"Discusses dictatorships as a political system, and details the history of dictatorships throughout the world"--Provided by publisher.


One day a vast nation's absolute ruler issued an urgent decree. All citizens were to join him in relentless pursuit of the terrible “four pests.” Rats, sparrows, flies, and mosquitoes threatened the nation' health, he warned. But with all citizens working as one, these pests would be wiped away. Then the entire nation would take a great leap forward to become a healthier, happier place.

The state-controlled news media reported the early results. the response had been overwhelming. Millions had joined the hunt from every corner of the nation, and results were impressive.

The great leader's campaign had worked especially well against sparrows. Farm families were told to hurry out to their fields and bang pots and pans together and scream without stopping. When they did, the startled sparrows shot up into the air and stayed there while, far below, the banging and shouting continued. With nowhere to land, thousands of birds died in mid-air from exhaustion.

The leader was well-pleased with the people's response. Already the nation's health had improved—the environment too. One day in the near future, the leader proclaimed the whole nation would become one vast garden.

Deadly consequences

The leader was Mao Zedong, China's all-powerful dictator, and these events from the late 1950s were part of the Great Leap Forward, Mao's . . .

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