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Severinian

Heirs to dictatorships

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I originally posted this as a question to Leonard Peikoff for his podcast, but he never got to it before his podcast ended. I want to know what you think.

What if someone with the moral character of John Galt was the heir to a dictatorship? What would he do? Would he just leave the country, or would he take the position as dictator and try to subtly govern the country towards a more Western society, or at least prevent it from getting even worse? 

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1 He would not engage in "dictating" to or ruling anyone

2 He would prevent anyone else from becoming a dictator (ie a glorified criminal)

3 He could ask the best lawyers and politicians to help set up a constitutional republic which protects individual rights.

4 By referendum he could ask the people to accept minimal government for instituting the constitutional republic.

If at any point he judged it not in his own self interest to continue he would cease the excercise and escape the country.

If a proper government were put in place he would live his life doing what he wanted to do and perhaps serve as advisor when needed.

IMHO

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

1 He would not engage in "dictating" to or ruling anyone

2 He would prevent anyone else from becoming a dictator (ie a glorified criminal)

3 He could ask the best lawyers and politicians to help set up a constitutional republic which protects individual rights.

4 By referendum he could ask the people to accept minimal government for instituting the constitutional republic.

If at any point he judged it not in his own self interest to continue he would cease the excercise and escape the country.

If a proper government were put in place he would live his life doing what he wanted to do and perhaps serve as advisor when needed.

IMHO

Of course by "serve" as an advisor I mean "volunteer" so long as it serves his self interest.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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5 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

1 He would not engage in "dictating" to or ruling anyone

2 He would prevent anyone else from becoming a dictator (ie a glorified criminal)

3 He could ask the best lawyers and politicians to help set up a constitutional republic which protects individual rights.

4 By referendum he could ask the people to accept minimal government for instituting the constitutional republic.

If at any point he judged it not in his own self interest to continue he would cease the excercise and escape the country.

If a proper government were put in place he would live his life doing what he wanted to do and perhaps serve as advisor when needed.

IMHO

 

He would be assassinated or overthrown immediately for this. Dictators never rule alone. There's always a powerful oligarchy lurking in the background.

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52 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

He would be assassinated or overthrown immediately for this. Dictators never rule alone. There's always a powerful oligarchy lurking in the background.

There's a great deal of truth to this. Being born into a dictatorship poses a bit of conundrum for everyone under its influence, from the highest to the lowest. Generally, dictatorships lack the institutions of justice and liberty of which we in Western nations take for granted. Corruption is often the norm, institutionalized from the highest to the lowest. Vendettas are common. Machiavellian politics would likely result in usurpers overthrowing any leader appearing weak and sympathetic to liberal reforms. Stability is the primary objective for any nation with a history of violent factional or tribal conflict.

What to do if one were an enlightened man born to rule such a nation? If it were me, I would do everything possible to secure my own preservation. A loyal ally among the security forces, one willing to accept the ideological changes, would be absolutely necessary. And it wouldn't hurt to have a backup plan for living in exile.

2. As an sort of philosopher-king, I would need to do a great deal of philosophizing in the language of both the higher and lower economic classes. Routine public addresses would be more effective than one three hour long "I am John Galt" speech, public addresses that relate to conditions specific to the nation. I would also need to allow the freedom for public rebuttal.

3. I would begin with a drastic reform of stripping the oligarchs of their monopolistic powers to privatization. I would need to know just how backward this hypothetical nation is in order to know how to proceed. Perhaps the nation has industrial capability, maybe better than any other nation. If so, it would be easier to liberalize institutions. If it were a nation of primitive savages, the process of allowing market forces to "do their magic" would be hindered by the fact that there would be very little wealth to take to market. Privatization brings enemies from all levels. Many Brits from the coal miners union have never forgiven Margret Thatcher.

4. The most difficult task of transitioning from absolute rule to rule of law is to institutionalize reason, purpose, and self-esteem. It would take generations of educational reform to reverse the effects of a church or state monopolized school system, and it would be made clear that that school system would not be public forever. On this point, there will be the old and unreconstructed who will always tell their children and grandchildren how much better it was under the old regime. I wouldn't expect my "revolution" to be successful beyond my life, but if my works and words survive me in the memories of others, it could be the genesis of something to come. I might be "air-brushed" out of my nation's history books, but I would die satisfied knowing I tried.

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13 hours ago, Severinian said:

What if someone with the moral character of John Galt was the heir to a dictatorship? What would he do? Would he just leave the country, or would he take the position as dictator and try to subtly govern the country towards a more Western society, or at least prevent it from getting even worse? 

Try looking into the history of the 18th century monarchs who were influenced by the Enlightenment.  Joseph II of Austria is a prime example.  With the stroke of a pen he freed the serfs and gave Jews equal rights.  There was a backlash, and he ended up writing his own epitaph: Here lies Joseph II, who failed in all he undertook.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_II,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

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22 hours ago, Repairman said:

Machiavellian politics would likely result in usurpers overthrowing any leader appearing weak and sympathetic to liberal reforms. Stability is the primary objective for any nation with a history of violent factional or tribal conflict.

I read The Prince a few months ago, and I'd say it shows how one would navigate when and if they become a prince. It doesn't exactly propose how a prince -should- behave, it's more so how a prince can maintain his existence within a republic and not get pushed around by people around you. There's a degree of irony in the book, but it still has a lot to say about staying in control as opposed to anyone else.

In this dictator-as-heir scenario, we can presume having some position of respect, or else no one would allow it (most dictatorships don't seem to have heirs). We'd also recognize that leaving when you have some sway over others, would lead to a worse situation for yourself even. Given how bad people would be all around, the only real option is to use Machiavellian tactics. The only issue I see is how long it'd be worth hiding your true intentions of taking a country to liberty. It's harder still when some citizens would truly prefer a dictator.

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5 hours ago, Eiuol said:

most dictatorships don't seem to have heirs

And yet it happens frequently. The dictators of the Age of Antiquity and Middle Ages were mostly followed by an heir. In modern times, Fidel Castro successfully transferred power to his brother, Hafez Al-Assad's son rules; Napoleon, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak were not so successful at establishing dynastic powers, although it was their intent. Quasi-monarchical traditions are quire common among tyrants.

 

5 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I read The Prince a few months ago, and I'd say it shows how one would navigate when and if they become a prince.

 

Yeah, I read The Prince a few years ago. Is this a thread about Niccolo Machiavelli?

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16 minutes ago, Repairman said:

Yeah, I read The Prince a few years ago. Is this a thread about Niccolo Machiavelli?

It's about the same thing as The Prince. You brought it up by talking about Machiavellian politics. :) It's meant to help deal with exactly these situations.

16 minutes ago, Repairman said:

The dictators of the Age of Antiquity and Middle Ages were mostly followed by an heir.

Oh, I was thinking of dictators as those who take absolute individual control as an absolute authority. Those who use violent means of asserting authority, so Napolean wouldn't be one. But I agree if you mean any cult of personality in political regimes, I agree. As long as the heir believes in the same ideas.

Edited by Eiuol

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42 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Oh, I was thinking of dictators as those who take absolute individual control as an absolute authority. Those who use violent means of asserting authority, so Napolean wouldn't be one. But I agree if you mean any cult of personality in political regimes, I agree. As long as the heir believes in the same ideas.

Well, if you consider waging war over three continents "non-violent", we may have very different standards of semantics. But enough about Napoleon or Lorenzo Medici, I understood this to be a thread about a hypothetical heir of a hypothetical dictatorship. More specifically, an heir that more than likely does not share the same ideas as his predecessor(s). The application of some degree of ruthlessness and guile would be necessary as means of survival for such "prince." Call it what you like.

Inasmuch as we have not outlined any specifics of this dictatorship scenario, there are only a few generalizations that apply. 1) Power is concentrated at the top, perhaps shared by a few other elements, but not necessarily so. 2) We could assume that the common masses have been treated as children, or subjects to their sovereign leader, perhaps cowered into submission, but not necessarily so. Herein lies the complexity: How to transition power from absolutism to rule of proper law, when so many powerful and corrupt elements would take advantage the situation. And the people kept ignorant for generations would have no idea as to how to conduct their lives as free man and women. It would make a Shakespearean epic, but having only read a little Shakespeare, I suppose I may prepare for a correction for my use of the term. Or it could be a very short story of abdication, the prince preferring to go fishing in a friendly country, rather than risk his neck. But I would like to think that someone with the genius and sense of purpose as John Galt would figure out a way to lead his people out of darkness, and establish the necessary institutes for a free-market economy and an intellectually free people. Call me an incurable but cautious optimist.

I appreciate StrictlyLogical's ideals, but we are talking about a dictatorship after all.

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1 hour ago, Repairman said:

Well, if you consider waging war over three continents "non-violent", we may have very different standards of semantics.

I should've said to his own citizens and all sorts of practices of violence. But it's not a huge line away from invasion and conquest. Anyway, going more on topic, I don't think being an heir is not something you'll get unless you already lip service to the regime/family. Heirs (if it's by blood or by "merit") are also uniquely able to alter the political situation. So, that veil of deception is critical if the country is worth saving - at which point Machiavelli has a lot to say.

I think it actually might be best to focus on the high-end people, the real threats. How would you get them out of the government? My thinking is that the best course of action is to be there long enough to institute an unsustainable law to destabilize the government on purpose. Something easy and acute, then get the hell out of there - join a rebel group perhaps. How long it's worth staying in the dictator position depends on the size of the nation, the spread of corruption, and how long the nation has been that way.

 

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6 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I think it actually might be best to focus on the high-end people, the real threats. How would you get them out of the government? My thinking is that the best course of action is to be there long enough to institute an unsustainable law to destabilize the government on purpose. Something easy and acute, then get the hell out of there - join a rebel group perhaps. How long it's worth staying in the dictator position depends on the size of the nation, the spread of corruption, and how long the nation has been that way.

Indeed, our hypothetical philosopher-king would never enjoy the luxury of taking both eyes off of his potential enemies. If we're talking about someone with the "moral character of John Galt," intentionally destabilizing your own nation to the breaking point, resulting in factions of rebel groups, would seem a bit out of moral character. Wars of any sort are messy. The end results seldom turn out as planned. The use of force would be restricted only to the just cause of self-preservation. Sending people to fight for or against causes they don't understand would make him no different than the old guard.

Here, I'd like to take the liberty of creating a convenient identity for the reluctant ruler, that is, our hypothetical John Galt-like-dictator-philosopher-king does not intend to be a dictator nor a king; so may I refer to him as X-Prince? It's easier to use.

6 hours ago, Eiuol said:

 I don't think being an heir is not something you'll get unless you already lip service to the regime/family. Heirs (if it's by blood or by "merit") are also uniquely able to alter the political situation. So, that veil of deception is critical if the country is worth saving - at which point Machiavelli has a lot to say.

Broadcasting the truth to the people would be essential. If X-Prince's means are deception, the ends will be that of a nation that regards deception as a legitimate means to they own greedy ends. When people have survived by living lies and sneaking about, they don't abandon their ways in a single generation. The lives of such people are well-documented throughout history. No one said it would be easy, but being honest to the people is critical to the nation's sustainability. Perhaps you're talking about concealing the intentions of reform until X-Prince holds the power to make his reforms. If that is the case, he would be rather tight-lipped until the day after his coronation. Having absolute power by law would allow him to change the law by legal right. But systemic justice can't be instituted in a single generation. In fact, it may never come, but the task of free people is to try to establish justice, or deliver it as close as possible. If people have never had justice defined to them, you can be certain it will never arrive. Indeed, our Objectivist X-Prince would need to be extremely careful, balancing both Machiavellian and Randian philosophies. No one said it would be easy.

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9 hours ago, Repairman said:

hypothetical John Galt-like-dictator-philosopher-king does not intend to be a dictator nor a king

I was speaking of the same thing.

18 hours ago, Repairman said:

Inasmuch as we have not outlined any specifics of this dictatorship scenario, there are only a few generalizations that apply.

I'd say let's add some specifics. Suppose Hitler had an heir and Nazis won WW2 (this would be similar to the show Man in the High Castle). His son was a good Nazi, really adopting the mindset. Gaining the trust of high ranking Nazis. But, having been so "deep" into it all, he honestly changes his mind on a lot, yet doesn't show his change of heart. Then Hitler dies, then people are excited for the new Fuhrer.

(This sets the context of a massive empire, or world-wide regime.)

Using that...

10 hours ago, Repairman said:

If we're talking about someone with the "moral character of John Galt," intentionally destabilizing your own nation to the breaking point, resulting in factions of rebel groups, would seem a bit out of moral character. Wars of any sort are messy.

In this case, I disagree. If I were this heir, starting war would revolve around provoking in-fighting such that rebel groups would be able to take advantage. We'd want destabilization to the degree great empires only fall apart if the empire loses stability. Then it would fragment as Rome did. A war would help that process, at least to create a quagmire that hinders the empire. (Similar to Cold War tactics by both Soviets and Americans). For smaller nations, let's say Argentina in the 70s, I would not advise this tactic.

10 hours ago, Repairman said:

Broadcasting the truth to the people would be essential.

Good point. I need to think more on this point.

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Eiuol,

Please consider that this hypothetical situation began with three distinct options:

On 7/6/2017 at 5:26 AM, Severinian said:

(1) Would he just leave the country, or (2) would he take the position as dictator and try to subtly govern the country towards a more Western society, or (3) at least prevent it from getting even worse? 

If X-Prince were Hitler's son, option three may be the best choice. National-Socialism was deeply ingrained in the minds of the German people, and socialism remains to this day.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Suppose Hitler had an heir and Nazis won WW2...

In this case, I disagree. If I were this heir, starting war would revolve around provoking in-fighting such that rebel groups would be able to take advantage. We'd want destabilization to the degree great empires only fall apart if the empire loses stability. Then it would fragment as Rome did. A war would help that process, at least to create a quagmire that hinders the empire. (Similar to Cold War tactics by both Soviets and Americans). For smaller nations, let's say Argentina in the 70s, I would not advise this tactic.

Empires destabilize for reasons other than civil war. Economic crisis often precedes the gradual decline and fall of empires, even massive empires. Had the Third Reich succeeded, I believe the global economy would have struggled with a severe depression resulting from trade restrictions with Europe. The prospects of the Third Reich collapsing within 100 of its proposed 1000 years would have been very high, just as the Bolshevik state crumbled from a weak economy and immoral foundation. But let's go with your scenario. If all that X-Prince could do is to set into motion a civil war within Nazi Germany/Europe, there would be no certain outcome; the chaos could last indefinitely. There would be absolutely no guarantee that any single group, rebel or otherwise, would take the advantage. Our enlightened X-Prince may leave his once-mighty empire a mere rump of its former glory, but the legend of empire lives on. In the aftermath, the prospect of prolonged misery would far outweigh the prospects of an enlightened and prosperous nation emerging. Germany's external enemies would certainly conquer it much more easily than they did in 1944-45. Or it could be left to collapse internally, without an external invasion, as was the case of the fall of the Soviet empire in 1991. With no external invasion, no alternative ideology would displace the traditional beliefs. X-Prince would be branded as a traitor. In a similar fashion, Germany was left to sort out its mess in 1919, they branded the liberal politicians as traitors; the results were not very good. Without the good fortune of an outside nation of more sound ideology occupying the former-Third Reich, West Germany would likely never have risen above the standard of the Wiemar Republic. Likewise, the former Soviet Union languished in chaos for nearly a decade before its ubermensch arose from the ranks of the KGB. Anarchy is not a very good prerequisite for good government in any situation; it is perfectly reasonable, even desirable to expect a strongman-dictator to rise from the ashes.

Nazi attitudes would survive with or without an empire. If X-Prince could not turn public attitudes from racism, altruism, collectivism, and mysticism, the generational cycle of preparing for a return to empire would be every bit as likely as Vladimir Putin "making Russia great, again." While ideology is not exactly the same as religion, for an unreconstructed-former empire, nationalism and militarism would endure with the tenacity of an ancient and sacred belief. Assuming that X-Prince wishes to remake his nation in the form of an enlightened, prosperous, and self-sustaining state, he would need to address the ignorance, irrationality, and evasive attitudes of his citizens. (Incidentally, many historians and some Germans I've met hold to the notion that the Third Reich may have been more successful had it not been that many of its military leaders intentionally undermined the Nazi mission, after they realized the dishonorable character of Der Fuhrer, and his murderous plans. This melds with your scenario somewhat.) In a nation that has always relied on strong leadership, the character of the new-style leader must be unimpeachable.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of educating the descendants surviving former dictatorships, fictional or real. Beginning with a direct and honest assault on the worst characteristics of the dysfunctional society, one can only hope that the new (Objectivist) ideas would bear long-term results, in spite of the lessons of history to the contrary. If I may digress slightly: Look at how long it took to reconstruct the norms of the Southern Confederacy, and you'll still occasionally hear echoes of the past. "Ole times there are not forgotten." We are witnessing the echoes of Nazism in the streets of Germany even today, this after years of peace and pacifism. I am not by any means advocating a brainwashing program. I am advocating awareness of the irrational ideas that result in irrational violence even within our own borders. In our not-so-hypothetical society, we will not see the appearance of a hereditary dictatorship, (not likely.) But in the event that we continue to falter from the effects of a politically controlled economy and a lack of rational philosophy, on one dark day, future generations of Americans may find themselves desperate for one. 
 

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