are "benevolent autocrats" good for economic development? As for example, Tom Friedman states: One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. William Easterly attacks the idea here http://williameasterly.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/benevolent-autocrats-easterly-2nd-draft.pdf he outlines the common cognitive biases that lend people to this conclusion, which is interesting as it touches upon basic epistemological issues in regards to any discussion of economic policies a) reversing conditional probabilities - the fact that several growth success stories had autocratic leadership (South Korea, Singapore, China, etc) misses the fact that while 90% of the growth success stories were autocracies, only 10% of all the autocracies were growth success stories b) availablilty heuristic - big success is greatly over-reported relative to big failures c) leadership attribution bias - "A large literature on the “fundamental attribution error” finds that test subjects tend to attribute an outcome too much to individual personality, intentions, and skill and not enough to situational factors." The exaggerated importance of US Presidents, Corporate CEOs and athletic coaches is another example d) "hot hand" fallacy - attributing a random streak to some sort of special skill e) law of small numbers - too small a sample size to draw meaningful conclusions f) action bias - "technocratic views of development give action-oriented experts much more of an active role. However, if experts already know the answer, then there is not much room left for democratic determination of economic policy. Hence, anyone who considers themselves as an expert advisor may have a bias towards autocrats. As James Buchanan said, policy-oriented economists and other public intellectuals may prefer to be “proffering policy advice as if they were employed by a benevolent despot.”" Easterly concludes: "This paper has suggested a number of cautions about jumping too quickly to benevolent autocrat explanations of growth successes. Formal theory and evidence provides little or no basis on which to believe the benevolent autocrat story. The benevolent autocrat story has been around for a long time and has proved very adaptable to many different political motivations. The interaction between well-known cognitive biases and stylized facts would predict beliefs in benevolent autocrats even if they did not exist. This paper has repeatedly cautioned that these arguments do not automatically disprove the benevolent autocrat story. People who have certain political motivations and cognitive biases are likely to believe in benevolent autocrats. It does not follow that people who believe in benevolent autocrats have political motivations and cognitive biases. (Equating the two is itself the reversing conditional probabilities cognitive bias.) The benevolent autocrat story for any ONE autocrat and growth outcome is ultimately non-falsifiable: there is just one observation and many possible stories. Those with strong priors in favor of benevolent autocrats are still likely to go with that story. The point of this paper is that such strong priors exist for many bad reasons as well as good ones, and that economists should retain their traditional skepticism for stories that have little good theory or empirics to support them."