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10/10/2010

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Michael F. Martin

The case of Singapore appears to be anomalous within the theory sketched here.

S.A.M

I disagree that direct democracy lies to the left of the American-style democratic republic. A spectrum of modes of government that I believe more aptly describes the source and use of power is as follows: LEFT -- autocracy - aristocracy/oligarchy - republic - direct democracy - anarchy -- RIGHT.

In this spectrum, rule of the few (arbitrary rule) is left of the republic (rule of law) which is left of direct democracy (majority rule) which is left of anarchy (no rule). This spectrum more consistently aligns the concentration and the source of power. On this scale, the Articles of Confederation are necessarily to the right of the constitutional republic agreed upon in 1787. But the likes of autocrats like Hitler and Stalin ought not to be confused as extremities of this governing system. One must cross the spectrum in the opposite direction to concentrate so much power in one individual.

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Democratic institutions are far less essential for higher economic growth if poor countries enjoy relatively stable legal environment and judicial independence conducive to establishing the rule of law and protecting physical and intellectual property rights - to discourage predatory political behavior that locked-up the growth prospects in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa. In this respect, countries such as Chile, Singapore and Botswana are ranked in the 9th decile of growth distribution between 1960 and 2010 while Liberia, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone are ranked at the bottom tail of growth distribution.

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David Tang

Thank you Prof. Posner. I wish all PRC leaders will have the chance to read it. And I wish all commentators will pay attention to the remark that "[p]erception of China’s problems has been obscured by its spectacular growth statistics (though it’s unclear how accurate they are) and by the nimbleness of its response to the global economic crisis..."

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Thank you Prof. Posner. I wish all PRC leaders will have the chance to read it. And I wish all commentators will pay attention to the remark that "reprception of China’s problems has been obscured by its spectacular growth statistics

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Perhaps only at a time of crisis that more fundamental rethinking of the entire economic system can be entertained.

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A small point-- more of general interest than anything substantive-- Athenian "democracy" did involve representation-- it was not quite direct. Also decisions on representation were conducted by lot, not by vote. Athenians voted for generals for the military but did not vote for members of their representative body-- any citizen could wind up serving-- hence you had a very different situation than that prevailing today.

On the one hand, you could (and did) easily get morons serving-- here, while possible, it is perhaps less likely. Certainly the level of articulateness and education required to get oneself elected weeds out some people of lower IQs. On the other hand, the desire for re-election was not a part of the calculus once a person got in office, although self-interest more generally (bribes, personal log-rolling, etc. would be). Which would ultimately be better is an open (and interesting) question.

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Perhaps only at a time of crisis that more fundamental rethinking of the entire economic system can be entertained.


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