|By Alan Hall | Excerpted from the April and May 2010 Socionomist
Originally published under the title, “Authoritarianism: The Wave Principle Governs Fear and The Social Desire to Submit.”
In this, our most-read article, socionomist Alan Hall explains that negative mood engenders strong authoritarian and anti-authoritarian impulses. He details what to expect in this regard during deepening negative mood, including heated battles between increasingly polarized proponents of liberty and control. The following excerpt from the April / May 2010 article showcases some of the insights.
Bear Markets Encourage Authoritarianism
Figure 2 shows that over the past 300 years, major bear markets hosted most of the notable examples of authoritarianism. There are incidents of authoritarianism in bull markets, but they are fewer and smaller. Our Authoritarian Survey chart plots the Dow against the appearance and activities of such tyrants as Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Ze Dong, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein.
… Resurging Authoritarianism Today
Another bear market began in 2000, and authoritarianism is waxing along with it. … Both Russia and China have histories of extreme authoritarianism, and both countries are now attempting to recast democracy as a blend of free markets and authoritarian politics. British historian Timothy Garton Ash calls authoritarian capitalism “the biggest potential ideological competitor to liberal democratic capitalism since the end of communism.” A June 2009 Foreign Policy Magazine article, “Authoritarianism’s New Wave,” describes the countries’ impressive new global media tactics:
Today’s authoritarian regimes are undermining democracy in updated, sophisticated, and lavishly funded ways … . The Kremlin has launched Russia Today, a multimillion-dollar television venture … . Beijing has reportedly set aside at least $6 billion for these media expansion efforts.11
…The Authoritarian Progression
Based on the evolution of authoritarian regimes in the past and what we observe in society today, it is logical to expect the progression from social fear to authoritarianism to unfold in roughly the following fashion:
A general bearish fear of the future causes people to coalesce into groups with polarized views on the authoritarian/anti-authoritarian issue. These disparate groups exclude all messages that contradict their opinions. … Leaders encourage their groups to see other groups as threats; actions escalate in a quid pro quo.
As society’s consensus diffuses into fearful discord, authoritarianism gains footholds. The majority of people see each authoritarian step as merely temporary, necessary inconveniences—small freedoms traded for promises of safety. As fear increases, society makes ever-larger concessions. If a negative trend in social mood is large enough, blatantly authoritarian leaders emerge and promise security. They attract support as well as strident opposition. In most cases, we can’t say which side will ultimately prevail. …
Here are several specific forecasts and examples that typify the authoritarian trend generated by the deepening bear in mood:
Governments will shut down sections of the Internet
A government that feels threatened by its citizens usually clamps down on the information flow. This makes the Internet a prime authoritarian/anti-authoritarian battleground. In November 2009, the Italian Interior Ministry requested that Google, owner of YouTube, remove a video showing high-school boys in Turin, Italy, taunting a boy with a mental disability. Google complied rapidly, but on February 24, 2010, Italy convicted three of the company’s executives for violating Italy’s privacy laws. The judgment “could have sweeping implications worldwide for Internet freedom” by setting a new precedent for regulation and control of the Internet, according to The New York Times.
… Reliance on indebted governments will become a flashpoint in the authoritarian debate
Americans’ reliance on government is at an all-time high, according to The Washington Times (March 2): “For the first time since the Great Depression, Americans took more aid from the government than they paid in taxes.” The extreme optimism of a Grand Supercycle peak in social mood generated huge, unsustainable government spending in many countries. That debt is fueling anger as the bear market progresses. Many citizens already feel dependent on the government and vulnerable to its every decision. Such social stresses will impel both authoritarian policies and opposition to them.
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