By Mohammad Mazhari

One-party systems can also present a model of development: Texas University professor

June 7, 2021 - 16:10

TEHRAN – An American professor from the University of Texas believes that one-party states like China can also offer an alternative model for development.   "One-party states like China can offer an alternative model of development," Jon R. Taylor tells the Tehran Times.

Some political scholars suggest that the American style of liberal democracy is not the only way to reach development, as Samuel Huntington says that the existence of the order is more important than the type of the order (being democratic or authoritarian).

"As we've seen in China, the bargain struck during Deng Xiaoping's era enriched some areas and led to China's meteoric economic rise," Taylor notes.
  
"But it also left a substantial portion of the nation outside the large cities of the east coast behind, hence moves by China to eradicate extreme poverty, new-type urbanization strategy, hukou registration reform, rural revitalization, and encourage a dual circulation economy," he argues.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q:    President Biden has said that this is "the white supremacy terrorism" that threatens the U.S., not al-Qaeda or ISIS. To what extent the American community understands the danger of racism and the widening split?

A: I'm not sure how much that the average American understands the threat, given that a portion of it believes that events such as the January 6th insurrection were either fake or not that big of a deal.  White supremacist domestic terrorism is as much a threat today in the U.S. as it was in 1995 when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred.  And this is not just hyperbole on my part.  The 2021 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community report notes that violent extremists with "an often overlapping mix of white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and exclusionary cultural-nationalist beliefs," pose "an elevated threat to the United States." A recent Defense Department analysis bluntly stated that the Department "is facing a threat from domestic extremists, particularly those who espouse white supremacy or white nationalist ideologies."  

Q:    Some political pundits believe that white racism and far-right attitudes have jeopardized U.S. democracy. Do you think that a democratic system can protect itself? Is there any mechanism to prevent dictatorship or restricting voting rights?

A: It's played a part, but it's not the only reason why U.S. democracy is experiencing an epistemic crisis.  A host of reasons, from voter apathy and growing cynicism to slow responsiveness to pressing political and social issues to the impact of money and mass media in elections, have adversely impacted American democracy.  That said, I think that it can and will defend itself.  To do that requires renewal in civil engagement, a willingness to be civil and see past partisan political differences for the common good, and a focus on solving the chronic social and political problems facing the U.S.  But talk is cheap and this will be harder than we think.  Yes, there are mechanisms to prevent dictatorship and restricting voting rights – the courts, elections, the news media, and yes, protest.  While the rule of law has weathered some hits of late, it's still strong in the U.S.  Adherence to the primacy of constitutional authority remains, albeit occasionally forgotten by some.  Some may think it naïve, but I remain optimistic that we will rise to the occasion and beat back efforts to limit democracy and take an autocratic path.  

Q:    Samuel P. Huntington says that the existence of order should not be confused with the issue of the type of that order (both on the political level - democratic, authoritarian, and on an economic level - socialist, free-market, etc.). What I understand is that it is not necessary to have a multi-party system to be efficient.  Do you agree one-party states like China are able to offer an alternative model of development that can last for a long time?

A: One-party states like China can offer an alternative model of development.  The looming question is long-term sustainability.  Can a bargain between an authoritarian government and its citizens based on economic liberalization but not necessarily political liberalization endure for decades?  Maybe.  As we've seen in China, the bargain struck during Deng Xiaoping's era enriched some areas and led to China's meteoric economic rise.  But it also left a substantial portion of the nation outside the large cities of the east coast behind, hence moves by China to eradicate extreme poverty, new-type urbanization strategy, hukou registration reform, rural revitalization, and encourage a dual circulation economy. It's a cautionary tale for those countries looking at models for development because it could exacerbate underlying social and political problems.  That said, American-style capitalism provides just as much of a cautionary tale as a model of development as China's.  

Q:    How can democracies around the world counter contradictions? For instance, when impulsive characters or dictators come out of ballot boxes, they may suppress minorities.

A: That's an excellent question because conventional wisdom posits that voters are smart enough to see through populist demagogues at the ballot box and reject them.  However, as we've seen in the U.S. and elsewhere, that doesn't always happen.  The siren song that nostalgically harkens to lost national greatness, blaming others for a supposed decline, and simple ideas on how to return to glory are attractive to some – often enough to win elections.  Will this eventually lead to dictators?  Probably not.  However, what it could lead to is acceptance of electing illiberal autocrats who are more than happy to manipulate both election laws and the media to their advantage.

Q:    Do you agree with Fukuyama when he put forward supremacy of liberal democracy at the End of History? Don't you expect the U.S. move towards a kind of social democracy in the future?

A: No, I don't agree with Fukuyama and his neo-Hegelian hypothesis about the "End of History." Frankly, history didn't end in 1989 and it isn't ending anytime soon.  While it was a catchy phrase and worked well as a discussion point in my classes, the events since 1989 belie the notion that liberal democracy had vanquished all other ideologies to become what Fukuyama once termed "the final form of human government." Regarding the U.S. and heading toward a kind of social democracy, that's a fun debate that I like to raise in my introductory American Politics class.  The U.S. has a mixed economy and exhibits characteristics that are both capitalist and socialist.  Comparatively, the U.S. is far from the social democracies of Western Europe.  That said, economic failure during 2020 underscored America's increasing income disparities, health care problems, racial inequality issues, and the public's desire for free access to higher education and child care.  Could we see an actual European-style social democracy in the U.S.?  In some respects, we already do.  While the word "socialism" is often perceived as a pejorative in American politics, we have had some aspects of social democracy since the Great Depression.  Those programs have widespread support among Americans and aren't going away.    
 

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