Thought control can be an effective supplementary means to maintaining political stability, but there are limits to the lies and deceptions that autocratic governments can get away with. If people are experiencing stagnant or declining standards of living, no amount of propaganda and false promises can prevent them from becoming restless and dissatisfied. As discontent mounts, the ruling elites of totalitarian regimes must either increase the use of direct force or make way for political changes and re-structuring of the economy. In Venezuela, popular dissatisfaction with the ruling class has been met with both more thought control and an increase in direct physical repression. The great upheavals in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s also dramatically illustrate what can happen when ruling classes fail to deliver on their promises of a better life. No amount of thought control can hide the daily reality of long lines to buy food, the shoddy quality of manufactured goods, the endless red tape, the shortages of housing and electricity and the widespread industrial pollution characteristic of life behind the Iron Curtain.
Western parliamentary democracies rely more on education than on thought control and physical coercion to maintain law and order. However, when chaos breaks out after a natural disaster strikes, established democratic government also has to resort to the temporary use of force to maintain law and order.