I didn’t sleep at all the night before last so I crashed early yesterday and didn’t get anything posted. Sorry.
Some people, on both the “Left” and “Right” have been talking about revolution. Whether it’s “We need to get rid of those fascist right-winging KKK Nazis” or “we need to get rid of those liberal commie pinko hippies” or whatever, the idea of using widespread violence to overthrow the existing order and impose ones own has been gaining steam.
I have discussed why this would be a bad thing elsewhere.
But, let’s presume that people don’t listen (and given just how much influence I don’t have–thank all the gods I’m not the only voice crying out about that–I would not be surprised). Suppose we get the violent insurrection that grew into civil war. And suppose one side finally won.
If it’s the side that wants more and more expansive government power, more control over people’s lives, and a more intrusive bureaucracy, no problem. You’ve won. And a government imposed by force of arms generally has no problem using force to expand its power.
But what if it’s the side that wants less government intrusion into people’s lives, less control, and less bureaucracy, you have a real problem. How do you set that up so it sticks past even one election cycle (presuming you have elections in whatever you set up)?
So, are you going to have a Constitution? How will you establish that Constitution? Will you just write it and impose it on the population or will you use some mechanism, any mechanism, to give the people some voice in the Constitution you establish? If you don’t have a Constitution, how are you going to limit the government, not just now but in the future?
High level decision: are you going to let the people have a say in their own government or are you just going to force on them the government (strong or weak) which you want them to have? If the latter, how are you any better than the people who wanted to impose their government on the people? (And if you say “no government” then how do you prevent someone else from coming along and establishing their own choice of government on you?)
And if, instead, you allow the people to choose, the same people that voted in the government you just overthrew, what is to stop them from just voting back the same thing once more, rendering that whole insurrection and civil war an exercise in futility with the blood being shed for nothing.
I have had people, when this issue is pointed out to them, refer back to the American War of Independence. The argument is along the line of “They did it, so we can do it.” But you need to consider what they actually did.
When Europeans settled in the land that would become the United States, one of the first things they did was set up local governments. These governments derived their authority from the various European governments behind them. Over time, the local governments grew, often with a governor appointed by the Crown. And the far-away European Government (English for the thirteen colonies that would become the thirteen original States) exerted greater or lesser control to supersede that of the local governments. But the local government was there, with continuity going back to their European forebears.
During the lead-up to the American Revolution First Continental Congress and then the Second Continental Congress were formed. Each of these contained representatives from the Thirteen Colonies that would become the United States. (Note: The “Stamp Act Congress” was formed before the First Continental Congress but not all of the colonies that would become the United States were represented.) These representatives were sent by their Colonial governments to represent the people of their respective colonies in the Congress. Since these Congresses were represented by people chosen by their respective colonies, via their Colonial governments, again we had continuity of authority stretching back to their European forebears.
The Second Continental Congress served as the national government during the first part of the American War of Independence. It passed the Declaration of Independence eschewing outside authority over the thirteen colonies. Note, however, that it did not renounce the internal Colonial governments already in existence. It retained continuity of authority from the past. It passed the Articles of Confederation, the first charter for a national government structure for the nascent United States. And once again, it did so under authority it already had ceded to it from the existing Colonial governments. Again, continuity of authority.
The Second Continental Congress gave way to the Congress of the Confederation (Not to be confused with the Congress of the Confederated States of America) under the Articles of Confederation passed by the Second Continental Congress. This lasted until a new Constitutional Convention was convened, again with representatives chosen by their respective State governments, the Constitution was written, and was ratified by the States.
Note one thing that did not happen: The Continental Army did not at any point turn and say “you will accept this government that we impose on you.” The people, through their elected representatives, chose their own government. There was continuity of authority leading back to the very founding of the various colonies. The military province, the province of the war, was to reject outside control over first the colonies and later the states. The authority and the government, was established in each step by the actions of the existing government.
Once the new government was established, military force was certainly used to enforce its authority (Whiskey Rebellion et al) but it was not used to establish it in the first place. Nobody pointed guns at Americans and said “you will be a free nation whether you like it or not.”
This, I think, is where too many would-be “revolutionaries of freedom” break down. They have no real plan for how to establish freedom after the shooting is done. Do they have a Constitutional Convention? If so, how do they keep States from sending exactly the same kind of representatives to the Convention that they are already sending to Congress? Do they pick and choose their own representatives from each State? If so, then in what possible way are they “Representative”? Do they go on a massive killing spree, kill enough people who disagree with them until they have a solid majority on “their side”? Can anybody here not see the problem with that? Or perhaps they let people “vote” but only for candidates approved for ideological purity. The “election” system in the old Soviet Union provides a good model for that.
None of those are exactly a good start for a “free” society.
That’s the problem. If you want to create a free nation, you have to change the people first. You have to convince the people that they want a free nation, that freedom, for all of it’s dangers and problems, is superior to tyranny. But if you can do that, why not do it before the revolution? After all, if you can do that, get the people solidly behind the ideal of freedom, the politicians will either fall in line or lose their place.
Once the people are solidly behind the idea of freedom, the only way for would-be tyrants to remain in power is force or such rampant fraud that nobody can deny it. And while fraud has become increasingly apparent in recent years, particularly this last election, I do not believe we have reached that point. Too many people are still willing to turn a blind eye to it and pretend it doesn’t happen or isn’t “significant.”
It is only after you have overwhelming support for the ideal of Freedom among the people–actual Freedom, not the so-called “Freedom” of various guarantees and security that some try to use to co-opt the word–can a revolution hope to bring about a free society in its wake. And once you have that you may find that you don’t need the revolution after all, the ballot box being all the revolution you need.