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Hail Meri

How to find a good dictator


The theory goes that if you elect your leaders democratically you end up with a disorganised rabble of one trick ponies, carpetbaggers and other chancers running the place.

According to proponents of this ‘democracy is a rabble’ theory, a one party system is a lot more efficient and better for the general populace.

There’s a condition, of course. Which is that the party must be benign and have the people’s welfare at heart. No foul play.

And perhaps this theory can be extended to, well, running the whole world that way. Could be even better still.

All of which made me think, if I was the dictator of the world, what would I do?

Let’s see. I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life so I might ban carnivores. You know, lions, tigers, dogs and cats and, of course, meat eating humans.

Wouldn’t the world be nice without all that cruelty? All those hideous pig kills and factory farms would go. I’d give everyone the option to convert of course.

Go vegan or die. Wouldn’t that be a catchy slogan? Imagine a herd of tigers grazing in a paddock with all the zebras and polar bears.

What else?

How about banning money? It’s been a curse for humanity ever since the first caveman swapped a handful of beans for a pretty cowrie shell.

Everyone could go back to bartering. I’d love to see mining magnate Twiggy Forrest sitting at a street market with a pile of iron ore trying to swap it for a set of chopsticks.

And all those smelly, polluting cars, trucks and motorbikes would have to go. I’d rip up every bitumen road in the world and convert it back to walking tracks and paths for the odd ambling horse and cart.

It would be just like those patrol posts I lived on years ago when Shanks Pony was the only game in town. Make everyone a lot healthier too, I imagine.

What else could I ban? How about the hollow celebrities everyone worships? I could put them into forced labour camps making dinners for the elderly and impoverished perhaps?

But that would hardly be keeping people’s welfare at heart.

No, it wouldn’t be all about banning stuff. A good dictator has to be progressive after all. A bit compassionate even.

How about a redistribution of wealth? Maybe put everyone in the world on the same basic wage. Then again, I’d banned money so that could be problematic.

Maybe I’d make those logging companies replant all the trees they’d cut down so they could make toilet paper and takeaway coffee cups.

I can hear you whispering under your breath. This guy is nuts. Finally lost the plot. Dictator of the world – ridiculous!

Well, yes and no. I fancy that’s what Donald Trump had in mind when he won the US presidency to become what is euphemistically called “leader of the free world’.

A step up the ladder to leader of the whole world must have crossed his mind a few times.

And he’s very good at crazy decisions, a defining characteristic of dictators.

Alas, Trump has crapped in his own nest too many times (we hope) to make the grade now. He can swap his reality presidential show for a return to his reality TV show.

That just leaves that other bloke, you know, the Chinese one. He has all the hallmarks of a world dictator. Maybe we should check out his credentials.

For a dictator, he appears remarkably normal. He doesn’t even appear to have an ego.

His wife, Peng, reckons he’s hardworking and down to earth. "When he comes home, I've never felt as if there's some leader in the house. In my eyes, he's just my husband," she says. A bit boring.

Apparently he loves American films and is a fan of ‘Game of Thrones’.  Oh dear!

He also likes playing soccer, mountain climbing, walking, volleyball and swimming. He once said that he would swim one kilometre and walk every day as long as there was time.

Good grief! What happened to the demagogue that wants to chew up the USA and spit it out? What happened to the man who wants to crush the free world under the steel cap of socialism?

He can’t be just a cuddly panda can he? He seems terribly sane compared to Trump. Too sane!

Maybe he’s got a good public relations team. That stuff can’t be true. We can’t have a dictator who is so ordinary. That would be no fun at all. Nothing to complain about.

What about that Russian chap? Unfortunately, he’s just a crook. I doubt he’d be interested because he’s having too much fun white-anting the USA and the UK.

I don’t know! Where can you find a decent dictator when you need one?

It’s just not good enough!


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Bernard Corden

Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer (first for the Whigs, then for the Tories), poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, hence his common sobriquet, "Dean Swift".

Garry Roche

Ed, you are correct in that his first name was Jonathan, however he had become Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin and was commonly referred to as 'Dean Swift'.

Philip Fitzpatrick

We're being a bit too Irish/Catholic Ed.

Jonathan Swift was Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

Ed Brumby

I'm confused (as always, some would say), but wasn't it Jonathan Swift who wrote "Gulliver's Travels'? Just saying ....

Chris Overland

Phil, I enjoyed your article a great deal but need to quibble with your observation that Vladimir Putin is "just a crook".

Having read his biography, I think that Putin ought to more accurately be described as "an exceedingly intelligent, efficient, cunning and ruthless crook".

No ordinary criminal could have possibly managed to achieve what Putin has achieved, which is to become a modern Tsar.

This is, of course, highly ironic, given that he was once a Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB and a staunch communist..

As for the merits of dictatorship, my recollection is that Margaret Thatcher once opined that dictatorship would only be acceptable to her if she was the dictator, which underlines the point of your article (as well as being a rather chilling thought).

Philip Fitzpatrick

There were a few things I thought about including in this tokple article.

One was to point out that many of the world's dictators were great family men so one has to be careful about using that as a guide to their character..

Another was to point out that Papua New Guinea, to all intents and purposes, is a one party state with whichever prime minister is in power acting as a quasi dictator.

Of all the prime ministers Michael Somare probably epitomised this tendency the greatest. Until he was deposed by the court jester of course.

With reference to 'Gulliver's Travels', Dean Swift placed Lilliput somewhere between Tasmania and the Indian Ocean. There is a general view that it is in the Great Australian Bight, which is not far from where I live now.

Perhaps I'll get my son-in-law to run me out there in his boat to see what we can find one day.

Ross Wilkinson

The problem as I see it, Phil, is that for every dictator there is a rebellious someone who just won't be told what to do and will try to upset the applecart. In other words, continual turmoil.

Bernard Corden

Google and Facebook are quite proficient in controlling the lumpenproletariat:


Garry Roche

For some reason, this contribution by Phil inspires me to suggest that Phil should write a contemporary version of Gulliver's Travels (originally written by Dean Swift).

This satire became very popular when first published back around 1726. We might not agree with everything Phil writes, but he does make one think, and think again, and again.

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