juan Vicente Gomez

He was a Venezuelan military general and a dictator in Venezuela from 1908 till his death in 1935. The boom in coffee exports and petroleum during his reign provided a 3.78x increase in the GDP per capita. His term also marked the start of a new urban middle class in the country. Although he was a strict ruler, the country made significant progress under his rule.

Putin in Russia

The rivalry between the communist Soviet Union and the capitalist United States is well known to everyone around the globe. The rivalry between the two has consumed many lives in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and other proxy theatres. Although communism failed to spread in the end, it is in practice in its limited scope in Russia, as the country is ruled by a non-democratic president Vladamir Putin.

After the defeat of the Soviet Union, the country was in a state of decline, but it is the rule of Putin which made the country stand back on its own feet. Russia is now back in the game of being among the superpowers of the world. It is now one of the greatest military and economic powers in the world.

Under the rule of Putin, Russia has changed beyond recognition, from being chaotic to a stable country in the world. President Putin has succeeded in repairing the tarnished image of the country abroad. This depicts how a non-democratic government sometimes performs far better than that of democratic regimes.

Dictatorship in UAE

The United Arab Emirates is also governed by the dictators of each state. What’s surprising is that the US has never demanded its allies in UAE to end their dictatorial regime and pave way for a democratic form of government. This depicts the biased use of the “notion of democracy” by the US just to weaken its rivals and promote its vested interests.

People in the UAE have no right to power and you will never see anyone protesting for their rights there. This is not just because of the strict dictatorial rule but also because the government is providing them great facilities which are not available to the citizens of any other Muslim country in the world.

There was a time when Karachi was deemed as more progressive than Dubai, but it is due to the ambitions and assiduousness of the rulers of the UAE that today it has not only surpassed Karachi but is also among one of the most progressive regions in the world. The country which once merely consisted of some dunes is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world.

Similarly, we do not see any sort of anti-state groups or rhetoric in the UAE. On the other hand, anti-state groups and a weak political system have proved to be the Achilles’ heel for many democratic countries, especially in the Middle East and Asia. This delineates that democracy is not a panacea for all ills.

Saudi Regime

The government structure in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is also similar in structure to that of the UAE. The country has never seen a democratic government in its history. Just like the UAE, the KSA is also a strong ally of the US and the latter has never demanded its monarchy to implement democracy in the country to promote liberal values.

Although the freedom of speech and other liberal norms are strictly violated in the country, still the country is doing very well economically. The citizens of the country are not allowed to voice their political opinion or oppose any policy of the government; if they do so, they are dealt with iron hands. Otherwise, the country has good economic conditions, and the level of poverty is very low.

Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore

Singapore was not the same as we know it today. The country was attributed a poor little market in a dark corner of Asia by an economist investigating the economic viability of the island in 1960. The country was once a colony of the British empire. Lee Kuan Yew was studying during the second World War. He adopted the point of view that there must be self-governance in South-East Asia.

After the end of WW2, he created a political union between Malaysia and his native land – Singapore. As a result of his struggle and the weakness of the British empire in the aftermath of WW2, Britishers granted self-governance to Singapore in 1959. The People’s Action Party succeeded to assume power and the party’s leader, Lee Kuan, became the prime minister of the island.

Lee’s vision of unification also came true in 1963 as the result of an agreement that Singapore will be admitted to the newly independent Malaysian Federation. After two short years of the unification, riots broke out as the relations between the two minority groups – Malays and ethnic Chinese. Malaysian government in return accused the Singapore government of disloyalty and expelled it from the union.

This was shocking as well as devastating for the impoverished city-state. Singapore’s GDP per capita at that time was merely at $512. It is only because of the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew that Singapore is now among the eight largest GDP per capita in the world. The country is now ranked among the top countries having the highest density of millionaires relative to population.

He forged a nation that combined the authoritarian state with the free market. Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher, wrote in Financial Times that Lee Kuan Yew will be amongst those whose monuments will be built in the next century and he will not only be remembered as a prime minister of Singapore but also as the creator of authoritarian capitalism. The current progress of Singapore is attributed to the basis which Lee has laid during his rule.

China’s Perfect Dictatorship

China’s governmental system is unlike any other, a dictatorship that works to perfection. This is the view held by Stein Ringen, a Norwegian political scientist, emeritus professor at Oxford University, and the author of several books on state analysis, including an important work on South Korean political and social policy, in his book “The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century“.

He holds that the dictatorship in China is perfect because it is uncompromising, determined, relentless, and sophisticated in what it does. He holds that the economy of the country has grown due to the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping. In the past, the country has always been ruled by invaders and it is well known that a large population of the country was drug addicts.

The country was in the shackles of the corrupt elite which ensued poverty, but some of the statesmen were always aware of the potential of China as Napolean Bonapart once said: Let China sleep, for when she awakes, she will shake the world. This prediction of Napolean seems to come true as now the dragon has woken up and is in the race of being the superpower of the world.

The country which was once known for drug addicts is now known for its industrialization and technological growth. It is deemed that China will surpass the US in terms of the military as well as economic power soon. All this success of China is attributed to its authoritarian governments which have taken hard and strict steps to make the country grow.

Although the Chinese government takes input from its citizens on some matters to improve governance and eliminate any sort of corruption, still the government in the country is a dictatorship and has made the country progressive. It was just because of the strict authoritarian government that country has been successful in controlling covid-19. On the other hand, the world’s most famous dictatorships have failed to counter the pathogen the way China did.

Pakistan and the Dictatorships

Pakistan’s founding fathers were inclined towards democracy and the democratic system. This democratic system, however, has been hijacked by the non-democratic forces multiple times in the history of the country. The dictatorship is not glorified in the country and the common perception about the authoritarian regime has never been good.

If we look at the growth of the country, we conclude that most of the projects have been initiated during the regimes of the dictators. For instance, the country is severely affected by the water crisis, and the solution to this crisis is building more dams. If Ayub Khan had not made the Mangla, Tarbela, and Warsak dam, Pakistan would have been a parched country by now.

Similarly, the Ghazi Brotha dam was made during Musharraf’s regime. Dr. Ishrat Hussain holds in his book, Governing the Ungovernable, that the country’s economy was facing booms during the first 40 years of its inception. Almost half of this tenure was under the dictatorships in the country. The country’s GDP per capita during these 40 years was 6% which has now reached 3.94 percent.

The facts and figures show that one solution, democracy, could never be the panacea of all ills. There must be different forms of governments in different countries depending upon the nature, history, customs, and literacy level of the population of that state. People must learn that democracy is not something divine and flawless.

A healthy discussion on the other forms of governments is the need of the hour in the countries where democracy has failed to deliver. People must reject the notion which is inculcated in their minds through media that democracy is the only legitimate way. In Pakistan, many politicians have been found saying that democracy is in danger and a country goes 10 years backward if there is no democracy.

However, those very politicians then covertly cooperate with non-democratic forces to achieve their vested interests, ignoring the interests of the country. The question is that has anyone, among the masses, ever thought about how the country goes 10 years back? Has anyone ever thought whether the threat to democracy is a threat to the country’s progress, or a threat to the vested interest of the corrupt political elite of the country?

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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