Everybody’s reading Masha Gessen’s Six Rules For Surviving An Autocracy. I hope she’s over-reacting — I remember meeting her in Moscow nearly 25 years ago; she was brilliant and majorly intense even then. But what if she’s not?
. . . I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:
Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture. More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters . . .
. . . SOLMAN: So much of president-elect Trump’s economic policy is focused on unfair competition from China. Is he not right to say that the competition has been unfair . . . ?
TOOZE: Viewing that complex relationship one-sidedly from the aspect of manufacturing and the impact of Chinese imports on the United States makes sense from the point of view of the Rust Belt of the United States. It may even make sense as a political strategy for a candidate running for office.
But a dramatic unwinding of that relationship, by way of an aggressive trade policy, is one of the nightmare scenarios for the global economy as a whole, because it would result in a spiraling depreciation of the dollar, a surge in American interests rates, a collapse in the market for American government debt. It would be terrible both for the United States and China. . . .
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