A Government That Can't Change


by Patrick Appel

Richard Posner speculates as to why autocratic governments fall:

Over a long period of time, democratic and quasi-democratic nations change profoundly, but the change is gradual. Dictatorial regimes change in fits and starts, so that most of the time they seem more stable than nonauthoritarian regimes. They experience punctuated rather than incremental change. 

There are several reasons. The obvious one is lack of information. A government that uses intimidation, surveillance, and control of media to quell dissent deprives itself of good information about the population’s concerns. People keep their concerns to themselves out of fear. Grievances are driven underground, to fester. Not having a good handle on what people want, the government risks being blindsided by a sudden explosion of repressed anger. Repression also fosters conspiracy; fearful of expressing themselves publicly, people learn to form secret cabals; they become experts at dissimulation. 

(Photo: Like Cool)