Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorship'?

HIST: Discussions about the last 4000 years of history, give or take a few days.

Moderators: Thanas, K. A. Pital

User avatar
Lagmonster
Master Control Program
Master Control Program
Posts: 7717
Joined: 2002-07-04 09:53am
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorship'?

Post by Lagmonster » 2014-06-09 09:53am

I was thinking about how a lot of RARs involve the premise of, "You are the unquestioned lord of the world, now fix this problem".

I'm curious if our resident history buffs can cite examples of real-world equivalents; people who were by definition tyrants, wielding absolute and unquestioned authority over nations or empires, but who used this power to generally be really nice to everyone and accomplish all the good that people often swear they would if only they were in charge of everything.

I won't get picky if there was, in fact, hardship and war during the reign of whomever is suggested - shit happens. Just a closest-possible match to anyone who fit both the definition of an iron-fisted dictator and a benevolent, enlightened and progressive ruler (for his/her time).

User avatar
Borgholio
Sith Acolyte
Posts: 6283
Joined: 2010-09-03 09:31pm
Location: Southern California

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Borgholio » 2014-06-09 09:59am

First thought that comes to mind - Julius Caesar and his successor, Augustus. Neither were abnormally oppressive for the day, they had massive popular support, they expanded the borders of the empire and helped usher in an age of wealth of prosperity to Rome.
You will be assimilated...bunghole!

AniThyng
Sith Devotee
Posts: 2588
Joined: 2003-09-08 12:47pm
Location: Took an arrow in the knee.
Contact:

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by AniThyng » 2014-06-09 10:20am

Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore might qualify, being one of the most successful authoritarian states in recent decades.
I do know how to spell
AniThyng is merely the name I gave to what became my favourite Baldur's Gate II mage character :P

User avatar
madd0ct0r
Sith Acolyte
Posts: 5595
Joined: 2008-03-14 07:47am

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by madd0ct0r » 2014-06-09 10:29am

^ precisely what I came here to say. Notable would be his technically illeagel arrests of people early on. His argument being that they were trying to inflame racial tensions to come out on top of the heap. He's quite open about it.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3YFl-dY9Qg#t=155[/youtube]
"Aid, trade, green technology and peace." - Hans Rosling.
"Welcome to SDN, where we can't see the forest because walking into trees repeatedly feels good, bro." - Mr Coffee

User avatar
Ziggy Stardust
Sith Devotee
Posts: 2813
Joined: 2006-09-10 10:16pm
Location: Research Triangle, NC

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Ziggy Stardust » 2014-06-09 03:56pm

I admit I don't know much about the actual details of his reign, but I know at least in the popular imagination/memory Antonio Salazar in Portugal is remembered that way. He is pretty widely thought of as a benevolent authoritarian and one of the greatest figures in Portuguese history.

User avatar
Purple
Sith Acolyte
Posts: 5233
Joined: 2010-04-20 08:31am
Location: In a purple cube orbiting this planet. Hijacking satellites for an internet connection.

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Purple » 2014-06-09 05:08pm

As far as I recall from a TV special I saw years ago Bhutan qualifies. At least back when it was a monarchy.
It has become clear to me in the previous days that any attempts at reconciliation and explanation with the community here has failed. I have tried my best. I really have. I pored my heart out trying. But it was all for nothing.

You win. There, I have said it.

Now there is only one thing left to do. Let us see if I can sum up the strength needed to end things once and for all.

User avatar
Ziggy Stardust
Sith Devotee
Posts: 2813
Joined: 2006-09-10 10:16pm
Location: Research Triangle, NC

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Ziggy Stardust » 2014-06-09 05:18pm

Now that I think about it, I wonder if you could also come up with a list of dictators who contemporaneously would have fit the benevloent dictator mold but whose images were subsequently tarnished after-the-fact. For example, Porfirio Diaz (former dictator of Mexico) is more reviled retrospectively than he probably deserved (not saying he was actually benevolent, as he wasn't, but rather that the political winds in the following decades made it unpopular to even point out the positive things he did do such as they were).

Channel72
Jedi Council Member
Posts: 2068
Joined: 2010-02-03 05:28pm
Location: New York

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Channel72 » 2014-06-09 10:48pm

Augustus Caesar is the most obvious example - although Peisistratos is probably the archetype of the benevolent/wise tyrant.

User avatar
Lord Revan
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 10994
Joined: 2004-05-20 02:23pm
Location: Zone:classified

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Lord Revan » 2014-06-10 02:29am

IIRC there was quite a few "benevolent dictatorships" but the problem was that these last only for 1 ruler or so with the followers generally having been spoiled rotten so that when it came time for them to take over the new leader was so enamoured with the ideas that "the king's word was the law" and "I'm the king so I can do anything" that they were either hopelessly incompetent, pretty and cruel or both.

like Augustus Caesar was followed By people like Nero Caesar.
I may be an idiot, but I'm a tolerated idiot
"I think you completely missed the point of sigs. They're supposed to be completely homegrown in the fertile hydroponics lab of your mind, dried in your closet, rolled, and smoked...
Oh wait, that's marijuana..."Einhander Sn0m4n

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20253
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by K. A. Pital » 2014-06-10 04:24am

Purple wrote:As far as I recall from a TV special I saw years ago Bhutan qualifies. At least back when it was a monarchy.
The place with little electricity, zero railways and water supply problems, which has a standard of life worse than even Himalayan neighbor Nepal? Yeah... right. I thought people would bring up, uh... dunno... KMT-controlled Taiwan?
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

AniThyng
Sith Devotee
Posts: 2588
Joined: 2003-09-08 12:47pm
Location: Took an arrow in the knee.
Contact:

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by AniThyng » 2014-06-10 04:45am

Stas Bush wrote:
Purple wrote:As far as I recall from a TV special I saw years ago Bhutan qualifies. At least back when it was a monarchy.
The place with little electricity, zero railways and water supply problems, which has a standard of life worse than even Himalayan neighbor Nepal? Yeah... right. I thought people would bring up, uh... dunno... KMT-controlled Taiwan?
I think popular perception would have Taiwan thought of as more democratic than most, certainly if compared against the most obvious Asian candidate of Singapore - I mean, they have fistfights in parliament :P

I suppose China under Deng XiaoPing also might qualify, considering he got the ball rolling on China's capitalism AND Tiananmen...
I do know how to spell
AniThyng is merely the name I gave to what became my favourite Baldur's Gate II mage character :P

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20253
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by K. A. Pital » 2014-06-10 05:25am

Taiwan before democratization had single party rule with a personality cult, that is what I'm talking about. I would also say that Napoleon could've qualified.
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

User avatar
ray245
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 6622
Joined: 2005-06-10 11:30pm

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by ray245 » 2014-06-10 05:43am

Lord Revan wrote:IIRC there was quite a few "benevolent dictatorships" but the problem was that these last only for 1 ruler or so with the followers generally having been spoiled rotten so that when it came time for them to take over the new leader was so enamoured with the ideas that "the king's word was the law" and "I'm the king so I can do anything" that they were either hopelessly incompetent, pretty and cruel or both.

like Augustus Caesar was followed By people like Nero Caesar.
Although it is not as simple as that. Often the successors have to justify their right to succeed as the new authoritarian by demonstrating their abilities. Either in the form of excellent military commands or being extremely well educated.

In Singapore case, I do recall Lee Kuan Yew demanding his son, the current Prime Minister to match his academic grades while he was studying in Cambridge. I think they both end up getting a double-starred degree.
Humans are such funny creatures. We are selfish about selflessness, yet we can love something so much that we can hate something.

User avatar
Purple
Sith Acolyte
Posts: 5233
Joined: 2010-04-20 08:31am
Location: In a purple cube orbiting this planet. Hijacking satellites for an internet connection.

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Purple » 2014-06-10 05:50am

Stas Bush wrote:
Purple wrote:As far as I recall from a TV special I saw years ago Bhutan qualifies. At least back when it was a monarchy.
The place with little electricity, zero railways and water supply problems, which has a standard of life worse than even Himalayan neighbor Nepal? Yeah... right. I thought people would bring up, uh... dunno... KMT-controlled Taiwan?
Sure. But the leader was a dictator and genuinely seemed to not commit mass murder, genocide or anything like that.
It has become clear to me in the previous days that any attempts at reconciliation and explanation with the community here has failed. I have tried my best. I really have. I pored my heart out trying. But it was all for nothing.

You win. There, I have said it.

Now there is only one thing left to do. Let us see if I can sum up the strength needed to end things once and for all.

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20253
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by K. A. Pital » 2014-06-10 06:09am

Purple wrote:Sure. But the leader was a dictator and genuinely seemed to not commit mass murder, genocide or anything like that.
There are a lot more dictators in world history who did not commit genocide and also did not keep their people and country in conditions of an almost medieval agrarian shithole! That's not a standard for a benevolent ruler.
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

User avatar
PKRudeBoy
Padawan Learner
Posts: 249
Joined: 2010-01-22 07:18pm
Location: long island
Contact:

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by PKRudeBoy » 2014-06-10 08:27am

Lord Revan wrote:IIRC there was quite a few "benevolent dictatorships" but the problem was that these last only for 1 ruler or so with the followers generally having been spoiled rotten so that when it came time for them to take over the new leader was so enamoured with the ideas that "the king's word was the law" and "I'm the king so I can do anything" that they were either hopelessly incompetent, pretty and cruel or both.

like Augustus Caesar was followed By people like Nero Caesar.
While I would agree with this for the majority of cases, the Five Good Emperors prove that it is at least possible. Then again, they were all adopted as their predecessor's heirs instead of being born to the throne.

I think Justinian would also qualify as a benevolent dictator.

User avatar
Irbis
Jedi Council Member
Posts: 2262
Joined: 2011-07-15 05:31pm

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Irbis » 2014-06-12 06:06pm

Ziggy Stardust wrote:I admit I don't know much about the actual details of his reign, but I know at least in the popular imagination/memory Antonio Salazar in Portugal is remembered that way. He is pretty widely thought of as a benevolent authoritarian and one of the greatest figures in Portuguese history.
You mean, guy who managed to make Portugal poorer than countries thoroughly destroyed by World War II, despite keeping it out of it, guy who ordered no step back in colonies and when the colonies won, threatened to shoot soldiers who surrendered, tried to make his country half-theocracy, and was virtual fascist in everything but loyalty to Allies?

Yes, he has good education, but so does the current dictator of Syria.

User avatar
Ziggy Stardust
Sith Devotee
Posts: 2813
Joined: 2006-09-10 10:16pm
Location: Research Triangle, NC

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Ziggy Stardust » 2014-06-13 09:44am

Irbis wrote: You mean, guy who managed to make Portugal poorer than countries thoroughly destroyed by World War II, despite keeping it out of it, guy who ordered no step back in colonies and when the colonies won, threatened to shoot soldiers who surrendered, tried to make his country half-theocracy, and was virtual fascist in everything but loyalty to Allies?
The point of my post was that, regardless of everything else, Salazar is certainly viewed as a "benevolent dictator" by the Portuguese. His name isn't a reviled part of their history. I never said that he was a perfect ruler that allowed the country to prosper or anything even remotely likely that - in fact, I explicitly said I was only talking about public opinion of him, not the details of his rule. Not sure why you even included the last part about him being a fascist; the entire point of this thread is that we are talking about dictators, anyway. Also, I never said anything about his education, so not even sure why you would pull out the bizarre implication that I'm an Assad apologist.

So ... yeah, way to read my post, I guess.

User avatar
Irbis
Jedi Council Member
Posts: 2262
Joined: 2011-07-15 05:31pm

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Irbis » 2014-06-16 07:57am

Ziggy Stardust wrote:The point of my post was that, regardless of everything else, Salazar is certainly viewed as a "benevolent dictator" by the Portuguese.
Is he? Or is it like with other 20s dictators, of which there are many examples in Europe, who are mostly praised by people with similar views and quietly criticized by others because of decades of indoctrination about Great Leader?

For example, Piłsudski in Poland is sort of praised, too, but if you scratch the surface a lot of dirty stuff appears.
I never said that he was a perfect ruler that allowed the country to prosper or anything even remotely likely that - in fact, I explicitly said I was only talking about public opinion of him, not the details of his rule.
Well, OP asked for successful, benevolent dictators. Your post was pretty much one sided, mentioning only praise and no bad sides, I merely challenged Salazar being in any way match for OP question.
Not sure why you even included the last part about him being a fascist; the entire point of this thread is that we are talking about dictators, anyway.
Fascist as a shorthand for reviling, oppressing and excluding pretty big part of society and political discourse. It's pretty telling that without historical baggage he would have no problems joining the Axis. This alone disqualifies him from any benevolence claims.

Also, please, where I said you were Assad apologist, again?

User avatar
General Mung Beans
Jedi Knight
Posts: 854
Joined: 2010-04-17 10:47pm
Location: Orange Prefecture, California Sector, America Quadrant, Terra

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by General Mung Beans » 2014-06-19 05:37am

Tito in Yugoslavia certainly qualifies. The Castro brothers have also been decently successful in modernizing their country.

I'd add Park Chung Hee of the ROK to KMT Formosa and Lee Kuan Yew among East Asia's successful modernizers.
El Moose Monstero: That would be the winning song at Eurovision. I still say the Moldovans were more fun. And that one about the Apricot Tree.
That said...it is growing on me.
Thanas: It is one of those songs that kinda get stuck in your head so if you hear it several times, you actually grow to like it.
General Zod: It's the musical version of Stockholm syndrome.

User avatar
Thanas
Magister
Magister
Posts: 30776
Joined: 2004-06-26 07:49pm

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Thanas » 2014-06-19 06:51am

How do you define dictatorship here? Do monarchies count? If not, there's Rome out the window (well, except possibly for Augustus and Tiberius).

That being said, I would argue Fabius Maximus and most of the other dictators elected by Rome would qualify here.
Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
------------
A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood
------------
My LPs

User avatar
mr friendly guy
The Doctor
Posts: 10132
Joined: 2004-12-12 10:55pm
Location: In a 1960s police telephone box somewhere in Australia

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by mr friendly guy » 2014-06-19 09:48am

1. Interestingly wiki has a page on benevolent dictators

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benevolent_dictatorship

It counts among the numbers Atatürk, Tito, Lee Kuan Yew and Park Chung-hee.

2. Thanas raises a good point. Monarchies (where the head of state is strong) would be a dictatorship by definition, since the latter is characterised as having power being concentrated in the hands of a person or party.

3. Back to the OP, I would have to say any dictator who has been in power a long time would have trouble satisfying the beneficial aspect purely because if they held "absolute" power over that country they would have to suppress dissent against any reforms or policies they make even if its arguably for the benefit of all. Because there will always be some people who disagree because of various reasons ranging from short sightedness to stupidity.

I mean if we use the example of Fabius Maximus (thanks Thanas for the example), his strategy of Fabian tactics worked against Hannibal. But the Romans felt that was not the Roman way, gathered a big army to fight Hannibal and got massacred at Cannae. So there is an example of stupidity opposing the dictator's good plan, which benefited all. The difference between Fabius and other dictators is that he didn't have the power to crush dissent when his political foes opposed his reforms/vision/what needed to be done. If he had the power to crush his opponents completely like how say, Deng Xiaoping crushed the demonstrators in Tiananmen, would Fabius still count as "benevolent".
Never apologise for being a geek, because they won't apologise to you for being an arsehole. John Barrowman - 22 June 2014 Perth Supernova.

Countries I have been to.
Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, USA.
Always on the lookout for more nice places to visit.

User avatar
Thanas
Magister
Magister
Posts: 30776
Joined: 2004-06-26 07:49pm

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Thanas » 2014-06-19 03:02pm

mr friendly guy wrote:1. Interestingly wiki has a page on benevolent dictators

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benevolent_dictatorship

It counts among the numbers Atatürk, Tito, Lee Kuan Yew and Park Chung-hee.

2. Thanas raises a good point. Monarchies (where the head of state is strong) would be a dictatorship by definition, since the latter is characterised as having power being concentrated in the hands of a person or party.

3. Back to the OP, I would have to say any dictator who has been in power a long time would have trouble satisfying the beneficial aspect purely because if they held "absolute" power over that country they would have to suppress dissent against any reforms or policies they make even if its arguably for the benefit of all. Because there will always be some people who disagree because of various reasons ranging from short sightedness to stupidity.
How do you count Augustus then, who by all accounts did a masterful job of coopting almost every political movement there was? Do you mean in modern times, politics are more complex than in antiquity (I would agree on that) due to the internet and other media?
I mean if we use the example of Fabius Maximus (thanks Thanas for the example), his strategy of Fabian tactics worked against Hannibal. But the Romans felt that was not the Roman way, gathered a big army to fight Hannibal and got massacred at Cannae. So there is an example of stupidity opposing the dictator's good plan, which benefited all. The difference between Fabius and other dictators is that he didn't have the power to crush dissent when his political foes opposed his reforms/vision/what needed to be done. If he had the power to crush his opponents completely like how say, Deng Xiaoping crushed the demonstrators in Tiananmen, would Fabius still count as "benevolent".
Well, the problem is that with Fabius - who was the quintessential dictator - we call him a dictator when he was more like a president with emergency powers. He had a strict term, he was limited by time if not by law. Being elected and then having to give up the power when the time is up is a bit unlikely to happen in the case of modern dictators. One example would be Putin, but even he had a straight plan to return to power, something which Fabius did not. So IMO what is necessary here is for the word dictator to be defined. Do we mean it solely by the modern definition of a strongmen who crushes opposition movements and where the people do not really have a say, or do we include ancient and medieval definitions?
Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
------------
A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood
------------
My LPs

xerex
Jedi Knight
Posts: 848
Joined: 2005-06-17 08:02am

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by xerex » 2014-06-19 07:02pm

Stas Bush wrote:Taiwan before democratization had single party rule with a personality cult, that is what I'm talking about. I would also say that Napoleon could've qualified.

Id say Napoleon III counts even better.
Go back far enough and you'll end up blaming some germ for splitting in two - Col Tigh

User avatar
mr friendly guy
The Doctor
Posts: 10132
Joined: 2004-12-12 10:55pm
Location: In a 1960s police telephone box somewhere in Australia

Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by mr friendly guy » 2014-06-19 10:54pm

Thanas wrote: How do you count Augustus then, who by all accounts did a masterful job of coopting almost every political movement there was? Do you mean in modern times, politics are more complex than in antiquity (I would agree on that) due to the internet and other media?
It boils down to what we can consider benevolent. I would argue that the moment someone uses force to suppress dissent (regardless of whether the dissent has positive or negative benefits), people in general would view them as non benevolent, irregardless of whether the positive outweighed the negative. This is simply because we are enamoured to democratic system, so even if they suppress some racism, a lot of people would view this as negative by suppressing democracy. This would by nature, make it very hard to be benevolent because all it takes is one bad example.

For example not sure if the average pro democracy person views Deng Xiaoping in a positive light, even though he corrected a lot of Mao's mistakes in the 60s, and his reforms in the 70's and 80's lifted many people out of poverty.

I will also like to point out that as time progresses it might be harder to coopt people without using force. That is there is an increase chance someone else will oppose him (because no one will agree 100% with someone else), and that this group might not be willing to negotiate like previous political opponents.
Well, the problem is that with Fabius - who was the quintessential dictator - we call him a dictator when he was more like a president with emergency powers. He had a strict term, he was limited by time if not by law. Being elected and then having to give up the power when the time is up is a bit unlikely to happen in the case of modern dictators. One example would be Putin, but even he had a straight plan to return to power, something which Fabius did not. So IMO what is necessary here is for the word dictator to be defined. Do we mean it solely by the modern definition of a strongmen who crushes opposition movements and where the people do not really have a say, or do we include ancient and medieval definitions?
Another interesting thing about modern conceptions of the word, is that we don't tend to think of dictator's as being replaced via mechanisms in the country's rule. That is we think of them as seizing power and keeping it by strength. However even in countries we consider dictatorships eg the USSR and modern day PRC there are mechanisms for removing the leader - witness Kruschev being replaced, and modern day PRC replacing its leaders every two terms.
Never apologise for being a geek, because they won't apologise to you for being an arsehole. John Barrowman - 22 June 2014 Perth Supernova.

Countries I have been to.
Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, USA.
Always on the lookout for more nice places to visit.

Post Reply