Benevolent dictatorship?

The Greek philosopher Plato has been credited with originating the idea that the best form of government is a benevolent dictatorship. By definition, a benevolent dictator is an authoritarian leader who exercises his or her political power for the benefit of the people rather than exclusively for personal self-interest or benefit, or for the benefit of only a small portion of the people.

Given the charade passing as leadership in Washington, D.C., during the recent debate over the debt ceiling, it?s an appealing concept?at first blush, at least. But before we rise in revolt against the current sausage-making system called democracy, we need to keep a couple of things in mind.

First, the ?benefit of the people? is an illusion. Even if a dictator has the best of intentions, the act of ruling still requires some people losing so others gain. Despite the best of intentions, some people always will be disappointed or even hurt.

Second, a dictatorship is by definition restricted to the mind of only one person or small group. While it might be possible for a dictator to be benevolent, this doesn?t deal with all the problems of a dictatorship. Individuals with complete power are prone to paranoia about their position, which harms the people greatly. Even if that doesn?t happen, no one person or small group has the knowledge, skills and ingenuity to run a country.

The reason democracy is better, despite being slow, sloppy and chaotic, is that every person has at least a chance at influencing the governing processes. It may be a slim chance, but at least we?re not at the whimsy of a dictator no matter how benevolent he or she may attempt to be.

Democracy allows for the influx of ideas from outside of the executive and grows the pool these ideas come from. This is good for the country and people, as these will likely be better than the ideas of just one person.

We?ve been exposed to the underbelly of democracy these past few weeks, and it is pathetically ugly. That said, it?s still the best system of government in the world. ?DR

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