A President’s Dilemma: Horses, World Records, or the Public Good

Government leaders regularly face incredibly difficult choices, often emerging in various forms of moral dilemmas. Because of the power and responsibility afforded to these leaders, their actions have profound consequences. From this point, let’s turn our focus to the country of Turkmenistan. 

Autocratic leaders are known to have quite eccentric personalities. Vladimir Putin loves his long tables and rants against the West, Kim Jong-Un is obsessed with obtaining nuclear weapons, and the former president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has openly bragged about killing drug dealers. As I said, it’s a unique bunch. Yet none are more bizarre than Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. With an absolutely atrocious human rights record, Berdimuhamedov proudly obfuscates such glaringly poor statistic by showcasing his unique personality. As fans of the show Last Week Tonight might remember,[1] Berdimuhamedov has an odd obsession with horses, unique public buildings (like the world’s largest indoor Ferris wheel), and Guinness World Records. Combined, these charades amount to a remarkable, and perhaps unintentional, public relations campaign that serves to distract the international community from Turkmenistan’s gross human right’s violations. Moreover, such stunts detract considerable resources from a country with a startingly low GDP of $37.93 billion in 2021.[2]  But, such is the life under authoritarian rule—too few individuals have considerable amounts of power, affording them the ability to make poor decisions with profoundly negative consequences. 

These poor decisions highlight a much broader concern that faces all governments, not just authoritarian states. When populations grant access to considerable amounts of power, the general citizenry is placed at the whim of these leaders, and the limits of human decision-making. This is precisely the concern raised by the American Founding Fathers, a concern so great that it pushed them to pursue extensive checks and balances within their vision for American government. Even with these checks, the cult of individuals and populism may prove too alluring for members of the public. It is out of consideration of these characteristics that I suggest we critically examine our institutions and organizations to establish more robust policies that defend against the dangers of these personalities. It is precisely this point that I will attempt to prove in my thesis. The various idiosyncrasies unique to each individual leader may prove to be too dangerous for our institutions to defend against. 

Implementing change in these institutions, especially places like Turkmenistan, will prove extremely challenging—but necessary. Regardless, while Berdimuhamedov left the presidency in March 2022, fans of the Berdimuhamedov regime should not be concerned—his son promptly assumed the presidency. 

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9QYu8LtH2E

[2] https://www.worldometers.info/gdp/gdp-by-country/

And, if you have time, please watch Berdimuhamedov’s rap with his grandson—

[1] https://www.worldometers.info/gdp/gdp-by-country/

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