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Asked • 04/04/19

Is authoritarianism an effective route to good social policy?

In terms of social policy, I'm struck that modern research seems to suggest that the traditional authoritarian (and often perceived as right-wing) approach is almost always wrong. For example: - Harsh penalties for crimes (including corporal punishment, the death penalty and poor prison conditions) do not deter criminals. Soft treatment with a focus on rehabilitation however, does at least reduce re-offending rates. - Restricting access to sex education, birth control and safe abortions does nothing to reduce teen pregnancy rates. Providing these things, however, does. - Teaching children by rote in a highly controlled environment does a poor job of instilling wider research skills or a desire to learn. Allowing them lots of freedom to teach themselves in a guided and supportive environment appears to be a much better way of equipping them for the varied demands of modern life and work. My question is very simple: is this assumption correct? Or is there a sizable body of competing research and evidence to show that authoritarian measures can be an effective means of social policy?

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Matthew S. answered • 04/07/19

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