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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › 4 characteristics of a dictatorship

4 characteristics of a dictatorship

Scott C.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 47
I was having a discussion Saturday night about the characteristics of a dictatorship and when it was time to revolt against one. I found the quote I referenced in the Virtue of Selfishness:

"There are four characteristics which brand a country unmistakably as a dictatorship: one-party rule?executions without trial or with a mock trial, for political offenses?the nationalization or expropriation of private property?and censorship. A country guilty of these outrages forfeits any moral prerogatives, any claim to national rights or sovereignty, and becomes an outlaw."

I think the US is clearly not yet a dictatorship by these criteria, but every day I feel like we head in the wrong direction.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 17
Hey, that discussion was with me!

Anyone care to make a list of U.S. infractions pertaining to these four characteristics?
Chris J.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 77
Does it count if there are technically two parties, but they are sometimes indistinguishable from each other?
Scott C.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 48
Here is my take on it:

"There are four characteristics which brand a country unmistakably as a dictatorship:

one-party rule?

Not yet a factor in my mind. We have two strong parties, and they both hate each other. However, I often think it would be hard to tell the players without a scorecard.

Why couldn't Bush with his ultra-high entitlement spending and constant market interference be a Democrat? I know the Democrats hate him, but I don't understand why. To me, it seems like most Democrats should like almost all of his big policies. Sure, most Democrats hate the Iraq war, but I can point to plenty of Democratic presidents who have participated in wars and military operations that were less important to U.S. security.

I don't really see any strong principles that divide the two parties. I can't think of any single issue that automatically paints a politician as belonging to one party or the other. Both parties seem like very nebulous and almost entirely over-lapping groups of political ideology.

executions without trial or with a mock trial, for political offenses?

I can't think of any of these off-hand. The years long holding of a handful of US citizens without trial (Jose Padilla was held for 5 years without trial) does not sit well with me, especially when the government fights to extend this time.

I suppose Ruby Ridge and Waco might rise to this level. They were both situations in which lethal force was employed against people, and their friends and families, accused of not paying taxes (National Firearms Act taxes). In the case of the Branch Davidians, they were actually forbidden by law from paying the $200 per tax which they were attacked for not paying. After the assault, no machine guns were even found.

However, to the best of my knowledge, such situations are extraordinarily rare. They only trouble me because of the precedent they may set.

the nationalization or expropriation of private property?

To me, this is the score where the US fairs worst. Kelo upheld very aggressive eminent domain policy which essentially let the government steal people's houses to be given to a private developer.

There are frequent cases of the government, especially the DEA, confiscating the property of individuals who are never even charged with a crime.

There are also countless Malum Prohibitum items which you will end up in a world of hurt of you try to claim them as your private property.

and censorship.

Until McCain-Feingold passed, I would have said the US was doing fairly well on this front. The FCC was and is an abomination, but McCain-Feingold suppresses explicitly political speech. To me, that is exactly the sort of thing Rand warned against. The censorship is comparatively mild, but it is censorship just the same, and it sets an ugly precedent for the future.
Chris J.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 78
Expropriation of private property is a huge issue, and it seems to be getting worse. RICO laws, aimed at organized crime syndicates, have been used by law enforcement agencies to seize property because the owner engaged in criminal activity, often without evidence that the property was used in, or obtained as a result of, criminal activity.

Another threat (only a threat at this time) to free speech is the recent interest in reviving the Fairness Doctrine. This is not only attempt to not only control speech, but impose undue restrictions on property- namely broadcast facilities. If enacted, this would tell owners of radio stations what they must broadcast.
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