Alexander Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago, has died at the age of 89. Happily he lived to see the end of the Soviet regime that his books excoriated. Dry stuff, for those who haven’t read him, but his books revealed horrors that, by the end of Gulag, became completely banal as a result of their commonness.
It should be understood that the gulags Solzhenitsyn wrote about were the inevitable result of the concentration of power into the hands of a few. It’s a lesson that we would do well to remember in a time in which an American president is unwisely taking the first steps down the road to a dictatorial executive office.
While a monopoly on power can and often does prove effective at achieving a set of goals in the short run, the good cannot last. As George Paloczi-Horvath described in The Undefeated, the good achieved by first-generation leaders in such a system is usually undone by the corruption of those that follow, just as Lenin’s achievements, such as they were, were obliterated by the terror of Stalin and his 5 year plans.
While Solzhenitsyn was skeptical of western democracy, it remains the best system for ensuring that governmental actions conform to the public’s will.