Creative Destruction for Dictators

April 4th, 2013

We are always talking about how some area of our lives has been changed by creative destruction. We know that it’s widespread and impactful. In fact, even dictators today have felt the results of this creative destruction.

It’s much harder and more complex to be a dictator today. Dictatorships have had to become more sophisticated and savvy. Brutal repression has been largely replaced with subtle coercion. But at the same time, the individuals challenging dictatorships have also evolved. And while popular movements may seem spontaneous and romantic, they are in reality very strategic and organized, sometimes for years before we pay any attention.

Journalist William Dobson, foreign affairs editor of Slate and a former editor at Foreign Affairs, Newsweek International and Foreign Policy, has been looking deeply into these changes. He argues in his book The Dictator's Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy, that ultimately dictators cannot learn or adapt as quickly as the forces that oppose them.

My conversation with William J. Dobson: