Thugs and Authoritarian Governments

It’s been said that the only thing that thugs and bullies respect is power. That’s not true. They deride power lesser than their own and despise power greater than their own, and the more they find their actions constricted in any way the angrier they get and the more likely they are to take it out on those with less power.

That certainly appears to be true with regard to Vladimir Putin, but what Putin doesn’t seem able to recognize is that the more authoritarian his government is the less likely it, or he, will be able to survive over time.

The strength of authoritarian governments lies in their ability to concentrate and focus power, but the greater the control exerted by the government over the people and the economy, the lower the overall efficiency with which the economy, and usually the government, operates. This is why the old USSR collapsed. Its highly controlled and restricted economy was much less economically efficient than a freer economy and system was and couldn’t support the economic drain of an enormous military establishment. Putin has modernized many aspects of the Russian military machine, and paid for that modernization through a combination of energy exports and what amounts to Ponzi-type financing, at least from what I can tell, but those finances are limited, and taking over, first, Crimea, and now Ukraine offered the possibility of more economic plunder.

While the Russian army is having difficulties as a result of the authoritarian nature of the Putin government, the sheer mass of forces concentrated against Ukraine means that the conflict, if it continues, is likely to decimate both countries. The innovative and creative ways in which the Ukrainians have managed to blunt and sometimes stall the Russian advance will fuel Putin’s anger and desire to win at all costs. The more it becomes clear that Putin cannot win an immediate victory makes an arrogant narcissist like him even more dangerous, both for the Ukrainians and the world.

Yet failing to stop him will likely result in yet another attempt on Putin’s part to recreate a new version of the old USSR.

4 thoughts on “Thugs and Authoritarian Governments”

  1. Censored Far Too Often says:

    The following seems to me to be a much more reasoned take.

    Underlying most “analysis” is the hypocritical rule: when we act, it’s because we truly principled and pure, but when they do things, it’s because they are led by evil madmen.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      All hostile to western capitalists ARE evil madmen (since western capitalism is generally more effective for a given level of misery), not that we haven’t had or won’t have our own issues to be less than proud of.

      But good or bad (even if one can agree on objective definitions of those), while good may have a very long-term advantage, in the shorter term, it doesn’t. Star Trek quote:
      McCoy : “Spock, I’ve found that evil usually triumphs – unless good is very, very careful.”

      1. Censored Far Too Often says:

        Spock-like answer: you’re repeating the US narrative. I don’t buy it. Instead it is undeniable that physics provides hard limits to efficiency.

        Russia has been subsidizing the West’s economic production with cheap energy.

        Now it looks like China will get that subsidy in the future. That means Western industry will be out-competed by cheaper Chinese wages & inputs.

        Since most of Science is now known to everyone, due to our habit of sharing it with everyone, optimizing industrial processes is within the grasp of any nation that can invest sufficiently in research. Out-competing your competitors, even if it’s due to an unfair playing field, gives you the funds to invest into research.

        The only way out for the West is to come up with completely different ways of solving problems than those that have existed so far. E.g.: discovering new Physics. Whether or not that is even possible is an open question. Whether or not the West, with its current emphasis on political correctness instead of STEM can still make such discoveries is also an open question.

        1. R. Hamilton says:

          Political correctness is stupid, although inclusiveness UP TO A POINT widens the pool of possibly qualified people. But one doesn’t want to be inclusive of criminals or certifiable crazies, and at some level of disruptiveness, that stops being speech and starts being at least a public nuisance.

          The US at least could be a net energy exporter if we were willing to allow it. Even if renewables are the objective (an objective that on some time scale makes sense regardless of concerns about climate change, since resources ARE finite), I believe one gets there faster with a robust economy that is less vulnerable to foreign manipulation – in the short term in other words, “drill, baby, drill!” Certainly both the development, manufacture, and deployment (purchasing replacement equipment) of renewables-based tech will cost a LOT; and carbon taxes WILL NOT get us there, but a healthy economy will. ONLY with a healthy economy will more beneficial economic activity be generated by all that manufacturing and replacement; you don’t get there by going madly into debt, nor with taxes. TANSTAAFL; production MUST at LEAST balance consumption (esp. given that some consumption is minimally related to productive activity; between government and other paper-pushing, there’s a LOT of marginally productive (if that) activity that production must also pay for.

          No new physics is required, although in due time doubtless we (or someone) will discover some; every time people ever thought they were close to knowing all there is to know, they were wrong, and frequently proven so within a relatively short time, give or take the Middle Ages when many had their heads so far up their backsides in doing what they were told (or struggling to survive) that new thoughts were nearly anathema. All that’s required is intelligent persistence, and less whining and “political correctness”.

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