Autocrats and the road to ruin

From Libya to Ivory Coast, North Korea to Zimbabwe, one-man rule leads to colossal misrule.

Smoke rises from the city center of Abidjan in this still image taken from video. Ivory Coast's Alassane Ouattara's forces have made a rapid advance aimed at unseating his rival Laurent Gbagbo.

Tyranny is both seductive and destructive. Libya's Muammar Qaddafi and Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo so believe in their right to rule that they would rather see their nations torn apart than leave office. Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and North Korea's Kim Jong-il drove their countries to economic ruin rather than allowing others to challenge their ideas.

So it's heartening that Russia, which not long ago was under colossal misrule, seems increasingly aware that political reform leads to economic progress. Russia knows how destructive one-man rule can be. Under Joseph Stalin, millions died from famine, forced relocation, and imprisonment. Shaking off autocracy has been a long process -- from the post-Stalin era through the collapse of communism, from the rise of oligarchs and mobsters to the reasserting of the heavy hand of the Kremlin to stifle dissent.

Now advisers to both President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, likely rivals in next year's presidential election, are calling for a more open system. It could be political maneuvering, but it is hard to escape the logical link between freedom and prosperity.

Note to readers: If you would like to see an early version of this column, plus our selection of the most important stories of the day, click here to subscribe to the Monitor's Daily News Briefing.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.