Unaccountable Power Seeks to Preserve Itself and Expand – A Critique of Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism by definition entails the subjection of a population against its will. China, Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Venezuela are examples of authoritarian regimes.

Of course anyone with any sense of dignity or honor would be repulsed by the idea of being subject to the whim of some tyrant, so these authoritarian regimes maintain their power through a combination of propaganda coupled with nationalism (“we’re doing what’s best for the country”), strict control of media/internet/speech, and elimination of dissent (in Putin’s case, imprisoning or murdering those who speak out against him).

Even if most Russians realize their government is lying to them and are against Putin’s war on Ukraine, there’s nothing they can do short of the police and/or military defecting because anyone who speaks out against the war is silenced and imprisoned. On top of strict punishments from the state, economic dependence on their jobs is the glue that keeps people from speaking out against the injustice of the war, or for the police and military in being complicit in arresting protestors or killing innocent Ukrainian civilians. It’s easy to do the right thing if you’re wealthy and can leave the country, harder when you’re dependent on that paycheck to put food on the table to feed your family.

An authoritarian sympathizer might argue that despite the population’s lack of freedoms, a particular authoritarian regime might still be doing what’s in their country’s best interests – focusing on the long-term rather than short-term election cycles.

Even if there was truth to this statement, one of the inherent problems with authoritarian regimes is that power generally seeks to preserve itself and expand. This is why dictators like Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko remain in power for decades, becoming more and more powerful as time goes on. Although you might get a benevolent leader every now and then like a George Washington who voluntarily chose to step down after two presidential terms, without constitutional restraints, eventually you’ll get some power-hungry dictator like a Vladimir Putin who becomes so infatuated with power that they refuse to let it go. They use their power to further consolidate their power. And no matter how terrible of a leader they are, there’s nothing you can do about it. Unlike a democracy, power is not maintained through competition, but through force. Democratically elected politicians are accountable to their voters, dictators are accountable to no-one.

Vladimir Putin who’s already been running Russia for over two decades signed a law in 2021 allowing himself two more six year terms. Xi Jinping who’s been China’s president since 2013 approved the removal of term limits in 2018, allowing himself to potentially remain president for life.

The darker and more oppressive the authoritarian regimes, the harder it becomes for tyrants to give up control because that puts them at greater risk of being imprisoned or murdered by the next administration. By remaining in power, they ensure their own personal immunity. Authoritarians fear democracy because democracy is an existential threat to dictators.

Although an authoritarianism regime could work in theory, it’s the total unaccountability of authoritarian regimes that makes them so dangerous, coupled with the natural tendency for power to maintain itself and expand. The inherent nature of power itself makes authoritarian regimes unsuitable to serving the public’s interests. If power is allowed to become absolute, then any altruistic leader will inevitably be superseded by a less altruistic leader who abuses the power in his own self-interest. This is why power in government systems must be restrained at all costs, and democracy is the only viable political system becomes it offers representation and accountability.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s