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BigBen more than 90
benevolent autocracy vs bad democracy? I found this article to be rather interesting

It's about Putin's Russia and the state of afffairs there.

To make a long and complicated story short and reasonably simple.

In 1990 the Communist government basically collapsed. Boris Yeltsin was elected as russias first ever democratically elected president in June 1991.

In October 1991 Yeltsin launched Yuri Gaidar's "shock Therapy" program.

Within weeks russia took down almost all of it's trade barriers, totally removed soviet era price controls auctioned off almost all the government owned businesses and floated their currency

The idea was that forcing the capitalist economy would cause pain, but that the economy would be up and running and would cause less problems than drawing out the old communist system for a decade.

the result, putting it mildly, chaos. The Ruble went through Hyperinflation, the Russian Central bank took out massive loans to support the new programs and was later forced to default on them. Unemployment skyrocketed, there were broad shortages of goods because supply was far short of demand, and those who could exploit the new system became fantastically wealthy.

The "oligarchs" became the new owners of many of the large state industries, Oil, Media and transportation companies and became nearly instant billionaires.

Average monthly income fell from $70 to near the $30's, life expectancy dropped to near that of some african countries

In 1996 Yeltsin came up for re-election, it looked like he was in trouble. The communist party was resurgent and their candidate was polling several points ahead.

Then about 5 months before the election, Yeltsin made a deal with 6 of the leading oligarchs in Russia, they bankrolled his campaign with over $500 million dollars and used their resources to give Yeltsin almost exclusive access to the media. all of a sudden The communist party candidate could barely get his name in the news.

Yeltsin won with 53% of the vote.

There was another severe financial crisis in 1998, when the central bank manager jacked interest rates sky high to attempt to stop inflation.

In 2000 Yeltsin resigned some six months before the Presidential election and made Vladimir Putin the acting president. Putin was elected president as the incumbent in 2000.

Since Putin's rise to the presidency, the Russian economy has been booming, growing at nearly 6% per year, and the standard of living in Russia has increased dramatically.

But at the same time many are concerned.

Putin has abolished the election of provincial governors, instead making them appointed. He has consolidated all his support in the "united russia party" which controls nearly all aspects of the government.

he challenged some of the Oligarchs when they began to speak against him, and most notably Berzovsky, and basically reclaimed his media empire back under state control. Now the news is largely state run, although there is ample private entertainment television.

Most interestingly, the russian people are divided, a great many support putin as a strong leader in a russian tradition of strong leaders as long as he's successful.
But for his homemaker wife, Ms. Vallik, those years have yielded a rise in living standards that has enabled her to widen the scope of her passion - taking in homeless pets. "Any regime is OK for me," she says.
But the increased cash flow for millions has brought an unprecedented flood of consumer choices into Russian households, including travel, home appliances, and entertainment options. This may partly explain Putin's public approval rating, which recently soared to a celestial 87 percent. Putin's tough consolidation of Kremlin power also brought an impression of national unity and purpose, which was welcomed by many after the seemingly rudderless 1990s. "Russia has a predictable, active leader whose policies are consistent," says Valery Fyodorov, head of the state-run VTsIOM public opinion agency. "Stability is very important, because it means people can make plans."

But at the same time others are concerned
"We are eating our future, and we are being too quiet about it," complains Mr. Butovsky, a successful private farm manager increasingly concerned by the autocratic political system built since President Vladimir Putin was elected in 2000.
But for activists in Russia's beleaguered civil society, the growing sense of being shut out of the political process is the central concern. "There was a time when society could influence the state in the sphere of human rights, but now it cannot," says Oleg Orlov, chairman of the Moscow Memorial Center, a coalition of human rights groups. "Pressures on nongovernmental groups are growing."

The question I'm posing for discussion is this,

Which is better.

A democracy that is weak and unable to govern effectively and as a result causes economic and political chaos


A barely democratic or essentially non-democratic government that brings economic stability and a large growth of the private sector, at the expense of cracking down on political dissent to the regime?
#1  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
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In reply to BigBen, #1:

In times of crisis the people consistently tend toward the strong leader that can get them through a troubled time, consequences be damned.
#2  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
Sadly, the second. The first is a step above anarchy. The latter is just a step up from the former.
#3  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
I'd rather die starving, impoverished, and free

Than live wealthy but controlled.
#4  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
its going to take me a bit to read all of this but i will and then comment on it
#5  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
BigBen more than 90
In reply to Cheddarbek, #5:

but what is "free"

on the other hand "what is controlled"

the average Russian wakes up, goes to work, earns a living and generally does almost everything just like a resident of almost any other western nation.

The biggest single difference in the daily life is that the majority of the news media there is controlled by the state and is, at least to some degree censored.

A few years down the road, Putin will have to either change the Fussian constitution or step down after his two terms as president. What's likely is that he may resign and appoint his successor who will then run for election as an incumbent, but there will still be elections, they're not quite sure how fair but they will be there.

Is that different from a news media that's controlled by a few large corporations and elections in which the incumbent wins 90% of the time?
#6  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
In reply to BigBen, #7:

After the conditions they were hit with moving out of Communism, I would say that Putin could well have been a good thing, but we won't know till the next election at the earliest. If the next elections are held fairly, then I see little or no problem with what has been done.

However, if it continues in the trend of more state control, it almost strikes me as a Stalinist movement again. Shifting the power to the government for the 'good' of the people. If they go too far down the nanny state road there could be problems shifting it back, ever. First it is financial survival, then it is financial competitiveness, then it is financial superiority, and you have to have ever stricter controls to maintain it.
#7  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
russians need to do whatever they can to feed and pay their people and control their country so they dont lose anymore or have to sale their military hardware.
#8  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
I would take a benevolent autocracy over a bad democracy any day.
#9  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
people shouldnt fear their government, the government should fear its people
#10  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote  |  - 2 WTF
I don't think I'd call Russia's autocracy benevolent. Economically prosperous, maybe (prosperous might be a stretch), but certainly not benevolent. Unfortunately, there doesn't really seem to be a choice in the matter given the relative lack of state capacity in Russia.

On more philosophical terms, well...what guarantees do I have of continued benevolence? Who decides what is benevolence? If you're going to install some philosopher-kings, well, that changes the equation. But as it stands now, no, I would still take a bad democracy. Well, a bad liberal democracy.
#11  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
the world is in a state of shift. those who are smart are changing their countries and those who arent will fall in to the same state russia was in for a long time
#12  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
In reply to NJV1699, #11:

A very ideal philosophy, however Russia is not in an ideal situation.
#13  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote  |  + 1 Ditto
An essentially non-democratic state is all but necessary to stabalize countries and essentially build foundations, infrastructure, etc. Once the situation has been stabalized, there should be a slow gradual movement towards democracy.
#14  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote  |  + 1 Ditto
NaraVara Forum Mod
In reply to Cheddarbek, #5:

Awfully easy thing to say when you're not dying of starvation and poverty.
#15  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote  |  + 1 Ditto
ok i didnt read all that but im sure its interasting

That is, I'm a Retard and shouldnt post things if I don't care to add anything.
If you repeatedly post stupid comments like this, there will be conseqences
#16  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote  |  - 1 Lame
Duste Sponsor
In reply to oni346, #17:

Oni- leave.

As for the topic...

By a rather odd chance of luck, I found myself in an archive this morning, charging my laptop while waiting for class. With 20 minutes to spare, I grabbed the first book that caught my eye, a collection of essays concerning the events of 1985, and started flipping through. Mostly South African policy discussions, but a special section was set aside for the rise of Gorbachav (sp), and the condition of the Soviet Nation (people, not state). Immediatly I was floored by the odd similarities seen 20 years ago with what is going down today.

It's not that the public is apathetic towards their freedoms, not at all. Rather, they seem to enjoy the security of Soviet/ Neo-Soviet rule.

Sadly, this is slightly beyond my comprehension...
#17  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
Locke vs. Hobbes

Round 2!
#18  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
In reply to Duste, #18:

That's one of the main arguments for explaining why the hell the Russians aren't buying into the liberal democratic project. It's always been a situation of a strong man on top. Maybe it is just such a part of the cultural consciousness that we can't simply through away the autocratic bend.

I buy into that argument to a certain extent, but Russia isn't soley oriental in cultural mindset. The story of Russian history since Peter the Great has been a turn to the West. The ideas that entered Russia from that point on also play a very important role. What it comes down to now, it seems, is that the state lacks the capacity to hold everything together outside of increasingly centralizing power. Unfortunately, consolidating all this power within the executive (sometimes called superpresidentialism) has a really negative effect on the development of political parties, which just happen to be critical for making nascent democracies work for all kinds of reasons.

I guess I'm pessimistic about liberal democracy making it in Russia any time soon.
#19  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
I don't think one is better than the other in every circumstance. Both cases have failed in some cases and succeeded in others.
I would say that Germany, follwing World War 2 is a great example of an impoverished country without a democratic tradition succeeding. There was massive poverty in the first five years of it's existance, but by the 70's, Germany had the most powerful economy in Europe. In Turkey on the other hand, the founder Attatürk ran a totalitarian regime, but he set up solid infrastructure and today Turkey is a fairly democratic country.

I don't think you can assume the same of what's happening in Russia now. I don't see Putin's nationalization of certain industries and relapse into soviet media control as leading to long term prosperity. I haven't studied Russian history very much, but as they don't have a history of democraticization and the population isn't united towards achieving this goal, as in Turkey, I don't think the precedent Putin is setting bodes well for the country.
#20  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
Well Germany had the Marshall Plan to help it out, something Russia doesn't quite have.

I'll always take a more benevolent autocracy over a bad democracy. The problem with strong man rules is that it's extremely difficult to replace. Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia would be an example.

For the purposes of industrialization and modernization though, the East Asian Tigers have demonstrated that utilizing authoritarian regimes were certainly beneficial, something that China has often pointed to.

After industrlization and mondernization I'd consider it best to switch to democracy. Usually because a strong economy will limit how bad a democracy can get. A failed authoritarian however can dissolve an entire country or worse.
#21  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
In reply to GreatDracon, #22:

I'm glad you brought up Tito, I was badly torn on this issue. However, the aftermath of his reign is a perfect example of why a poor democracy is preferable to a benevolent dictatorship in the long run. For the short term, you can't beat a good autocrat who knows what he's doing, but eventually that guy's going to die or retire, and you're going to have to find someone to replace him. That's when the problems inevitably crop up and the whole thing falls to pieces in a power struggle.

Ideally, it would be a benevolent dictator with a set term and a mandate (self-imposed or otherwise) to set up a democratic government at the end of that term. Well, that's my ideal anyways, who knows how well it would work out in reality, since it's never happened, and probably never will. In the choice set out in this thread, I'd have to go with the weak democracy, because it is much more likely to work out well in the long term.
#22  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
In reply to swooper74, #23:

Yeah, if you could somehow find strong and benevolent successors to each dictator that would be ideal. But if we could do that, we might as well live in Plato's Republic.
#23  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
NaraVara Forum Mod
A bad democracy really just amounts to a corrupt oligarchy of the well-connected insiders. So substantively, there isn't much of a difference other than the ritualistic use of elections.
#24  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
NaraVara Forum Mod
Ideally, it would be a benevolent dictator with a set term and a mandate (self-imposed or otherwise) to set up a democratic government at the end of that term. Well, that's my ideal anyways, who knows how well it would work out in reality, since it's never happened, and probably never will.
That's how the Athenian democracy was created. The lawgiver, Solon, was appointed to rule the city for a while. He codified a "constitution" and that's how Athens operated after he stepped down up until the end of the Pelopponesian war.
#25  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
NaraVara Forum Mod
For the purposes of industrialization and modernization though, the East Asian Tigers have demonstrated that utilizing authoritarian regimes were certainly beneficial, something that China has often pointed to.

After industrlization and mondernization I'd consider it best to switch to democracy. Usually because a strong economy will limit how bad a democracy can get. A failed authoritarian however can dissolve an entire country or worse.
So it looks to me like we have a few cases of autocrats who ended up with stable functioning societies and a few cases of autocrats who didn't.
You think maybe in the end it just comes down to that unquantifiable factor, human agency?
I realize non-deterministic thinking is unfashionable these days, especially among Political Scientists, but there we are aren't we?
#26  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
In reply to Pavan, #27:

Of course, isn't that the single, yet seemingly most important variable that we can never truly account for?
#27  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
The problem with even a "benevolent" autocracy is that it is a government without accountability and institutionalization. The latter is particularly important once your good autocrat kicks the dust and you need a replacement. At least bad democracies usually have some sort of rules for replacing them. Autocracies, like the PRC, usually have...well...powerful people who don't care about the citizenry anyway.
#28  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
Well personally for me it comes down to who can provide the highest standerd of living for its citizens, not whos the most 'free' (freedom of speach, of the press, to vote etc) as in my mind a government is really only there to increase its citizens standerd of living.
Because of this i find an autocratic state far better than a bad democracy in a lot of cases, but really i soppose it depends upon the individual state in question and that states cuirmistances. However on the site of an autocratic government, consider that if a state was doing rather badley and it was a democracy, now each government that went in would be quite likely to gain strong support from its populace with the concessious that it will 'solve the problem'. But when it dosent provide a 'quick fix' it may get pushed out for another possibly even radical party (ie say the nazis in wimar germany, or communists in Russia).

Also one danger i personally think is relivent is that people want a solution in world politics too much, they see a state that dosent really affect them that isnt doing too well and think 'lets go in and fix it' or 'lets go in and have a regieme change to solve the problem' which really does have a capasity to bugger things up a bit as then they dont think what the long term conquences and wider perspective are.
A good example of this (though some may argue it isnt, but please humour me) is Iraq as there really wasent anywhere near enough planning for after the war and whatever anyone says, it has increased to an extend terrorist influence, really would it have been such a bad thing to let Saddam potter on along for a while longer, would it have really adversley affected the USA or UK if he did? Also perhaps because the US is 'tied up' in Iraq and Afganistan it has allowed North Korea to do its Necular tests to push for some consessions off the major powers safe in the knowlage that it probably wont be invaded (so to be shorter, it will push for consessions, get them, then shut up for a while so as not go get adverse attention from the US once the US has freed up more troops. Or at the least shown it has Nukes/devolped them while it wont be invaded so when it is possible to be invaded it has them ready, instead of devolping them while it can be invaded).

oh and sorry if my arguments make no sense or are utterly stupid.
#29  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
NaraVara Forum Mod
in my mind a government is really only there to increase its citizens standerd of living.
Define what constitutes a better "standard of living."
#30  Posted 8 years ago  |  Reply  |  Quote
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