Autocracy; is it that bad?
Nicholas White | 12 December 2016

Having been brought up in a western society I would automatically say a democratic government is the best type. The United Kingdom and the United States are two fine examples of democracies and in comparison to the rest of the world, one would have to say they are both powerful and wealthy nations, in which the quality of life is very good. But is there an alternative to democracy, or is it the only way forward?


Autocracy is something usually associated with tyrannical rule, dictators and oppression of a state’s people. However, contrary to popular belief, I feel it is unfair to think of autocratic states only in this sense; which is why I am about to change your mind.


Russia is an autocracy, although it appears to be democratic. Putin; in office from 1999 as acting prime minister, subsequently elected in 2000, serving until 2004 and re-elected in 2008, after a change in the law on how many times one is allowed to serve as prime minister. The extended term in which Putin has been in power suggests corruption within the Russian political system; having said that, this autocratic and potentially corrupt nation has produced a booming economy and leads the way in producing energy and military technologies. Not only is Russia’s economic state in good health but it is culturally diverse and, like its economy, thriving. Russia is home to The Bolshoi Theatre and Pushkin Art Gallery in Moscow, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, which are all believed to be some of the finest art institutions in the world. Within the vast city of St. Petersburg alone there are 2,000 libraries, 221 museums, 80 theatres, 100 concert halls, 45 art galleries, 62 movie theatres, and 80 nightclubs with numerous music festivals held in the city on a yearly basis. But who makes use of all of this? Russia is also home to more than 100 ethnic groups which are spread out across the country. However, the 25.7 million international tourists that visit Russia each year really make use of all St. Petersburg has to offer as well as the other 12 UNESCO world heritage sites in Russia.


Whilst Russia has had great success under autocratic rule both economically and militarily and in turn culturally, one cannot ignore the success of China’s economy. Since the death of Mao and Deng coming into power, GDP has increased by an astonishing 403% due to the controlled ‘capitalism’ it enforces. The somewhat autocratic system has not only produced incredible internal results economically, but China is also owed trillions of dollars in bonds by the worlds superpower; the US. This clearly shows the presence and power China has in the world's political system. One fifth of the world’s population is Chinese and alongside its huge population is its very large amount of exports. In 2011 it produced; 90.6% of the world's personal computers; 80% of air conditioners; 70.6% of mobile phones; 63% of shoes; 60% of cement and 48.2% of coal. It is clear that China leads the way in production and due to this it has a prosperous economy.


I am not denying the issues of autocracy, but it is evident that autocracy can promote wealthy and strong nations. The economies of both Russia and China are great examples of the positive effects autocracy can have. However, we must not forget other nations that are not so fortunate. The North Korean people suffer from oppression in their communist state, Zimbabwe still feels the force from the Mugabe regime, Belarus and Iran amongst many other nations also face great troubles due autocratic governments. But whilst autocracy often fails its people, perhaps we shouldn't discard its merits before we have given them due consideration.

James Routledge 2016