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Staluigi
Jun 22, 2021

thermodynamics cheated

There was a video by cgpgrey, this guy who tries to make wonky infographics-as-videos style narration about complex themes with little comic stickmen, and i first came across him from watching videos that helped make lord of the rings make any sense to me by defining it as "an ecosystem undergoing rapid and turbulent change because of the existing ecology being starved as magic slowly extinguishes from the universe"

He produced this other video which was called "Rules for Rulers" and its the sort of thing that people like me like to mock as being absurdly reductionist and painting with wide brushes about things which are doubtlessly, in application, Far More Complicated, but the video does kind of work as a sort of thought experiment in new ways to experiment with envisioning the structures of power and why they create habits and tendencies in higher office or dictatorial regimes.

In it there was one salient point about why most of the stable dictatorships in the world are that way because the majority of the wealth and prosperity that the dictator must maintain control of is something like goldmines or oilfields, anything which can be controlled for wealth generation by the dictator with the vast majority of the populace being otherwise irrelevant to it. In these dictatorships there's really no compelling desire to modernize society or infrastructure. There's usually actually even an incentive to prevent modernization because change is fairly bad for autocracies in general and it's usually better for them to keep large portions of the population without any credible hold on power or higher education anyway. You're more inclined to engage in total information control (or as much as you can manage) through state media, the enforcement of various social or religious structures which solidify nationalist adhesion and ideologically excuses authoritarian rule, and loving up anything which risks everything carrying on as usual.

Also, the followup act for serious dictatorships really loves to be either whichever brutally-minded connivers have ruthlessly sniped the transition of power from succeeding at the increasingly disconnected court intrigues of the high corridors of power or ... it just becomes a hereditary monarchy and the next dictator is just your son, Dictator Junior. The first dictator in the line is usually in power because they were the ones who solidified power, Dictator Junior ascends to the throne for virtue of being someone's son. As this process continues in either dimension (Court Intrigue or Born With The Right Sperm, but especially the latter) you end up with rulers who are less and less likely to be in any way inclined towards the greater progress or prosperity of the people and more inclined in More For Me, This Is All Mine.

This is why something like saudi arabia is like the perfect model for late stage modern dictatorship, with every subsequent ruling king growing up in worlds of supremely weird, disconnected privilege and absolutely mindbreaking indolence and being less productive against inequality, less competent or even interested in working against corruption, and less compatible with change overall, and that'll probably just carry on until the oil wells basically pass a threshold of profitable extraction, and then the whole mess will collapse.

i do try to remember that thinking about this sort of thing involves that we're pretty much supposing a lot about what things 'modernize' a population away from social conservatism or what 'progress' actually is in this regard and how much of it is subjective, but i usually substitute pretty basic progressive concepts involving egalitarian personal freedoms from prosecution and assessable minimums of concern for welfare and justice, stuff like i don't loving die the second it is publicly found out i'm not heterosexual, my mom doesn't get publicly caned half to death for violating some policy on wearing properly chaste clothing and actually gets to be a lawyer if she wants to, and/or i don't get disappeared because i might have been posting traitorous dissent (or might not have, but the regional flavor of gestapo has to make a quota). Also, these days there's a hell of a lot more complicated and unstudied ways to become a sustainable dictatorship/autocracy, so not all the old models need apply.

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Staluigi
Jun 22, 2021

thermodynamics cheated

good ol' america can still be doing all this clearly hosed up poo poo and still possess a way better floor for minority rights than most dictatorships. it is not surprising that dictatorships are bad but sometimes that point has to be underscored by

1. first discussing that the US is terrible, then

2. not letting people gloss over or do an apologism over the fact that what the dictatorships are doing are way worse along almost any important metric

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