Democratic Dilemma

Effectively dealing with the millions of refugees that will result from global warming, as well as transforming our entire energy system from fossil fuel dependence to renewable technology, will both require massive infrastructure projects. It appears that these programs will necessitate a centralization of power to manage such a monumental task.

Throughout history, large scale infrastructure projects have mainly developed under strong executive or authoritarian power, whether it be the military buildup for wars, or other moments of perceived crisis, in which authority is placed in the hands of a small group of leaders with pronounced autonomy.

Currently, China appears to be taking the lead in the ability to facilitate prodigious infrastructure projects, demonstrated by their Belt and Road initiative, which will connect them to the Middle East, Africa and Europe through the erection of efficient land, sea, and air passages. The initiative will affect nearly 60% of the world’s population.

To what extent can the authoritative nature of the Chinese government explain the ability to achieve such a tremendous project? I would argue a lot. Xi Jinping is going to be the President of China indefinitely, ruling with an incredible centralization of power and a quelled population achieved via sophisticated surveillance mechanisms. He has the ability to establish fixed deadlines into the foreseeable future and directly facilitate the implementation of programs with limited structural barriers, that democratically elected and term limited leaders struggle to achieve.

This might be one of the most important questions of our age: How do we reconcile the need to implement large scale infrastructure projects in order to combat the plethora of impending problems, while maintaining democracy?


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