"Then it is dark; a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains." - John Cheever

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Top 10 Dictators

The World's 10 Worst Dictators.

It's a Channel 4, Sunday night list show hosted by Jimmy Carr waiting to happen. I like no. 8 best - I think he's the one who's renamed the days of the week after members of his family.

Seriously, though, it has always amazed me how these people manage to get into those positions in the first place, and that countries are structured in such a way to make it possible.


Tom said...

I think in many cases dictatorshops are able to exist because the people fear (or are made to fear) something even worse. So the Taleban was preferable to the anarchy of rival warlords, corrupt African leaders are better than foreign invaders or colonial powers and Fidel Castro is still in office because Cubans fear and loathe America so much. In a milder form, we've seen how democratic Western governments have been able to behave more oppressively in recent years, because of the fear of terrorism.

john said...

also - psychopaths have some competitive advantages in lawless societies. (as well as in the modern corporation etceteraetceteraetcetera).

Tom said...

Yes, that's a good point. Living in a relatively prosperous and peaceful country, dictatorships are obviously an anathema. But if you're experiencing profound crisis, then you may be more concerned in the effectiveness and stability of a government rather than its democratic credentials. A more interesting list would be the 10 best dictators: benevolent 'strong men' who have actually been of benefit to their countries.

Colin said...

Yes, but often the 'benign' dictators turn into malign ones the longer they try to hang on to power. Like Musaveni in Uganda, or even Mugabe. Or you get malign ones appearing to become more benign, bringing in tentative elements of democracy, only to back off big time when they discover that the people do not in fact have the same high opinion of their egotistical leader as the leader himself.

There is, though, the question about whether all countries are suited to democracy (Iraq?). Musaveni's argument used to be that you can't have it without a large enough educated middle class. Although now he's introduced it, having locked up his main opponent on trumped up charges.