Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Theory of Political Power

Pervez Musharraf is the former dictator of Pakistan. He ascended to the position of Chief Executive during a coup in 1999. Shortly afterward he issued an order to Pakistani judges requiring them to swear allegiance to military rule. In 2007 he suspended the constitution and dismissed the chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court. He was forced from power under allegations of "misconduct, subversion of the Constitution, imposition of emergency, attack on judiciary, missing persons, the Lal Masjid operation, corruption in the funds received from the US for supporting the war against terror, killing of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and detention of hundreds of youths in Balochistan without trial." (link)

Musharraf was also extremely popular during most of his administration. He led Pakistan through political and economic reforms that have increased the freedom and prosperity of average Pakistanis. He firmly declared his opposition to violent radicalism, and was an ally to the US in the war against the Taliban. His party won fair elections in 2002 and 2004. Musharraf reduced poverty, established many new universities that achieved international standards, signed into law bills that increased legal protections for women and tripled the number of seats reserved for women in the national assembly, and instituted reforms directed at increasing protection of religious minorities.

Is Musharraf a basically good person who has been forced to take questionable actions due to circumstances? Or is he an example of a corrupt dictator who was (mostly) successfully restrained by political institutions?

Bruce Bueno De Mesquita offers a theory of political power that provides a framework for understanding why some essentially good leaders have engaged in corruption, while other truly black-hearted villains have spent heavily on broad-based social welfare.

Bueno De Mesquita is an interesting fellow with many ideas. I will discuss some of his other work in later posts.

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