43 – I am You and You are Me

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Dictatorship: “I am you and you are me. Happy, happy, are not we? Haha! I’m a poet!”

Democracy: “Don’t be ridiculous! You’re a dictator. I’m the democratically elected head of my people. I am nothing like you. We couldn’t be more different!” 

Dictatorship: “Democratically elected? Hmm… Let’s see. You suppress dissent. You cancel voices that you label harmful, which conveniently are voices opposed to your own. You manipulate public opinion by promoting your preferred narrative. You game the system to make sure you get reelected by gerrymandering voting districts and passing restrictive voting laws.” 

Democracy: “And you don’t do those things?” 

Dictatorship: “Of course I do! I’m a dictator, remember? And I told you we’re alike, didn’t I? You are the one who claims otherwise. My attitude is that people don’t know what’s good for them. And they sure as heck don’t know what’s good for me. So, a little bit of manipulation is actually helpful. It’s for their own good! They need guidance from those who know better. Like your scientists. They always know better, right? That’s probably why they don’t tell people too much about some of their more ‘interesting’ research. Things like bioweapons, miniaturized nuclear bombs, robotic warfare… No need to scare the kiddies, eh?” 

Democracy: “As usual, you twist things around for your own purposes. I don’t throw journalists in jail, or beat up my political opponents.”

Dictatorship: “Wrong, wrong, wrong. You do it all the time. You create laws that are easy to violate. Then you prosecute your opponents for stepping out of line. You tap their phones. Dig up dirt on them and expose it. You plant selected news leaks in the media. Release the tax returns of your opponents. Or audit their returns.”

Democracy: “And what about you? You jail your opponents on a whim!”

Dictatorship: “At least I’m honest about it. If I want to put someone out of commission, I just do it. I don’t sneak around the issue. I deal with it head on!”

Democracy: “Yes, by using brutality and repression. Your people don’t even get to vote!” 

Dictatorship: “True, but I can be a benevolent leader when I want. Actually do something good for the people. As long as it’s good for me, too. You, on the other hand, make promises that you know you can’t possibly keep. Then, you hand out free goodies to the masses. And if you run out of money, you just print some more. You secretly tax the population by debasing the currency to finance your schemes to stay in power.” 

Democracy: “At least I have to try to stay in office. You don’t have that concern.” 

Dictatorship: “Exactly. And that’s why I don’t have to sneak around and lie like you do. I’m more honest about it. I’m in charge and that’s the reality. You’re also in charge, but you just don’t admit it. You pretend the people are in charge, and you’re their humble servant. How touching.”

Democracy: “Well, at least we have the rule of law and respect for property rights.” 

Dictatorship: “I have a rule of law, too. My rules and my law. But at least I’m honest about it. You just sneak your way around it. You pack your judiciary, or change your constitution.” 

Democracy: “That is not a democracy! That’s a dictatorship making believe it’s a democracy. There’s a huge degree of difference in what I do and what you do.” 

Dictatorship: “Glad to hear that you accept it’s merely a matter of degree. Like I said, you do the same things as me, but pretend otherwise. A difference in degree is not a difference in kind.”

Liberty: “Excuse me, but I think you need to reframe this discussion.” 

Democracy: “Huh? Who are you?”

Liberty: “I am Miss Liberty. The real issue is one that neither of you have addressed. That is personal freedom. A government that interferes in every aspect of life is toxic. If a 51% majority of citizens impose their will on the 49% minority, that can be just as oppressive as a dictatorship. And it may be possible for a benevolent dictatorship to allow its citizens to live free from oppression. The key is liberty. The freedom to act within the reasonable constraints of society. Do you have it or not? That is the key issue. There are no simple solutions. Unfortunately, Dictatorship is right that Democracy may become like him. And that can easily happen from either end of the political spectrum, left or right. The key is to allow your citizens to have the freedom to make their own choices as they go about their day-to-day lives. Forcing everyone to have the same values and to live the same life completely ignores the variability in human temperament and taste. Imposing your values on everyone else is a danger that both dictatorships and democracies are guilty of. Allowing others who disagree with you to live their lives as they choose can be painful to watch. But that is what freedom is. It’s not about spouting nonsense that people can be free as long as they live like you do, dress like you do, or share the same customs and religion as you do. That is not freedom. Well, I must be going now. Good day.” 

Dictatorship: “Wow. That was quite a speech. And quite a putdown, eh?”

Democracy: “Yeah, I’m not sure she likes either of us.” 

Dictatorship: “Well, too bad. We are in charge, right?” 

Democracy: “Yes, and we know what’s best. After all, just like you said, it’s really for their own good.” 

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