“If I Ruled The World” was a tune made famous decades ago by English comedian and singer Harry Secombe who sang of making every day the first day of spring as well as other miraculous improvements. It was a romantic fantasy and many of us have similarly extemporised on what we would do if given half the chance to right the world.
Some have taken such make-believe more seriously and put their ideas into print, such as Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. In That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, they lay out a book’s worth of problems and remedies that they would match if dictators for a day but which are caught in the web of institutional paralysis called American politics.
In his more bleak moments contemplating global warming, Phillip Adams on Radio National has looked enviously at the capacity of the authoritarian Chinese state to deal with environmental problems.
Behind such arguments lay one or both of two old assumptions: (a) democracy falters when faced by a terrible crisis or (b) that squabbling self-interested politicians are not facing up to said crisis. Either way, the solution is seen to rest in a strong hand which will slap a few faces into realisation of the good of the nation.