Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Until recently I thought that the wealthier classes would favor dictatorship and the poor and lower-middle class would favor democracy, but I am considering abandoning that position. This is the new position I am considering.

A ruler with the ability to dispense large sums of money, but can only do so with the consent of the voters, may be more sensitive to the desires of the campaign contributors (most of whom are relatively wealthy) than the lower income citizens. The democratic ruler is thus tethered to the wealthy, whereas in a dictatorship, the wealthy are tethered to the ruler, allowing the dictatorship to respond to those who cannot fund campaigns—something he could not before do.  This is why the poor often desire autocrats, while the wealthier classes espouse the benefits of democracy.

From where did this new position arise? Various instances. In 23 B.C., during severe food shortages Roman citizens pleaded with Augustus to "seize absolute power openly and unambiguously."

"The panic-stricken and angry mob did not trust old-style republican politicians to govern effectively and called for Augustus to be appointed dictator. It besieged the Senate House and threatened to burn it down with the senators inside if they did not vote for the appointment."
Everitt, Anthony.  Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor.  Chapter 15.  Page 194 of paperback.  2007.  Random House.

After the Russian Tsar abdicated in 1917, Russia began installing a modern democracy, mimicking both American and British democratic systems.  Eventually, though, the large class of peasants changed their politics and helped install a man named Vladimir Lenin, who was openly calling for a Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

Moreover, throughout most of Russian history from Peter the Great to the last Tsar, the Russian peasant loved their Tsar, though they hated the nobles to whose land they were tied.  They might rather have a monarchy than a democracy controlled by the nobility.

Americans who espouse giving greater consideration to the working class and poor tend to favor government coercion over voluntary consent.  I'm thinking here of minimum wage and union supporters, and the very poor on welfare and food stamps.

I'm sure there are some examples to the contrary I have not found.  It is just an idea, one that five years ago I would have considered absurd—I no longer do.

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