Tweet of the Day: When It’s Persona. When It’s Political
How do you make oppressive governments attractive to the people other than by the use of terror by the powers that be? You show them that their government is Repressive but Efficient. The streets are clean, the children well behaved, the trains arrive on time and your nation’s enemies cower before you. I mean it makes sense once you get rid of all the messiness of elections, the corruption of party politics and the loopholes in the legal system that what is left has to be the very model of efficiency.
WARNING: Rhetorical questions are rhetorical.
There are four reasons for this:
- If all you have is a hammer…Repressive regimes offer simplistic answers to difficult problems. Having a problem with violent crime or poverty? Scapegoat an entire ethnic, racial or religious group for your troubles. Mind you the process of suppressing, incarcerating, deporting or waging war on said group(s) or nation(s) is going to be expensive and often tends to backfire, but hey they are not hating on the Generalissimo. Which brings me to….
- The amount of resources dedicated to maintaining the regime tends to eclipse that allotted to other areas such as transportation or education. And even then, don’t expect the police, the army or in some cases the military police to be all that efficient. Fighting an insurgency (often prompted by the brutal oppression of a minority or subculture) is not the same thing as facing a professional army pressing on your borders. Nor can you equip or train ever larger forces to the best of your ability. The best rifle in the market may cost $100,000 per unit but when you have to equip over a million men, well, the $1,000 dollar version will have to do. Not to mention the propaganda machine to complement the rifles never comes cheap.
- Over-centralization is another reasons for inefficiency. A political leadership already known for its concentration of power will invariably create a bureaucracy that puts an emphasis on loyalty to the state rather than efficient service to the masses.
- And finally, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even the lowliest police officer or bureaucrat will get drunk on power pretty quickly. And that is a sure fire way to piss away resources (and people).
Yet people (including many authors) tend to confuse short gap measures during times of emergency with long term solutions to complex problems. That is why this trope survives to this day in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.