Monday, May 25, 2015

The New Dictators Rule by Velvet Fist

By SERGEI GURIEV and DANIEL TREISMAN, NYT, MAY 24, 2015

THE standard image of dictatorship is of a government sustained by violence. In 20th-century totalitarian systems, tyrants like Stalin, Hitler and Mao murdered millions in the name of outlandish ideologies. Strongmen like Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire left trails of blood.

But in recent decades, a new brand of authoritarian government has evolved that is better adapted to an era of global media, economic interdependence and information technology. The “soft” dictators concentrate power, stifling opposition and eliminating checks and balances, while using hardly any violence.

These illiberal leaders — Alberto K. Fujimori of Peru, Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Viktor Orban of Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — threaten to reshape the world order in their image, replacing principles of freedom and law — albeit imperfectly upheld by Western powers — with cynicism and corruption. The West needs to understand how these regimes work and how to confront them.

Some bloody or ideological regimes remain — as in Syria and North Korea — but the balance has shifted. In 1982, 27 percent of nondemocracies engaged in mass killings. By 2012, only 6 percent did. In the same period, the share of nondemocracies with no elected legislature fell to 15 percent from 31 percent.

(More here.)

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