Given the hypothetical task of capturing a free country without a civil war, I was thinking about how I might approach the problem.
Something for Nothing
First, I would borrow and print a lot of money. I would use this money to create new government jobs. I would send a message to the public sector unions that strikes would be rewarded and I would engage the intellectual community to talk about the role of public sector unions as one of setting a low water mark for private sector unions.
I would create many new government departments, each devoted to handing out some of the newly borrowed and printed cash. I would hand out cash to the poor, to business, to farmers and to the old. I would make sure that between direct public sector employment and various welfare programs, a large percentage of the population became dependant on my cash.
Before the cash ran out, I would offer free health care (for the children) and old age pensions to everyone. At the same time, I would make it illegal to accept payment for heath care. I would engage the intellectual community to talk about this from an economy of scale economic perspective (and downplay the central planning angle). I would also encourage them to invent a thought framework, grammar and dialog to position the general replacement of individual freedom with regulation in terms of collective fairness. Something like “social justice”.
I would spend some cash on the intellectuals in form of university (for the children) and think tank funding. I would use the funding influence to encourage political science research that demonstrated that my desired economic and social policies were derived using science as opposed to simply being invented out of whole cloth.
I would establish a government office whose sole agenda was to fuse my economic and social agenda with patriotism.
I would establish a government media organization whose sole agenda was to use the output of my intellectuals to counter argue any potential news that might call into question the morality or effectiveness of my plan.
I would continue to hold elections, confident that I control so much of the economy that I can frighten a majority into reelecting me, even if they oppose me in general. After each new win, I would speak of civility and cooperation, and I would hand out some cash to the losers.
Paying for It
As the cash ran low, I would cancel the military. Presumably the intellectuals haven’t found any use for it anyway.
Managing the Private Sector
I would use powerful government bureaucracies like customs, safety and standards to effectively control the market. I would then create winners and losers at will.
I would nationalize key industries like energy and transportation, either overtly or indirectly via taxation and regulation.
As needed, I would use some cash for corporate welfare in the form of job creation programs to keep the unemployment and welfare rate below a socially disastrous level.
Paying for It
Taxes will have to up. Way up.
Lambs to the Slaughter
I would disarm the population. Assuming the plan was going well up to this point, I wouldn’t actually be that concerned with armed revolt. But I would understand that a general sense of powerlessness and freedom from individual responsibility would work in my favor over time.
Keeping It Going
As taxes approached the limit of 100%, inflation precluded running the presses, and people began to want their borrowed money back, I would turn toward regulation as the primary vehicle of control. I would create a climate, using my control of the media, where every tragedy generated outrage requiring me to do something (for the children) to prevent it in the future.
The Golden Goose
Just as the cash was running out, the population aging and shrinking at the same time, the immigrants proving to be stubbornly independent, the heath care system creaking, business innovation declining, unfunded future liabilities exploding, Alberta and Quebec giving me the digit, I’d embrace the new religion of global warming. First, I would retune the intellectual and thought control systems away from progressive socialism and toward environmentalism. I would then generate a sense of guilt and fear to justify sweeping regulation. I would blame any subsequence economic damage, including the damage that I created in the preceding 40 years on saving the planet (for the children).
It might work.