May 16, 2013

Against Revolution

By In Philosophy, Society and Culture

The United States, we are told, was born in revolution.  It is important to note that this is technically, and therefore practically, wrong.  Oxford dictionary defines revolution as, “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order.”  The French revolution was indeed a revolution.  The American “revolution” on the other hand, was a secession.  The French revolution aimed to overthrow the government.  They aimed to end the aristocracy.  They aimed to achieve the collectivist ideals of “liberte, egalite, fraternite.” (Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity).

A revolution is a socialist method and a means to the Utopia which the socialists aim.  So-called libertarians grow increasingly excited when movies such as V for Vendetta and Les Miserables depict “courageous” rebellion against the state.  “The gunpowder plot!”

These revolts aim to achieve equality for the poor, not property-rights based liberty.  These revolts, these rebellions, are therefore leftist movements.  They have no place in the method of the libertarian.  For deep in the soul of the leftist “egalitarian” is a hatred for private property and capitalism.  Perhaps these revolutions are great examples of the impact that a coercive government can have on the mind of its people, but as for method, they should not be replicated.

The Americans in the late 18th century sought to overthrow nothing.  They only wanted to be left alone.  The leftists in France would cry “tax the rich so that we might be equal to them!”  This was not the American sentiment.  The American sentiment was against the idea of a centralized state taxing the people.  The Americans wanted to be left alone.  Their “revolution” was not revolution.  It was a secession.  They told Britain to back off.  Britain moved closer.  Then the Americans defended their property.  Catch the difference?

People call me an extremist.  Perhaps that is so.  But only because I have reached a political conclusion that is logically deduced from my axiom.  This does not mean I seek to actively overthrow the government.  I only wish for the government (anywhere and everywhere, whatever its form, and if it exists at all) to leave the American people alone.  There are indeed leftist extremists too.  They seek to overthrow the government and take it over.  From there, they plan to run the government “for the people.”  This is bad news.  They are using the coercive state to accomplish their own goals.  It is fine to be an “intellectual extremist.”  All it means is that you have a standard by which you can judge the actions of the government.  But what is your method for accomplishing your goals?  That is important.

I am against “extremist” revolutions because they deviate from my political ideology, they are impractical, and they are dangerous.  They are impractical because rarely can a person find enough people to join him and also because they do nothing to convince others of the ideology.  People don’t like revolutionaries.  Why would you want to portray your goals with violence?  Ruining your reputation is a sure-fire way to ruin your movement.  Moreover, can you imagine a revolution today that results in the masses promoting property rights and a free markets?  No way.  The result could very well be systematically catastrophic, even if the government was overthrown.

Revolutions are dangerous because you are fighting against the entity that by definition has a monopoly on universal force.  They have the armies, the power, the resources, and the will to protect itself.  It is also ridiculously expensive.  Even the Americans destroyed their currency with the “Revolutionary War.”  Further, the conservative is (or should be) antiwar as far as possible.  Not only does it require lots of collective spending, it also uproots traditional culture.  War is terrible for conservatism, capital, and freedom.  War should only be defensive (“secessionary”), not offensive (revolutionary).

(Side note: as Rothbard has pointed out, only the American Revolution and the Southern War for Independence [The Civil War from the Southern perspective] were secessionary and defensive, so don’t get all “Cold-War-for-the-sake-of-our-freedoms” on me.)

Remember the outcome of the student-led “revolution” in Les Miserables?  That could be you.  Don’t fight the State.  That is stupid.

The State will fall on its own.  It is too fat, it is too corrupt.  Instead of throwing your rocks at it like a school-boy, teach others what it means to live in liberty.  Give them books.  Read about Austrian monetary theory.  Study history.  Practice virtue.  Learn how to keep your taxes legally from being too high by utilizing loopholes.  Buy a book from the Ludwig von Mises Institute.  Get involved locally and influence your community.  Find platforms on which to voice your message.  Buy a gun to protect your property and don’t rely on the police.  Keep your money out of the banks.  Don’t get into debt (college debt, credit card debt, or mortgage debt).  Move out of California.

Love your wife.  Study the Bible.  Pray.

It is important that people realize the dichotomy between “State” and “Liberty.”  When the time comes, and history says it will, when the people get so flustered they stand up to the State, it is important that their “solution” is capitalism, free markets, and private property rather than socialism, centralism, and collectivism.  If there is ever a physical battle to protect the people from the government, I hope it is defensive.  I hope people stand up for their property with a plethora of tools as the original patriots did.

But don’t a be a socialist revolutionary.  That is leftist extremism.  Be a secessionist.  This is more compatible with “right-wing” extremism.  Intellectual extremism is fine.  It is consistent.  It is optimistic.  You also don’t have to be ideologically moderate to get things done.  Remember this: the extremist takes a principle to its logical conclusion and the moderate lacks a spine.  Aim high, and you will have an impact for the better.  Aim nowhere and the politicians will seem attractive with their empty promises.

But in your aiming high, don’t forget your principles.  This would be counter-productive.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • One of the most sensible Christian advice I ever read in response to present global political and economic crisis.