After Stalin’s death, many people kept sighing, “Things were better with Stalin. This crime / corruption / bureaucratic delays / bribery, etc couldn’t have happened when he was in power.”
And they were absolutely right. Those things wouldn’t have happened with Stalin. So was it worth it? The overwhelming majority of people weren’t touched by the purges, and most of the purges were the Soviet equivalent of draining the swamp anyway.
And let’s say nobody died. Would it be worth it then? Lives would be saved because of low crime rates. Would it be worth depriving people of some intangible liberties most aren’t capable of enjoying anyway?
I’ve been talking to somebody who says, “Cuba is so much better off than your favorite El Salvador. Yes, it’s a totalitarian regime but there are no gangs, no crime. How is it worse?”
You can’t sustain extreme physical repression for long anyway, so the long-lived authoritarian regimes survive because they offer clear benefits in return for banning certain liberties. If the alternative is chaos that comes from people exercising their free will in asinine ways that hurt them, is authoritarianism a good thing?