The New Authoritarianism

Lambert here: It could be that the concepts and methods outlined here have broader application than dictatorships.

By Sergei Guriev, Professor of Economics, Sciences Po Paris; and CEPR Research Fellow, and Daniel Treisman, Professor of political science, UCLA. Originally published at VoxEU.

The Changing Dictatorships

Dictatorships are not what they used to be. The totalitarian tyrants of the past – such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot – employed terror, indoctrination, and isolation to monopolise power. Although less ideological, many 20th-century military regimes also relied on mass violence to intimidate dissidents. Pinochet’s agents, for instance, are thought to have tortured and killed tens of thousands of Chileans (Roht-Arriaza 2005).

However, in recent decades new types of authoritarianism have emerged that seem better adapted to a world of open borders, global media, and knowledge-based economies. From the Peru of Alberto Fujimori to the Hungary of Viktor Orban, illiberal regimes have managed to consolidate power without fencing off their countries or resorting to mass murder. Some bloody military regimes and totalitarian states remain – such as Syria and North Korea – but the balance has shifted.

The new autocracies often simulate democracy, holding elections that the incumbents almost always win, bribing and censoring the private press rather than abolishing it, and replacing comprehensive political ideologies with an amorphous resentment of the West (Gandhi 2008, Levitsky and Way 2010). Their leaders often enjoy genuine popularity – at least after eliminating any plausible rivals. State propaganda aims not to ‘engineer human souls’ but to boost the dictator’s ratings. Political opponents are harassed and defamed, charged with fabricated crimes, and encouraged to emigrate, rather than being murdered en masse.

Dictatorships and Information

In a recent paper, we argue that the distinctive feature of such new dictatorships is a preoccupation with information (Guriev and Treisman 2015). Although they do use violence at times, they maintain power less by terrorising victims than by manipulating beliefs. Of course, surveillance and propaganda were important to the old-style dictatorships, too. But violence came first. “Words are fine things, but muskets are even better,” Mussolini quipped. Compare that to the confession of Fujimori’s security chief, Vladimir Montesinos: “The addiction to information is like an addiction to drugs”. Killing members of the elite struck Montesinos as foolish: “Remember why Pinochet had his problems. We will not be so clumsy” (McMillan and Zoido 2004).

We study the logic of a dictatorship in which the leader survives by manipulating information. Our key assumption is that citizens care about effective government and economic prosperity; first and foremost, they want to select a competent rather than incompetent ruler. However, the general public does not know the competence of the ruler; only the dictator himself and members of an ‘informed elite’ observe this directly. Ordinary citizens make what inferences they can, based on their living standards – which depend in part on the leader’s competence – and on messages sent by the state and independent media. The latter carry reports on the leader’s quality sent by the informed elite. If a sufficient number of citizens come to believe their ruler is incompetent, they revolt and overthrow him.

The challenge for an incompetent dictator is, then, to fool the public into thinking he is competent. He chooses from among a repertoire of tools – propaganda, repression of protests, co-optation of the elite, and censorship of their messages. All such tools cost money, which must come from taxing the citizens, depressing their living standards, and indirectly lowering their estimate of the dictator’s competence. Hence the trade-off.

Certain findings emerge from the logic of this game.

  • First, we show how modern autocracies can survive while employing relatively little violence against the public.

Repression is not necessary if mass beliefs can be manipulated sufficiently. Dictators win a confidence game rather than an armed combat. Indeed, since in our model repression is only used if equilibria based on non-violent methods no longer exist, violence can signal to opposition forces that the regime is vulnerable.

  • Second, since members of the informed elite must coordinate among themselves on whether to sell out to the regime, two alternative equilibria often exist under identical circumstances – one based on a co-opted elite, the other based on a censored private media.

Since both bribing the elite and censoring the media are ways of preventing the sending of embarrassing messages, they serve as substitutes. Propaganda, by contrast, complements all the other tools.

Propaganda and a Leader’s Competency

Why does anyone believe such propaganda? Given the dictator’s obvious incentive to lie, this is a perennial puzzle of authoritarian regimes. We offer an answer. We think of propaganda as consisting of claims by the ruler that he is competent. Of course, genuinely competent rulers also make such claims. However, backing them up with convincing evidence is costlier for the incompetent dictators – who have to manufacture such evidence – than for their competent counterparts, who can simply reveal their true characteristics. Since faking the evidence is costly, incompetent dictators sometimes choose to spend their resources on other things. It follows that the public, observing credible claims that the ruler is competent, rationally increases its estimate that he really is.

Moreover, if incompetent dictators survive, they may over time acquire a reputation for competence, as a result of Bayesian updating by the citizens. Such reputations can withstand temporary economic downturns if these are not too large. This helps to explain why some clearly inept authoritarian leaders nevertheless hold on to power – and even popularity – for extended periods (cf. Hugo Chavez). While a major economic crisis results in their overthrow, more gradual deteriorations may fail to tarnish their reputations significantly.

A final implication is that regimes that focus on censorship and propaganda may boost relative spending on these as the economy crashes. As Turkey’s growth rate fell from 7.8% in 2010 to 0.8% in 2012, the number of journalists in jail increased from four to 49. Declines in press freedom were also witnessed after the Global Crisis in countries such as Hungary and Russia. Conversely, although this may be changing now, in both Singapore and China during the recent decades of rapid growth, the regime’s information control strategy shifted from one of more overt intimidation to one that often used economic incentives and legal penalties to encourage self-censorship (Esarey 2005, Rodan 1998).

The kind of information-based dictatorship we identify is more compatible with a modernised setting than with the rural underpinnings of totalitarianism in Asia or the traditional societies in which monarchs retain legitimacy. Yet, modernisation ultimately undermines the informational equilibria on which such dictators rely. As education and information spread to broader segments of the population, it becomes harder to control how this informed elite communicates with the masses. This may be a key mechanism explaining the long-noted tendency for richer countries to open up politically.

References

Esarey, A (2005), “Cornering the market: state strategies for controlling China’s commercial media”, Asian Perspective 29(4): 37-83.

Gandhi, J (2008), Political Institutions under Dictatorship, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Guriev, S and D Treisman (2015), “How Modern Dictators Survive: Cooptation, Censorship, Propaganda, and Repression”, CEPR Discussion Paper, DP10454.

Levitsky, S, and L A Way (2010), Competitive authoritarianism: hybrid regimes after the cold war, New York: Cambridge University Press.

McMillan, J, and P Zoido (2004), “How to subvert democracy: Montesinos in Peru”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 18(4): 69-92.

Rodan, G (1998), “The Internet and political control in Singapore”, Political Science Quarterly 113(1): 63-89.

Roht-Arriaza, N (2005), The Pinochet Effect: Transnational Justice in the Age of Human Rights, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

40 comments

  1. charles 2

    Is it a coincidence that this article is published on the day of Lee Kwan Yew’s death ? Not very savoury IMHO.

  2. salvo

    so, dictatorships are defined by the rule of ‘incompetent leaders’ who use propaganda (by censoring private media) to make the public believe they are competent? ‘Competent leaders don’t need to secure their rule by means of a dictatorship because the public voluntarily submits to the rule of a ‘competent leadership’?. So, in nuce, the main thing distinguishing ‘democracies’ from ‘dictatorships’ is the people’s ability of ensuring a ‘competent ledership’ with the help of private media? Really? But, what does control of the private media look like? Does control over private media identify with the interest of ‘competent leadership’? Is in western style ‘democracies’ the rule of ‘competent leaders’ ensured by uncensored private media constantly sending messages to the public about the quality of the leader’s competence? Really? This text seems to me like a hymn to western style rule by a technocratic elite exclusively legitimized by whatever competence means, that is to say the notion and image of competent leadership constructed by allegedly uncensored (free) private media.
    Another question: To what extent were/are dictators like Pinochet or Al-Sisi ‘incompetent’ considering their rule effectively consits in the implementation by techonocratic elites of neoliberal doctrines originating in the discourse and power struggles within western ‘democracies’? Doesn’t their competence rather consist in their ability and willingness to enforce the implementation of those neoliberal doctrines?

    I suggest the authors of this text studying the handling of the euro crisis to assess the competence of ‘democratically’ legitimized leaders. As for a more consistent definition of the new authoritarianism please read

    “The New American Order
    1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People” ”

    http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175970/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_is_a_new_political_system_emerging_in_this_country/

        1. jrs

          I know :). But it seems to want to take shots at Chavez instead or something. But yea the U.S. government maintains power by propaganda but it’s also backed by oppressive measures when that doesn’t work.

        2. Oregoncharles

          If Chavez was a dictator, so is Obama. In fact, the latter has been compiling the whole tool kit of a modern dictator – and I don’t mean the kind the article discusses, but the kind that uses assassination and arbitrary, lawless detention, so say nothing of mass surveillance.

          Along, of course, with control of th emedia (most of them) and a heavy dose of propaganda.

  3. Swedish Lex

    Seems to me you are describing the Vatican and Catholicism.
    Hardly new but a truly winning concept having succeded in not only claiming the moral high ground but actually being it. How can you argue with that :)

    1. Oregoncharles

      the world’s largest pedophile ring “is” the “moral high ground?” Is that a joke?

  4. PlutoniumKun

    I think its certainly true that the aura of ‘competence’ is absolutely vital to any authoritarian. Its why the CCP in China, for instance, is broadly popular. I would suggest that it applies over more than just the economy. As one example, under Saddam Hussain Iraq actually had an excellent health system and a well functioning infrastructure. I doubt Hussain was a great believer in single payer health insurance, but he did realise that providing such basic functions defanged some of the anger ordinary people felt over other actions he may have taken. Even the most old style authoritarian leaders know they have to give something back to the broad population – Hitler was scrupulous at persuading ordinary Germans that the war effort wouldn’t interfere with ordinary economic life, up until around 1943 when they had no choice but to go for a full war economy.

    I think one key difference between modern successful authoritarians and old style ones is that modern successful ones realise that it is better to manipulate flows of information than to try to stop it. Witness how the ‘Great Firewall of China’ has become more flexible recently. Instead of trying to stop people accessing information online, they now use it to monitor dissidents and to twist and distort what is out there, so people start treating anti government information with the same scepticism as pro-government information. Arab states learned quickly during the Arab Spring that rather than try to block Facebook and Twitter, it was better to just overload them with false messages to confuse and confound protestors. Its hardly ironic that authoritarians are learning lessons directly from the NSA – don’t censor, do control and manipulate. Its the modern template.

    1. washunate

      The lesson from the NSA isn’t don’t censor. Rather, censor first, control and manipulate only if you have to. Indeed, the problem with control and manipulate is that if too much happens at once, official narratives break down. This is why, for example, our government views whistleblowers as traitors. Telling the public what government leaders are actually doing is a direct threat to the authoritarianism, because one of the justifications to keep the more educated parts of the population supporting the system is the feeling that it’s not really that bad.

      The lack of understanding in Amerca of this shows how successful secrecy remains today.

  5. rkka

    “Declines in press freedom were also witnessed after the Global Crisis in countries such as Hungary and Russia.”

    In Russia’s case, this is just ridiculous. Guriev was around for the total oligarchic dominance of Russia’s media backing Yeltsin in the stolen 1996 presidential election. Of course, as the former Morgan Stanley Professor of Economics at the New Economic School in Moscow and apologist for the tax fraud Khodorkovsky, he just might not have noticed when the ‘good guys’ abused the Freedom of the Press.

    1. salvo

      yep, evidently the hidden motivation of such a text is the projection of Putin as an ‘incompetent’ leader ensuring his rule by authoritarian means. Its focus on ‘incompetence’ to illustrate authoritarianism is outspokenly cynical considering the pain allegedly ‘competent’ technocrats have authoritarianly imposed on people in the eurozone, see Bill Mitchell,
      http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=30490#more-30490

  6. guest

    Is the author a neo-classical economist? The argument is larded with references to equilibria, trade-offs, rational estimates and Bayesian updates thereto; it assumes that socio-political movements are the result of agents playing a rational informational game, that dictators are constantly attempting to optimize a cost function of propaganda vs. bribing vs. killings.

    Of course, competency is never properly defined, nor what are “informed elites”, nor what distinguishes (or measures) authoritarianism for that matter. The piece also ignores the complex interplay between authoritarian leaders and their environment: dictators are ever alone and they actually are as much pushed, supported and controlled by a vast community of backers as they control and lead the masses; elites frequently form the source of dictators; and the question of political legitimacy and how it arises — an issue at the core of sociological and political theory — is not treated: how can agents without a track record for “competency” and without the control of a propaganda apparatus, attain and keep power in the first place?

    Perhaps there is some serious research (and a longer, more detailed exposition thereof) behind this article, but on its own merits it is quite disappointing.

    1. Will

      I agree with everything you say, but I actually thought this was the weakest part:

      We think of propaganda as consisting of claims by the ruler that he is competent. Of course, genuinely competent rulers also make such claims. However, backing them up with convincing evidence is costlier for the incompetent dictators – who have to manufacture such evidence – than for their competent counterparts, who can simply reveal their true characteristics.

      It’s often much harder to convince people of the truth than a good-feeling lie. Hence the ‘big lie’ in propaganda.

      It’s weird to me how people who supposedly study this topic full-time miss so much important stuff.

      1. guest

        Perhaps the author conflates propaganda with public relations; hence, he is oblivious to the “big lie” approach you mention (wasn’t it Goebbels himself who formulated the concept?)

        There are other aspects which are completely ignored in the article. Schoolboys and girls have negligible power when it comes to pressuring or overthrowing governments, and assuming they spend time fine-tuning “rational estimates of the government’s competency” is laughable. But every authoritarian regime makes it a central point to ensure that its vision of the world is properly inculcated through school programs.

        Honestly, this piece is below weak.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            I recall Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky both pointing to Walter Lippmann’s book “Public Opinion” from 1921 as a root for modern thought on propaganda. [http://wps.pearsoncustom.com/wps/media/objects/2429/2487430/pdfs/lippmann.pdf]. Lippman was instrumental in crafting public opinion for President Wilson’s bringing the United States into World War I. He invented the expression “manufacturing consent.” I haven’t read Lippman yet but I trust the judgment and scholarship of both Hedges and Chomsky.

            In spite of any attribution Goebbels may have made to Churchill as the inspiration of his techniques, Churchill was a tremendous orator but his checkered career prior to World War II hardly argues for his skills at propaganda. It’s easy to think of reasons why Goebbels might make a false attribution of credit to Churchill.

        1. Uahsenaa

          Indeed, the presumption here that “information” and “education” are ideologically neutral is laughable at best. “If the proles have too much info and ed, they’ll overthrow the big man.” Yet, the possibility that the elites are the ones propping up the big man, or that the elites own the very media outlets and run the educational institutions (c.f. the corporate restructuring of nearly every university in the US), never seems to quite make it into the argument. It’s collusion of an entire class, one which deals with dissenting voices by co-opting them, so that they put a plausible reality for most people to buy into. You then degrade everything in your ed system that encourages critical thinking–Common Core quite literally denies the value of contextualizing and bringing together disparate sources inductively to inform a particular interpretation; it’s very much, “talk only about what’s on the page.” Teach people to think this way, and you can feed them whatever crap you want. I see it in my students all the time, and they are extremely resistant to being broken of this habit.

    2. hemeantwell

      Is the author a neo-classical economist?

      He sure isn’t a sociologist or an historian. Like any neoclassical economist, he views society through an individualizing lens, completely ignoring the importance of organizational membership (today, especially unions and community organizations opposing disembedding liberalism, to put it one way) as a mediator of opinion and a source of support, i.e. courage. The way he puts violence in the past is just stupid, as though there is no such thing as coercion short of a gunshot.

  7. James Levy

    Boy is this a weak, muddled argument that cherry-picks like crazy. Image manipulation goes back to Bernays, intellectually, and practically it goes back to the electoral tricks of Martin van Buren when elites for the first time needed to mold and channel the thoughts and emotions of a mass electorate with the introduction of universal white male suffrage in most of the United States in the 1820s and 30s. The idea that George “who would you rather sit down and a have a beer with” Bush wasn’t manipulating information or was remotely competent just because he got elected here in the good old US of A is a joke. Talk about cognitive capture–these guys still think the “Free World” is some kind of model out of a 1950s civics textbook.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Replace the final word, and this paragraph is a pitch-perfect description of U.S. managed democracy:

      ‘The new autocracies often simulate democracy, holding elections that the incumbents almost always win, bribing and censoring the private press rather than abolishing it, and replacing comprehensive political ideologies with an amorphous resentment of the West terrorism.’

      One need only add that like the former Soviet Union and communist China, U.S. federal courts now have 99% conviction rates.

      1. fresno dan

        as I said, I thought the article was about the USA….
        And as bad as the conviction rate reveals about the court process, Ferguson reveals that the laws themselves are merely a simulacrum of justice….

      2. jgordon

        I too seriously thought this was a post commenting on the current state of affairs in America, which was why I found “the West” bit confusing–at first. Surprising that there’s so little self-reflection that this post can be seriously(?) written as if it weren’t even more applicable to the West.

        Yet, modernisation ultimately undermines the informational equilibria on which such dictators rely. As education and information spread to broader segments of the population, it becomes harder to control how this informed elite communicates with the masses. This may be a key mechanism explaining the long-noted tendency for richer countries to open up politically.

        I laughed out loud there. America is at the supposed pinnacle of modernization, yet Americans are generally the most irresponsible and deluded lovers of corporate/state authority on the planet. If there is a relationship between access to media by the public and the ability to engage in intelligent self-determination by the public, it’s clearly inverse.

  8. participant-observer-observed

    There are too many red flags flying around this piece to make it credible, regardless of UCLA pedigree. I.e.,

    * No mention of the compulsive, relentless, pathological dictatorial tendencies the USA at home and abroad, betraying a “hermeneutic of exceptionalism”

    * Isolating out Chavez as if he had not been ruling with non-stop US aggression stance breathing down on him the whole time, which is hardly a neutral case study for the authors

    I’ll stick with the late Howard Zinn, if you don’t mind, but thanks for inspiring me to re-discover Oliver Stone’s coverage of Chavez on Youtube!

    Looks like someone here is pining for a hand-out from the Nuland-Kagan crowd!

  9. timotheus

    Pinochet’s agents actually killed and disappeared fewer than “tens of thousands” (although those tortured undoubtedly reached that figure over the 17 years of the dictatorship). This doesn’t make him a nicer guy than the Argentine generals (where estimates range from 10 to 30,000 disappeared), but merely shows the efficacy of a targeted campaign of terror. One doesn’t need to slaughter everyone a la Stalin or Saddam to suppress dissent.

    1. Santi

      According to this article (in Spanish) the Chilean government officially recognizes more than 40,000 victims, including people killed, disappeared (3,065 persons dead or “disappeared”), tortured or “just” political prisoners. This is official, from those people, nine thousand surviving and accrediting it got in 2011 a pension of 180 monthly Euro plus benefits in health and education. Nothing more official than money coming from the successors of the torturers ;)

  10. washunate

    From the title, I assumed this article was going to be about the major countries like the US :)

    I’m not sure what value there is in the comparison to the Big Four of 20th century bad guys, or what value there is in looking at information differences. What seems most interesting to me about authoritarianism today is how similar it is to times past, not how different it is.

    It’s also a little unnerving how patronizing, or at least incurious, that last line is. The U.S. relies upon enormous amounts of violence to keep things humming, from the two tiered justice system domestically to drones and coups and military bases abroad. American leadership on this front is the elephant in the room when talking about totalitarianism in smaller countries.

    1. Jill

      washunate,

      I thought the same as you.

      It’s so nice to know that the author doesn’t think this type of thing is happening in the US. Gosh, he must have missed all our wars, what happens to protesters (Homan Square anyone, Occupy?), Cass Sunstein, etc.

      Just got this link today: “In its February 5 acknowledgement, the ICE FOIA team deemed mine to be a “non-commercial” request, correctly determining that I have no commercial interest in the documents, but incorrectly determining that I do not qualify as a journalist…

      A March 3 letter signed by an ICE lawyer cites a statutory definition of “news”: “information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public.”

      https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2015/mar/16/ice-deems-drone-program-isnt-newsworthy/

      Good thing all that stuff doesn’t happen in the US!

    2. jrs

      Yea with the u.s. it’s best not to minimize the degree of violence that does exist. Propaganda sure it exists, it’s not even going to shock anyone that it does in a culture awash in propaganda such as advertising. But what can shock people is the degree to which it’s backed by violence. That’s many a wake up call. And the fact it’s not backed by even more violence doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be if it was deemed necessary.

      Also left out of the means of making people obey is economic pressures. How many people are going to do anything that makes them unemployable when money is survival. The UN recognizes the link. And to reference a poster above, what about the social context, for instance is there a fund to help those who would disobey, like a strike fund etc..? This can ease the economic part, not the violence part. Economic prosperity maintains the current leader according to the article. Perhaps. But even increasing poverty can maintain the system. Individually the fear of joining the ranks of the homeless, socially the conviction that nothing better can be afforded etc..

  11. jsn

    “It could be that the concepts and methods outlined here have broader application than dictatorships.”
    Or it could be “dictatorship” has broader application than the authors seem to think. Show me an attempt at popular sovereignty and I’ll show you a government our supposed “Western liberal democracies” are attacking in every way we can manage a propaganda narrative for.

  12. GlassHammer

    “Although they do use violence at times, they maintain power less by terrorising victims than by manipulating beliefs.”
    -Manipulating beliefs is a form a violence and it creates an “inner” terror.

    “We study the logic of a dictatorship in which the leader survives by manipulating information.”
    -All leaders must manipulate information in order to survive. Facts are not the stakes of controversy (or a challenge to authority). Losing control of information is the same as losing power/influence and your political rivals are well aware of this.

    “Our key assumption is that citizens care about effective government and economic prosperity; first and foremost, they want to select a competent rather than incompetent ruler.”
    -If “competent” is defined as “technocratic expertise” and “political acumen” then this initial assumption is flawed. Elections are often won or lost on a candidates humanizing traits.

    “The challenge for an incompetent dictator is, then, to fool the public into thinking he is competent.”
    -No, that is a problem for the inner circle that backs the dictator. If you are viewing this from an individualistic perspective you are forgetting one of the key principles of rule, “No one ever rules alone”.

  13. surtt

    “The challenge for an incompetent dictator is, then, to fool the public into thinking he is competent.”

    For an incompetent dictator to:
    a) recognize his incompetence.
    b) gear the machinery of state to cover it up/
    an incompetent dictator would need to be fairly competent.

  14. Jill

    surtt,

    I think you’ve hit on a very important point. There’s an awful lot of covering up going on. Why bother if you don’t think there’s anything wrong?

    While true these people are incompetent (as far as helping the general welfare), they are quite competent at stealing money and arranging things for their buddies. They understand exactly what they are doing, that’s why they need to lie so much. That’s why it’s vital to obscure what is actually happening.

    I also agree with other people who point out 1. economic violence and 2. the mental or spiritual violence of manipulating others

  15. shinola

    Syria is mentioned, but what about Saudi Arabia? Makes me wonder about the authors’ own biases.

  16. Chauncey Gardiner

    A huge and ubiquitous public billboard pervasively advertising “Competency” every 15 minutes across all public media in the aftermath of the incompetency and criminality demonstrated in spades by the 2008 financial system collapse has been the secretive transition from a Market Economy to a “Rigged Markets Economy”; i.e., To save the village (system in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse), we had to destroy it.

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/102519784

    Does anyone recall voting for candidates for public office who promised to use public money to increase the prices of financial assets rather than fiscal spending for critical fiscal initiatives in infrastructure, education, etc.? Yeah, me neither.

    Were those who have pushed up the prices of financial assets elected to public office?… tells us much about the reality of the system that is.

  17. Strangely Enough

    The new autocracies often simulate democracy, holding elections that the incumbents almost always win, bribing and censoring the private press rather than abolishing it, and replacing comprehensive political ideologies with an amorphous resentment…

    Sounds so strangely familiar.

  18. Jay M

    Fatuous almost captures this piece. The incompetent is the democratically elected leader in a natural resources state that has the CIA breathing down his neck. Sheesh!

Comments are closed.