Since the end of World War II, the United States has been the most powerful country in the world. During this period, an underlying assumption is that all developing countries would seek to utilize the same system that brought us success: Democracy, free enterprise capitalism, freedom of speech, competitive elections. Yet many countries seem to be opting for different models that employ many aspects of capitalism but fewer aspects of democracy.
Many countries, such as China, Russia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Hungary, and Turkey, have opted for strongman authoritarian governments in which power is centralized in hands of one man. In fact, Turkey was probably the first country to since WWII to turn from Democracy to authoritarianism. Most of these countries do not have competitive elections.
In addition to centralized governments, these countries strictly limit dissent, free speech, and access to the internet. China, for example, has banned many social media platforms and has cracked down on citizens that criticize the government and its policies. Turkey, Cambodia, the Philippines, and others have arrested dissidents.
While many of these governments have an economy with centralized planning, they are also becoming increasingly capitalistic. China, for example, ranks #2, behind the U.S. in the number of billionaires. Interestingly, many of these countries are among the fastest growing in the world.
If one listens to Donald Trump, it appears as if he would be more comfortable in a system with less “fake news” and interference in his governance. When he talks about other government leaders, he is far more complimentry to strongmen like Putin, Xi, Duterte, and Kim, than he is to Democratic leaders like Trudeau, May, Merkel, and Macron.
Is the strongman, authoritarian form of government more effective for developing countries? Does authoritarianism enable these countries to grow faster? Is a mix of central planning and capitalism a more effective model for lesser developed countries? Will other countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America adopt this model?
How should the United States deal with the political and economic threats of these countries?
Please join us at the HBS Senior BBL on March 20 to discuss this topic.
1460 Broadway, New York, NY, 10036