Autocrats are not the answer to economic prosperity
It shouldn’t have to be said, but here goes: autocracies are not models for economic prosperity.
Why? Because dictators aren’t interested in enriching people…save for themselves…and forget about individual or market liberty. As Tom Palmer writes:
An innovative economic system rests on the presumption of liberty, on the presumption that people can innovate without asking permission. It’s the free and open societies that allow people to speak their minds and question conventional wisdom that excel in innovation, not autocracies. Yes, there are some exceptions, like radial keratotomy (now undertaken with lasers and known as LASIK), which was discovered in the highly autocratic USSR, but such examples offer weak support for the claims that autocratic systems are more favorable to development than democracies.
Autocrats are more likely to use their power to smother innovations that threaten existing capital configurations and the interests that benefit from them than to advance disruptive innovations whose usefulness they have no expertise to judge. The notion that the right dictator will resist the urge to use his or her uncontrolled power to meddle in the economy—just a bit!—and pick the right winners is a triumph of hope over reality.
But that won’t stop some from pining for a strongman to come to their rescue…and make the trains run on time.