The oft-repeated maxim of Italian politics, that when Mussolini was in power, “at least the trains ran on time,” while probably inaccurate, summarizes well the widely popular belief that authoritarianism serves for (sometimes brutal) efficiency in government. Indeed the opposite saying in the democratic United States—“It would take an act of Congress”—implies that the act in question is impossible. The idea of the inefficiency of democracy goes back far into history: indeed no democracy could have built a city for the ruling class from nothing, simply by command, as Peter the Great did in Russia. Some have even argued that the American founding fathers set up a democratic republic specifically because its inefficiency would keep the government out of the lives of the populace. Given this widespread, if understated, belief, it is unsurprising that this concept of the efficiency of authoritarianism found its way into academic theories of economic development.
[...] However, the Shah's involvement, however inept, provides further evidence that pre-revolutionary Iran was a developmental state along Johnson's thesis. It could be argued that such micro-management is evidence of a centrally planned system; however, as involved as he was he never attempted to curb the rate of private investment in any of the plans, a rate which grew as time progressed and at times it almost equaled the level of state investment. It is thus clear that the Iranian government at its upper echelons was interested in creating a capitalist state. [...]
[...] The last several of these enjoyed little to none of the mysterious “legitimacy” to which Johnson refers—yet institutionally it existed as a developmental state in every other sense of his definition. Furthermore, it provides more empirical evidence of the link between authoritarianism and developmentalism that Johnson does not see. The case study of pre-revolutionary Iran proves half of Johnson's thesis regarding authoritarian regimes' ability to “achieve mobilization artificially and temporarily” and also their likelihood misuse such mobilization.” However, he is wrong to assume that states like Iran are not development states because of their non-success. [...]
[...] Woo-Cumings Kaufman, Robert R. and Barbara Stallings. Political Economy of Latin American Populism.” The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America. Eds. R. Dornbusch and S. Edwards Mofid, Kamran. Development Planning in Iran: From Monarchy to Islamic Republic. Wisbech: Middle East & North African Studies Press Ltd Nordlinger, Eric A. “Taking the State Seriously.” Understanding Political Development. Eds. M. Weiner and S. Huntingdon Taheri, Amir. The Unknown Life of the Shah. London: Hutchinson Zonis, Marvin. Majestic Failure: The Fall of the Shah. [...]
[...] Bruce Cumings, for example, argues that a democratic developmental state is theoretically possible because “[r]ecourse to brute force, for example, is a far less effective method of influencing students than is teaching them political science.” He does not specify, however, in a hypothetical society where the populace might be apathetic or even hostile to learning political science, how the state would compel its citizens to attend school in the first place. In a democratic state, the populace could (and under certain circumstances would) simply elect populist politicians who agree not to teach political science. [...]
[...] Johnson's reasoning for this fact would largely rely upon his belief that authoritarian developmental states, without at least some legitimacy from the population, are not true developmental states, but are rather “dictatorships of development,” and are thus susceptible to failure. The analysis of this paper substantiates in large part this thesis, but finds that Iran lacked none of the institutions intrinsic to Johnson's definition of a developmental state, namely, a ruling class (by whatever definition) making rapid economic development through state-private partnership the highest national priority. In other words, the failure of development states such as pre- revolutionary Iran comes less from the incompleteness of the development state and more from the incompetence of its leadership. [...]
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