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Authoritarianism has been associated with sadistic features and backwardness in development terms. Arguing from past experiences a good number of states which were considered authoritarian have not made much development economically. Most of the authoritarian leaders are being viewed as advocates of backwardness and their states being considered as rogue states. Countries operating on democratic systems claimed that while democracy supported economic development, authoritarianism actually negated economic developments and thus led to poverty. This was substantiated by the presence of many states which operated on the authoritarianism system. In the historical recent past there are countries, operating on authoritarian system, which have been known to have made some good economic development. A good example is the Latin America which has economically developed despite being under authoritarian leaders.(1) This has raised questions on the supremacy of the democracy system of governance.
This is an argumentative essay which will argue in favor of authoritarianism against democracy. This is done by first giving a background to the two terms as used in the political arena. The argument is based on the views presented by John Mill Stuart in many of his works in defense of democracy. The essay will show that due to globalization and the changes which are taking place in the society today, authoritarian ruler is better placed to present sound governance. In the course of writing the essay, surprisingly, it will be found out some of the arguments presented by john Mill Stuart actually work out to support authoritarianism factoring in the dynamism associated with the modern society. The essay will abstractly show that the form of governance actually depends on the era in question and the dynamism of a society where it is to be implemented.
The Question of Governance
The question of which is the best method of governance is historically much argued though no tentative answer has ever been agreed upon. Forms of governance are quite many and for the purpose of this essay, two of them are defined and later on in the essay they are compared showing why authoritarian ruler is effective in the modern society. With the above introduction the essay theme is presented: authoritarianism is better than democracy in the perspective of the modern society.
Mostly when defining democracy there are four factor which have to be included: a political system of governance based on free and fair election; there ought to be active involvement of the citizens in civic and political issues; human rights are protected for all the citizens; and the law applies to all the citizens in an equal manner (“Democracy” par. 1).
Based on the above feature democracy therefore can be defined as a system of governance whereby there is a competition for power through elections which ought to be free and fair. It is considered as a competition for power because only the ones who appeal most to the eyes of electors get to hold power. In this sense, the citizens due to their electing power become sovereign. In democracy citizens have got rights to a number of issues which can not be taken away. The citizens are entitled to have their own beliefs. Democracy is based in freedom which ought not to be questioned (“Democracy” par. 1).
An authoritarian system of governance operates on the use of authority. It operates on the principles of submission by the subjects to a political body in leadership. This system of governance tolerates pluralism in social organizations. The ruling body does assume powers as long as possible. This system does not allow elections to take place. In general the body in leadership takes control of everything and ensures that the state is up and running. Power might be transferred in a monarch style and at times through coups (Young 351).
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The next section forms the main part of this argumentative essay by showing the effectiveness of authoritarianism over democracy.
The effectiveness of authoritarianism
There have been many arguments forwarded against the authoritarianism depicting it as a system which does not work and one which is efficient. States being governed by authoritarian leaders have been dubbed rogue states and associated with slow or backward development. However contrary to this popular opinion against authoritarian leaders it has been proved to be otherwise. This system of governance has been proved to be quite effective especially where matters of national interest are urgent and of great interest. When decisions have to be made fast because of urgency, it has found that authoritarian leaders are better than the democracy system.
Young (1990) reports of a finding showing what the population of an authoritarian system of government is experiencing: “high physical quality of life” (1).(3) The research carried out reports of a unique finding in which the sub-Saharan Africa countries which were under authoritarian leader found to do well and mange their resources than other countries under democracy form of governance (Young 1).(4)
States practicing authoritarianism in such a manner which has been proven to be beneficial to its citizens have been labeled “populist authoritarian.” Examples of such countries are given as China, Yugoslavia, and Egypt.(5) These countries only allow very
limited amount of freedom. The mentioned countries do allow some limited freedom but have been found to be quite keen on the deliverance on the economy and upholding the state of affairs of their citizens (Young 1).
According to this article, the populist authoritarians are effective in responding to some situations, “he believes that these countries have a better record in responding to basic needs than comparable groups of developing countries calling themselves democracies” (Young 351). This article has a preference for authoritarian rulers over the other forms of governance. The above examples of countries operating on authoritarianism forms of government have shown that the authoritarianism system of governance actually works to the benefits of the citizens of a state.
John Stuart Mill in his writing on liberty argues from the utilitarian point of view on the issue of individual liberty. He strongly argued that individual liberty could not be infringed by any means. This meant that there was no body government or individuals who could interfere with the personal freedom of another person not unless if such a freedom interfered with another individual (6), he wrote, “the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection” and continues to implicate the same for the governing body, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to” (Stuart 1).
Mill argues well but fails to address some basic component which is of great concern in the modern society. The fact that individual rights have got to be protected without being infringed upon is an idea which with the dynamism of the society is being far fetched. In the modern society, this fact is being used by individuals to commit even more crimes than ever. Take for instance the case of the U.S.’s war on terrorism. This nation is waking up to the fact that the ‘right to be untouched’ is costing it a lot. It should be noted that since the U.S. embarked fiercely on fighting terrorism a number of individual rights have been infringed on (Page 2).
This has been necessary to ensure that law and order is maintained in the society. the U.S. for instance has found it necessary to infringe into the privacy of its citizens, “A massive government database containing the phone records of tens of millions of Americans — reported by USA TODAY on Thursday — marks the modern intersection of two powerful emerging forces: terrorism and technology” (Page p.1).(7)
It should be noted that most crimes being committed in the modern day scenes are due to careful exploitation of the ‘individual rights.’ According to the USA today, “It's an issue of our times — a huge issue” (Page p.1). Terrorism can only be brought under control, especially in the U.S., by the state having a right to infringe upon the rights upon of its individuals. This is well orchestrated in countries like Saudi Arabia where law and order are well kept because the citizens are aware of the power of the authority. One might be tempted to call this dictatorship, well what is wrong with that? Both democracy and authoritarian are susceptible to be corrupt thus corruption should not be a determinant on which is the better system.
Not only in the U.S. but as well in other democracies there has been a continued infringing into the personal rights of the citizens. The former president of the US recognizes this fact, “But then we bump up against the need to protect civil liberties in this new environment: How can we maintain people's privacy while maintaining the usefulness of the information?” (Page p. 2). This trend, it can be argued, will eventually lead to an extended infringement of personal rights which might as well be considered authoritarianism. Actually most democracies operate as authoritarianism underneath, the only difference being that the leaders are elected by system which at times are flawed and manipulated.
The modern day society has presented so many challenges. These challenges require different approaches to use to bring them under control. The argument between the effectiveness of democracy system and authoritarianism system should be approached with the dynamism of the modern day society in mind. The challenge is mainly reflected in the use of technology. Terrorism for instance is associated with the careful exploitation of the individual rights. This has to be brought under control by infringing into the privacy of the citizens. This will make it possible for the conclusion that authoritarianism is effective form of governance with respect to modern day society.
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