Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dictators: The Next Generation

So I read that Pinochet's successor died. I don't remember his name.

Then I got to thinking about other people who followed other dictators, e.g., Franco, Mao, and Stalin. The people who followed them were moderates. Is this a trend? If so, there has to be a poli-sci rule or effect that describes it.*

But maybe there is no significant trend and it's just a natural reversion to the mean. The appellation "extremist" suggests, if not a mathematical normal distribution, a situation where a normal leader isn't heavy handed.

Though, who is an extremist? The victors of the Second World War thought the Nazis were extremists; the Nazis themselves thought themselves the golden middle ground between right wing reactionaries and left wing communists. There's a weird self-congratulatory aspect in labeling others "extremist" as if only a partial understanding of the Aristotelian mean were sufficient for virtue.**

Or perhaps it's an availability bias. The Romans and Greeks who gave us the terms tyrant and dictator had a lot of experience with them. Even though my poor memory once again fails to serve, I have a feeling that authoritarian governments had a bit more staying power - partly because so much of the ancient world depended on slaves. But I do remember a general Western historical belief that Eastern states tended to be more despotic. I'd research the rulers around Tarquin, Solon, Nebudchadnezzar, Ramses, etc., but I don't feel like going down the Wikipedia rabbit hole right now.

Maybe there is a trend. It could be that the sort of person savvy enough to make it into the highest levels of government without being perceived as a rival are perceptive enough to know that strong leaders are prone to getting overthrown. Or perhaps strong leaders, who tend to be alphas, eliminate other alphas from possible competition and increase the likelihood of a more moderate successor.

Or maybe Freakanomics or some other pop science book I'd read had already covered this and my subconscious has fooled me into thinking I was on to something.

* Like the theory that suggests first past the post voting will result in a two party system. Or the dumb Internet "law" that suggests Hitler or the Nazis will inevitably get brought up in an internet discussion. Speaking of whom ...

** There's a story about an emperor who quipped something along the lines that: if it is an extreme of defect to father no children but an extreme of excess to father all the children in the empire, then it surely it is the virtuous middle to father half the children in the empire.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.