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Forum Post: Why is authoritarianism both bad & popular?

Posted 2 years ago on April 17, 2012, 11:39 p.m. EST by francismjenkins (3713)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

First, why is it popular? This is a much easier question to answer than might meet the eye. When Rudy Giuliani took office in NYC back in the day, the city was by all accounts a cesspool of crime. He hired more police, adopted a "broken windows" strategy (arresting people for petty crimes), etc., and this did effectively reduce crime. So it's very easy to see why authoritarianism is popular. So the question is, why is it bad?

In theory, if we became a totalitarian society, we could probably reduce crime to somewhere near zero. In other words, given enough police, enough prisons, harsh enough tactics in dealing with crime, etc., the state can effectively reduce crime.

Most people will scorn the idea that we're an authoritarian society, but really authoritarianism can sort of sneak up on a society (and it is sneaking up on our society). Some people might argue with my assessment of Giuliani's track record when it comes to reducing crime (or at least the underlying reasoning). They'll point to demographic trends, but in truth studies have shown that his tactics were effective (it's very easy to account for demographics in a statistical study).

However, the most profound reason why authoritarianism is bad (I think), is because all it does is mask decay. In fact, it can mask it so well that we could go on for decades under the mistaken belief that everything is just fine. But then we wake up one day and discover that replacing education with prison cells has real consequences. Suddenly, we're a society that lacks the intellectual acumen to compete. All of our trading partners, who at one time were buried under the rubble of WWII, are now advanced societies with remarkably well educated people. We took our status for granted, we tossed our problems in a closet, or more aptly, a prison cell (and pretended they didn't exist), and so here we are (in a very unenviable situation).

Given this, the merits of participatory democracy should be obvious. When everyone is talking to each other, deliberating about problems, trying to imagine new solutions to very challenging circumstances, we become transparent, our problems unmasked, and we peel back the layers of obfuscation we've piled on top of our society. But this does (in my view) require a more sophisticated outlook. Most people default to a very crude analysis of cause and effect.

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6 Comments


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[-] 1 points by trashyharry (788) from Waterville, NY 2 years ago

The plunge in crime during the Giuliani years happened at the same time as violence dropped off precipitously elsewhere in the country.That was shortly after the composition of the gasoline sold in the US was changed and unleaded fuel began to be used.Other countries who changed to unleaded fuel experienced a similar change in the incidence of violence.People like Giuliani were given credit for reducing violence by promoting the Police State,but violence by police always goes up.

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

Funny, the US switched from leaded to unleaded gas in the 1970's, yet Giuliani was mayor of NYC between 1994 and 2001.

[-] 1 points by shooz (26729) 2 years ago

Quit messin' up a perfectly good conspiracy theory.......:)

I'm thinkin' it took that long for Bigfoot to soak up the lead lingering in the ecosphere.

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

lmao ... don't forget about Big Foot's buddy, the Loch Ness monster :)

[-] 1 points by shooz (26729) 2 years ago

There have been reports in the New York Post, about Nessie sightings in the East River............

Or was that the Weekly World News?

[-] 1 points by FriendlyObserverB (1871) 2 years ago

"All of our trading partners, who at one time were buried under the rubble of WWII, are now advanced societies with remarkably well educated people. "

This statement gives me thought.

What if during the great years .. the 50's and 60's , when everyone is pointing to high taxes and how well the economy was doing .. but no one is considering the fact europe was bombed out and as you say "a pile of rubble" . surely this had an effect on the international economy ?

As for crime .. Totalitarian rule hurts a lot of innocentpeople IMHO.

an economy with plenty of opportunity will reduce the petty crime. The white collar stuff is another problem ?