Monday, January 12, 2009

The Recipe for Despotism

“Modern tyrants understand that there are many ways to manipulate their subjects and most do not require the use of force.” —Mary Anastasia O’Grady

The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady has written a chilling article titled, Dictatorship for Dummies. She lists three elements necessary to a firm dictatorship:
“All police states hold "elections." But they also specialize in combining the state's monopoly use of force with a monopoly in economic power and information control. Together these three weapons easily quash dissent. Venezuela is a prime example.”
While these three elements combine to consolidate dictatorial power, listing them individually might be useful:
  • Monopoly on force
  • Monopoly on economic power
  • Control of information
Although Ms. O’Grady’s article is about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, it might be a good exercise to see where the U.S. stands on these three elements.

Monopoly on use of force: “Gun nuts” have been derided for buying up weapons and ammo for fear of what the politically ascendant Democrats might do to gun rights in a rush to consolidate all force under government control. But beyond an armed citizenry is the question of how closely the military and police are aligned with the tyrant(s) and how these factors are employed to squelch domestic political dissent. Where are we and where are we headed?

Monopoly on economic power: This does not necessarily mean that the government owns all means of production and finance. It merely means that by and by, only those private concerns that are loyal to the tyrant(s) are permitted to conduct business. This brings to mind bailouts and lobbying. Where are we and where are we headed?

Control of information: Yes, this means control of the media and avenues of free expression that runs counter to the establishment view. But it also means “control of the narrative” by indoctrination in government schools. Where are we and where are we headed?

Although Ms. O’Grady is writing about the tyranny of a traditional dictatorship, it is quite possible to create a de facto dictatorship through a seemingly democratic political process. The majority of Venezuelans were initially extremely enthusiastic about Mr. Chavez.

It is also quite possible for the tyrants to be a mass of people rather than just one despot at the head of a regime. Usually it involves the ruling class and a corrupt business class. Again, where are we and where are we headed?

We’re not in the same boat as Venezuela and we likely never will be. That does not mean that we are free of tyranny. Tyranny doesn’t have to resemble the Venezuelan model to exist.

No comments: