The Dummies Guide to Autocracy
Hello and welcome to the Autocrats Guide for Dummies. This book will show you everything you need to do to usurp power and force your will upon your citizens. Please note, this book makes no guarantee that your citizens will not revolt and throw you out of office. However, if you follow the instructions in our series, we feel confident that your societies apathy and gullibility will allow you to succeed.
Step One: Attack Political Parties:
The Hallmark of a good autocrat is his ability to make himself the focal point for the government. Attacking political parties, especially those of the opposition helps to tie into the anti-establishment sentiments that many voters have. By making the party system, especially the party of your main rival appear to be weak, disorganized, ineffectual and lacking in ideas - you can position yourself as the “political outsider” trying to “reform” the corrupt system. Everyone likes a reformer.
Step Two: Polarize Society:
Once you have successfully obtained office (through whatever means necessary - winning the vote is not always a prerequisite) your next step is to polarize society and eliminate the countries political center. Most people are wishy washy, and tend to seek consensus. You, as an up and coming autocrat will have none of that! You must divide and conquer in order to secure your position. Taking extreme positions designed to push your opponents in the opposite direction is key. Why not tackle a politically explosive social issue or take an aggressive, antagonistic foreign policy stance? Make sure you do not leave room for moderation. Remember, a country divided is only 1/2 as difficult to control.
Step Three: Spread the Wealth Selectively:
It is much easier to keep people in line when they are lining up for your handouts. Do not, under any circumstances, dole out riches or influence based on need. The world will always have too many needy - helping them is someone elses concern. Use your wealth to make your friends rich and your enemies tremble. If someone does not support you fully, make them suffer. Withhold money for programs near and dear to their community. Cut off access to you in a punitive way. When they reform, lavish them with support to show them how much better it is when they play ball. Who cares if your buying your friends if they know you will bury your enemies.
Step Four: Allow the Bureaucracy to Decay, Almost
Every modern society is a bureaucratic society. While most elected officials think they are in charge, the wise autocrat knows it is really the paper pushers in the government agencies that will determine his success. It is important to create a plan that will cripple (but not kill) any agency that has a mission contrary to yours. Cut funding, increase rules, and put an unqualified friend in charge. Do everything you can to criticize them in public.
Conversely agencies that support your policies should get the lions share of the budget.
Step Five: Antagonize the Superpower
The best way to get popular support is to create an enemy larger than yourself. Picking on a super power is a good way to rally your people to support you. Or, if you happen to lead a Superpower, pick an enemy to diffuse to beat easily. This gives you a built in excuse to ride roughshod over your detractors and explain away failures in your own leadership. Never under estimate the value of a good enemy. If you don’t have one, make one now.
So there you have it, autocracy in five simple steps. Just follow this guide and you too can be Hugo Chavez.
What? You thought I was talking about Bush? Kind of spooky isn’t it.
(special thanks to Foreign Policy magazine).