The following guest-essay by Brad Lena was written more than a decade ago, but seems remarkably apropos for the dystopian time we live in — especially the chapter entitled “Scientists like money, too”.
Despotism Made Easy
A Self-Help Guide for the Aspiring Tyrant
by Brad Lena
Copyright © 2010
Modern political visionaries, whether they are global healers or regional thugs, are reformers in a hurry. In their mad dash to perfect the human condition, they tend to overlook issues critical to their careers and longevity. By contrast, an ascendant visionary with a solid grounding in the fundamentals of despotism can extend his legacy for months or even years before being deposed or assassinated.
The reader will find this guide’s carefully selected recommendations equally applicable to run-of-the-mill oligarchies, utopian fantasies, or fascist dictatorships. “Despotism Made Easy” helps pave the way — from the first usurpations all the way to palatial exile. Each topic gets right to the point, enabling a busy reformer with only a few minutes of free time to browse a topic for guidance before working over the financial sector.
I. Job No. 1: Disarm the people
Nothing puts a damper on a reformer’s day like a populace that will not embrace utopia. Of course, once dissenting voices are muzzled, the objections become more like white noise — an irritant but tolerable. But — and this is an important but” — an armed citizenry can really play havoc with your agenda and legacy. Perhaps most disheartening to the reformer is the realization that armed resistance signifies that the people might not totally appreciate all that you’re trying to do for them.
History teaches us that radically altering the social, political, and economic order without first disarming the populace is untidy and risky. Most citizens, given enough incentive, will get with the program. But why chance it? An accelerating program of firearm restriction, registration, taxation, and confiscation will do much to ensure a smooth transition to a new era of social justice, equity, fraternity, and solidarity.
As you’re disarming the populace, it is important that you do not disarm your own people. Easily enough said, but in the hustle and bustle of reform, mix-ups can and do occur. Consider dressing your supporters in colorful uniforms with shiny boots and distinctive armbands. This will avoid confusion as well as foster a sense of unity among those who understand your reforms.
What if the armed forces of the government are staffed by volunteers? The short answer is to co-opt them through economic and medical enticements, which become dramatically more valuable as reform progresses. The real solution takes time. Establish youth schools and get them while they’re young— very young. To make certain that the rising generation thinks the way you do about the relationship between the citizens and the state, you must make their former frame of reference disappear. This is best achieved through indoctrination disguised as education.
Patience is key. Do not be one of those know-it-alls who bets the farm on getting everything corrected all at once. That will only raise expectations among the people. A sullen and lethargic population is the friend of reform.
II. The trains actually do have to run on time
You’d be surprised how many aspiring reformers overlook the fact that, after the soaring rhetoric has faded, the public expects some level of competence in government. Uncorrected, this easy-to-miss oversight can awaken the people from their sleepwalk to servitude. Make no mistake: If Mussolini hadn’t made the trains run on time as promised, the Italians would have shot him much sooner. Fortunately, people in the modern era are much less discerning. The mere perception of competence satisfies them almost as much as the real thing.
Reformers, as we all know, are busy people and the issue of competence may be an academic exercise rather than one derived from actual experience. This potential problem can be worsened when your prescriptions for reform include everything under the sun. Granted, a populace with an irrational sense of entitlement will encourage the chosen one to solve everything, but don’t be fooled by this pandering to omnipotence. At this stage, your job is to ensure they think things are improving — even if it’s only v i a smoke and mirrors.
For example, if the economy is going to hell in a hand basket, toss them some bones — s u c h as expanding their entitlement to the money of the producing segment of the populace. Or print some more money (but make certain you warn your friends in the financial sector before doing so).
These tried-and-true practices will mollify the nonproductive and envious segments while freeing you to bring more of the economy under your direct control.
Also, do not to throw too many of your trusted associates under the bus too early in the game. They have to be trotted out from time to time as living proof that you’re employing the best and the brightest to tackle the problems caused by others. If there are issues of compliance and legality, just rely on their arrogance and contempt for the rule of law to get you through pesky tight spots.
Don’t worry if you haven’t followed through on any of your previous promises or programs. Just keep promising new solutions to other problems or invent problems to which you can offer solutions. The general idea is to keep the improvements and social justice coming. If you do, they’ll never see it coming.
III. Subvert the language: The rest is easy
Words that have a specific meaning are not reform-friendly. A specific meaning can lead to benchmarks in which an action or concept is assessed for its connection to reality or productivity. Real reformers know that the real action resides in the process, not in the results. Words that have a universally accepted meaning enable the public to make determinations that are independent of the reformer’s vision. Worse yet, they can foreshadow the emergence of unauthorized solutions. Don’t allow your reforms to be compromised by viable alternatives.
The name of the game is to replace the national dialogue with incoherence. Once you establish conflict between the former meaning of a word and the new and improved meaning, it’s a relatively short step to subverting the rule of law. A people unable to agree on the meaning of words cannot offer unified resistance.
Replacing the existing meaning of a word with a definition subservient to your reform objectives takes time. Fortunately, there are ready, able and willing allies.
The greatest helpers are those in the education and media cartels. Their ability to shape the public mindset, as well as their willingness to be co— opted into the reform agenda, ensures a steady erosion of language as a societal bond.
It is important to provide these allies with appropriate levels of financial and regulatory support. Also, utilize their sense of moral superiority by parroting everything they say and value. This way, they will think you are one of them and cooperate fully. Eventually, you won’t need them and that will be that, but in the meantime they are useful and malleable.
Remember, commonly shared values and understanding are not conducive to reform. A collective memory of the former relationship between the rulers and the ruled can foment questions that are better left unasked. These impediments can be overcome, but they can be a drain on coercive and financial resources that will undoubtedly be needed when push comes to shove.
IV. Funny money: Make sure you’re the one laughing
Imposing monetary policies that erode financial and societal underpinnings is a surefire way to get everybody’s attention. Initially, they simply create uncertainty, but with continued reform, it becomes full-blown public panic. Those who can add and subtract in the various industrial and financial segments soon figure out the end game and get with the program rather enthusiastically.
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