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Guest Thinkers

Why Revolutions Are Unpredictable

Over a long period of time, democratic and quasi-democratic nations change profoundly, but the change is gradual. Dictatorial regimes change in fits and starts, says Judge Richard Posner.

There are several reasons dictatorial regimes experience punctuated change. The obvious one is lack of information. A government that uses intimidation, surveillance, and control of media to quell dissent deprives itself of good information about the population’s concerns. People keep their concerns to themselves out of fear. Grievances are driven underground, to fester. Not having a good handle on what people want, the government risks being blindsided by a sudden explosion of repressed anger. Repression also fosters conspiracy; fearful of expressing themselves publicly, people learn to form secret cabals; they become experts at dissimulation.


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