Mar 22, 2013 (LBO) - Sri Lanka needs freedom to think, develop knowledge, secure property rights and rule of law, which leads of sustainable growth and prosperity rather than authoritarianism which may show temporary gains, an economist has said.
"Authoritarianism will bring a quick acceleration in economic growth because everyion eis forced to work harder than before," W A Wijewardene, a top economist, wrote in his column in Sri Lanka's Daily FT newspaper.
"But that acceleration cannot sustain itself because it does not produce the required pre-requisites for economic maturity and sustained economic growth.
"That pre-requisite today is the human capital development in a wider sense."
While a nation needed material inputs like, plant machinery and infrastructure. But it also needed people and human capital.
"A democracy is the best system for people to develop their human capital because new knowledge requires freedom of speech and freedom of expression," Wijewardene wrote.
"The authoritarian rulers could suppress these freedoms having considered them a nuisance. But it hinders human knowledge development which is necessary for continuous economic growth."
Wijewardene says people's savings including build-ups of knowledge should be allowed to be exchanged freely in a market. Property rights should be secure. Rule of law was needed to protect property.
"He should be have the right to dispose of this property for his benefit in the market in a voluntary exchange," he said.
"If he is forced to part with his property, he has not incentive to use his time and money for its further development. When this attitude becomes widespread, discouraging everyone in society to develop their properties, the initial growth attained will soon lose steam."
Hitler, one of the best known authoritarian rulers, was elected by the popular vote on a nationalist platform. In the 30s Germany expanded rapidly.
Wijewardene pointed out that the nationalist German state had used resources of the minority to boost production by force. First movable assets of Jews including cash and gold were confiscated. Then immovable assets like factories were taken over.
Then they were herded into labour camps and factories. Then they were underfed and accumulated calories were transferred to the state. The bones of dead Jews were used as fertilizer.
Authoritarianism can evict people faster, Wijewardene says though it will be considered a serious infringement of a person's right in a free country.
He says in China urbanization (a necessary requisite for success from the Mohenjo-daro to New York) was speeded up through quick evictions.
Though China is a one party state, Wijewardene says the system of government is not arbitrary.
Analysts say China started to grow after freedom was given to private business to flourish and even foreigners were allowed in and their property protected.
Vietnam became a net World Beating agricultural exporter after land rights were gradually re-established and market prices freed, analysts say.
Other analysts and economists have also warned about the 'democracy', which in countries like Sri Lanka is equaled to the popular vote.
But the popular vote 'democracy' sans liberal values does not bring freedom but authoritarian rule or fascist-nationalist rule.
The popular vote can lead to dog-eat-dog income re-distribution (subsidies and state jobs which create more tax spenders) in the best case or 'parliamentary supremacy' absolutism and German-style national socialism in the worst case.
Wijewardene says four and a half decades ago Henpitagedera Gnanasiha Thero, frustrated by the slow progress in post-independent Ceylon had suggested authoritarian rule and a benevolent dictatorship in a book which became popular.
Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek in his book "The road to serfdom", explained in detail how decades of Marxist experimentation, the post World War I socialist regime's central planning eventually led to economic collapse.
State planners, who essentially work with extensions of police power and force such as taxation and income re-distribution simply do not have the ingenuity of a free thinking citizens who come up with newer, better and also cheaper ideas which gain acceptance among their brothers through free exchange.
But it led to calls in Germany for authoritarian rule, which helped Hitler come to power.
Wijewardene says Gnanasiha Thero's book was probably "sweet music" to the elected rulers as it gave justification for authoritarian rule. Parliamentary absolutism was used to practice authoritarianism on citizens.
"Almost all the leaders who took over the real of the country from around this time enforced an authoritarian rule of one way or another on the citizens," Wijewardene wrote.
"Instead of enforcing authoritarianism on its own right, it was enforced within the democratic framework using the super majority power they had enjoyed in the parliament.
"This rule was justified by each one of them on social, political, economic, ethnic and spiritual grounds.
"Accordingly the rights of citizens, right to hold property, right to elect their own representatives and the right to be treated equally under the constitution was suppressed, again to a greater degree on some occasions and to a lesser degree on other occasions."
"Yet even over four decades, authoritarianism could not deliver the promised prosperity to citizens in comparison to the achievements made by other countries in the world."