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posted on 12 October 2016

Towards an Ideal Form of Government (Version 3)

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How is it possible for China, a dirt-poor country 35 years ago (when I was there), to have become, for the past decade, the largest creditor for both America and Europe?

More importantly, what will the next 35 years look like?

This is the end of the old world, which is renewing itself, again! Therefore, there is no better time than now to discuss this profound subject: What is an ideal form of government and how to get there from here (as shown in Figure 1 below)?

1. Definition: what is an ideal form of government?

To me, an ideal form of government can be defined by two key criteria as follows:

  1. Individual freedom: the government must ensure maximum freedoms for its citizens, including free speech, free press, freedom to thrive (or fail), and religious freedom.
  2. Government responsibility & accountability: the government must be responsible for what it does and be held accountable. What, then, is the government’s role? It should do those things that are beyond the private sector. Two examples:
    • Defending the country while avoiding unnecessary wars.
    • Undertaking mega infra-structure projects (e.g. highways and railways).

2. Where are we today?

Today, there are mainly three forms of government as follows:

  1. Monarchy: It is ruled by a king (or queen). What about a dictator? A dictator with a family member in succession is essentially a king. One example: North Korea.
  2. Democracy: one person, one vote without discrimination (e.g. race, gender, or religion).
  3. Autocracy: In this form of government, there is neither a king (as in a monarchy) nor any free election for people to choose their leaders (as in a democracy). Instead, a team of elites chooses the next leaders for the country. The one main example: China.

Let’s examine these three forms one by one.

2.1 Monarchy

This form of government represents the past. It can be highlighted as follows:

  1. Individual freedom: People have little freedom. Living at the whim of the king, the people are not empowered. As a result, monarchy has been unable to advance from feudalism to capitalism, virtually preventing prosperity. A free election? Forget about it!
  2. Government responsibility & accountability: There is no doubt about who is in charge: the king! Better yet, the king promotes permanency, with one supreme goal: passing the kingdom to his designated heir.

2.2 Democracy

This form of government is fashionable today. It can be highlighted as follows:

  1. Individual freedom: People have freedoms, although many seem to willingly relinquish some in exchange for handouts from the government (New Slavery in America: Pay without Work!). Yes, the people do have the voting rights.
  2. Government responsibility & accountability: It is becoming increasingly clear that democracy, as we practice it today, will not last long for two main reasons:
    • Everything is determined short-term, for the next election only. Nothing is long-term, with our politicians mortgaging the future to get elected today.
    • The government is neither responsible (e.g. it spends too much) nor accountable (e.g. the Iraq War, for which no American leader has been held accountable). As a result, the entire West is now on the verge of bankruptcy. Several European countries are already there, with more to follow, including America!

2.3 Autocracy

This form of government is the newest, and China has it. It can be highlighted as follows:

  1. Individual freedom: People have few freedoms, unless they benefit the whole. They do not choose their own leaders. Instead, a few elites do.
  2. Government responsibility & accountability: The government is relatively responsible and accountable. Two examples.
    • In 1978, the government started embracing capitalism, bringing prosperity to China on such a massive scale over such a short time span that it is simply unprecedented in human history.
    • Recent Chinese leaders have proven to be far more competent than many other world leaders, particularly Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

3. Leadership and succession

3.1 Monarchy

The founding king of a dynasty is an able man, by definition. The biggest problem is that the descendants in his blood line are unlikely to be as able as the king. As a result, a dynasty typically lasts only for several generations. Any doubt? Look at Chinese history over the past 2,000 years!

3.2 Autocracy

Simply put, the Chinese Presidency is an earned kingship for 10 years. It has all the advantages of a monarchy, without its biggest problem: succession by the blood line. Only proven winners need apply!

3.3 Democracy

There is neither assurance of adequate leadership nor succession at the top! For more, read: Let’s Redefine the American Presidency, Now (Version 3)!

Interestingly, most so called “democracies” in East Asia are mottled with monarchical relationships, such as Taiwan (father-son), South Korea (father-daughter), Singapore (father-son), the Philippines (mother-son), and Japan (multiple father-son examples). All of them, even under the guise of democracy, are actually more monarchical than China!

What about America?

4. Summary - Intermediary

Figure 2 illustrates, qualitatively, where the three forms of government stand with regard to “individual freedom” and “government responsibility & accountability”.

Specifically, monarchy and democracy are at the two extreme ends, while autocracy is in the middle, with “balance.” The big question: how to reach the ideal from here?

5. How to get there from here?

Now, let’s discuss how to reach the ideal in all three forms, one by one.

5.1 Monarchy

It has no future, either in theory as it does not represent the people, or in practice as most countries under monarchy are abjectly poor. However, revolutions (e.g. the Arab Spring) are unlikely to bring any solution. Two examples:

  1. The Mideast: read: Sisi vs. ISIS: Dictatorship vs. Mob Rule.
  2. China: It has had several revolutions over the past 200 years. None of them changed anything in essence: China remained poor and weak, until recently when it peacefully transformed itself into “state capitalism.”

Note that there is not a single precedent of a third world country achieving prosperity via democracy. The key to prosperity is capitalism, not democracy!

What a monarchy country needs is a king like China’s Deng Xiaoping. Deng was a dictator - Not all dictators are bad for their countries! Deng used his power wisely for the good of the country: He laid the monumental groundwork for China, not only economically (i.e. capitalism), but also politically (i.e. Chinese Presidency: An Earned Kingship for 10 Years), which led to China’s huge success today!

Personally, while I never had any hope for the old guards like Hosni Mubarak or Muammar Gaddafi, I think Syria’s Bashar al-Assad had the potential of being a good reformer. But the protesters disrupted his plan, just like the Chinese protesters in 1989 briefly disrupted Deng’s plan. Fortunately for China, Deng eventually prevailed. For more, read: Tiananmen Square Protest and Put-Down, 25 Years Later.

5.2 Autocracy

China arrived at its current form of government for two main reasons:

  1. Her previous struggles over the past 200 years, at least. Give Mao Zedong credit for unifying China in 1949, although he ruined China’s economy and caused the deaths of millions from 1949 to 1976.
  2. By accident! Mao’s only able son, Mao Anying, was killed in the Korean War, thanks to the West (“Amen”). Otherwise, today’s China, under Mao Jr. or Mao III, could be just as bad as today’s North Korea, which is one of the worst on earth!

Although China’s political system appears to be the best available for now, it’s fundamentally flawed in at least one critical aspect: who are the seven individuals in the Standing Committee of the CPC (Communist Party of China) Politburo (see photo below)?

As a matter of fact, these seven individuals are not even legitimate by western standards, because they are not elected by the people! However, let’s get out of the trap of western ideology and think rationally: changing from a de facto emperor (Mao) to “an earned kingship for 10 years” (after Mao) was monumental progress not only in Chinese history, but also in human history: a new form of government was born!

Better (or worse, depending on your viewpoint) yet, this new Chinese system of autocracy has been dramatically out-performing the western system of democracy over the past two decades, at least, with no end in sight. One key reason: it strongly favors capitalism, even as the West runs away from it!

For the legitimacy of the Chinese government, read: The Legitimacy of the Chinese Government.

China faces a huge political challenge: how to further transform its political system into a form that is progressively more and more truly of/by/for the people? This issue must be resolved for China’s success to be long term, and the only way to do it is via an expanded autocracy by incorporating some democratic elements! However, the expanded autocracy must not be like the democracy in America today!

Leadership matters! The smooth ride set out by Deng is expiring. A new greatness must appear to continue China’s ascent. President Xi looks hopeful.

5.3 Democracy

Democracy, as we practice it today, does not work! Why did it "stop working"? Because of the rise of BRICS and the incompetence of western democracy in general! Any doubt? Just look at this simple fact: China is now the largest lender to both America and Europe. Did anyone envision this just 15 years ago?

More profoundly, democracy looks more and more like communism as a short-term fad. For more, read: Longevity: American Democracy vs. Soviet Communism.

Is America’s time up now? No, not yet! Before we give up on American democracy, let’s try to reform our political system, as I have suggested (Solution for America (Version 3)).

America is desperately in need of a great President to turn things around! How great? A combination of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan!

6. Summary - Final

Figure 3 illustrates, qualitatively, how to get there from here. It’s a two-way race between autocracy and democracy, with monarchy out.

7. Closing

The 20th century was clearly America’s. The 21st century will likely belong to either China or America. But which one will earn it and which one deserves it? It depends on who can adapt faster and better!

America must adapt by incorporating some elements of China’s autocracy, but not necessarily the kind in China today! China needs to expand the people’s freedoms, over time.

In a 2-hiker world, all that a hiker needs to do, when chased by a hungry grizzly, is to run a bit faster than the other hiker in the same direction (i.e. capitalism)!

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