Entertainment

Study finds ‘good’ governments fall harder than dictatorships

Oh, how the mighty have fallen … and may fall again.

A new historical review by anthropologists at Purdue University has revealed that “good” governments — meaning those that supported social programs and did not amass disproportionate wealth — suffered “major” collapse compared to more tyrannical regimes.

The study examined 30 pre-modern societies, including the Roman Empire, China’s Ming dynasty, India’s Mogul empire and the Republic of Venice — all of which decidedly crumbled. But regardless of righteous leadership, researchers were “surprised” to find that more equitable societies fared no better in terms of perpetuity.

“Pre-modern states were not that different from modern ones. Some pre-modern states had good governance and weren’t that different from what we see in some democratic countries today,” said Gary Feinman, curator of Chicago’s Field Museum and author of the new study, in a statement on Phys.org. “The states that had good governance, although they may have been able to sustain themselves slightly longer than autocratic-run ones, tended to collapse more thoroughly, more severely.”

The Daming Palace of the Ming dynasty, circa 15th century
The Daming Palace of the Ming dynasty, circa 15th centuryHeritage Images via Getty Images

A “good” government, for the purposes of the study, is different from how modern citizens would define one, as they lacked “electoral democracies” at the time, said Feinman, whose work was published in Frontiers in Political Science.

“They didn’t have elections, but they had other checks and balances on the concentration of personal power and wealth by a few individuals,” he continued. “They all had means to enhance social well-being, [to provide] goods and services beyond just a narrow few, and means for commoners to express their voices.”

Nevertheless, they describe this as a vulnerability to historical leaders, such as Roman Emperor Commodus, whose noted disregard for governance undermined the “social contracts” expected of more equitable governments. Rather than help repair the unstable state he inherited, he instead used his power to stoke his fame, posing as a gladiator instead of a ruler.

Commodus was eventually assassinated, and the Roman Empire continued its downward spiral.

Feinman recognizes parallels in global political shifts and unrest today.

“What I see around me feels like what I’ve observed in studying the deep histories of other world regions, and now I’m living it in my own life,” said Feinman. “It’s sort of like Groundhog Day for archaeologists and historians.”

He suggested societies learn from past mistakes, with the help of his colleagues’ research.

“History has a chance to tell us something. That doesn’t mean it’s going to repeat exactly, but it tends to rhyme. And so that means there are lessons in these situations.”

Source link