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.
(Certainly governments 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.)