The advantages of autocracy

From Tom Friedman's latest NYT op ed:
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.
In general I find Friedman lacks the nuance to push thinking on very complex issues, but he shines when driving home simple ideas in an accessible way. This is a great example. Many promoters of democracy don't seem to appreciate how it is (as a result of the same minority protections which enable it to preserve political rights) inherently bad at making hard societal decisions. You can see it in the need to pander to agriculture and coal special interests in order to pass climate legislation, and you can definitely see it in the current battle over healthcare and more broadly any political action around long-term fiscal issues like Social Security and Medicare entitlements. It is very easy for elected officials to kick hard decisions down the road, and as a result hard choices get put off and Social Security and Medicare end up as effective Ponzi schemes that dwarf Bernie Madoff.

Obviously these principles apply very directly to any sort of environmental sustainability issues, although rich-country democracies have actually done a pretty good job of non-climate environmental regulations (and China's track record is horrible).

There are probably other counterexamples waiting to be made of times when democracies did make hard, long-term decisions - readers?

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