It has been a while since I read Steven Cheung’s “独裁、民主、市场——给阿康与何洋上一课 Dictatorship, Democracy and Market“ and Wallace’s comments gave me a good excuse to re-read the article. I will comment on the original article first and then address Wallace’s comments.
Philosophically, the above analysis relies on having a benevolent dictator, unfortunately, I have my share of doubts of seeing dictator staying benevolent. Worst, once the current benevolent dictator passed on, will I be lucky enough that the next dictator is also a real nice guy or gal?
Another question is should we view the end result as the only goal ignoring how we achieve it? In a democracy, the people have the rights to get their voices heard. And if the government messed up, the voters can always fire the government and elect someone else. Sometimes, economic efficiency or low transaction costs should not be the only considerations. It is not an easy question and very subjective, but what system of government makes people “happier”?
Note that sometimes there are democratically elected leaders/deciders that acted as if they can operate above the law. In those case, some may argue that they are de facto dictator.
I would love to get my fellow lunchers’ help to shed some light on the above quote and may be provide a few clear examples to illustrate.
Points of discussion with Wallace
One problem is that a dictatorial government has little incentive to turn itself to a democracy with universal suffrage. Worst, I will bet a quarter that we won’t find too many dictators willing to accept a fully independent judiciary that is capable of saying “no” to the dictator. What is the fun of being a dictator when someone can say no to you? (smile) And I am willing to bet again that its constitution is more of a decorative piece of paper with beautifully crafted words than a functioning and effective check and balance tool to protect the people.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last President of Soviet Union, is one man that I respect greatly. It is not an easy thing to do to give up power. Other dictator in the world has managed to see its whole population on the blink of starvation for years without feeling the urge to give up his power, love of good food, and western movies.