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Dictators cause the world’s worst problems: all the collapsed states, and all the devastated economies. All the vapid cases of corruption, grand theft, and naked plunder of the treasury are caused by dictators, leaving in their wake trails of wanton destruction, horrendous carnage and human debris.

George Ayittey

16 thoughts on “Dictators”

  1. Speaking of politi al corruption, this one just dropped:


    Harish “Harry” Singh Sidhu acknowledged in a plea agreement that he provided confidential city information to people working for the Angels while serving on the city’s negotiating team for the deal, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office. The information was intended to help the team buy the stadium under favorable terms.

    “Sidhu later was recorded saying he expected a $1 million campaign contribution from the Angels after the baseball club purchased Angel Stadium,” the statement said.

    “Sidhu, 66, resigned as mayor last year after word broke that he was under federal investigation. The day that he resigned, the city council voted to void a 2020 agreement to sell the city-owned ballpark and 151 acres to Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno and his business partnership for development.

    “Under that deal, Moreno would have paid $325 million but would only pay about $150 million in cash while his company would receive a $170 million credit for including some 500 units of affordable housing and a park in the redeveloped land surrounding the stadium.”

    Give the dude credit: he didn’t sell out for the usual brown bag of thousands of dollars but went for a whole…”0ne! million! dollars!”

    Dr Evil would be proud.

  2. Honestly, I found this quote short-sighted. Let’s start (or not) with the Catholic Church and the vast destruction wrought by the Crusades, the Inquisition, and much more. Then we have the revolutionaries who are sure that if they just assassinate the Archduke Ferdinand or the reform-minded tsar, all will be well.

    Sadly, societal destruction comes in many forms. Sometimes it derives from overzealous idealists who have no sense of consequences or of other people’s realities.

    • The Inquisition, over centuries, might have managed to kill as many people as a single year of World War I.

      • Mao and Stalin made them (and the painter) look like pikers with numbers in the 50-60M each. On the low side. And it didn’t take them centuries. And that is without their wartime killings. Mao’s civil war count is pretty hefty.

        Xi’s own tally won’t be known for decades, if ever, but he’s well on the way to challenging Mao.

        Two different arguments in the OP.
        Corruption and destruction of nation on one hand, and outright deaths on the other.

        The way things are headed, Putin might score a modern times trifecta by year’s end.

    • And let’s not forget about the Muslim Jihad conquering the Mideast, North Africa, and leaping Gibraltar to Spain in 710. Spain was conquered and ruled by Muslims for 700 years until they were kicked out in 1492. They tried to conquer all of Europe, but were stopped at Tours in 792. Charles Martel’s Franks and friends ended their plan to take all of Europe way up in the middle of France. Lots of destruction.

      And all that was way before the First Crusade in 1096. Seems the Europeans didn’t like the look of a pincer movement anchored in both Spain and modern Turkey.

      • They brag about how much of ancient civilization they “saved” without mentioning the art and literature they destroyed because it offended their sensibilities when thr reality is the primary preserver was Byzantium. At least until the crusaders went by and the turks finished them off.

        Every human civiliation to date has had to faceoff with their era’s takers, usually hordes of barbarians more interested in taking instead of earni b, predators instead of creators. The bronze age had the “Sea Peoples” whose destruction was so thorough we don’t even know exactly who they were; Rome had the Huns; the heirs of alexander and Gupta (Golden Age) India had the jihadists; the feudal era had the Mongols. Each wave killed a significant fraction of humanity and set living stands back centuries, back to Hobbsian rules.

        And we today have an assortment of authoritarians and absolutists vying for the right to tear down 500 years of liberal thought and technology. Who gets the “honor” of killing the current technological civilization in its infancy is still TBD. And there’s a slight chance Asimov’s “DEAD HAND” might intervene.

    • The Crusades were a defensive war against the Jihadists (not to justify everything they did, like sacking Constantinople). The Inquisition is way exaggerated; other governments at the time treated dissenters similarly, and the same can happen in a democracy (depending on your politics, say, McCarthyism or Cancel Culture).

      On a percentage basis, there’s no doubt that Pol Pot is the champion killer.

  3. The first sentence is absolutely true.

    But “All the vapid cases of corruption, grand theft, and naked plunder of the treasury are caused by dictators” isn’t limited to dictators. Elected officials all over are just as corrupt as tyrants.

    One example: the Odebrecht Construction bribery scheme from Brazil that involved 10 countries (most of South America) and reached into the Brazilian government at the highest level (Presidents Lula and Rousseff, though Lula has so far escaped prison).

    Another: In France it is practically a joke that all Mayors of Paris end up indicted after leaving politics and the protection of being in government. French government corruption is baked in to their nation before and after the revolution. Names change but the practices endure.


    Yet another: In Germany, at least two chancellors were on the payroll of Puyin’s proxy GAZPROM, lobbying for the Nordstream pipelines that led to the country’s economy-wrecking dependence on russian gas despite warnings from its allies. And the tally is still to come on Merkel’s immigration generosity now that they are heading into stagflation.

    In Japan they’re more organized: politicians receive no direct payment while in office but are rewarded with high paying do-nothing jobs once they leave.

    South Africa under Mandela was relatively clean but once he left his democratically elected successors have run the country into the ground to the point there is honest debate over whether it is a failed state or just becoming one.

    Mexico was long a single party Kleptocracy before becoming a narco state; Venezuela happily elected Chavez and Maduro, Nicaragua elected Ortega, etc. Argentina has been in the hands of corrupt politicians since Peron except when under military dictators.

    In fact, it is quicker to list the clean regimes south of the border (Costa Rica and Guyana) than the corrupt failing states.

    Up north, Canada just showed its stripes when the government closed the bank accounts of protestors and jailed a priest for an open air sermon to protestors.

    And, not to be left out, the US has a steady array of indictments to mayors, governors, and congressional reps, FBI and IRS executives, and friends of the party. During the pandemic nearly half a trillion was scammed and wasted. And of course we now live under the legacy of Biden’s 2020 “if we win the senate everybody gets $2000.”

    I don’t think it is just dictators that are behind corruption.
    Putin and Xi are just more blatant.

    • Elected leaders certainly are skilled in corruption. However, when that corruption expends to killing thousands or millions, they don’t really measure up to the dictators.

      • The key difference in corruption is that autocrat corruption is concentrated in the dictotor’s close circle of associates whereas in democracies it is more spread out throughout the levels of government. It offers more opportunity for graft to more people. Especially if the scoundrels get replaced by a different group of scoundrels every 4/8 years. Term limits in particular help.
        Also, there is room for graft in other areas, like consultants, book sales, and fund raising.

        In that respect the Roman Republic system of patronage was more honest and transparent as it was in the open and bidirectional rather than purely predatory:


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