Preventing totalitarianism

Bryan Caplan has a chapter on totalitarian rule in Global Catastrophic Risks.

Caplan notes that totalitarianism could amplify other risks (besides the raw amount of suffering it causes) since regimes fail to “anticipate and counteract events that even their leaders saw as catastrophic” due to “concentration of power, which allowed leaders’ idiosyncrasies to decide the fates of millions” and also fear of calling out leaders on their mistakes. (However Caplan also notes the efficiency of totalitarianism in achieving certain goals.)

Bryan Caplan, noting how totalitarian regimes to date have not lasted very long, writes:

If the short lifespan of totalitarianism is inherent, it probably does not count as a ‘global catastrophic risk’ at all. On the other hand, if the rapid demise of totalitarianism was a lucky accident, if future totalitarians could learn from history to indefinitely prolong their rule, then totalitarianism is one of the most important global catastrophic risks to stop before it starts.

Caplan also notes that an obsession to solve or mitigate other global catastrophic risks could lead to totalitarianism (p514):

one particularly scary scenario for the future is that overblown doomsday worries become the rationale for world government, paving the way for an unanticipated global catastrophe: totalitarianism. Those who call for the countries of the world to unite against threats to humanity should consider the possibility that unification itself is the greater threat.

See also