What Can We Learn From Successful Autocracies? – Tim Besley and Masa Kudamatsu

This article is written by two British scholars. Tim Besley is a Professor of Economics and Political Science at the London School of Economics, and served on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee since September 2006. Masa Kudamatsu is also from London School of Economics and Political Science. From voxeu.org:

Autocracies are bad, but are sometimes economically successful. Empirical analysis provides lessons on how to institutionalise good government in a wider context.

One of the most striking economic phenomena of the past twenty years is growth and development in communist China. Rates of growth in income per capita of around 10% per annum have led to one of the largest falls in absolute poverty that the world has ever seen. But, while China has embraced many aspects of the market, it has resolutely opposed most aspects of democracy.

But there is another image of autocracy, typified by the recent experience of Zimbabwe, where a despotic leader (Robert Mugabe) seems content to preside over economic chaos, standing coolly by while millions of people descend into destitution. There is no way of getting rid of a leader like Mugabe who rigs elections and represses the opposition in order to stay in power. This is government failure on a vast scale.

A brief look at the data on growth in democratic and autocratic regimes shows that the stories of China and Zimbabwe typify the experience of economic development among autocracies in the post war period. Economic growth rates differ more substantially among autocracies than among democracies. [Full Text]


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