Main Fascist But Inefficient Discussion

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12:42:01 PM Nov 3rd 2014
I took the liberty to resurrect the original Real Life section here. Needless to say, there are a lot of other real life examples as well.

    Real Life 
  • Too many African governments to list. Particular highlights: Equatorial Guinea under Teodoro Obiang, one of the longest-serving and richest heads of state in the world, who has declared himself a god; Nigeria under General Sani Abacha, whose government once burned down the country's main telephone exchange to avoid paying their phone bill; and the Central African Republic under Jean-Bédel Bokassa, who spent a quarter of the nation's GDP in 1976 on his coronation as Emperor Bokassa I.
  • American Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona's Maricopa County (where Phoenix, the fifth-largest city in the country, is located) has gained cult status by being hardcore on enforcement of illegal immigration laws (which, technically, the Feds are supposed to be enforcing, not some county sheriff). The problem is, he doesn't actually do a very good job at enforcing any other laws. Maricopa County has, among other things, tens of thousands of outstanding felony warrants that are ignored because his deputies are too busy chasing down brown-skinned people with broken taillights. It also doesn't help that Sheriff Joe is in violation of dozens upon dozens of ethics codes and has done things up to and including refusing to turn over his records as per a judge's subpoena, or that he appears to spend a large amount of time attempting to delay, frustrate, or intimidate the lawyers and judges investigating him for his numerous abuses and corruption.
  • Played straight in China during the Nanjing Decade (1928-37) under Chiang Kai-Shek. Nepotism, cronyism and corruption (among other things) meant that the lives of ordinary Chinese peasants never really changed much. Chiang squandered aid on the black market to fund his (and his wife's) lifestyle, ran drugs through the Green Gang and taxed heavily. During this time, the upper crust is said to have spent their time partying and smoking opium. On the other hand, the ordinary Chinese had to live under an oppressive regime, run by the blue shirts, the New Life Movement, aimed at removing antisocial behavior, which included things such as: spitting, jay-walking, wearing extravagant clothes and more.
  • Communist China under Mao Zedong in the mid-20th century:
    • Mao: Brilliant revolutionary, inspiring leader, relentlessly terrible in actually running a government. In comparison, Chiang Kai-Shek looks like a good ruler.
    • Mao notoriously overthrew the government that he was the head of because he suspected them of plotting against him. At one point in the Cultural Revolution the highest operational level of government was the county level; Mao had gotten rid of pretty much everyone at the provincial or national levels.
    • Mao's policy included hunting down suspected "enemies of the people", basically those called "bourgeois" (anyone keeping nice stuff, having more than others, possessing an education).
    • Mao always thought there were people in his party that would try to usurp him, but in fact no one ever even thought about overthrowing him. Hence his hunt for traitors did nothing but cripple the party, and prevented anything from being done at all.
    • Preceding the Cultural Revolution was the Great Leap Forward, an ambitious but mismanaged and hurried program to jump to a fully communist economy in only one five-year plan. Due to a combination of Mao's inexperience with industrial expansion and economics to begin with and his intolerance of even constructive criticism, tens of millions died of starvation. What makes this more extraordinary is that Mao didn't even know a lot of this starvation was going on because party cadres would give false reports making the situation seem rosier than it was out of fear of being deemed unpatriotic. That's right, people risked starvation rather than anger Mao. Furthermore, Mao's deep distrust of 'academics' i.e. people who actually knew things about metallurgy, agriculture, and so forth, led him to make disastrous decisions, like plowing fields very deep (so the soil washed away easily) and 'backyard furnaces' to make steel (which only managed to make little lumps of iron, totally useless except to be fed into a proper steel mill).
  • Nazi Germany.
    • Allegedly, Adolf Hitler intentionally designed the structure of the Reich so that its multiple redundant Secret Police, State Sec and civil service organizations would be too busy jockeying for position with each other to plot against him. Or have anything useful done, often as not.
    • It wasn't just pragmatic: Hitler genuinely was a crazed Social Darwinist who thought that if he deliberately set up his followers to fight vicious turf wars against each other it would mean that the best people and organizations rose to the top. Unfortunately, it turned out that being good at bureaucratic combat, even when permissible tactics included "having the other guy shot" was not perfectly associated with competence.
    • It has been suggested that people still believe the propaganda about Nazi efficiency because the idea that Nazi Germany had the potential to screw up the world far more than it did is too horrific to contemplate.
    • Another reason was because the Nazis had masterful propagandists and were very good at maintaining the illusion of precision and order, even to this day; just watch the films of the various rallies, with thousands of troops marching in clockwork precision, for one example. Of course, the fallacy lies in confusing parade choreography with bureaucratic efficiency...
    • The Nazis had three support personnel per soldier. The Americans and British had seven; and this is why they ran rings around the Germans in espionage, code-breaking and counter-intelligence.
    • Driving Germany's Jews out of the nation's economic life and confiscating their assets greatly helped the pre-war buildup. And during the war Germany prospered to the extent that it did (before things turned real, real bad) by similarly robbing and exploiting the countries it conquered. Nazi Germany was a big Ponzi scheme.
    • What makes it worse was that not only were the different factions constantly squabbling, but Hitler himself was notoriously lazy. So the Nazi 'system', if you could even call it that, was one in which all power was concentrated in the hands of a totalitarian dictator who routinely had no interest in dictating. The result was confusion, chaos and infighting on an epic scale, a battle of everyone against everyone, particularly with the newly occupied territories.
    • One of the reasons why the Werewolf program to run a Nazi insurgency in occupied Germany never took off was because nobody could decide who was going to run it, how the plan would work, and eventually, when Germany did fall, whether the werewolves actually existed.
    • Also not very efficient? Their use of slave labor. People forced to work in the German war factories did an unsurprisingly bad job of it. They faked repairs, loosened parts, and were able to do quite a bit to hobble the Nazi war machine. Tanks going kaput in the middle of a battle does not make for very effective combat.
    • Note that in the final balance, the V-2 rocket program was more effective at killing slave laborers than enemy citizens.
    • Philosopher Oswald Spengler, after meeting Hitler in 1933, stated that [Germany doesn't need a] "heroic tenor but a real hero."
    • The veeeery ambivalent approach to science during those years: If it was obviously war-relevant (and Hitler or whoever liked the scientist), it was overfunded (i.e. Wernher von Braun), if it was not directly applicable it was forgotten or disgraced (i.e. penicillin). That's pretty much the problem with dictatorships and scientific pluralism.
    • Even better obvious example: the exodus of scientists, many of them Jewish, from Europe in the years leading up to WWII, and the Nazi-affiliated reaction against Einstein's "Jewish physics," provided a windfall to the US scientific establishment that paid off in the Manhattan Project.
  • An earlier German example: Frederick the Great's Kingdom of Prussia. He was able to fight off the three greatest land armies in Europe virtually without help and still run a functioning government, but he was so keen on personal rule that the ultra-modern Prussian bureaucracy completely atrophied around him. His successors turned out to be much less competent and Prussia was a political mess by 1848.
  • Pretty much any authoritarian government starts out appearing efficient because it can get things done through brute force and charismatic leadership without having to go through slower democratic channels. Also, good propaganda. The trains didn't run on time under Benito Mussolini (unless you were one of his cronies: he arranged for special trains to run for them, thus completely screwing up their timetable for the entire rest of Italy. This is quite a metaphor for fascism...) but he said they did. Eventually it slows down due to ineffective economic policies, rampant cronyism and nepotism, overgrown, corrupt bureaucracies, conservative fear of innovation and extroversion, the detachment and senility of the aging leadership, and the fact that such governments tend to make a lot of enemies really fast. Also add an atmosphere of total police surveillance and fear, which makes people very leery of criticizing the inefficiency of the government; it's easy to pretend that everything's running smoothly when the other option is speaking up, getting arrested, tortured and shot.
    • That and it can keep a lot of the infrastructure and personnel when it takes over. The head engineer of a factory is still a good engineer when the fascists take over and isn't going to change jobs at 50 even if charisma and force up his workload. His successor who rose under the new and corrupt, inefficient system is a different matter.
  • One of the reasons why the DDR (East Germany) fell (besides the fact that the Soviets dismantled its infrastructure and shipped it to rebuild Russia) was that they were spending too much resources spying on their own citizens, and too little in vital state functions. At the end, the Secret Service couldn't even stop the 1989 revolution.
  • Averted with Napoleonic France. All things considered, he ran a fairly efficient government with an admirable legal code. It helped that his predecessors were a bunch of self-serving Corrupt Bureaucrats known as the Directory, that their predecessors were the Jacobins who got through 10,000 heads in one year, and that most of his rivals were monarchies and duchies plagued with nepotism, internal divisions, and a bunch of other problems that they were not very good at dealing with. In a twist, Napoleon owed his rise to said Directory and Jacobins, and ended up being (in?)directly responsible for France's spectacular and total defeat because of his excessive ambition. Twice.
    • Of course he was also a nepotistic monarch who handed out their new conquests to his (mostly incompetent) family. The only competent kings he installed over his conquests (his brother Louis in the Netherlands) ended up more or less openly defying him in the interests of their new subjects.
  • Khmer Rouge in Cambodia:
    • They spend more of the time persecuting their own populace than running the country. Their system involved shooting people they considered as enemies. Namely people who were intellectual, from the middle or upper classes, religious and ethnic minorities (the Cham Muslims were almost completely annihilated for instance), or simply those who wore glasses. The result of this is that the country had massive shortages, people died of starvation, or were worked to death. Precisely those necessary to run the country had been killed by its rulers.
    • It was even worse. Practically the entire population was driven to the countryside to slave in the fields. Basic literacy meant death. A considerable fraction (eighth? quarter? half?) of Cambodia's population died under the Khmer Rouge during their four-year rule.
    • One of the regime's mottos regarding its own citizens was: "To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss."
    • People were severaly malnourished in the fields, as the Khmer Rouge did not provide enough food to eat. Not only did many die, but those who picked fruit or attempted to grow something to eat for themselves were punished (even killed) for conducting "private enterprise." Romantic/sexual relationships the Khmer Rouge did not sanction were also forbidden.
    • There are indications that North Korea may be a long-term version of Khmer Rouge Cambodia.
  • The trope namer Fascist Italy:
    • The Mussolini government almost destroyed the Italian economic system, focusing too much on agriculture and neglecting industry (in the 20th century...). In order to gain the consensus of the industrialists he crippled every form of competition, promoting inefficiencies and technological stagnation. Moreover unemployment was rampant and after the Ethiopian invasion Mussolini used international sanction (then lifted) as an excuse to promote autarky (economic self-reliance), often with ridiculous results such as dramatic shortage of fuel, forced recovery of every kind of scrap metal possible (even from sands in beaches), grain planted in public parks in order to increase national food output and the patenting of poorly realized synthetic materials such as Lanital (derived from milk) to substitute wool and other basics. Moreover the Italian Army was badly unprepared and under-equipped at the time of Mussolini decision of entering the World War II. There was no coordination among commanders, the shortage of raw materials meant no fuel for the navy (the only modern part of the armed forces), poor armor for the tanks, and the troops were even armed with rifles from 1899!
  • Brazil, 1964-1984.
  • The Mubarak regime in Egypt (which failed epically at its periodic attempt to look like a democracy in 2010), is a perfect example of this. Something as simple as getting an ID card can take months, and one of the more famous Egyptian films of The '90s (Al-Irhab wal-Kabab, Terrorism and Kebobs) involves a "terrorist" situation consisting entirely of people who simply wanted to get some documents at the central office of the Egyptian bureaucracy (the infamous Mugamma`) in Cairo being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Part of the reason for the Egyptian Revolution in 2011 was the people's frustration with this kind of crap...and another part was government workers' frustration with their abysmal pay, which was part of the reason the system was so inefficient in the first place.
  • As mentioned earlier, North Korea. Its "Army First" policy and nuclear weapons program may be somewhat useful for bullying other countries into giving you what you want, but it doesn't mean much when your country's so completely screwed that you have no choice but to use that leverage just to get the most basic supplies, like food and fuel.
  • Nicolae Ceausescu's secret police once arrested and interrogated a parrot to try and find out where it had learned the anti-government jokes it kept spouting.
    • He also had a policy of shipping off valuable foodstuffs and economic resources in order to pay off foreign debts, leaving the people at home starving and with nothing.
    • His anti-birth control policy:
    • It basically outlawed all contraception and abortions so Romania could have a larger workforce, even though everyone was starving.
    • The low living standards and poor healthcare meant that infant mortality was much higher than in the rest of the Communist bloc that boasted better standards on both and a more liberal approach to abortion. In the end, the population remained stagnant anyway. However, it did manage to produce a high number of disaffected young people-the same ones whose protests began the revolution which ended in Ceaucescu's trial and then death by firing squad.
05:20:53 AM Mar 6th 2018
Is there a reason this was pulled? I get that we should probably skip existing states to avoid creating unnecessary drama, but there are plenty of historical authoritarian regimes that play this trope completely straight. And I bet we can find some historical non-authoritarian regimes for subversions/inversions as well.
11:09:15 AM Jun 28th 2014
Anyone else find the 'but' a little odd here? As the trope description demonstrates (and the large real life section used to), inefficiency is the default state for fascist regimes, not something unusual.
03:11:11 PM Jun 28th 2014
Well, the (incorrecr) assumption about fascism is that by being no-dissent allowed dictators, one can be efficient.
03:49:37 AM Dec 27th 2013
edited by
The Main Page refers the reader to the Other Wiki for Real Life examples (which is disappointing, but I'm guessing the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment is in effect), but doen't actually link to a page (and the other wiki, quite natrually, doesn't have a Fascist, but Inefficient page). Does anyone know what page they did mean?
03:08:34 PM Jun 6th 2013
Please, no Conversation on the Main Page - it looks ugly, especially with the bullet points nested three to four levels deep:

  • Even better; they were sent by a ministry official to attack him in the first place.
  • Even better than that is that said official was kept on even after it was revealed how bad she was, and that was before Voldemort took over.
    • Even the most moderate members of Harry's trial only seem interested in the fact that Harry was capable of casting a Patronus. Nobody thought to question why he would do so, considering that the spell is only useful for fighting off evil magical creatures such as Dementors.
03:01:39 PM Jun 6th 2013
edited by
More Conversation on the Main Page. I removed this, but I still think it's interesting:
  • Moreover, when Sirius is imprisoned in Azkaban, as noted above, he evades most of the worst punishment by pretending to be a dog most of the time. A prison staffed by wizards, instead of evil, joy-sucking monsters, probably would have noticed the loophole he was using.
  • More Fridge Logic here, as Sirius' escape from Azkaban was directly related to him knowing that he was innocent. Does that mean that most the people being put into Azkaban really are guilty to a degree?
    • Maybe. Remember, Sirius said he still felt horrible- the only things which kept him going was a desire for revenge and the ability to escape into a dog's simple mind. Anyone else might succumb to any of the other reasons one feels bad about themselves.
    • There's also the fact that the Dementors horror works by forcing you to remember the very worst things that have ever happened to you. But the worst thing that ever happened to Sirius was being put in Azkaban, so all it did was fixate him on revenge against the one who was truly guilty.
12:21:17 PM Jan 19th 2012
Pulling the Real Life modern China subbullet; most of my knowledge of China points to a Double Subversion and the entry is already Thread Mode-y:
  • Thoroughly subverted by China under Deng Xiaoping, who opened the economy but continued to stifle political debate. As a result of Deng's reforms, China is now the fastest growing economy but still continues to suppress free speech. Proof positive that you can be both Fascist and Efficient, and that market freedom can coexist quite comfortably with political tyranny.
    • This is very debatable. Sure, China is growing at 10% per year, but this is from a very low base, and using technology from countries with much higher levels of both political-social and economic freedom. It is fair to say China is fascist and increasing in efficiency but whether or not it is actually efficient is a different matter entirely.
    • It is not fascist, it is an authoritarian communist state. "Fascism," by definition, is violently opposed to Communism despite the fact that they often use similar methods to control the populace.
    • China has essentially lost most of its Communist aspects at this point. State Capitalist would probably be more accurate.
    • The jury is definitely still out. Apparently, they still can't get the trains to run on time.
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