It is getting very interesting now. Let me clarify my position.
When the United States was formed in 1776, the founding fathers were thinking about a society with restricted government and political leaders being elected by the people (despite that universal suffrage still did not exist). They were experimenting a model that was unprecedented, and they realized that majority rules could be dangerous. That was probably why a constitution was written to define the role of the government, the power of leaders as well as human and property rights.
The formation and enforcement of the constitution (the rule of law) is, in my opinion, even more important to guarantee individuals’ freedom and rights. I am surprised that the discussion did not put much emphasis on this. Please also notice that the US constitution being approved in 1787 did not involve every individual and was not the outcome of suffrage.
If we have a constitution that restricted the power of the government, the way to select a leader becomes secondary. I am not against universal suffrage, but am skeptical if this model works for an economy that is at the developing stage. I agree with Steven Cheung. Looking at facts, rather than being idealistic, the development of Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and even Hong Kong after WWII was not driven by a democratic system. Another classic example is definitely China. On the other hand, the development of Malaysia, Philippines, India and many South American countries (except for Chile, which was ruled by a dictator named Pinochet) have been very disappointing, given the governments are elected by their people. Two major reasons for their failures, which are related to each other: 1) poorly written/enforced constitution (fails to protect property rights); 2) the rent seeking initiated by special interest groups. James Buchanan’s public choice theory allows us to understand more about the rent seeking issue.
In regards of benevolent dictator, I do not believe in that. I would argue that rulers, whether they are elected or not, want to maximize their returns (a typical economic perspective), and the whole idea is to design a system so that the prosperity of the country can be beneficial to rulers. In a firm, that is rather straightforward for executives get bonus when profit is made. It would be interesting if we may design something along this line: do not forget that a government can be perceived as a firm.
I know that I may not sound politically correct, but isn’t it more important to be correct?