Do dictators and autocracies build more impressive monuments?

I was having an email exchange about the possibility that dictatorships and autocracies do centralized monument-building much better than the freer democracies do.  But while this is probably true on average, some of the deviations are of interest.  Here is an excerpt from my response:

In some ways France looks like an autocracy, whereas in Singapore (not a dictatorship of course, but not a full democracy either) the government buildings are deliberately underwhelming (a kind of counter-signaling?).

Almaty and Skopje go overboard in the autocratic direction, the latter being a democracy.  Washington, D.C. does centralized monuments very well, better than anything modern China has come up with.  Cuban government buildings do not at all impress, nothing like Pyongyang.

Morocco invested in what was then the world’s largest mosque, in lieu of a government building upgrade.  Ivory Coast has done much more monument-building than the other African autocracies.

So I wonder what the deeper model looks like…

Here are a few options:

1. Insecure nation-states invest in monuments.  That is correlated with autocracy, but imperfectly.

2. Perhaps nation-states invest in monuments in lieu of concrete achievements for their citizenries.

3. Cuba has not built many monuments because its “origin story” is so strong, and its ideology for a long time has had a fair amount of support from the Cuban people.  Alternatively, Castro himself was the monument.

4. Is Singapore itself the monument to Singapore?  The same might be said of Dubai.  What artificial monuments could top those?

Advocates of Confederate monuments, by the way, ought to ponder the possibility that those very structures are a sign of weakness not strength.


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