Don’t Say You Want A Revolution

Over at United Liberty, Kevin Boyd puts forward the best case I’ve seen to date against the idea that we are anywhere near the point where rebellion is justified:

For those of you out there who think this is the time for revolution, please consider the following:

1) All political and legal options have not been exhausted. There are Congressional elections in November 2010 and Presidential elections in November 2012. Use this anger and energy to donate money and support candidates who support liberty and who will fix/repeal Obamacare. In addition, many states have filed lawsuits challenging Obamacare and those lawsuits need time to work their way through the courts.

2) The right to free speech and to petition grievances is still in effect. Obamacare opponents can still express their opposition views to the public. Such views are common place on talk radio, the Internet, the newspapers, and as a matter all over the place. Obamacare opponents are not being thrown in jail or being silenced by the state.

3) Obama and the Democrats did win the past two elections and have a mandate. Obama’s election victory in 2008 and the Democratic control of Congress by definition gives them the mandate to pass whatever legislation they want, as long as it is upheld as legal. That mandate can only be revoked by their electoral defeat in 2010 and 2012.

4) The Founders did not intend for revolution over trival matters. Before the Founders declared independence, there were numerous attempts at resolving the crisis with the British peacefully. Make no mistake, Obamacare is a trival matter in the scheme of things and does not rise to the matter of “taxation without representation”. The major reason why some Americans threaten revoluton over trival matters is the fact that after the last Civil War, the Union was far too kind to the former Confederates. By all rights, the Union should have executed the remnants of the Confederate government and the Confederate general staff for treason. Maybe this would have detered the trivialization of revolution that we see in this country.

Specifically, in the most important part of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson set forth the criteria for when armed rebellion is justified:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, ? That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security

In other words, taking up armed rebellion is not something that should be done for light or trivial reasons. Nor it is something that should be done when there are other, less violent methods for effecting political change.

This also applies to all the rhetoric that we’ve heard, none of it serious and most of it dangerous, regarding secession since, as I explained several years ago, secession is little more than a form of rebellion and must be judged based on the same standards.

So let’s stop all this talk about rebellions. Let’s give up the silly idea that whatever state we live in is going to secede when ObamaCare finally comes into full effect. Neither of those are going to happen.

Finally, it’s also worth noting that the American Revolution is something of an historical anomaly. Most revolutions throughout history, whether in France in 1789, Central Europe in 1848, Russia in 1917, the myriad of anti-Colonialist revolutions that have, or Cuba in 1959, most revolutions have resulted in dictatorial government and misery for the people. We dodged a bullet one, history suggests we wouldn’t be so lucky a second time.

Kevin ends with the only productive strategy that is left:

What those of us who love liberty need to do is step back and channel our anger into more productive means than dreaming about and threatening revolution. We need to build our own political mandate, a mandate for liberty.


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  • siannopollo

    While all that sounds nice, and you believe that you’re painting a good picture of why some form of revolution isn’t necessary, I don’t think you fully grock what The Declaration of Independence says:

    “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…”

    Take note of the “long train of abuses” phrase. It was not just one thing that led the colonists to rebel against England. It wasn’t just the quartering of British troops, it wasn’t just taxation without representation, it wasn’t just a trade imbalance, and it wasn’t just unjust local government. It was all those things combined. It was over 10 years of petitioning the King of England to reign in the British Parliament to no avail.

    And the same thing is happening in our country. It isn’t just Obama-care, and it isn’t just the Social Security Ponzi scheme, it isn’t just the constant assaults to our Natural rights (1st, 2nd, 4th Amendments), it isn’t just the welfare state, it isn’t just the debasement of our currency since 1913, and it isn’t just the policing/nation-building of the world that our military is involved in; it is all those things.

    The ideas of secession and revolution aren’t new. It just seems that we are getting to the end of that “long train of abuses”. Thankfully it looks like the States are coming to their senses and remembering that they have power over the Federal government via the 10th Amendment (no matter what the courts may opine).

  • Bryan Pick

    I’m of the mind that we do have a very long train of abuses suggesting a strong tendency (if not always designs) to reduce liberty progressively and permanently. I see few on the Left drawing solid lines saying they want to government to do this much and no more.

    Americans have much ingrained sympathy for preserving individual responsibility and initiative. The people are still generally ideologically conservative/pro-liberty, but in aggregate are operationally statist, mainly because of how our government is currently organized. And while I am an optimist of a sort, I also perceive that the growth of government power is not a random walk: it tends to be self-perpetuating.

    I’m definitely seeking a nonviolent political strategy for reversing that tide. I’m all for fighting for every inch and exhausting our most promising options, but a rational strategist looks at options based on risk and reward, and there are some options we shouldn’t even bother trying because they’re so unlikely to succeed. Revolution and secession are not strictly last resorts.

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  • George Donnelly

    You can have your revolution and eat it too!