The Paradox Of Authoritarianism: Where Are History’s Successful Dictatorships?

Conservatives in America increasingly admire autocracies, but where are the successful ones?

Dash MacIntyre

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Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

The premise of authoritarian governments is that with more centralized control over the policy-making process, dictators should be able to enjoy greater freedom of action and faster political results than democracies.

Without the constant partisan infighting, competing special interests, reliance on electoral approval via public opinion, or protections of minority rights, autocracies ought to be, in theory, streamlined paragons of governmental success. That’s what wannabe dictators and their brown-nosing bootlickers believe.

Authoritarian regimes can have some relative ideological advantages thanks to the state-sponsored corruption of all aspects of political life they impose on their people — including tight control over the media, loyal police and paramilitary forces, rubber-stamping legislative bodies, and hyper-partisan judicial courts. With such centralized control, authoritarians should be able to act more strategically toward long-term goals and initiatives, enact more coherent and consistent policies, and implement them more efficiently.

Yet the examples of enduring authoritarian successes are hard to find. Similar to the Fermi Paradox — as in why have we not found evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial beings despite their seemingly theoretical likelihood — there’s a very apparent “Authoritarian Paradox.” Why do autocracies historically fall far below liberal democracies in most political, social, economic and cultural metrics, and often end in spectacular failure?

The most infamous example of authoritarian failure is Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler’s “Triumph of the Will” and vowed thousand-year Reich ended after only twelve. The Nazis, along with their little brother of Mussolini’s Italy, are the quintessential authoritarian case studies: a dictatorship takes control with delusions of grandeur, huffs its own supply of scapegoating propaganda to avoid any responsibility for the problems their decisions and actions create, and then implodes when the lies needed to justify their increasingly brutalist totalitarianism become so great…

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Dash MacIntyre

Comedian, political satirist, and poet. Created The Halfway Post. Check out my comedy book Satire In The Trump Years, and my poetry book Cabaret No Stare.