While SA needs economic transformation because too many people are unemployed and living in poverty, "making the firms that exist, whoever owns them, the scapegoat for current problems is dangerous", Hausmann says.
The lesson, according to Snyder, is to ensure we are constantly on the alert for bias, propaganda, untruths, lies dressed up as facts and law-undoing institutions. We also need to be on the alert for people who talk peace, tolerance and equality but who fuel violence, aggression, war and inequality. This applies to the behaviour of leaders in politics, business, organisations, religions and ourselves.
Snyder cites scholar Victor Klemperer, who warned that truth dies in four modes. First, open hostility to verifiable reality when inventions, lies and manipulation are presented as facts.
Then there is shamanistic incantation; the deliberate use of repetition to make the criminal desirable and the fictional plausible. Magical thinking or the open embrace of contradiction is best exemplified by Trump, whose election campaign "involved the promises of cutting taxes for everyone, eliminating the national debt, and increasing spending on both social policy and national defence. These promises mutually contradict."
Finally, misplaced faith takes the form of the self-deifying claims tyrants make to invoke a belief that they are god-ordained.
While focusing on presidents or "the other" in the defence of truth and democracy, we need to reflect on our own sense of justice, our actions, prejudices and tyranny. We need to interrogate truth and draw on examples from history, literature and politics to distinguish between what we want to hear and what is the case.
• Prof Skae is director of Rhodes Business School.
Democracy is in danger globally, says the writer. Picture: ISTOCK