April 23, 2012
The Constitution, for Dictators

So you want to become dictator of the most powerful nation on the planet? That's a great idea! Let's take a look at that with which you must put up:

  1. It is illegal to rule by decree. You cannot simply "make it so." The military will not abide it. You must use laws.
  2. Laws are created by two mobs, a small one made up of the rich and pliable, and a large one made up of the rich and unpredictable.
  3. The mobs are intensely jealous of each other, and inside each mob there's another division of jealousy and power struggle.
  4. The mobs are responsible for giving you the money you need to do anything.
  5. The membership of the mobs changes regularly. The entire membership of the larger mob can change completely every two years.
  6. A squad of twelve completely unaccountable old people can invalidate any law at any time. They can only be replaced when they die.
  7. Most of the power your position has gained since the place was set up comes from an uneasy set of agreements between the two mobs and the old people. The old people in particular could at any moment severely restrict your powers, and those of the mobs, at any time.

But wait! There's more!

Every single citizen is able to:

  1. With very broad limitations, publish as many copies of whatever seditious nonsense they can dream up whenever they want, join cults, and bother you with demands any time they please.
  2. With very broad limitations, own as many guns as they please.

As dictator, you cannot:

  1. Put troops in the houses of malcontents to keep an eye on them.
  2. Shoot troublemakers on the spot.
  3. Toss malcontents into prison until they rot and/or agree with your decrees.
  4. Try citizens secretly using a group of your buddies to ensure the correct outcome.
  5. Separate them from their money by decree or secret trial.
  6. Torture people
  7. Set their bail so high nobody can pay it.

Even worse:

  1. If a custom or tradition of the people suddenly becomes inconvenient, you can't do anything about it even if it's not specifically protected.
  2. If you think up a new way to gain control of the people, you can't automatically use it just because it's not specifically prohibited.

And that was just to start. Later on, it was decided you can't:

  1. Talk your dictator friend in the next country into suing troublemakers.
  2. Enslave anyone
  3. Exclude the ignorant, troublesome, or revolutionary using easy-to-spot differences.
  4. Exclude women
  5. Rule as dictator for more than ten years at a time.

No, really, that's what you have to put up with if you want to be the dictator of the most powerful country in the world. Really! No, it's actually not a brand-new country, it's the oldest continuously-functioning one currently in existence. It is! I am not making that up! How am I supposed to know how they keep it all from descending into chaos?

No, the last time countries run by "real" dictators tried to cause them trouble they enabled a DIFFERENT dictatorship to help them defeat one, and then nuked the other one. Yes, really! Using these very rules, they managed to stay together until that last dictator died and the system he ran collapsed. It took fifty years! Do you really think I'm smart enough to make something like that up?

Yes, it's possible to use terror to cause them trouble, but they hunted the last guy who managed to pull that off for ten years before they found him, and shot him dead inside a compound built for him by the friends of a different dictator, not even one mile away from the military academy of that dictator's army.

Yeah, ok, I see your point. I don't think it would be very much fun being a dictator of that place, either.

This is what we do. This is what we are. This is how most of the rest of the world's leaders, hell most of the rest of the world's men, see us. We are an impossible contradiction and a threat to their stability. We give up to our own leaders only what we want them to have. We can, and will, take it back.

Posted by scott at April 23, 2012 02:37 PM

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