Democracy vs. Authoritarianism: Who Will Win?

“To be or not to be? That is the question.” When Shakespeare wrote this quote, he didn’t mean for Hamlet to contemplate ‘to be’ as to live and ‘not to be’ as to do nothing about it, Shakespeare defined ‘to be’ as to commit suicide and therefore be free and ‘not to be’ as to continue living under the oppressive regime that was his life. To be a democracy or an authoritarian regime in todays world? There is a common perception that democracies are more stable than authoritarian regimes, because ‘to be’ under a democracy means freedom of speech and the right to vote, while ‘not to be’ in an authoritarian regime would mean living under dictatorship and poverty. However, in this essay I will contemplate whether democracies or authoritarian regimes are more stable in today’s world by looking at empirical phenomena’s such as economic, political and social reasons. It is my belief that just because in the developed world we believe that democracies are more stable, it does not mean that it’s the truth, in the end every regime is different and carefully adapted to each nations needs. Applying general standards of regimes to every country will result in instability. Therefore I will argue that there is no single answer to this question.

Every country is different; we all have different histories, cultures, languages, likes and dislikes. How could we apply one type of regime and declare it more stable than the other? There have been some amazing dictators in this world that have created peace and stability in their countries, as well as amazing presidents and prime ministers that have only remained in power for a short amount of time. How could we ever judge which system is more correct than the other? It would be futile to argue that democracies are more stable than authoritarian regimes because that’s not true. There are multitudes of democracies and dictatorships and it’s hard to generalize them and to apply them to any random country. Moreover we have to remember that a regime, regardless if it’s authoritarian or democratic it will always be less stable if it has high inflation, low unemployment, high levels of corruption and poverty plague its country. It’s the circumstances that surround the regime that make it unstable.

For example, lets look at Mandela in South Africa and all the work that he did in order to end the Apartheid, and he only stayed president for one term in order to maintain the values of democracy even though his people would have loved for him to stay longer as president. South Africa today is a democracy however can we call it a stable democracy when its population actually wants less democracy?

Lets examine Nasser, the Egyptian dictator from the 1950’s till the 1970’s, his dictatorship was defined as ‘soft-hearted authoritarianism’, and even though Egypt was plagued by instability in that time, nobody in Egypt doubted Nasser and his leadership. When he decided to resign after losing the 1967 war against Israel, the Egyptians went out in the street and begged him to go back in power. Does that make his dictatorship any less stable than Mandela’s? Any less legitimate?

On the other hand, we can argue exactly the opposite. Some of the most oppressive regimes in the world are authoritarian regimes, such as that of Kim Jong-Il, that of Gaddafi in Libya, or even Spain its self under Franco; nobody was surprised when a bloody revolution sparked and nobody will be surprised if there is a revolution in North Korea in the next ten years. However, even democracies can be fully unstable, as some countries use and abuse the title democracy but hide underneath it a world of corruption and greed. Other countries merely flaunt the word democracy as to gain international credibility.

For example, Russia, is it a democracy? And if it is, can we categorize it as stable?
We have been accustomed to affiliate democracy with economic growth, fairness and stability. Authoritarian regimes on the other hand with instability, greed and poverty, but its roles can be reversed. As my final example, I would like to bring up the case of the USA, democracy or authoritarian regime? Stable or unstable? Developing or not? The USA is a funny case to analyze; every four years they hold democratic elections, where its population is allowed to vote essentially for two parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. Just starting with this we can see that Americans don’t really have much freedom to choose. Second of all, in 2012 Obama won the elections with a 51.1% of the vote, making him president. However, its important to highlight that he won not by a massive landslide not even my a tiny one, he barely won. His opposition, Mitt Romney won 47.2% of the votes, that’s still a huge number that we cannot ignore. Its nearly half the population, how can it be a democracy that represents the wants and needs of the people when half of them did not vote for that president? Moreover is America a stable country? With the economic crisis that hit the world in 2008, the Occupy Wall Street movement, its constant complex to go and ‘save’ countries that are in need, and my favorite, the government shutdown, does that make it stable?

To conclude I would like to say that there is no exact single answer for this question. We live in a world with 7 Billion people, over 200 countries and 7 continents, how could we ever apply one regime system and declare it more stable than the other? Every country is different, with the invention of technology and the evolution of globalization we have learned to socially adapt to rapid changes however our political system is still lagging behind. Political systems are something unique to its own country, its own people and its own historical/cultural background. The American version of democracy could never work in China, nor could the French system work in Ghana. We should stop trying to force our (by our I mean the European Union and the USA because we are the ones that have been dictating politics for the past hundred years) perfect version of political regimes on different countries, as if it was a puzzle piece that could not quite fit. That puzzle piece no matter how hard we might push it, cut it and squeeze it will never be quite right and will result in instability, regardless if it is an authoritarian or democratic regime.

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