Kevin D. Williamson: The Eternal Dictator

Generalissimo Francisco Franco

Generalissimo Francisco Franco

The ruthless exercise of power by strongmen and generalissimos is the natural state of human affairs. 

kevin-williamsonFor National Review OnlineKevin D. Williamson writes: I’m 41 years old, which doesn’t feel that old to me (most days), but history is short. With the exception of those trapped behind the Iron Curtain, the world as I have known it has been remarkably free and prosperous, and it is getting more free and more prosperous. But it is also a fact that, within my lifetime, there have been dictatorships in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Poland, India, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, South Korea, and half of Germany — and lots of other places, too, to be sure, but you sort of expect them in Cameroon and Russia. If I were only a few years older, I could add France to that list. (You know how you can tell that Charles de Gaulle was a pretty good dictator? He’s almost never described as a “dictator.”) There have been three attempted coups d’état in Spain during my life. Take the span of my father’s life and you’ll find dictatorships and coups and generalissimos rampant in practically every country, even the nice ones, like Norway.

“Rexford Tugwell, a key figure in Roosevelt’s so-called brain trust, was particularly keen on the Italian fascist model, which he described as ‘the cleanest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I’ve ever seen.'”

[Kevin Williamson’s book “The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure” is available at Amazon]

That democratic self-governance is a historical anomaly is easy to forget for those of us in the Anglosphere — we haven’t really endured a dictator since Oliver Cromwell. The United States came close, first under Woodrow Wilson and then during the very long presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. Both men were surrounded by advisers who admired various aspects of authoritarian models then fashionable in Europe. Rexford Tugwell, a key figure in Roosevelt’s so-called brain trust, was particularly keen on the Italian fascist model, which he described as “the cleanest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I’ve ever seen.” And the means by which that social hygiene was maintained? “It makes me envious,” he said. That envy will always be with us, which is one of the reasons why progressives work so diligently to undermine the separation of powers, aggrandize the machinery of the state, and stifle criticism of the state. We’ll always have our Hendrik Hertzbergs…(read more)

National Review Online

— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.


2 Comments on “Kevin D. Williamson: The Eternal Dictator”

  1. […] By Pundit from another Planet The ruthless exercise of power by strongmen and generalissimos is the natural state of human affairs. For National Review Online, Kevin D. Williamson writes: I’m 41 years old, which doesn’t feel that old to me (most days), but history is short. With the exception of those trapped behind the Iron Curtain, the world as I have known it has […] Like this? Read more and get your own subscription at […]


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