Italian dictator Benito Mussolini did not make the trains run on time. The myth of fascist efficiency first emerged in the 1920s, but it was always propaganda. Now, as the world struggles with a global pandemic, the idea that dictatorships are somehow more efficient than democracies is re-emerging.
Has China’s coronavirus response been a success? The Chinese city of Wuhan, which recorded the first COVID-19 outbreak in the world, tested almost its entire population in a matter of weeks and found no new cases of the virus. The way China enforced its lockdown measures has been widely described as “draconian”, yet (at the time of writing) it has suffered a much lower number of deaths than many democratic European states.
What do our readers think? We had a comment from Wasim, who thinks China’s first instinct, when COVID-19 emerged, was to suppress information about what was happening. Essentially, Wasim argues that China bungled its coronavirus response because it is an authoritarian state, allowing the virus to spread internationally. Is he right? Do democracies handle crises such as pandemics better than dictatorships? Or are dictatorships more efficient?
To get a response, we put Wasim’s comment to Sheri Berman, Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University in the US and author of the book Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe: From the Ancien Régime to the Present Day. Recently, she has been writing about the differences in response to the COVID-19 pandemic from democracies and authoritarian regimes. How would she respond to Wasim’s comment?
For another perspective, we put the same comment to Anna Wojciuk, Professor of Politics at the University of Warsaw and co-author of a recent article comparing coronavirus responses from authoritarian states and democracies. How would she respond?
Are dictatorships more efficient than democracies? Did China mishandle its Covid response because it’s a dictatorship? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!