In a recent discussion on the relative merits of different forms of government a friend opined that the most efficient type of government would be a benevolent dictatorship. Putting aside for the moment that ‘benevolent dictatorship’ is an oxymoron, anyone who accepts the premise would have to address the logistics involved in the distribution of benevolence among a given population. Taken to its logical conclusion a nation ruled equitably by a benevolent dictator would be limited to a population of one, the dictator himself.
Suppose a mythical monarch, King Harald the All Loving, was to wake up one morning and say to his chief enforcer, “you know what would be really neat? We should equally redistribute all the wealth in the land. I hereby decree that you make it so.” It doesn’t take a lot of thought to figure out who would welcome such a command, all those below the line of average wealth would think it great, all above the line, not so much. King Harald’s benevolence by necessity would be highly selective.
So maybe a benevolent dictatorship is not operationally possible but what of dictators in general? A dictator is classically described as that person who has absolute authority, whose decisions cannot be countermanded. In this context we usually think of people like Joe Stalin, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Un but it’s equally true that you don’t need to be evil in order to wield unquestioned authority, think Pope Francis. The common thread and the most obvious benefit of being a dictator is not having to negotiate with a legislative body or deal with that pesky will of the people thing.
During the conversation that prompted this post my friend mentioned that one of the greatest positive aspects of a dictatorship was expedience. Looking at it from the viewpoint of the dictator I would have to concede that point. In fact we can look to our own form of government for examples of how dictatorial powers are exercised for the sake of expedience. The Supreme court requires a majority of 5 out of 9 members to reach a decision but once that decision is made the court’s actions, in that it cannot be countermanded or even appealed, is tantamount to that of a dictator.
Another example of using dictatorial power for the sake of expedience is the Executive Order. Here we have a case of a good idea gone bad. The Executive Order was intended to be used in rare instances where, in the judgment of the Chief Executive, such an order should be issued to address a dire situation that did not contain the element of time, time to await the deliberations of the legislative body. The Executive Order was never intended to be a way to circumvent Congress and legislate instead from the Administrative Branch. To do so is tantamount to assuming dictatorial powers. Over the past year we have seen the abuse of the Executive Order completely destroy the economy and security of this nation. And this is true not only on the Federal level but on down the line to our Governors and Mayors,
Can anyone describe the recent actions of Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, as anything other than those of a dictator, and by no means a benevolent one? The trucker’s convoy was greeted by the citizens of Ottawa with open arms. The peaceful protest soon morphed into a love fest the likes of which haven’t been seen since Woodstock. And this infuriated the ego driven Trudeau who was anxiously awaiting what he hoped would be provocation for a draconian reaction by his forces. The provocation never came but his draconian response did anyway. The protest that could have been easily and peacefully ended had he elected to sit down with the truckers and calmly discuss their grievances actually ended by Trudeau invoking an emergency powers act and then having armor clad equestrian ‘storm troopers’ ride into and trample those very same people whose rights he claimed were being trampled on by the protesters.
I doubt that Mr. Trudeau will ever be able to live down the optics of his dictatorial decisions. Nor should he.
Just about 245 years ago we fought a war on this soil to remove the yoke of a dictator named King George. We must be careful now to avoid allowing a similar yoke to be placed on us for the sake of expedience. The American system of governance was not designed to include any dictatorial powers and we must not allow them to creep in and poison this noble experiment of having the power being vested in We, the People.