Did you ever wonder how Political Systems change? What are their change engines? How are they created, adopted, discarded and why this matters?
Wonder no more. We introduce the Three Laws of Political System Change.
These laws determine when is a given group of people ready to accept and be bound by a new Political System.
You may have noticed that we are not talking about Political Theories but Political Systems (differences were described in our article Political Theories and Systems - what they are and how they work). This is done on purpose because to induce a change on people, they need to be convinced about the benefits of that change. A Political Theory is an abstract notion which is incapable of translating benefits into real, day-to-day advantages. Only a Political System can achieve this. Hence, we deal with Systems and not with Theories.
In order to look at what and how people react, we need to dive into mass psychology, which is not that hard.
When it comes to politics people are essentially lazy, selfish and disinterested. Yes, this means you, me and everybody else. This is nothing to be ashamed of. This is how we evolved. This is who we are. This is the very nature of human beings.
We are this way because we are programmed by evolution for the survival of our genes. Our brains are hardwired to be selfish so that we may have the best chance to survive and pass on our genes to as many descendants as possible.
Selfishness is a quality that pushes us into practicality. We want food, shelter, conveniences, and entertainment. Those are all physical, tangible things. We are drawn to them. Therefore, any political system that provides them in a reasonable quantity we will pay attention to.
In other words, we use our physical needs as indicators of a good or bad Political System.
- We get stuff = good political system.
- We don’t get stuff = bad political system.
Yes, it’s that simple. Roman emperors got it right: bread and circus!
This is, of course, a generalization. Not all people are like this, but all masses are.
And herein lies the truth. Political Systems change when masses decide that they must change. Without the support of the masses, Political Systems do not change.
Before continuing, we must make a pause and answer our critics. Their main objection is that many Political Systems are based on fear; they keep themselves in power through fear. This is correct. However, the ascent of such systems has always been based on the will of masses.
Once such oppressive systems are in power, and when the masses realize that these systems cannot deliver as promised, then, and only then, they turn to fear as a tool. Fear is a post-ascent effect; it is not part of the acceptance process by the masses.
Human beings are differential machines. This means that we are not capable of measuring small changes from one immediate situation to the next. We are only capable of measuring or fully comprehending changes from a situation that is far separated from another.
For example, if you place your finger in ice cold water for a few minutes and then submerge it in into mildly hot water, the pain will be quite intense. However, if you place your finger into ice cold water and start warming up that water over half an hour or so, the sensations along the way will be quite tolerable if not comfortable.
Consider the following examples:
Communists achieved power in Russia primarily by promising wellbeing to the people through withdrawal from World War I. Would you not vote communists or at least side with them if they would promise to end famine, state-sponsored terror at home and the return of your loved ones from a human meat-grinding machine that was WWI? Of course, you would!
North American revolutionaries achieved power in USA primarily by promising people wellbeing through reduction in British Taxation. Would you not join the revolution if they would promise lower or no taxes? Of course, you would!
Nazis achieved power in Germany primarily by promising wellbeing through economic stability and by obtaining territories and wealth from sub-races as the blood right of the superior German race. Would you not vote nazi or side with them if they would promise to end famine and desperation (total economic collapse and hyperinflation) and deliver additional riches through conquering territories? Of course, you would!
Mossadegh achieved democratic power in Iran after the World War II by promising to distribute the wealth of Iranian Oil to the people; wealth to which they have been receiving only a small portion from British Oil companies to date. Would you not vote Mossadeh or side with other nationalists if they would promise to end chaos a bring a new era of economic prosperity by renegotiating the term of oil field leases? Of course, you would!
Fascists achieved power in Italy by promising economic prosperity through the discontinuation of collectivization policies and the acquisition of lost colonies and territories. Would you not vote fascist or side with the if they would promise to end famine, unemployment, unrest, chaos, collectivization (theft) of your property and economic riches through the acquisition of lost territories? Of course, you would!
Peron achieved democratic power in Argentina after World War II by promising an expansion of his pre-existing pro-workers policies and against existing Conservative practices. Would you not vote for Peron if he promised to increase real wages, support minimum wages, impose maximum working hours, force basic health insurance on employers and bonus pays? Of course, you would!
The Roman empire disintegrated to Barbarians by failing to meet its basic economic promise: bring wealth from the conquered territories. As a Roman, would you lift a finger to help the Roman empire if it failed to provide the wealth you were accustom to? Of course, you would not!
The USSR dissolved itself because the empire’s economy collapsed and it was incapable of supporting its people. Would you have supported the continuation of the USSR if you were unable to find food, clothing or shelter? Of course, you would not!
And so forth. These are all examples of transitions from one Political System into another. From military dictatorship into democracy. From democracy into Fascism or Nazism. From monarchy into democracy or communism or barbarism. From communism to democracy.
They are all, of course, oversimplifications. They are designed to make a single point. This point is that behind a Political System change there is always a mayor wellbeing promise in addition to other complex situations. Political System change cannot be accomplished without a large difference between undesirable and current economic conditions and a solid vision of a prosperous future (conveniently delivered by the upcoming Political System).
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
If you take a look at Political Systems that replaced existing ones in those examples, the notable coincidence is that those systems existed decades before they came into power. Then why did they got into power when they did? Simple: “It’s the Economy, stupid!”
Sometimes it is difficult to see the economic engine, but it usually exists. For example, the Iranian revolution of 1979 which deposed monarchy and imposed a democratic-theocratic hybrid was clearly religious, correct? Well… no. It happened at the end of a sharp economic contraction that took place between 1977 and 1978.
This is not to say that there may have been Political System changes out there that were not driven by extreme economic conditions. They may have existed, but so far, we are not aware of them. Even if they existed, they do not diminish the rule of the economic engine. We are talking about human behavior, which is not exactly predictable, and therefore anomalies must be expected.
In other words, Political Systems change because we need better physical conditions, which translate as better economic conditions. Everything else, political theory, indoctrination, political logic, religion, ethics, morals, etc. are of secondary importance. Far, far secondary.
This is as real as it gets because day to day reality slaps you in the face. You can ignore political theory, but you cannot ignore hunger and misery.
DELAYING THE INEVITABLE
Now that we understand that large shifts in economic conditions are the engine of Political System changes, we can move forward.
We have not yet analyzed what constitutes a break or delay in Political System changes. Looking at the world, it is clear that large changes do not happen every day. In actuality, they are quite infrequent. What is the most important factor preventing these changes?
Simple. Mass psychology. There is another basic necessity that humans evolved to crave: stability. In a stable environment, the chances of survival are higher. In these circumstances, the chances of spreading your genes to a larger progeny increase significantly. Therefore, human beings evolved to dislike change and are willing to tolerate a certain amount of discomfort as a price for stability.
This means that as long as humans tolerate a rate of change, there cannot be a change in Political System. We are differential machines and evolved to be like that. We must therefore conclude that as long as economic changes are gradual, people will simply stay with the current Political System.
This is similar to Newton’s First Law of Motion - Inertia: if the worsening of economic conditions is constant and slow, people will tend to stay in those conditions and not seek Political System change however bad those conditions may be.
But at which point do these economic conditions become intolerable? At the point at which the masses become disillusioned with the current Political System. You see, bad economic conditions can be tolerated as long as there is hope. Hope trumps over leaps into unknown Political Systems.
THE THREE LAWS
We now have our three rules of Political Change:
1 – There must be a state of bad economic conditions
2 – There must be a further sudden and large decrease in economic conditions
3a – There must be a new Political System promising significant improvements in economic conditions or,
3b – There must be a complete and total disillusionment with the current Political System
Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.