Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorship'?

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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Thanas » 2014-06-20 06:28am

mr friendly guy wrote:
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.
True and the hallmark of every modern dictator is crushing dissent. Heck, if it takes just one instance, then there are no benevolent dictatorships, which is why I think the concept is too narrow here. When not even Augustus or Maximus qualifies then you got a real problem with the definition.
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Borgholio » 2014-06-20 08:55am

I think an easy way to define a benevolent dictator is to look at someone who definitely does NOT qualify...then look at the opposite end of the scale.

Examples of modern evil dictators: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, the little fat boy in N Korea. Historical examples: Nero, Caligula, Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, Attila, etc...

So basically putting down a few rebellions doesn't quite disqualify someone as being benevolent. Being a mass murderer or torture buff does.
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by LaCroix » 2014-06-20 10:28am

Rebellion =/= Rebellion
crushing dissent =/= crushing dissent

Context is very essential in this particular case - putting down a rival dictator trying to usurp you is par for the course, while killing random citicens for saying something slightly out of line is quite wrong. There is quite much room to wiggle between 'Nicest Dictator Possible' and 'I hope I won't get killed, today'.

The questions should be
"Can you live well under his reign, as long as you don't oppose him?"
"How far do you need to go to earn his ire?"

As long as everybody playing along with his rule is able to lead a quite normal life he can be classified as benevolent.
If you are allowed to speak your mind, as long as you don't propose to, or actually take up arms, he's top class, considering we're talking about dictators. We then have slope leading down to total oppression and random disappearances on a whim, with a stop at "don't speak up against him in public" and "better not speak about politics".
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Borgholio » 2014-06-20 10:46am

IIRC, even under the Roman emperors, public debate was quite common. While I'm not sure if they were able to outright say, "The Emperor is a douche.", they certainly had a great deal of freedom to discuss politics or the issues of the day. That's a lot more than many modern dictatorships will allow.
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Thanas » 2014-06-20 02:08pm

Of course they could say it. In Rome it all depends on the context and when you say it. Heck, open dissent in the senate was only met with serious consequences a few times (most of those under the Flavians, who for some reason get a really good rap in modern English literature). If you put it in writing as a historian, you could write all kinds of scandalous stuff (like Sueton) and get away with it.
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by mr friendly guy » 2014-06-21 12:42am

Then I would consider Deng Xiaoping's rein at the CCP as a benevolent dictatorship given LaCroix's description with the following caveat. He didn't have all the power confined to himself, as per the usual dictator definition, but it was spread out over the CCP and he had to balance out various left and right factions.

His reign had
a. Improved Chinese standard of living

b. Ensured at least some justice by punishing the "Gang of Four" for their part in the Cultural revolution

c. Improved freedom of speech - he even encouraged it until some people pushed too hard and criticised him (taking the form of we want democracy for democracy's sake). Back in Mao's day you had to make very veiled and disguised criticism. At least these days you can criticise unless you become too big a threat.

His dark spot which a lot of one sided people point out is suppressing the protesters at Tiananmen. He might have erred in not giving some party members more time to negotiate but then the protests had already lasted more than one and a half months.

I am going to say if they could have dispersed the protesters with less casualties like say how the US army dispersed the bonus marches (4 dead and 1017 injured) or how the Thai military dispersed the "redshirts" in 2010 (79 civillian deaths, 51 mission and 2000 + injured), it would have likely been forgotten like how these events no longer make the rounds of the liberal western media. Or maybe if he was democratically elected, people wouldn't have given a shit in the first place, because of ... democracy.

We should also point out the party tried to negotiate with the protesters, but the students pushed too hard. How hard. They wouldn't even let the CCP negotiator, Premier Li Peng finish his first sentence expressing concern for the students well being (because they were on a hunger strike), before shouting him down. At the end of the day, the running of the country must go on and that means dispersing protesters and if at least one side believes negotiation consists of making demands when you hold the weaker hand, well then you got problems.
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Thanas » 2014-06-21 05:43am

I think Tiananmen is the reason why he should not be counted as such. Look at all the other candidates for benevolent dictators. With them such things become footnotes, like "he also crushed dissent." With Deng, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
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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
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Purple » 2014-06-21 10:45am

Thanas wrote:I think Tiananmen is the reason why he should not be counted as such. Look at all the other candidates for benevolent dictators. With them such things become footnotes, like "he also crushed dissent." With Deng, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
But that is only because that one event keeps getting cited again and again by everyone who wants to bash China over anything. It's basically become to go to thing when you need to criticize the Chinese. Combine that with mass media and the internet and you can see how an event like that can stick for far longer than something done by a Roman leader back in early AD.
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.

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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by mr friendly guy » 2014-06-21 11:21am

Indeed. Some of the descriptions of the event used to criticise China aren't even real. Remember all those lines about tanks running people over, even though that wasn't what happen with the "tank man." This is one of those misconceptions that just continue to persist and helps explain why it continues to stick out. People remember it worse than what happened and in a very one sided manner.
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Purple » 2014-06-21 02:30pm

mr friendly guy wrote:Indeed. Some of the descriptions of the event used to criticise China aren't even real. Remember all those lines about tanks running people over, even though that wasn't what happen with the "tank man." This is one of those misconceptions that just continue to persist and helps explain why it continues to stick out. People remember it worse than what happened and in a very one sided manner.
It's just one of those stories like Nero burning Rome.
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.

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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Thanas » 2014-06-21 02:57pm

Regardless of what really happened, it still forms a part of the memoria one has about one ruler. I am not interested to discuss if it matters if 12 more or less people got run over with tanks, I explained why I think it disqualifies him.
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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
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Purple » 2014-06-21 03:04pm

Thanas wrote:Regardless of what really happened, it still forms a part of the memoria one has about one ruler. I am not interested to discuss if it matters if 12 more or less people got run over with tanks, I explained why I think it disqualifies him.
So basically the rational is "It's not the facts but how he is remembered"? Seems kind of strange if you ask me.
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.

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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Thanas » 2014-06-21 03:11pm

Purple wrote:
Thanas wrote:Regardless of what really happened, it still forms a part of the memoria one has about one ruler. I am not interested to discuss if it matters if 12 more or less people got run over with tanks, I explained why I think it disqualifies him.
So basically the rational is "It's not the facts but how he is remembered"? Seems kind of strange if you ask me.
No. I think the facts are strong enough to disqualify him. None of the examples I mentioned had to crush dissent with using the military in the capital against civilians.
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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
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Purple » 2014-06-21 03:26pm

Thanas wrote:
Purple wrote:
Thanas wrote:Regardless of what really happened, it still forms a part of the memoria one has about one ruler. I am not interested to discuss if it matters if 12 more or less people got run over with tanks, I explained why I think it disqualifies him.
So basically the rational is "It's not the facts but how he is remembered"? Seems kind of strange if you ask me.
No. I think the facts are strong enough to disqualify him. None of the examples I mentioned had to crush dissent with using the military in the capital against civilians.
Honestly I feel that total casualty count, severity etc. are more important than the exact details of the execution.
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.

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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by Thanas » 2014-06-21 03:33pm

There has never been an independently verified casualty count, for once. Second, as I said, it is my opinion. And in my opinion 7-12k deaths and injured are enough to disqualify somebody, especially when one sees the manner in which they were inflicted.
Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
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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
------------
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by LaCroix » 2014-06-21 04:07pm

Red cross stated a casualty count of 2600 death, and an unknown number of injuries (immediately after the event). Later released official numbers allow for 200 dead and 3000 injured, and we know there were more than 40.000 students present, so a total of 7k to 12k victims sounds right.

I'd certainly say that crushing such a huge rebellion (which will make sure that nobody else will dare to rebel for quite along time - that's why that was the only bigger rebellion to deal with) puts him off the top rank. I'd say he's still better than average, say 7/10, but that's my opinion.
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Re: Has there ever been a successful 'benevolent dictatorshi

Post by K. A. Pital » 2014-06-21 07:43pm

Thanas wrote:I think Tiananmen is the reason why he should not be counted as such. Look at all the other candidates for benevolent dictators. With them such things become footnotes...
If one would take the other massacres as footnotes (and every nation probably had them somewhere close enough in the period of rapid development), there's absolutely no reason not to do the same for China. But earnestly I think we should reconsider applying the term "benevolent" to a dictatorial rule in general rather than trying to pick some dictators we like and others we don't like.
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