Category Archives: Staying in power – Struggle for control

This section considers the second of two fundamental ways in which a social system where harm is important differs from a productive one: maintaining control. It is a much more substantial problem for such societies. Threats come from two sources, those who would replace them, while maintaining harm, and those who would reduce harm.  This control takes place in the political, economic and social spheres; in the consideration here, the emphasis is on the political.

Two groups of economic historians writing from an orthodox economic perspective have discussed such societies, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson (2012), and Douglass North, John Joseph Wallis, and Barry R. Weingast (2009).

North, Wallace and Weingast use limited access order or natural state.
A natural state… form[s] a dominant coalition that limits access to valuable resources—land, labor, capital—or access to and control of valuable activities—such as trade, worship, and education—to elite groups. The creation of rents through limiting access provides the glue that holds the coalition together, enabling elite groups to make credible commitments to one another to support the regime, perform their functions, and refrain from violence (2009, 30).

They estimate that limited access orders have about 85 percent of the world’s population.  Freedom in the World (2020), Freedom House’s annual global report on political rights and civil liberties covering 195 countries, addresses the same topic. Separate scores are awarded for political rights and for civil rights which, weighted equally, are used to determine the status of Free, Partly Free, and Not Free. Forty-three percent of the countries of the world are evaluated as free, while 57 percent are classified as either Not Free (25 percent) or Partly Free (32 percent).

Three subcategories bring out important aspects of maintaining control. Conflict is an important part of harm which, as harm, has not received the attention that it deserves.  It is thought of as “national defense” in the pursuit of “strategic self-interest” with some “collateral damage” which minimizes its role as harm. Harming people – Keeping people oppressed  brings out the often brutal oppression of people by those who control productive + harmful economic systems. Opposing oppression and injustice illustrates how people have fought against oppression and injustice.  (This section is perhaps an inadequate appreciation for the struggle that people have waged, but it is something. ) This section also includes some mention of the struggle between democratic and oligarchic elements in a given nation which result in victories won by democratic forces.  Governments and other parts of society can act to reduce harm.  As  an assumption of orthodox economics is that governments almost always do act in this way, we have tried to bring out the evidence for an opposing view in this website.

Actions to reduce harm 2021

(Certainly governments, corporations and other organizations do take actions to reduce harm or otherwise improve the lives of the people. This is often, even typically, the result of political action by citizens. This post gives examples.)

International Criminal Court authorizes investigation into bloody Philippine drug war led by Duterte Regine Cabato Washington Post September 17, 2021

Amazon’s warehouse rules lead lawmakers to press for worker protections Jay Greene Washington Post September 10, 2021
Concerns about the high injury rate at Amazon’s warehouses are leading policymakers to push for legislative and regulatory reforms that limit the e-commerce giant’s ability to use performance metrics.

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Conflict 2021

Costs of the 20-year war on terror: $8 trillion and 900,000 deaths Brown University September 1, 2021 See also the Costs of War website, perhaps especially the Costs of War subsections.
A report from the Costs of War project at Brown University revealed that 20 years of post-9/11 wars have cost the U.S. an estimated $8 trillion and have killed more than 900,000 people.

How Myanmar’s military terrrorized its people with weapons of war Joyce Sohyun Lee, Shibani Mahtani, Meg Kelly and Attahar Mirza Washington Post August 25, 2021

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Struggle for control – staying in power 2021

The Kremlin’s fears: How Russian authorities prevent opponents from running for office Stanislav Andreychuk Wilson Center August 3, 2021
On June 22, the Movement for the Defense of Voters’ Rights “Golos,” Russia’s leading independent election monitoring group, reported that around nine million Russian citizens have been effectively denied the right to run for any public office. Nearly one in ten Russians over eighteen years of age cannot stand even for a minor elected position.

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Harming people – Keeping people oppressed 2021

Private Israeli spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists worldwide Dana Priest, Craig Timberg and Souad Mekhennet Washington Post July 18, 2021
NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, licensed to governments around the globe, can infect phones without a click.

Berta Cáceres assassination: ex-head of dam company found guilty Nina Lakhani The Guardian July 5, 2021
A US-trained former Honduran army intelligence officer who was the president of an internationally financed hydroelectric company has been found guilty over the assassination of the indigenous environmentalist Berta Cáceres.

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