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This question happens in the same universe as my other questions:

  1. How should a country introduce a constructed language as the official language?
  2. How many years could you trim from schooling?
  3. Could large but sparsely populated country control its borders?
  4. How to force opposition to emigrate?

TL/DR My story happens in a country which is large by land area, relatively well off economically but with a small population. The country is ruled by an autocrat who is keen on social engineering. The technology period is the 70s.

After getting rid of the real opposition Dear Leader™ noticed that nobody wants to tell him the truth. Everything is fine until calamity strikes, and disasters that could be prevented with timely intervention happened because nobody wants to bring bad news.

In order to remedy this situation, Dear Leader™ decided to create a controlled opposition, small parti(y|es) that would be allowed to win few seats in the national assembly but that could never have a chance to topple Dear Leader™. Opposition would be allowed to speak freely as much as they want but everything will be decided by Dear Leader™ glorious party.

What would be a good choice for a controlled opposition?

Dear Leader™ is thinking of maybe allowing ultra religious party that's supported by 2-3% of the population. Or maybe party staffed by people with deep links with crime underground.

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    $\begingroup$ VTC as opinion based. "Good choice" is dependent on each person, you've already got an idea and a half, and the 3 current completely different answers at the moment make this question seem like plot generation as well. $\endgroup$ – Aify Dec 27 '16 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed that this is opinion based. If you add some restrictions (things the dear leader is not willing to tolerate perhaps) we can probably get this reopened as it would have a much narrower range of possibilities. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 27 '16 at 21:47
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    $\begingroup$ This isn't actually so different to the problem faced by modern democracies. The currently ruling political party (hopefully) wants to know the weak points in their policies so they can improve them, but doesn't want the public to know. This can lead to conflict of interest in employing civil servants. As I understand, civil servants to meant to be "apolitical", passing objections up the chain of command rather than publicly opposing (or supporting) the currently ruling party. $\endgroup$ – gmatht Dec 28 '16 at 7:20
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Assuming that main point is getting useful info and not pretending that there is any pluralism in country, I see bit different solution. Sponsor some opposition dominated research institute (or more than one). Make it implicit, that as long as people there do not openly blast the Dear Leader, but are just pointing out with good arguments that some policies are failed, that it would slip through censorship. Of course everything would have to be written in proper scientific language, proper bibliography, calculations, more or less peer reviewed.

The result: some people would have a malicious joy of outsmarting dumb censors, masses would be uninterested to read, and Dear Leader would get every month on his desk a report in form of scientific journal concerning threats that no one dares to mention.

In real life the publication of this guy was actually known in academic circles in the Communist Block: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortage_economy

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  • $\begingroup$ Such research institute was really used in former Czechoslovakia. They gave it a name "Prognostic institute" so people will know NOT to take them seriously. Two next Czech presidents (after Havel) worked in it: Klaus and the current president, Zeman. $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Dec 27 '16 at 20:29
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There are precedents for fake multiple parties, notably in the GDR. Of course everybody knew that those parties were not independent. Joining them did not mean joining the opposition.

Also, the Dear Leader would not want his people to think that they can do without him, at least on the long run.

So how about a system where seats get distributed by district, to the candidate with the majority/plurality of the votes? Candidates get vetted by the Dear Leader's henchmen, as in Iran, and of course the vote counting is completely open (right next to the firing squad). Every now and then, one of the Dear Leader's party comrades gets less than 90% of the vote. Probably because he disagreed with the Dear Leader or the Dear Leader did not campaign for him. And in extreme cases, an independent might win. Usually Dear Leader's party's candidate gets the hint and jumps from a high building.

Of course that won't get people to tell the Dear Leader the truth. I'm afraid that's a built-in problem with having a Dear Leader to start with. Did you read the report of the Iraqi Perspectives Project?

Perhaps one way to solve your problem would be to have multiple departments and agencies in each field, and to reward those who rat on their rivals just as much as those who excel at getting things done.

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Radicals

A tactic that seems to be commonly used by various regimes is to support (usually covertly, but often with significant funding) a few groups with the most radically opposing viewpoint.

It has certain advantages:

  • the main part is that you can choose and promote viewpoints so radical that reasonable people won't side with them anyway. It provides you a convenient re-occurring strawman to use as an illustration of what horrible things will happen if the opposing policies are chosen; so as long as you drive your PR correctly, the speeches and actions of this "opposition" will just convince the moderate majority to support your viewpoint.

  • second, it brings them "into the light" where your people know who they are, and the financing gives you some "dirt" on the visible opposition leaders, so you have some control if they step over the line.

  • third, when you want to implement some new internal security measure or consolidate power, you can arrange a provocation by them to justify it. Some of these radicals will want to try to overthrow your system violently. Give a few of them guns and explosives, have them burn the Reichstag or something, allow them to assassinate some official that you never liked anyway - and the public will allow you to do what you want.

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Classic Leadership problem. In american companies, it becomes a matter of culture. If there is a lot of internal fiefdoms, no one wants to look bad so hiding problems is the norm, like in this story.

The only decent way out is to encourage being forthcoming with problems. Your Dear Leader may want to create a minor post that has problems and then offer support to the occupant when problems come up to demonstrate his sincerity. Have him actively reward someone who brings him a problem as soon as that person proposes a solution.

In the meantime, he could create an "independent" audit office to confirm problem and solution.

He has to actually be earnest about the problem solving, or it won't work for long. An interesting read on this is "American Icon" about Ford Motors turning things around and avoiding bankruptcy.

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