Actually destroys nepotism in Hollywood
A single ruler is enough to destroy a system of government that serves the people
You have to know that
- Political scientists define “good governments” as governments that offer their people public services.
- Such existed already in premodern times - for example during the Roman Empire.
- “Good governments” did not last significantly longer than autocratic governments - but they collapsed more explosively.
Human history is full of dictators and autocratic rulers. But there were also governments that had the well-being of the people in mind - if only to avoid unrest and to collect taxes smoothly. In a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Political Science, American anthropologists have now examined our premodern history for so-called “good governments”. These are pre-democratic governments that offered the people services and resources in return for their taxes. Such governments also punished corruption and personal enrichment of officials and rulers. In addition, the power of the rulers in these state structures was limited and some of them could even be overthrown.
Science check ✓Study: Moral Collapse and State Failure: A View From the Past However, this data is often incomplete and imprecise. The authors also greatly simplify the story if they reduce its outcome to the activities of a ruler. The results must therefore be enjoyed with caution. In addition, the researchers build a bridge to today's democracies. This is extremely difficult due to the different contexts. The conclusion about today's democracies is to be found in the area of an interpretation or hypothesis. These can hardly be checked. Only the future can confirm this or not.More information on this study ...Reliability: peer-reviewed, 30 premodern societies compared.Study type: Observational study.Funders: National Science Foundation of the USA, Center for Behavioral and Social Sciences, Purdue University. All information about the higgs Science Check
Such governments have rarely been seen in human history. The researchers classified 30 premodern regimes as “good governments” according to clearly defined criteria. They point out that even today “good governments” are not the rule. One study, for example, has come to the conclusion that two thirds of today's nations are led autocratically or only weakly democratically. Democracies are also on the decline.
The researchers now wanted to find out when and why “good governments” go under. And in the process, they came across rulers who were the opposite of "good rulers".
Play instead of govern
One of them was Commodus, Roman emperor from 180 to 192 AD. Many know his character from the Hollywood film Gladiator. Commodus broke with the ideal of a ruler who rules for the people that Julius Caesar had established. Instead, he operated a strong self-promotion and seemed to bother little about the affairs of government. Whether Commodus actually got into the ring as a gladiator himself remains uncertain. What is clear, however, is that his autocratic style of government brought instability to the empire, which was already struggling with problems. This instability continued even after he was murdered on New Year's Eve in 192. For over a century the empire sank into crisis. And according to the study authors, Commodus was largely to blame for this - because he broke with the moral values that had reconciled the empire with its citizens for so long. According to the researchers, this is what happened to a number of state formations of the premodern, which were not dictatorial, but had the well-being of the citizens in their program.
The ruins of the Roman Forum, once the site of a representative government.
State structures that strive for the common good were not really more durable in the past than autocratic ones. According to the new study, both survived an average of about 160 years. However, autocratic governments struggled more often with rebellion and succession crises. In systems of rule that included the people, on the other hand, the economy flourished more strongly, the standard of living was higher, and food and health security was greater. The population also grew faster. Sometimes there was even a certain religious freedom.
One example is the Mughal Empire, which existed in what is now India from the mid-16th century to the mid-18th century. The Muslim Mughal ruler Akbar introduced the ideal of "universal peace" here from 1556, religious tolerance prevailed towards the Hindu majority of the population of the empire. Akbar also fought corruption and offered public services to the population. Two other rulers continued this ideal. The fourth, however, broke with the tradition of religious tolerance. Corruption, revolts, declining income and a dwindling population followed. The Mughal Empire was unable to repel the attacks of the English East India Company in the middle of the 18th century, which ultimately led to the colonial rule of England.
According to the authors of the study, it is typical that state structures with “good” government practice go under spectacularly if moral practice is broken. They go down with a loud bang, while autocratic governments only cause a rush when they collapse. This is because citizens rely on “good governments” and are therefore faced with major changes when these governments collapse.
Loss of confidence in the USA
Although various factors led to the collapse of a state system, one recurring factor stands out among “good governments”, write the researchers: individual rulers who gave little attention to the traditional moral values of their empire. This led to a loss of confidence in the population. This then resulted in social unrest, struggles, emigration and a decreased willingness to pay taxes. This also reduced tax revenue, which meant that public services no longer function - and the population suddenly found themselves empty-handed.
The researchers draw the link to today and warn that “good governments”, which include today's democracies, are fragile. The authors deal specifically with the USA. They warn of the loss of confidence that has already taken place because the political leadership has acted incompetently, unpopularly or in a damaging manner. As examples, they cite the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War, the 2008 financial crisis, but also the polarizing reaction of the White House to the Black Lives Matter movement. They openly criticize a new ethos of nepotism, the mixing of personal and state resources and narcissistic self-glorification that has gotten out of hand. They do not write that the embodiment of this new ethos is Donald Trump. But one thing is clear: Donald Trump's self-portrayal is in no way inferior to the Roman Emperor Commodus. He is breaking with a moral, democratic tradition. In the past this has often resulted in disasters.
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