Dani Rodrik has been right all along

For a few years now Dani Rodrik has been tweeting about how second-rate, illegitimate, and undemocratic the current Turkish regime is.  He never convinced me, not because I held firmly to some opposing perspective, but simply because I don’t follow Turkish politics closely enough for claims of any kind to have had traction on my views.

It now seems he has been quite clearly correct all along.  The Turkish state has behaved very badly in response to recent protests and shown how deeply it is infected by many of the characteristics of autocratic and authoritarian regimes.  The treatment of children, doctors, foreign and domestic journalists, the use of chemicals in the water cannon, the indiscriminate use of the riot police, and the generalized paranoid suspicion of the Turkish population — among other factors — all point in this direction.  Democracy is about more than just elections.

Here is a short update on recent events.  Here is a short piece on the not very impressive response of the Turkish media.

For some coverage of what is going on you can follow @memmetsimsek or Rodrik himself.  Michael Clemens has connections to Turkey and he is also a useful source.

If nothing else, it can be forecast that the variance of possible outcomes for Turkey has gone up.


It's a perfectly democratic regime as far as I know. It's just that the Tyranny of the Majority can't be expected to deliver a liberal democracy if the majority are barbarians. Still, the barbarians haven't yet chased their opponents out of the country, unlike the Founding Fathers and their supporters.

Indeed, the fact that the government feels the need to squash demonstrations strongly suggests that they do have a democracy. Here in the United States the government has the luxury of allowing superficial protests, because the populace is utterly powerless to interfere with the machine.

This is extremely stupid.

There is a phrase prevalent in Turkey. its call Derin Devlet or "deep state". Deep State is composed of individuals who are the top of Turkish power. Military, Religious Leaders, Bankers, Espionage, Media Executives, Politicians. These are Crypto-Jews. Jews on the inside, but masquerade as Muslims/Islamists on the outside.

Example: Turkish foreign minister Davutoglu is Crypto-Jew. Kemal Ataturk was Crypto-Jew. Crypto-Jews are remarkably equipped to infiltrate Gentile organizational structures. Thats what makes Jews the best spies in the world.

Hillel Halkin, the respected American-Israeli journalist who is a regular in Commentary and the Jerusalem Post, put forward the theory in The Daily Forward in 1994 that Ataturk was a crypto-Jewish member of the Donmeh sect of followers of the false messiah Shabbetai Zevi.

But, I don't find Halkin's argument very persuasive:


It's more likely that Ataturk was merely influenced by the Sabbateans (he attended a Donmeh-run school in Salonika, for example).

The broader point, for people who have never heard of the Donmeh (who did indeed play a sizable role in the creation of modern Turkey) is that Turkey is a tremendously byzantine place. Americans who think they understand it are probably wrong.

I don't know, I think the irony here is that we can so easily look to another country like Turkey and lists its undemocratic sins, and yet everything in the list above has direct parallels to the US. Chemicals in the water? Yeah, that's called pepper spray. Police use it without merit on non-violent non-hostile protestors. We spy on our citizens. We can now hold citizens indefinitely and without trial (see http://rt.com/usa/ndaa-indefinite-detention-trial-403/). We assassinate our citizens with drones and without trial. Due to incredible problems with our intellectual property rights laws we persistently and actively silence artists and scientists. And if you ask me, when you look at the ridiculous state gerrymandering in districts around the US, our election system is hardly accurately or fairly representing the people. Don't even get me started on Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. Stories like this should serve to cause us to take a good hard look in the mirror.

The mirror is such a discomfiting technology in politics!

Exactly. All regimes are authoritarian, and if I were saddled with the responsibility of running one, American blogger opinion would be quite low on my list of decision-making aids. Well, except to.the extent that it influences the odds of having my face printed.on the ace of spades and targeted for death.

As far as ı can see that you know nothing about Turkey! I suppose that you are from usa, you call us barbarians! Can you please tell me as a democratic country citizen when did you give afro americans rights and fredom and when did you stop treating them like slaves. Thank you


With a little break, ca. the later 1870s to the earlier 1960s, in those areas which were happy to see the end of Reconstruction.

If nothing else, it can be forecast that the variance of possible outcomes for Turkey has gone up.

This can *always* be forecast because it is not a falsifiable claim. Estimating variance requires measuring multiple outcomes. However, Turkey, like the entire world, will unfortunately provide us only one real outcome, no matter how many we think our possible.

This is wrong. Consider an example:

I bet my friend $100 that the Red Sox are going to win tonight's game. I bet another $100 on a horse with 6:1 odds. I also bought a lottery ticket with a jackpot of $15,000,000. After all that, I have $20 left. What is the variance in the amount of money I will have tomorrow?

There would be no problem computing this. The fact that only one outcome will happen is irrelevant, because the set it is calculated on is the set of possible outcomes.

He's saying that the claim is unfalsifiable, not that it's incoherent.

I'm not sure what your example is meant to show. If it starts to rain in Boston, and I said, "It can be forecast that the variance in possible outcomes of tonight's game has gone up," how would you calculate whether the statement is true? How would the calculation change if I'd instead said, "it can be forecast that the variance in possible outcomes of tonight's games has gone down."?

p.s. sorry for the our/are confusion above.

Sorry, it was a reading fail on my part. Your point was fair enough.

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I think that's easy enough to show in theory. Let's say I behead everyone in Turkey. Well, we can be pretty damn sure I just reduced the variance of the possible outcomes, at least in terms of the political situation, because Turks who are still alive can arrive at many different political outcomes, while the beheaded tend to just lay there decomposing, so they only have one possible outcome. That's really easy to calculate.

Tyler's claim is certainly more difficult to measure, but even social science can aspire to some level of falsifiability, through surveys and such.

Well of course you can use subjective probabilities. How do you think the price of a security with payoff $1 if GDP-growth changes more than five percentage points next year would have changed in price the last two months?

i fear that things will go for worse. erdoğan is dancing on a volcano, to the beat of a drum that only his supporters want to hear. if my fears turn out to be true, you will look back at this post and sleep with a good conscious.

unlike orhan pamuk, whose only comment regarding these protests and police brutality has been his childhood recollections of a chesnut tree...

plus, these events have shown how spontaneous order can arise without state force (gezi park was literally a de-facto anarchist state for 18 days), and how state monopoly on force can crush ordinary citizen movements. i am sure you will read about these events more in the coming days

The Economist has been cheerleading for this regime for years.

In fairness to The Economist, there is a shortage of good places to shop in and around Taksim Square. The nearest H&M is over a mile away, and you need to go to Kuwait City to hit up Forever 21. When you are petulant 13 year-old girl, this is a major problem.

Dude, there's a Topshop at the end of Istiklal and there's a place next to Galata Tower selling cut price Acne and J Lindeberg.

Erdogan has been much more market friendly than previous Turkish regimes.

Market friendly? He openly threatened business which in his mind aided the protesters in his recent speeches:


If cheerleading it is, then over the past two years it's been cheerleading of a decidedly critical sort for Erdogan, the AK, and the Gulenists.

I've read Erdogan is term limited and the current direction is to expand the power of the presidency. If true, that tells me all I need to know about the future of republican government in Turkey.

I also have some connections to Turkey as well. I agree that Erdogan's response to the protests has been heavy-handed and polarizing, and I hope he loses some of his popularity for it. The way his administration treats the media is reminiscent of Putin, and he is becoming increasingly authoritarian. I hope that one way or another he leaves politics in the near future. On the other hand, his term as prime minister has seen many positive changes in Turkish politics, the most important being that he stared down the military in 2006. One important reason many Turks are paranoid about politics is that the military was the de facto kingmaker from the founding of the republic until Erdogan.

It is important to keep in mind that the secular elite which generally oppose Erdogan are also the people who speak English, are tech savvy and use twitter. They are the people who are interviewed by Western journalists, and write op-eds in Western newspapers. I don't think they are necessarily wrong, but it is helpful to realize that we hear only a small selection of Turkish opinion.

Indeed. He is quite popular mostly due to the economic progress the country has made. This is a rough neighborhood. Syria to the south, Iraq and Iran further east. Russia. None of them paragons of stability and examples of societal cohesion. I would suspect the security agencies in Turkey are very nervous and would overreact. The odd thing is that the issues are minor, such as development and parks. And kissing on the subway. All of them could have been dealt with by discussion and maybe some hollering in a meeting, but he sent the big guns. Probably a bad idea. On the protester side there is the possibility that the anarchists and marxists that tend to collect around these protests end up characterizing it with their violence and anti social behavior, losing any sympathy for the protesters.

The way I see this is that, for a country on its path to progress cannot always have an ideal democracy, a thriving economy, internal peace, balance of power all at once. These combined goals might be good targets but sometimes a regime does better at some and worse at others.

Erdogan erred, and probably will fall (rightly so), but in net he may not have been so bad after all (especially looking at the economy and the checks on the military).

Pragmatically, it isn't so much about whether he did wrong (he did!) and deserves to fall but more a question of who we have as a credible successor. I hope it doesn't get worse.

Just stop romanticizing about Turkey being a European country, start measuring it by the standards that should be applied and you will find that Turkey is doing just fine.

So I guess some people are sobered up now when it comes to Turkey. That's fine as well.

Stop romanticizing about European/US democracy setting the "standards" of democracy. What will come out of these events will be highly relevant to the world as a whole, where the main question is -still- setting the balance between capital and the populace.

What's your gold standard of democracy?

Like economics, setting a gold standard for democracy makes democracy inflexible and creates sudden eruptions of rage such as the events in İstanbul.

The fact that democracy in US is hijacked by big money, or that EU countries haven't been able to create a meaningful solution to debt crisis shows there is no gold standard.

Just like the value of money, democracy is ultimately what we believe it is. AKP supporters believe democracy is sacrificing personal will for the will of a politician that they elected. The ones in Gezi park (myself included) do not believe in this, but yet to offer an alternative.

But the answer to your question is another question, should there be a gold standard of democracy?

My answer to your question is also a question: Should we never compare the quality of two democracies? You think that sort of a comparison in meaningless?

e.g. I see US democracy as far more stable, mature, and entrenched than, say, the democracy in Pakistan.

What annoyed me was your taking a potshot at "US democracy". It clearly is one of the best we have right now (notwithstanding its faults), so why accuse people of romanticizing it?

"Democracy is about more than just elections."

True, democracy about the rule of law too, but democracy is fundamentally about resolving our differences through the ballot box rather than on the street. Without that guarantee democracy is just a fraud.

If the protesters in Taksim Square -- or Tahrir Square or, say, the Wisconsin state house -- haven't first used democratic means to get their grievances addressed or if they have exhausted those means but don't like the outcome, then they are aiming a dagger at the heart of their country's democracy. No matter how much we may deplore Erdogan's high-handed behavior or the direction he is taking his country in or his foreign policy, all sincere democrats must hope he prevails over the mob.

As Bruce Fein put it the other day, "The right thing at the wrong time or in the wrong way is the wrong thing."

It is a very interesting conception of democracy that rules out peaceful protests as inherently undemocratic.

No. At least that was not my intention.

Peaceful protests that comply with reasonable time, place and manner restrictions are not ruled out.

Following up on Tyler's Post on Syria, are the events in Turkey a case of moral regression or moral progress?

I think it's important to ask "authoritarian compared to what?" Look at the early 1980s, the secular Kemalists were in charge and universities were forceably altered with plenty of faculty forced out for being too leftish, media outlets shut down (the military allowed only 1 television station back then), journalists were arrested, religion stifled, and anyone with a leftish bent risked arrest and worse-- it was martial law for years. Many American and other foreign goods were illegal (it was Özal, an economist, who opened up the country to the benefits of trade). Erdoğan argues that the AK Party limited the police state, reduced the power of the military, reformed the prisons, privatized industry, guaranteed religious freedoms, and oversaw the greatest increase in standard of living since Atatürk was alive.
I'm not saying the ends justify the means, but anytime you talk about Turkey it helps to look at what the alternatives are/were. Dani Rodrik longs for the Kemalist era without often admitting what came with it.

Dear EFL Hoca, please spare us from romanticizing about Eroğan's "repressed 80s". It is boring, irrelevant and misleading at the same time.

Would you be able to start your comment on racism in US with a sentence like this:

"I think it is important to ask "racist compated to what?". Look at early 60's..."

No, it is not important, or relevant. No one on the streets is asking for a return to 80s. We want a brighter future. The fact that past has been darker has no importance...

That this government has behaved badly in recent weeks doesn't mean it has behaved badly for the last 10 years. Governments can change over time, and it's possible that Rodrik was wrong all along (in my opinion he was right about some things, wrong about others) but right in the past few weeks.

The events erupted so suddenly only because Erdoğan has been building up his autocracy in the last 10 years..

But Turkey is the most successful democracy in the Arab world. Make of that what you will.

They're also the most successful African democracy, and the only Martian one.

Which is especially impressive since Turkey isn't part of the Arab world.

Was the US less democratic during the 1960s regarding protest (Chicago 1968,Kent State 1970)?

We've done worse, in the 1940s FDR engaged in mass arrests of war protesters. That was probably the low point of the century.

Democracy is about more than just elections.

People should stop talking about "democracy" and start talking about "individual rights" and "rule of law" and "constitutional republic."

It's bafflingly hard to try to draw analogies that make Turkey over the last century comprehensible to Americans. It's kind of like, if say, Harvard University had controlled the U.S. Army since 1908, which staged a coup every time a non-Unitarian became President.

Or something ...

More like West Point controlling Capitol Hill would be more accurate.

Oh, it is a slight variation of Wall Street controlling Capitol Hill by the way.

U.S. democracy has its flaws, which we certainly should not blind ourselves to, but when you start to see our government as equivalent to autocratic regimes, then you have lost perspective.

Particularly pernicious is your claim the intellectual property law is akin to "silencing" scientists and artists.

Erdogan over the years has reminded me alot of this guy:


The thing is, Turkey really needs a conservative Islamic party that is nevertheless (small "d") democratic. In fact this is what all Muslim majority countiries need. There is an argument that democracy can't be consolidated until what would normally be anti-democratic political forces start to be willing to complete within the democratic system and accept the rules of the game.

On what non-freedom-restricting issues can a "common sense" conservative Islamic party run?

Of course, Dani Rodrik writes negative things about Turkish government. His father-in-law has been in prison last 3 years because he was accused of being responsible about coup d'éta for the current government. You should keep this in mind how objective he can be.


That really puts things in perspective:

"IN DECEMBER I traveled to Turkey with my wife and young son, as we do every year during winter break. This time, though, we had more than visiting family and friends in mind. We were on a mission to demonstrate that what many have called the trial of the century in Turkey is in fact a sham built on fabricated evidence.

"Nearly two hundred Turkish military officers stand accused of having plotted a gruesome coup back in 2003—codenamed Sledgehammer—against the then–newly elected Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

"Details of the alleged plot have gripped the nation ever since an anonymous source delivered a suitcase full of what appeared to be secret military documents to a newspaper reporter in January 2010. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and other AKP leaders have openly lent support and credibility to the charges. With few exceptions, mainstream commentators have also accepted the claims at face value. The prosecutors have produced a 1,000-page long indictment, along with supporting documentation running into tens of thousands of pages. When we arrived in Turkey (my wife is the daughter of Çetin Doğan, the lead defendant in the case), the trial had just started in Silivri, on the grounds of a prison in the outskirts of Istanbul.

"Our mission seemed quixotic and presumptuous at best. And yet, stripped of all the frenzy and disinformation that surrounds the case, the facts were abundantly clear. The coup plot documents on which the charges are based were obvious forgeries."


Post needs a Conflict of Interest disclaimer.......

Let me be clear that I don't have anything against Rodrik, who has been very upfront about his personal interest in Turkish politics. My point is simply that to Americans, Istanbul politics are byzantine. There's a whole bunch of history there that us poor dumb Americans are coming in very late in the story and really don't know what all is going on.

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