Posts Tagged ‘democracy and dictatorship’

How to tell when the fascists have come

November 18, 2016

During the past few years, I’ve read a number of definitions of fascism, which have been mostly lists of personality traits or philosophical assumptions or political tendencies.

The problem with these lists is that while they are traits, assumptions and tendencies often found in fascists, they also are commonly found among people who definitely aren’t fascists.

A blogger named Ian Welsh challenged his readers to produce benchmarks that would be definite evidence that fascism has arrived or was about to arrive.

authoritarianism9fd18cThat’s tough!  During the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, we had the executive claiming the authority to (1) arrest enemies of the state without legal process, (2) torture enemies of the state, (3) order the assassination of enemies of the state without legal process, (4) put the entire population under secret surveillance and (5) start wars without approval of the legislative body.

All these things are characteristic of fascist regimes.  All would be powers that a fascist dictator would try to claim.

But I can’t really see the Bush and Obama administrations as fascist in the same way that, say, Chile under Pinochet was fascist.

Racism, misogyny, religious intolerance and extreme nationalism are characteristic of fascist governments, but not all racists, misogynists, religious bigots or nationalists are fascists.

For what it’s worth, here is my list of defining characteristics of fascism:

  • Deification of a leader.
  • A requirement to pay lip service to a ruling ideology.
  • Arrests of opponents of the government on trumped-up charges or no charges at all.
  • Fear of making criticisms of the government.
  • Arbitrary power and lack of due process of law.
  • Lynchings and pogroms.
  • Death squads.
  • Concentration camps.

The problem with making such a list is that the mere absence of death squads and concentration camps can be taken as evidence that the United States or any other country is a free country.

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Many Americans open to a U.S. military coup

September 16, 2015

A poll by YouGov, a private polling organization, indicates that, if push came to shove, a sizeable minority of Americans, including a plurality of Republicans, would support a military coup in the United States.

military1-1.

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Singapore: Lee Kuan Yew’s authoritarian utopia

March 30, 2015
Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)

Lee Kuan Yew, who died last Monday, was one of the world’s most successful rulers.  I am uneasy about his success because it was based on rejection of  American-type ideas of democracy and individual freedom.

Under Lee’s 50 years of formal and informal rule, Singapore went from being a Third World backwater with no natural resources to a gleaming technopolis and the world’s third major financial hub after London and New York. GDP per capita increased by several orders of magnitude.

It refuted the modern idea, or rather dogma, that democracy and individual liberties are indispensable components of economic modernization.

A clever foreign policy enabled great relations with both the US and China. Visible corruption is all but non-existent; the story might be apocryphal, but apparently Lee once even went as far as allowing the execution of a friend for stealing from the state.

via The Unz Review.

Lee was a proponent of so-called “Asian values” of hierarchy, obedience and discipline, which I don’t think of as being uniquely Asian.  They could just as easily be called Prussian values.

When I was younger, I thought American ideals were validated by the fact that, in the USA, the common people had a better life than they did almost anywhere else, and that things worked better than they did almost anywhere else.  Now, as I look at the dysfunctional American government and predatory American corporations, I have to wonder.

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The global rise of Putinism

December 16, 2014

What do the following leaders have in common?

  • Vladimir Putin of Russia.
  • Xi Jinping of China.
  • Narendra Modi of India.
  • Shinzo Abe of Japan.
  • Recep Tayyip Erodogan of Turkey.
  • Viktor Orban of Hungary.

Putin-ModiThey all reject the ideals of democracy and human rights as historically understood in the United States, Great Britain and France, and instead embrace authoritarianism, nationalism, state capitalism and religious and social conservatism.  For want of a better name, call the new ideology Putinism.

Other names arguably could be added to this list.  Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, like Putin and Modi, is an ethnic and religious nationalist who turns a deaf ear to advocates of universal human rights.

I wouldn’t say any of these people are movements are exactly the same as Hitler, but neither to I think it is a coincidence that Nazi symbols keep popping up in unlikely places, because the Nazis are the polar opposite of liberal and democratic values.

The Taliban, al Qaeda ISIS and other radical Salafists represent a different kind of anti-democratic backlash.  They’re not Putinists.  They hate Putin, Xi, Modi and Erdogan.  They aren’t nationalists.  Their leaders don’t care whether you’re an Arab, a Afghan, a Chechen, a Uighur, a Somali or even a European, so long as you accept their religious dogma and hate people of different religions.

I think we Americans and others should resist the temptation to take sides in quarrels among freedom’s enemies.  The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

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How did Washington lose touch with reality?

December 10, 2014

When I was younger, I thought the great competitive advantage that democracy had over dictatorship was the reality check.

An absolute dictator such as Stalin did not have listen to what he does not want to hear—such as, for example, that his ally Hitler is planning to attack him.

Leaders of a democracy, so I thought, were saved from disconnect with reality by a loyal opposition forcing them to justify their actions, and by the fact of being accountable to the voters every so often for the state of affairs.

How is it, then, that the leaders of the United States have become so committed to a foreign policy that manifestly does not work?

Dmitry Orlov

Dmitry Orlov

Dmitry Orlov, on his ClubOrlov web log, listed all the ways in that American foreign interventions during the past 15 years have led to the opposite result from what was desired.

With his usual sarcastic wit, he said the USA has added Defeat Is Victory to George Orwell’s War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery and Ignorance Is Strength.

The elder George H.W. Bush, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, stated that the United States would use its unchallenged power to create a “new world order”.  But everywhere that the United States has intervened, the result has been death, destruction and arenas of lawless violence in which terrorism can thrive.

Albert Einstein allegedly said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.  Why do policy-makers in Washington keep doing the same thing and expect different results?

One minor reason is the “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone” mentality.  Too many people in government fail to look beyond their own personal careers and the next term of office.

Another is the drift away from the idea that American patriotism is loyalty to the Constitution rather than loyalty to the government.

Yet another is the unquestioned assumption that cruelty and ruthlessness are inherently more realistic than obedience to law and to codes of honor.

The most important reason, I think, is that the United States of America is too rich and powerful for our own good.

Wealth and power shield you from the consequences of your actions—up to a point.  If you’re rich enough or powerful enough, you can do stupid and morally wrong things and get away with them—up to a point.

Power not only corrupts.  It makes you stupid.  But no person and no nation, no matter how rich and powerful, can escape the consequences of stupidity forever.