The Limits of Power
This blog post was featured in the Huffington Post on May 06, 2016.
It is difficult to get things changed in a democracy. People have different opinions as to what needs to be done and how, and since they vote, they are listened to. For a change of some significance to happen, all centers of power that need to cooperate to make the change happen need to agree to it.
How does it happen?
The situation has to get so bad that all those parties that are needed to stop objecting to the change find it of self interest to cooperate. And that will happen when the situation is so bad that the only other alternative is to yield and stop objecting.
This explains why macro social or economic change in democratic society happens slowly and is only dictated after major deterioration in conditions.
It took a depression for the New Deal to emerge.
It will take a major upheaval of sorts for the society to reduce dependence on government intervention in economic endeavors.
It took Pearl Harbor for the United States to join the war.
It is taking thousands of dead soldiers for United States to get out of Vietnam and Iraq or Afghanistan. How many more wars do we need to stop going to war to solve other people’s problems and focus on home problems?
Democracy is not an efficient system. It takes time for change to be implemented. Not so for a dictatorship. Stalin moved millions of people from one part of the Soviet Union to another part. Germans to Kazakhstan. Tatars to Tatarstan. He pushed through the collectivization of farming although it brought starvation to millions who died in Ukraine. Whoever objected was sent to Siberia.
In a democratic society, what happens does not necessarily resemble what leaders wanted to happen. Political forces come into play and what happens in reality is not what leaders have decided, but what could have been implemented politically.
So you might think dictatorship is the answer. They can make things happen. That is how corporations are run. CEO’s decide and execute their decisions. Fire people. Downsize. Integrate divisions. Sell divisions. Buy and sell basically as they wish.
Dictators have a limitation on their power too. And it is the power they have and do not want to lose. They can push only so far before there is a push back. And maybe a revolution of sorts. And they get kicked out. Or get executed like the ruler of Romania or Qadaffi of Libya.
Or a bomb is planted to blow Hitler away. Even Stalin lived in fear of being poisoned.
Much of Putin’s actions can be explained as a reaction to fear of losing power. The Maidan revolution in Ukraine was a revolt against corruption. It could have spread to Moscow which has corruption too. Putin had to do a heroic act to protect his rear end. So he took over Crimea. Then came the uprising of the people who speak Russian and populate Eastern Ukraine. He had to support them. They are Russians who live in Ukraine (or Ukrainians who speak Russian), regardless, he had to support them or he would not be the Russian Hero and his chair would start shaking.
Why go to war to Syria? To divert Russian people’s attention to the economic crisis prevailing in Russia as a result of Putin’s actions. Again, it is to prevent a threat to the throne.
There is no behavior without a reason. And the reason can be devious. But it is a reason.
There is no free for all environment, without limits. We have to understand the limits if we want to change behavior.