Arnold says that the Soviet Union fell due to the “moral rot” of corruption.  As long as we define “corruption” broadly, as Arnold seems to do, I think he’s dead wrong.  Soviet moral rot was worst in the Thirties, when Stalin’s collectivization killed millions.  The regime was most stable when the elite was on its worst behavior.

So why did the USSR fall?  Because a new generation of half-hearted Communists like Gorbachev were allowed to take the reins – and they just weren’t evil enough to retain power.  If Stalin had been in Gorby’s shoes, he would have reinforced the foundations of totalitarianism by murdering a few million people – beginning with active dissidents and gradually expanding to anyone who’d ever visited the West.  And like Kim Jong Il, he would still be in power today.  Gorbachev’s generation of leaders were far from saints, but as tyrants go, they were wimps.

P.S. Adam Gurri sends me a great supporting quote from Edmund Burke:

Tyranny and cruelty may make men justly wish the downfall of abused powers, but I believe that no government ever yet perished from any other direct cause than it’s own weakness.