I heard that some dictators, including Hitler, used the theme "we must end corruption" as a means to gain popularity and install their dictatorship more easily.

Is this true? If so, what's the relation between fighting corruption and installing a dictatorship?

  • There is probably a difference between fighting corruption and conjuring the image of corruption in order to whip up support. You seem to mix both in the question which might be a bit confusing. For example, I always thought that fighting corruption is actually a good thing while installing a dictatorship is not. Oct 26, 2018 at 16:02
  • @Trilarion I tend to agree with you, but I also tend to believe that, in politcs and in general, masks can be used as a means to an end, and the end can be absolutely opposite to the means, like a Trojan Horse. Nov 5, 2018 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


Corruption invariably benefits the wealthy and the politically powerful more (and affects them less) than it does the masses, because they're in a position to benefit from it. Worse, from the perspective of the common people, they see it as the system having been subverted so it can't be rectified just by appointing honest judges and law enforcement.

Which means that as corruption expands, it's the common people that suffer the most. A clever would-be dictator can publicly denounce the decadence and corruption of "the elites" who have "nothing in common with The People anymore", highlighting their many excesses, and then promise to "clean house" or "drain the swamp" or rhetoric along those lines, and expect a large groundswell of support from people who think that'd be a good idea, "laws" be damned.

  • False. It's quite possible to have a "corrupt" government that is heavily biased against the wealthy and (previously) politically powerful. E.g. revolutionary France, Russia after the Bolshevik takeover, contemporary Venezuela... (Of course "corruption" is somewhat subjective :-))
    – jamesqf
    Oct 21, 2018 at 17:32
  • Note that in each of those cases the corrupt became the elite, even though they keep describing themselves otherwise. "The People's Party", for instance, is basically a collective of hereditary kleptocrats. Oct 21, 2018 at 17:34
  • Welcome to the site! This answer has receied a couple of down votes. It could be improved by being backed up. Can you link to evidence which shows that this is true? Merely being reasonable or sensible isn't a good basis for an answer. Oct 22, 2018 at 1:33

Corruption arises in weak and inefficient legal and moral system

Humans are fallible beings, susceptible to various temptations. Public servants are also humans, therefore they often "feel the urge" to do something for themselves, or their friends and family, at the expense of public good. If their own conscience does not stop them, two things could - fear of legal punishment and fear of moral condemnation.

For the first thing to work you would need strict and clear control procedures, with assigned duties. Such systems do stifle corruption (at least on low and mid-tier of hierarchy) but they as a rule become bureaucratic and inflexible. Second thing, morality of certain society, is elusive category. It depends on culture, tradition, religion etc ... It is usually eroded when legal system does not work (" hey, if I don't steal that somebody else would" ) .

Future dictators usually promise to repair both public morality and laws, but morality is more important do them. Hitler rose to power during the time when Weimar Republic did fall in the depths of decadence. For example prostitution and crime boomed in Berlin, and while technically still illegal, they were silently accepted. Hitler seized opportunity to blame Jews, communists and parties then in power for this moral catastrophe. He didn't blame insufficient laws and didn't promise legal reform - because he didn't need them. Instead, he simple said that groups responsible for this would be punished (laws notwithstanding), and promised to restore traditional German morality.

Hitler did not hide that he is not interested in democracy, and that he required obedience from German people, asking for dictatorial powers. Question is why did they accept this ? One of the reasons is that large part of Germans deemed current (Weimar) system as insufficient and useless. Hitler's promise of strength, not restrained by laws appealed to them, because they already lost faith in a possibility that something could be done in that existing system.

  • So, it means that, when the whole system is considered deemed by the population itself, fighting this "corrupt system" is the way to make people agree with you, even when you're being explicit about installing a dictatorship? Oct 21, 2018 at 13:22
  • 1
    @EdgarSalazar Essentially yes. When population no longer have faith that situation in society could be repaired by working trough the system, they then readily accept quick and brutal solutions that tear down that system.
    – rs.29
    Oct 21, 2018 at 19:26
  • 2
    Can you back-up this answer? Can you link to an expert source which validates this argument? Oct 22, 2018 at 1:32
  • 2
    @indigochild What expert's answer ? We are discussing political theory, what would be an expert for you could be a fool for me, and vice versa. Only thing that could be added are historical facts, rise of dictator is a rule always preceded with system breakdown. You have one such example with Weimar republic, we could also mention last days of Russian Empire before the revolution etc ...
    – rs.29
    Oct 22, 2018 at 7:31
  • @rs.29 There are experts in theory. Try attributing this work to a well-known political theorist - Rousseau, Hobbes, Adam Smith, etc. Academic sources are also typically a good, since they have spent their lives interpreting these kinds of authors. Without that kind of expertise, this is just your opinion and should be deleted from the site. Oct 22, 2018 at 15:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .