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What’s the first thing you would do?

By some miraculous and tortuous process you have become your country’s head of government and been endowed with dictatorial powers. What is the first thing you do?

44 comments to What’s the first thing you would do?

  • Seawriter

    Resign. Not interested in dictatorial powers

  • Ferox

    Seawriter’s response is the principled one. However, if I ended up in that predicament I might find it irresistible to put the US back on a hard currency, and impose a balanced budget amendment not only on the federal government, but on the state governments as well. However much immediate pain it might cause, those measures taken now would still be preferable to the uncontrolled crash which is soon coming.

    Then I would start abolishing federal departments until the cabinet could meet in the backseat of a cab.

  • jgh

    ahem… oops.

  • Brendan Westbridge (London)

    Would that be a US cab or a British cab?

  • DiscoveredJoys

    Ask for a comprehensive statement (say in a spreadsheet) of Government expenditure.

    Then follow the money trails to see how much was being spent on items that were no longer needed or gold plated.

    Cut unnecessary expenditure.

    Sack saboteurs who try to maintain their prestige, bonfire of the QUANGOs.

    Dodge assassination attempts (reputational or physical).

  • James Strong

    Deport all RoPers, yes all, and ban all future RoPer immigration.

  • george m weinberg

    My first thought was the same as Seawriter’s but on reflection there’s something else I should do first: set up some sort of successor government. I can’t just resign if there’s going to be another dictator. OTOH, there would be little point in making a lot of specific policy decisions, since any of them could be reversed once I did step down.

  • Kirk

    Being as I’d never take the thankless job, it’d be a moot question. I know full well that if I did, and did what I thought necessary…? I’d almost certainly be assassinated in very short order by those I acted against, most of which would be in the current “elite” set.

    Something like this is going to happen, once all the inherent contradictions become essentially undeniable. The idiots are working towards that with an alacrity I can only marvel at, and make me wonder if they know something I don’t, like there are actual aliens in the wings, waiting to reveal themselves.

    That’s about the only thing that could explain some sort of logic behind all the deficit spending: They’ve no intent of paying it back, and know that they’ll never be called to account for it.

    Most of our so-called self-declared “elite” belong in front of the dock, with firing squads waiting in the wings for those who can’t prove their factual innocence and lack of corruption.

    This means that Congress here in the US would have only a handful of actual members, when I was done with the forensic accounting. The rest would either be at hard labor, or dead, depending on what they did and who they’d betrayed to get their filthy lucre. All the assholes behind profiting off of, rather than prosecuting “The War on Terror”? Straight to the wall, my friends, straight to the wall… Including all the generals. Most particularly them, because they betrayed that unspoken law of loyalty to their subordinates. No idea how many died, don’t want to know, but I do know I want accountability. Accountability that could be filmed, and shown to every incoming class of officers in every training pipeline: Betray the trust of your men? The trust given you by the parents and families of every American serviceman? You don’t get to retire to some cushy job provided by General Dynamics, you get to face those men’s proxies at the wall, hands tied behind your back, while they put you to your well-deserved death.

    Accountability for these monsters is long, long overdue.

  • Jonathan Bailey

    I will ruthlessly leave the people alone to live their lives as they see fit.

  • Steven R

    Get rid of the Designated Hitter Rule and anyone who says otherwise is forced to dig his own grave before being buried alive at the Pitcher’s Mound.

    If I did nothing else during my reign, that alone would have been enough.

  • I would defund pretty much every single NGO & Quango receiving taxpayer’s money; reintroduce the legally enforced notion of ultra vires; cut civil service to 1/5th of current size & build a really large bleak penal colony in the Falklands (these two things are not unrelated); abolish Ofcom, BBC, C4, DTI & replace them with nothing. Wind up the NHS & adopt a healthcare system modelled on the best bits of the Dutch & Swiss ones… and that’s just during my first 24 hours in power 😀

  • orthodoc

    No new rule can be passed without a 2/3 majority.
    All new rules sunset after three years.
    Anyone driving under the speed limit in the left lane (American, right if in the UK) will be shot.
    Anyone specifying pronouns in email or everyday conversation will be shot.
    Anyone mentioning that they’re vegan, a bicyclist, or a crossfitter without being asked first will be shot.
    Anyone using the terms “microaggression,” “colonialism,” “intersectionality” (or the like) will be shot.

  • WindyPants

    Notwithstanding that I wouldn’t want the job either, I’d wholly abolish most governmental departments and quangos, slash government’s responsibilities, make every remaining civil servant explain, at length, why their job couldn’t be privatised, outsourced, automated or abolished (and then sack ’em!) and repeal at least 90% of our laws.

    I’d put us back on the gold standard, give serious thought to abolishing the Bank of England, rip up our commitment to NATO and implement universal free trade.

    Any remaining laws need to be simplified (have any unnecessary gold plating removed) and should be as clear and concise as possible. Similarly, the tax code should be simplified to the point where the entirety of the legislation can fit onto one side of A4 paper.

    I’d abolish the House of Lords and replace it with 200 people, randomly drawn by lot, to serve a fixed 10 year term. They must be over 50 years old, be well remunerated, and have no political affiliations prior to being picked.

    I’d create a constitution, small enough to fit on a postage stamp, that guarantees free speech, trade, movement and association. A constitution that limits the power of government to snoop and spy on you and that guarantees free and fair trials by jury. All of those things we used to take for granted.

    I’d scrap Net Zero, HS2, CBDC and any other WEF inspired nonsense. I’d pause legal migration and use the army to stop illegal (boat people) migration. I’d introduce a bounty system to catch those that shouldn’t be here and deport any non-British criminals on the next available cross-channel ferry. Dual national criminals will have their British passports revoked and will be deported too.

    Finally, I’d hold referendums on Scottish independence, the reintroduction of the death penalty and the future of the monarchy.

    And, if you give me a few minutes, I’ll think of something to do in my second week!

  • Mr Ed

    1. Ban eminent domain, compulsory purchase. But anyone involved in it gets their property seized to pay compensation to victims.
    2. Stop all payments for the TV licence from the Consolidated Fund and scrap it.
    3. Enable impeachment of police officers, civil servants and judges before a voluntary jury, sitting on Saturdays, 30 minutes each side. Impeachment means sacking and paying back all pay received from the State throughout entire career forthwith.
    4. Replace the ‘Supreme Court’ with a panel to recommend to Parliament changes in the law and to recommend that specific hard cases be resolved by Parliament. One page, 600 word limit on recommendation.
    5. 10-year term limit for public sector work (except for Armed Forces).
    6. Abolish judicial immunity.
    7. Public sector pay cap of £100k pa, public sector pensions scrapped, bureaucrats can save for their future.
    8. Abolish the House of Lords.
    9. Tax charities, universities etc as businesses. Make them state salary and benefits of highest paid bod in every advert. ‘Please give £2 a month, our CEO gets £350,000 a year.’ (same for universities).
    10. Scrap all quangos and all ministries bar treasury, interior, defence.
    11. Abolish most functions of local government.
    12. Establish an All-England Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage.

  • bobby b

    End all government crop subsidies for kale.

    Move the government seat to Barbados. Leeward side.

    That is all.

  • Roué le Jour

    Top priority would have to be education as that would take the longest to show results. Only a communist country needs government schools, or for that matter government health care or a state broadcaster. These are not legitimate government functions.

    Second would be the family. Restore fathers as the head of the family. Women and children do not belong to the state. Stop paying underclass women to produce bastards, stop encouraging women to divorce and raise fatherless children.

    Decimate the civil service year on year untill we get a system we can actually afford.

    And of course, only male taxpayers vote.

  • Agammamon

    Flip a coin. Head’s even, tails odd. Whichever side comes up – if your SSN matches the even/odd then you’re fired.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Perry de Havilland (Wiltshire)
    Wind up the NHS & adopt a healthcare system modelled on the best bits of the Dutch & Swiss ones… and that’s just during my first 24 hours in power

    I don’t know much about the alternative you propose here. Can you explain more about what these two health systems do that you think are getting it right? Or point me in the right direction to read on my own?

  • Lee Moore

    I think the temptation – a la Perry – is to rush into things. I think a steady deliberate approach would be best, and in the early days, doing nothing that I might regret later.

    So at least initially, I’d do nothing. Except killing all the lawyers, obviously.

  • decnine

    @Fraser Orr

    The source of the research material you seek is through the portal marked ‘Google’. Do you have the means to type that for yourself?

  • Alexander Tertius Harvey

    Lee Moore

    Not all lawyers, but a good start would be interventionist judges (active or retired).

  • FrankH

    Fire 10% of the civil service.
    Then, when the country doesn’t collapse, fire 10% of the remainder.
    Repeat until all of those left are doing some useful work.
    “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” William Shakespeare

  • Michael Taylor

    Well, obviously, you’d sack 14% of the civil service, since their output per person has dropped by 14%. So no loss of function there.

    Then I’d make a special case for the Cabinet Office, which probably needs, maybe, a dozen people only.

    Then I’d put in a flat tax, allowing an income tax system that could be run by an old lady with an abacus.

    Obviously TV license, but in addition I’d ban TV advertising. And sow the ruins of Broadcasting House with salt.

    And finally, just to make sure, I’d appoint Lord Cameron as my successor and resign.

  • Windy Pants

    Day 2 would look like this;

    Figure out a system where each individual gets one vote for each pound paid in tax. The more tax you pay, the more democratic clout you have.

    Privatise/sell off every school, university, hospital and prison and use the money raised to pay down the national debt. We can use something similar to the Swedish education voucher for our schools, universities and hospitals.

    Digitise libraries and allow all book borrowing to become electronic.

    Allow fracking, and encourage the private sector to frack as much gas ASAP. However, the first X amount of gas fracked can only be sold into and used exclusively in the UK. This would hopefully drive down UK energy prices and help regenerate British manufacturing. I’d also like to see incentives for powering our vehicle fleet using compressed natural gas (CNG). This will give us energy independence in the short to medium term.

    I’d offer to host peace talks between Russia and Ukraine – naturally, us arming one side and not the other would not be conducive to securing peace so, guess what, we stop funding Ukraine. In fact, we stop funding all overseas military interventions. We’re not the globe’s policeman.

    We declare that armed neutrality to all nations shall be our default position going forwards and that, if we’re left alone for 50 years, we’ll consider retiring Trident.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Crush the Deep State, see it driven before me, and hear the lamentations of the woke.

    But there is a problem with this program: one has dictatorial powers only to the extent that the Deep State accepts such powers.
    To implement my program, I’d have to be Machiavellian enough to pit one sector of the Deep State against another, and i am not.

  • Duncan S

    The first thing I’d do is re-read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series to remind me how Lord Vetenari runs Ankh-Morpork.

  • PaulF

    Toss a coin: and if it’s heads, hot tap is on the right, it it’s tails hot tap is on the left. Or the other way round, I’m not that fussy. But consistency would be good.

    Oh, and as others have mentioned above, a bonfire of the quangos, and the banning of all charities that use government – sorry – OUR money to lobby government.

    And the immediate sacking of any civil servant who has the word ‘diversity’ in their job title. Think how much money would be freed up for the NHS to waste elsewhere!

  • Paul Marks

    The clever thing to say would be to say “I would resign” – but that is not very useful.

    I think the first thing I would do is to declare that with the exception of the end of the censorship of the theatre and the legalisation of homosexual acts, all legislation passed since the election of 1964 was null-and-void. A massive deregulation of the economy and society – a restoration.

    A similar thing was done when Charles II returned in 1660 – all legislation passed under Cromwell was declared null-and-void.

    60 years is not too big a period – the old law books, and so on, still exist.

    The tax burden and the level of government spending was much too high in 1963-4 – but it was much lower than it is now.

  • Paul Marks

    Statism was at its low point in England in 1869 – or (in areas that did not adopt a School Board) 1874.

    In Scotland it may have been before 1845 – when the Poor Law was extended.

    And in Ireland – in 1830, before state education and the Poor Law.

    But going back so far in one jump is a bit much.

    So back to 1964 (with the exception of the end theatre censorship and the legalisation of homosexual acts) it is.

  • Fraser Orr

    I would accumulate vast quantities of the country’s cash and store it in a Swiss bank account, promote my families to high positions of power so that they could do the same, probably kill most of the people I didn’t like and certainly all the ones that opposed me, fill my life with ridiculous luxury and extravagance, censor everything I didn’t like, start lots of wars to cover both my incompetence, my thieving and that of my inner circle, and make sure I had a quick escape route for when the revolution started.

    Of course I wouldn’t start out with those intentions but none of us are immune to the immutable law — power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    The source of the research material you seek is through the portal marked ‘Google’. Do you have the means to type that for yourself?

    Thanks for the tip, as they say in the south, bless your heart, aren’t you precious….

    Let me just add your name to my list….

  • Paul Marks

    A conservative Scottish Nationalist might point out that taxes were lower in Scotland before the Act of Union of 1707 and that local people picked their own church ministers, rather than having them selected from on high, before 1712. But, as far as I know (I would be happy to be proved wrong) there are no conservative Scottish Nationalists.

    From an English perspective the high point of Constitutional law may have been the time of Sir John Holt – Chief Justice from 1689 to 1710.

    A man as keen to protect fundamental liberties from Parliament as he to protect them from the King – this was before the “Blackstone heresy” – the doctrine of Sir William Blackstone that whatever Parliament said was law (for example – everyone with brown eyes is to be executed), this “Divine Right of Parliament” is not compatible with liberty, as the American Founding Fathers noted.

    As Frasor Orr noted – absolute power corrupts, and that is as true of a group of people (such as a Parliament) as it is one man.

    Although the modern practice of Parliament handing over arbitrary power to “independent regulators” is even worse – as one vote out Members of Parliament, but not the officials.

  • Paul Marks

    Sir John Holt, Chief Justice from 1689 to 1710, should be better known – much better known.

    Even the “little” things he did were important – such as react to the doctrine that a person accused of treason needed no defence council as “the judge will defend them”, by acting as such a defence council (from the bench). He acted as if the idea was real – literally true, (basically “oh you say that he needs no defence council because the judge will defend him – well I am the judge and I will do just that”).

    The idea being, of course, to show up the injustice of not allowing a person accused of treason legal council to help them defend themselves.

    I doubt that the old story about Sir John Holt being a Highwayman in his youth is true – but he was a strong personality, even in the time when an English Gentleman bearing a sword and a brace of pistols was normal.

  • SteveD

    “The clever thing to say would be to say “I would resign” – but that is not very useful.”

    Right, the clever (and useful) thing is not just to say it, but to do it.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Nothing. Because to Do Anything beyond the trivial, I would need a vast number of competent underlings faithfully executing my decrees. I don’t have such underlings, nor do I know how to recruit them. I would find it very difficult just to staff my cabinet with people I could trust to Do Things.

    Alternatively, I would enact several (US) constitutional amendments which would change the political system so that in the future it it would produce results more in line with what I want. I.e. change the process not just some outcomes.

  • OldYeoman

    If I wanted to at least try to play the Civil Service at their own game*, something along the lines of:

    1. Every budget-holding department/organisation within government gets 30 days to draw up a list of all current projects & programmes and the amount allocated to them, ordered by priority. Any that are mandated by law should be marked and cross-referenced to the appropriate legislation and must appear above anything discretionary in the list
    1a. Any cases of budgets not adding up triggers an investigation for fraud/embezzlement of the senior Civil Servants responsible personally (while suspended without pay)
    2. Draw a line between the mandatory/discretionary line items, and immediately cancel anything below the line
    3. Start working through the ‘mandatory’ expenditure looking for all the ones with BS justifications (there’ll be loads – have vivid memories of things being done ‘for GDPR’ that were nothing of the sort…), cancel those too
    4. Then make a list of legislation -> spending across departments for everything that’s left – start at the most expensive and have them repealed, and cancel all related projects as you go…

    *as others have pointed out, that’s a game you’re destined to lose, so maybe the only winning move is not to play…

  • Ken Murphy

    My default position is certainly that of Seawriter. But I have pondered the question of “What if the people ask you to serve (as dictator)?” If so, I would make it clear that I am doing so reluctantly as I have no desire to dictate how others live their lives (but will do so as “necesssary”), and if I’m going to piss people off, I would do my best to spread that piss-offedness as widely as possibly so that no one could claim particular victimhood. Lots of suckling at the government teat would be weaned, and I would focus on the basics: defense, improving the commons, infrastructure.

  • Nothing. Because to Do Anything beyond the trivial, I would need a vast number of competent underlings faithfully executing my decrees.

    Hence my construction of a really large bleak penal colony in the Falklands as a motivational factor for the remaining civil servants. Brenden Westbridge did say I get “dictatorial powers” so I might as well act like a proper dictator 😉

  • Oh man! If that ever happened people would really regret it. That said, I would probably start by trying to pay down the national debt and eliminating as much domestic spending as is necessary to successfully pull that off. Zeroing out the budget of the Department of Education and firing everyone would probably be step 1 in that direction. After that? Breaking all the public sector unions would be next. After that? We would see if I had gone unassassinated before I made any further plans. 😄

  • Rick J

    The first thing is to make it illegal to not be a part of the solution.
    Those who would resign if given the opportunity to dictate are sent to re-education camps. And, anyone who complains about the term re-education is sent to the re-education camps.
    Having put in place a system for dealing with the dis-affected, the next order of business is to marshall all resources for creating a self-sustaining country. As an American this is a natural choice, we have the resources to be an exporter of all manner of commodities needed by peoples around the world. We would re-establish energy independence first, followed by the manufacturing base.
    Experience would replace academic credentials, a piece of paper is no substitute for knowing how to do things. There would be work for everyone, and everyone would be expected to contribute.
    Once all of the current maladies of society are set upon the right path, I would turn to setting up a Republic for when I eventually step down. It would be modeled upon the American Constitution. And, as a completely new start, all of the corrections that document allowed would be incorporated. So, the old complaints would not have to be refought and any attempt to interject them as dividing points would have the troublemaker sent to the re-education camp. There would be a Bill of Rights, once again establishing that the government is limited and that people have inherent rights which are not granted by the government. Future government workers who violate the Rights of the citizens, or/and express a misunderstanding of the government’s role as incapable of taking away Rights are immediately terminated from this Earth. In the end, upon my death, this would be an improved version, a fresh version, of the American experiment (without the baggage of slavery,).

  • Ferox

    The first thing is to make it illegal to not be a part of the solution.
    Those who would resign if given the opportunity to dictate are sent to re-education camps. And, anyone who complains about the term re-education is sent to the re-education camps.

    If you replace “re-education camp” with “diversity seminar” I think that’s getting pretty close to what we have now.

  • Kirk

    It’s a hoot reading all the things people say they would do, were they in charge.

    The problem we have is that the people who should be in charge of things are absolutely the last ones that would be put in charge under our current system; and that the people who are in charge under the current system happen to be the last people who should be in charge of anything more complex than a compost heap.

    We’ve got a bit of a problem with the formation of our elite governing class. They’re absolutely not fit for duty, and are indeed, actively tearing things down.

    Which makes you wonder why we ever put them in charge, or how they got where they are. I suspect that people in Rome were saying the same things, as were the people in ancient Kaddesh. It was probably less true about our hunter-gatherer ancestors, because the band was always really too small not to be responsive to the members comprehension of their leadership’s incompetence.

    What we really need is the obverse of the coin of political popularity, some means of dealing with these incompetent jackasses that keep getting themselves put in charge of everything.

    Maybe you could run a “negative vote” alongside the usual election, and if you accrue enough negative votes, it’s off to political Coventry with you where you can’t do any harm. Sort of an outgrowth and modernization of the old Greek idea of the ostrakon, from whence we get the term “ostracism”.

    I think we’d all be surprised who’d get “voted off the island”, were such a thing implemented today. I wager that a bunch of people would be horrified to discover just how unpopular they are with the rest of us.

    Odds are that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would both find themselves on the outs. I know I’m ‘effing tired as hell of all the psychodrama these various and sundry incompetents have brought to daily life.

    Is it that much to ask, for us to have competent leaders that understand cause and effect? Who aren’t wrecking everything? Is that too much to ask?

    I honestly can’t think of a single US politician I’d like to see in charge of anything more complex than the local pound. They’re all the same sort of blow-hard popularity-contest winners that I grew up loathing in school.

    Come to think of it, there are only a handful of actual military officers that I encountered in the course of my career that demonstrated an iota of common sense, and who I’d follow into combat without the slightest reservation. The rest of them? Dear God, but those arseholes should have thanked their good fortune that they’d lucked into employment where there was a draconian system of military justice enforcing their whims, because absent that? People would only have followed them to the latrine out of a sense of curiosity…

  • Chris B

    Sack most of the Civil Service by shutting down entire departments. Then I’d Remove all university funding, and remove all cultural funding. I’d use the savings to massively cut taxes in order to try and make sure my reforms were not reversed after I’m assassinated by some formerly overpaid civil servant who has just discovered he has no use in the real world economy.

  • SteveD

    However, before I resigned, I would make my birthday a national holiday and then execute those responsible for my elevation to the head of government (because otherwise they might try it again).

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