How to transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic regime peacefully?
I recently realized that my current computer science research, which proves that blockchain rationality assumptions are fundamentally insecure, can also potentially provide some insights for helping countries to transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic regime peacefully. In this post, I will explain everything as simple as possible. For those who want to read the original blockchain paper, you can refer to it here1.
I am going to give a simple game theory analysis. I will use a game to model reality and use players in the game to represent the people in reality. Here are some assumptions about the game:
- Each player is rational, i.e., wanting to maximize their reward.
- Two actions are available to each player: against or supporting the authoritarian regime.
- If fewer than t players are against the authoritarian regime, the transition will be failed, and players against the regime will receive a heavy penalty (perhaps many years in prison). In contrast, players supporting the regime remain unchanged (no penalty and reward).
- If equal or more than t players against the authoritarian regime, the transition will be succussed, and everyone (regardless of against or support) will receive a relatively small reward in expectation (because everybody now lives in a democratic regime)2.
We can prove that supporting the authoritarian regime by all players is one Nash equilibrium (a stable state in which no one is incentivized to change their action). When each player supports the authoritarian regime, if one player changes his action from support to against, he will receive a heavy penalty. Assuming everyone is rational, no single player would change his action.
Luckily, this is not the only Nash equilibrium of this game. If more than t players are against the authoritarian regime, it is also a (weak) Nash equilibrium. When more than t players are against the authoritarian regime, everybody receives a small reward, even though one player changes his mind from against to support.
But how can we transition from the bad equilibrium to the good one? It seems to be extremely difficult unless we have some external coordination. The key is to let more than t people change their actions altogether simultaneously to avoid heavy penalties for minorities. A leader could be the person to coordinate everyone’s actions, but he is very likely to receive a heavy penalty from the authoritarian regime. Perhaps, a better solution is to use common public knowledge to coordinate, e.g., protesting every Sunday at 10 am.
The key to success is to let more than t people act altogether. Some research shows that t is 3.5% of the population3. We must attract people to join the protests as much as possible to reach this threshold. Statistic data show that nonviolent protests are more likely to attract people to participate and have a higher success rate4.
Tips for Dictator
To prevent your minions from overthrowing you, you need to attack the model’s assumptions or make hard changes from the bad equilibrium to the good one. You can do the following:
- Make your minions irrational.
- Control the information and discussion, reeducate and guide minions’s minds and interests, so your minions would not know there is a better option for them.
- Impose heavy penalties for anyone who is against you.
Please do not overkill, as your overkilled actions might also become common public knowledge for people to act altogether.
For People Living in an Authoritarian Regime:
If you are not smart enough to know the rule of the game, you do not know that there is a better world.
If you are smart enough to know the rule of the game, your destiny is to disguise. Your inner heart knows everything, but you must act like you support (or at most not against) the authoritarian regime. You will have to face such inconstancy constantly. But please be patient; your Messiah will come (either a revolutionary leader or common public knowledge) to call you. Good Luck!
Breaking Blockchain Rationality with Out-of-Band Collusion ↩
For the supporters of the authoritarian regime: I will not argue why this assumption holds in this post. Please consider this a purely mathematical assumption. ↩
Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts – and those engaging a threshold of 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change. ↩