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poisonedantidote's avatar

What is better to have, a corrupt democracy or a benevolent dictator?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21638points) September 22nd, 2010

I know, I know, false dichotomy. humor me.

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17 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

I’d prefer to be able to choose which asshole I have to be dependent on as opposed to having just one de facto asshole to be dependent on.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

A perfectly benevolent dictator is one of the best forms of government imaginable, second only to pure socialism in my opinion. Different forms of government exist to provide the greatest possible good for their respective citizens, but if we hypothetically say that whomever is in power is looking foremost for the good of the citizens, then the form of government serves a different role. If those in power are assumed to be perfectly benevolent, a dictatorship is the best form of government because it is the most efficient, and is therefore able to deliver a greater good to the citizens with less waste.

josie's avatar

Corrupt democracy. History shows that even with corruption, democracy is a pretty predictable method to avoid or delay…
A dictator. History does not provide examples of civilizations that thrived or survived beyond a generation or two under a benevolant, or any, dictator.
Those who do not understand history are destined to repeat it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I was thinking about from a national level, it would depend on how far along the country was on the way to developement. A third world nation would benefit sometimes from having a benevolent dictator as opposed to a corrupt democracy. Personally I prefer fiddle’s answer. Summed it up pretty succinctly.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@josie Realistically I agree with you, but hypothetical situations can rarely draw on real world examples. The Five Good Emperors of Rome are a good example of benevolent dictators. The difficulty is in ensuring that the dictator remains good, since the fatal flaw of dictatorships is that greater individual power leads to greater corruption, hence the democratic notion of giving the power back to the people.

marinelife's avatar

A corrupt democracy, because then you have a chance of changing the regime.

chocolatechip's avatar

@josie “History does not provide examples of civilizations that thrived or survived beyond a generation or two under a benevolant, or any, dictator”

The Roman Empire…

josie's avatar

@chocolatechip You are equivocating on the word dictator. The roman Senate empowered a committee to nominate a “dictator”-sort of the ultimate chief executive. They had a term limit and few served longer than the limit. One of the ones who did, Julius Ceaser, was assassinated for his trouble. The other was Sulla, who uniquely served twice and resigned in his second term. The point is, the Roman “dictator” is nothing like the thug that steals power and imprisons a people, which I think is the context of question. If I misunderstood the question then OK.

YoBob's avatar

All governmental structures ultimately become corrupt. As someone above so eloquently put it, I would far rather have a say in which asshole is running the show than to be under the rule of somebody I had no say in putting in power.

diavolobella's avatar

I would choose the benevolent dictatorship, but the dictator would have to remain benevolent. There’s the rub. They never do. Eventually power corrupts. The problem with a corrupt democracy is that while you have the power to constantly replace the leadership, you are usually just swapping out one corrupt leader for another corrupt leader. The question is, if the democracy as a whole is corrupt, can an honest or benevolent leader ever be found within it?

chocolatechip's avatar


During the times of the Roman Republic, yes, two consuls would be elected for a limited term to serve as the highest political officials. That changed after the Augustus, who succeeded Julius Caeser, essentially made himself Emperor in what was a military dictatorship, a tradition which continued until the fall of the West Roman Empire, and well in the East until the fall of the Byzantine Empire 1000 years later. That’s why there is a very clear distinction between the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, which I believe is accepted to be the start of Julius Caesar’s rule.

ETpro's avatar

A benevolent dictatorship is always the most efficient form of government. It’s sole drawback is that mankind has never discovered anyone who is incorruptible by power. And even if we clear that hurdle, we would still need to discover a way to ensure successors were equally incorruptible.

downtide's avatar

If it was guaranteed that the dictator, and all of his successors, would remain benevolent, then I’d choose that one. If the covernment is perfect it makes no difference whether it was elected in or not, and what would be the point of wanting to elect them out if they were already perfect?

But we all know that absolute power corrupts absolutely, so it would never last.

iamthemob's avatar

Benevolent dictator. Hands down. Of course, all the problems associated with it are… well, problems.

However, corrupt democracies are eternally self-perpetuating (if we’re considering the fact that the system will only ever be corrupt). If there’s a problem with the benevolent dictator…well…those specific problems will last only until he or she is dead.

ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob Yes, imperfect or inefficient as democracies may be, there is built in self correction, and that is their enduring appeal.

ragingloli's avatar

A dictatorship has its advantages.
No political bickering, no drawn out legislative processes that take forever, and when there is a revolution, there is just one guy to lead to the Schafott. Compared to democracy…
How many people are in the house and senate?
Just imagine the logistics to euthanise so many creatures.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

There is a recent historical example to this question.

This was precisely the dilemna that the Zapotec Indian, lawyer and revolutionary Benito Juarez was confronted with during the Mexican War of the Reform (1855—1867) against Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.

Jaurez was surrounded by Maximilian’s troops—holed up in the northern provinces while in-fighting with his political cohorts, some of whom he knew were willing to assassinate him in order to co-opt and corrupt his ideal of a free democratic Mexico to their own despotic benefit. It was at this time that Maximillian offered him peace, amnesty for his troops and the position of Prime Minister in a proposed democratic empire under Max.

First he refused Max’s offer because a democracy under a dictator will always be ultimately protective of the powers of the Emperor (and therefore a sham) and, secondly he was able to neutralize his internal enemies and avoid a corrupt Republic. He chose neither because one was a despotic monarchy dressed in sham democracy, the other was a despotic Republic also dressed in sham democracy.

He eventually became the first president of the Mexican Republic and he instituted liberal, federalist, anti-clerical, and pro-capitalist reforms against conservative, centralist, corporatist, and theocratic elements that sought to reconstitute a version of the old colonial system (please note the distinction between pro-capitalist and corporatist).

Eventually, in response to the political opposition as listed above (which became violently revolutionary), President Juarez himself became somewhat despotic and undemocratic (he instituted a kind of Patriot Act and “election reforms”) which led to defections from his party. He died of a heart attack at the Presidential desk in 1872 after a questionable presidential re-election. (His administration was succeeded by his opponents, the centralized corporatists under Porfiro Diaz who lasted until the Mexican Revolution of 1910–1920.)

A corrupt democracy is no democracy at all. A dictatorship may be more efficient, but does not necessarily function in the interest of the people —when some benefit to the people occurs, it is by accident as the seat of power, the despotic government, must always be fed first. In my opinion, neither of these forms of government are acceptable and, it they cannot be remedied via the halls of government, they must be taken down in other ways.

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