Arnold Kling

Rational Autocrats

Arnold Kling
The Malthusian Trap... Radicals for Capitalism...

Another terrific audio interview by Russ Roberts. In this case, he talks to political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Basically, his outlook on the world is that autocrats are rational, and they do what is best in order to maintain power in an environment in which the power base is fairly narrow.

One of his points is that in a true democracy one observes freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and neutral third parties counting votes. Many nominal democracies lack one or more of those characteristics.

Another point is that in a democracy, leaders get in big trouble for losing a war. This makes them cautious about getting in, but more likely to "double down" than to get out. Autocrats can lose wars without being overthrown (think Saddam in 1991), so they approach war differently.

Listen to the whole thing.

CATEGORIES: Political Economy


COMMENTS (1 to date)
Zhu Benben writes:

The everyone-and-her-cat-is-rational argument, when I first learnt about it, is pretty impressive. But it becomes empty pretty soon. It is the kind of shallow tautology that scarcely offers anything deeper than most of the history books would teach us --- if they are good enough.

One of Hayek's most profound argument is that people make mistakes and the free market is the best known mechanisms to limit the damage. I am slightly disappointed that Prof. Russ Roberts, as an obvious fan of Hayek, didn't raise the argument in that podcast.

Besides, the average Chineses do not even read English or own a computer. Prof. Roberts comments, although not meant to be serious, is somewhat not of the usual height of his wit.

As a native Chinese in a big city, I clearly find life easier as time goes by. (I do have my own personal problems that I have almost no hope to resolve, except by having some happy day-dreaming now and then to ease the pressure.)

But, as we cannot agree on whether there is a Global warming or cooling --- that is supposed to be in the realm of the objective natural science --- how dare I say what an average Chinese feels about his or her life. That being said, do I agree that there is no means to improve things here and now? Obviously there are room for improvement. That may ring a bell to those laissez-faire believers. But I think that is wrong application of that concept.

Nonetheless, thank you for providing econtalk and econlog and econlib on the Internet. Sincerely. Thank you all.

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