Tuesday, July 21, 2009

'Benign' Dictator trumps Democracy-for now

Dambisa Moyo was recently on Uncommon Knowledge to discuss her new book titled Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. Her thesis is foreign aid creates dependency on an international level just like welfare programs do on a national level. If that wasn’t controversial enough, she also argues in the book that it might take a ‘benign dictator’ to create real reforms in Africa. This isn’t to say she is anti-democratic; only that democracy would have to wait until some there is a basic level of security and prosperity there. Peter Robinson discusses these types of questions in another show: "Is democracy—that is, free elections—to be desired at all times for all nations? Or are nations more successful when they establish the rule of law, property rights, and other constitutional liberties first?

In an article in Newsweek today, Fareed Zakaria says Moyo’s argument is being tested in Rwanda. President Paul Kagame was elected, but rules like an authoritarian. Yet, Zakaria says,
It is now stable, well ordered, and being rebuilt every month. Average
incomes have increased by 30 percent. The country has a na-tional health-care
system, burgeoning countrywide education, and much less corruption than is usual
in Africa. It is becoming increasingly attractive to corporations and tourists.
In 2007, Fortune published an article titled "Why CEOs Love Rwanda." The heads
of Starbucks, Google, and Costco are among the country's supporters.

Moyo’s aid argument is also being implemented. Kagame stresses ‘self-reliance’ and he has cut down the aid Rwanda receives from 85 to 50% of the government’s budget.
This isn’t to say Kagame’s reign has been perfect. Zakaria says he ignores international advice, which is a big no-no in our post-Dubya world. That aside, Kagame’s rule raises the question of whether democracy is a must under all circumstances.

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