Why the worst humans are able to rise to power? (cues from Hayek’s Road to Serfdom…)

As debates rage over the Mugabe era and whether Zimbabwe will see democracy or dictatorship.

Recent scholarship finds that while “democratization coups” have become more frequent worldwide, their most common outcome is to replace an incumbent dictatorship with a “different group of autocrats.”

Signals in Zimbabwe are mixed so far. Experts generally describe the latest developments as “an internecine fight” among inner-circle elites and ask two key questions: Which side will prevail, and will violence break out?

In my assessment, the answers hinge on Mnangagwa, a hard-nosed realist and survivor who was critical in securing Mugabe’s four-decade rule. Mnangagwa has an appalling human rights record. Many consider him responsible for overseeing a series of massacres between 1982 and 1986 known as the “Gukurahundi,” in which an estimated 20,000 civilians from the Ndebele ethnic group perished.

More recently, in 2008, civil society groups accused Mnangagwa of orchestrating electoral violence against the political opposition and rigging polls in Mugabe’s favor.

It is also true that Mnangagwa is massively invested in ensuring his continued and unfettered access to power, which has proven highly lucrative for him. The vice president is “reputed” to be one of Zimbabwe’s richest people. All of this suggests he might become yet another dictator.

The big question is how do these people come to power at all? Brittany Hunter picks cues from Hayek’s Road to Serfdom:

Hayek explains:

There are three main reasons why such a numerous and strong group with fairly homogeneous views is not likely to be formed by the best but rather by the worst elements of any society. By our standards the principles on which such a group would be selected will be almost entirely negative.

Addressing the first reason, Hayek says:

In the first instance, it is probably true that, in general, the higher the education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their views and tastes are differentiated and the less likely they are to agree on a particular hierarchy of values. It is a corollary of this that if we wish to find a high degree of uniformity and similarity of outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive and “common” instincts and tastes prevail.

And this is precisely what happened in Germany prior to the rise of the Third Reich.

….Discussing his second reason, Hayek says:

Here comes in the second negative principle of selection: he will be able to obtain the support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently. It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party.”

The German people were exhausted after WWI. Like the rest of the globe, their economy had already taken the fiscal hits associated with the costs of long-term war. They wanted prosperity and they would take it however they could get it if it meant a guarantee of putting food on the table.

…..But the real evil genius of the Third Reich’s propaganda campaign was its utilization of a common enemy that the whole populace could blame. This brings us to Hayek’s third reason the worst get on top:

The third and perhaps most important negative element of selection enters. It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program—on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off— than on any positive task. The contrast between the “we” and the “they,” the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action. It is consequently always employed by those who seek, not merely support of a policy, but the unreserved allegiance of huge masses.”

The German people were mad, tired, and frustrated with their situation. Blaming the nations responsible for making their country pay reparations was not sufficient since, at the time, Germany lacked the ability to do much about it. Instead, the enemy became anyone who wasn’t like everyone else.

How to prevent this from happening? Fight back despite all opposition as majority has been blinded by the power/aura of the leader:

So how, as individuals, can we do our best to ensure we do not let this happen again? How do we do our absolute best to ensure that we are not tempted in the face of economic uncertainty or foreign threats? The answer is constant vigilance.

Be wary of any politician who is eager for the masses to give up their power, and when faced with such a decision, remember the creed so commonly associated with the great Ludwig von Mises, “Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito,” do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it.

So true…you see all these trends happening in all countries which see such people come to power….

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