The American Mind: Revolution 2020

The following articles comes from Angelo Codevilla at The American Mind, Revolution 2020. This is a lengthy piece. Please click through one of the links to continue reading past this excerpt.

How did we get here—and how will it end?

Understanding what drives the revolution that is destroying the American republic gives insight into how the 2020 election’s results may impact its course. Its practical question—who rules?—is historically familiar. But any revolution’s quarrels and stakes obscure the question: to what end? Our revolution is by the ruling class—a revolution from above. Crushing obstacles to its growing oligarchic rule is the proximate purpose.

But the logic that drives the revolution aims at civilization itself.

What follows describes how far along its path that logic has taken America, and where it might take us in the future depending on the election’s outcome.

Regime Change

Aristotle, in Book 5 of the Politics, describes how revolutions kill regimes (such as America’s) that balance the contrasting interests of ordinary people with those of the wealthy, of officials, and of other prominent persons. As the balance between any complex regime’s components shifts over time, the system may seamlessly transform into unmixed democracy, oligarchy, or some kind of monarchy. The revolution may be barely perceptible—providing that those who impose themselves, whether from above or below, do so without adding insult to injury.

But, if the party that takes power thereby destroys the friendship that had bound the several parts, even trifling incidents can spiral into all-consuming violence. Thucydides’ account of the revolution that destroyed Corcyra during the Peloponnesian War is prototypical. The French revolution, the Spanish civil war, and countless others echo it. Today, the oligarchic transformation of America’s republic is turning violent. Aristotle, however, points out that oligarchies born of violent revolution tend to succumb to the very violence that births them, quickly degenerating into some kind of tyranny or one-man rule. Restoration of anything like the original constitutional regime is most unlikely.

The U.S. Constitution had codified as fine a balance between the powers of the Many, the Few, and the One as Aristotle may have imagined by arming the federal government’s components, the States, and ordinary citizens (via the first ten Amendments as well as elections) with means to maintain the balance. Its authors, however, were under no illusions about the efficacy of “parchment barriers” to prevent interests from coalescing into factions against the common good. During the 19th century, interests and opinions in the South and the North coalesced into antagonistic ruling classes that fought the century’s bloodiest war. In the 20th, the notion that good government proceeds from scientific expertise, as well as the growing identity between big business and government, fostered the growth of a single nationwide Progressive ruling class. Between the 1930s and the early 21st century, the centralization of administrative power in this class’s hands did much to transform the American republic established in 1776-89 into an oligarchy.

Progressive Oligarchy in America

The ruling class was able to transform America’s constitutional regime because its collective partisanship bridged the divisions between the federal government’s parts, the states, as well as between public and private power.

In America as everywhere else, government regulation of business meant the twains’ coalescence. From the very first, the blurring of lines between public and private—the focus of government on distributing tasks and rewards—shifted decision-making from citizens who merely vote to the administrative system’s “stakeholders.” This reorganization of liberal societies was first codified in Italy’s 1926 Corporation Law as Fascism’s defining feature. Before WWII every Western country, America included (in FDR’s New Deal), had adopted a version thereof. In 1942 Joseph Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, a neo-Marxist analysis, described this oligarchy as the necessary consequence of modernity.

In America, however, this oligarchy fit Aristotle’s (or Marx’s) mostly economic criteria only superficially. Yes, as we will see below, its power always very much involved the growing identity between government power and private wealth, and hence on restricting access to wealth to the politically connected. But as the decades passed, it became ever clearer that membership in the U.S. ruling class depends primarily on sharing the right socio-political opinions.

The European tradition of government by experts reaches back beyond Napoleon and Hegel to royal techno-bureaucrats. Being essentially amoral, it treats transgressors as merely ignorant. It may punish them as rebellious, but not as bad people. That is why the fascists, who were part of that tradition, never made it as totalitarians. People—especially the Church—remained free to voice different opinions so long as they refrained from outright opposition. America’s growing oligarchy, however, always had a moralistic, puritan streak that indicts dissenters as bad people. More and more, America’s ruling class, shaped and serviced by an increasingly uniform pretend-meritocratic educational system, claimed for itself monopoly access to truth and goodness, and made moral as well as technical-intellectual contempt for the rest of Americans into their identity’s chief element. That, along with administrative and material power, made our ruling class the gatekeeper to all manner of goods.

Progressivism’s foundational proposition—that the American way of life suffers from excessive freedom and insufficient latitude for experts to lead each into doing what is best for all—is the intellectual basis of the oligarchy’s ever-increasing size, wealth, and power. The theme that the USA was ill-conceived in 1776-89 and must be re-conceived has resounded from Woodrow Wilson’s Congressional Government (1885) to the campaigns of Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Barack Obama, and Joseph Biden: “listen to the scientists!” The criticism’s main point has been constant: America’s original conception validated the people’s right to live as they please, and made it hard to marshal them for Progressive purposes.

But the Progressive critique adds a moral basis: the American people’s indulgence of their preferences—private ease and comfort, focus on families, religious observance, patriotism—has made for every secular sin imaginable: racism, sexism, greed, etc. Because most Americans are racist, sexist, un-appreciative of real virtue or refinement (these are somehow rolled together), because these Americans resist knuckling under to their betters, America is a sick society that needs to be punished and to have its noxious freedoms reformed.

Hence, the revolution that created the American oligarchy—illiterate contemporary Marxists notwithstanding—has nothing in common with Karl Marx’s original democratic (in the Aristotelian sense) conception “from below” (e.g. his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Programme) other than “overthrowing the pillars of the house.” Ours is the Party-centered oligarchic revolution from above that Lenin outlined in What Is to Be Done? (1902). This Leninism is the template of the Soviet and every other Communist regime, bar none. In our revolution, too, everything—always and everywhere—is about the Party.

Upbuilding the Ruling Class

The moral class critique from above was always implicit. It largely stayed in the background of the campaigns for social improvement into which Progressives have led the American people ever since the 1930s, and especially since the 1960s. The ruling class chided Americans for insufficient commitment to education, to well-being for the poor and disadvantaged, to a healthy natural environment, and to public health, as well as for oppressing women, and, above all, for racism. The campaigns for remedying these conditions have been based on propositions advanced by the most highly-credentialed persons in America—experts certified by the U.S. government, whom the media treated as truth-telling scientists, their opponents as enemies of the people.

But each and all of these campaigns produced mostly the ostensible objectives’ opposites while increasing the numbers of the oligarchy’s members and their wealth and power, endowing them with socio-political clienteles as well as with levers for manipulating them. As its members’ powers grew, they developed a taste for disdaining independent Americans and acquired whips for punishing them.

In 1950, Americans at all levels of government spent 2% of GDP on K-12 education and 0.37% on higher education. In our time we spend 4.4% on K-12 and 1.9% on higher education, of a GDP that is about ten times as large. By any measure, the increases have been huge. These were supposed to uplift Americans intellectually and (maybe) morally. But they have dumbed down the nation to the point of mass illiteracy at the bottom and, at the top, created herds of ignorant, haughty, debt-ridden college graduates, fit only to enforce government edicts against Americans they despise. But the money also built up and entitled a class of monied, entitled, self-indulgent educrats—mostly administrators. U.S. college towns nowadays are islands of luxury, ease, and hate. They act as the ruling class’s gatekeepers.

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir had reminded Americans to preserve our country’s beauty and bounty for all. But beginning in the 1960s the ruling class started using conservation as an excuse for restricting the public living on and profiting from the land, even their own properties. This resulted in big developers, regulators, politicians and lawyers making fortunes while preserving the privacy and increasing the value of places where they themselves live. (Now they want to outlaw building new single-family homes anywhere.) They also reaped billions from subsidies for “renewable energy” by flogging possible correlation—without evidence of cause—between CO2 and “global warming.” All others have suffered.

In 1965, the Census counted some 40 million people as “poor”—roughly the same number as today. Over the succeeding half-century, the Federal government has spent some $22 trillion to lift people out of poverty. Had that money been divided evenly between all the poor, each would have been a millionaire. Instead, the War on Poverty swelled and solidified America’s underclass. Because the government paid to support women with children so long as they were not married, marriage and family cohesion declined. With only about one in eight black children growing to adulthood with two married parents, the black community and America as a whole are beset by a self-perpetuating flow of dysfunctional youth. This led to the long-term imprisonment of more than a million people. Prisons became an industry. But the war on poverty enriched countless contractors, consultants and members of the “helping professions.”

These initiatives are scams. Whatever else they have done, they have increased the number of people whose livelihoods depend on government. Since 1965, the number of direct employees has more than doubled to 22 million, and their pay exceeds that of persons who actually perform services that people want. The city of San Francisco, for example, employs 19,000 persons whom it pays more than $150,000 yearly. This does not count the countless government contractors, or the advantages for some and disadvantages for everyone else that government power combined with corporate power conveys. In short, whatever else these initiatives have done, they surely have created a lot of patronage.

The Little Law That Ate the Constitution

One initiative, sold as the pursuit of justice for black Americans, has empowered the U.S. ruling class with power that transcends money. More than all the other campaigns combined, it has fueled its members’ sense of entitlement to rule fellow citizens it deems moral inferiors. That sweet, heady sense—not any love for blacks—is what drives it.

Into the 1960s, the states of the former Confederacy had imposed segregation to racially separate accommodations. In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court had approved them so long as they were “equal.” In fact, most of what states had reserved for Negroes was grossly inferior. The longstanding campaign for “civil rights” had rallied the country against this obvious negation of the 14th amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws.” But as liberals fought state-imposed racial segregation, they had come to equate justice with the forcible imposition of racial integration resulting from countless personal choices. The Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed state-directed segregation, also gave impetus to all manner of efforts to re-form society by legal-administrative force.

The decision itself eliminated any chance that this could be done in a disinterested manner. It was not based on the plain, unequivocal meaning of the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection of the laws.” Back in 1896, Justice John Marshall Harlan had dissented from Plessy, arguing that any state establishment of racial preference whatever, regardless of its character or intention, violates those words. But Thurgood Marshall based his decision on “science”—that is, on the variable opinions of the credentialed class. A sociologist by the name of Kenneth Clark claimed he had proven that Negro children could feel and learn normally only in a racially mixed environment. (The “black is beautiful” movement began countering this immediately.) Quickly, “scientific” conventional wisdom made “benign” or “remedial discrimination” by race official U.S. government policy.

The Brown decision’s reliance on “science” also confused legally established segregation with the segregation that results from personal choices. This confusion was the basis for Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of race. Thenceforth, Civil rights law was no longer about removing legal barriers to personal choices. It had begun forcing personal choices. The Supreme Court’s approval of the law as a mere regulation of interstate commerce was thin pretense. The Act turned out to be the little law that ate the Constitution and poisoned American society.

It was passed primarily by Republican votes. Democrats, seeing the empowerment of a historic Republican constituency in the South as potential disaster, scrambled to avert it by out-pandering Republicans, while describing any reticence on their part as racial animosity and ascribing whatever ailed Negroes to the Republicans’ racism. Quickly, the dynamics of politics turned “civil rights” into a ruinous socioeconomic scam.

Howard W. Smith, segregationist Democrat of Virginia, best foresaw the scam’s size. Bitterly, to ensure that the law’s logic would roil the lives of its sponsors as it was roiling his constituents’, Smith, Chairman of the House of Representatives’ powerful Rules Committee, added language that outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex. The list of supposedly invidious discriminations that the Act (as amended) thus prohibits never stopped growing—age, all manner of disabilities, sexual orientation, etc. In the Act’s lengthening legal shadow, even speech that some may construe as insufficiently hostile to discriminatory “anti-discrimination” has become punishable civilly as well as criminally. Thus, willy-nilly, the Act established what U.S. law quickly recognized as “protected categories” of persons. This negates the American republic’s bedrock: “all men are created equal.” It invited whoever perceives himself disadvantaged or dishonored to construe himself part of such a category and to invite the government to discriminate against his foe. As government joined in some people’s quarrels against others, government became fomenter and partisan in endless strife.

Race (and sex, etc.) is yet another set of excuses for transferring power to the ruling class. The oligarchy is no more concerned about race than it is about education, or environmentalism, or sex, or anything else. It is about yet more discretionary power in the hands of its members, for whom not all blacks (or women, or whatevers) are to be advantaged—only the ones who serve ruling class purposes. In education, employment, and personnel management, co-opting compatible, non-threatening colleagues is the objective. As Joseph Biden put it succinctly: if you don’t vote for him, “you ain’t black.” A ruling class of ever-decreasing quality is a result.

Members and hangers-on who receive privileges, however, are a small number compared with the ruling class’s clients. Breaking down their client’s resistance to the revolution of the ruling class requires inducing them to share in the revolution’s logic of hate for its targets. This in turn requires control over channels of communication. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are indispensable for this. But creating and maintaining a sense of identity between oligarchs and the client mobs is possible mostly because of the latter’s gullibility.

The Logic of Hate

I noted that this revolution’s logic leads to no logical end. That is because “the logic that drives each turn of our revolutionary spiral is Progressive Americans’ inherently insatiable desire to exercise their superiority over those they deem inferior.” Its force, I observed, “comes not from the substance of the Progressives’ demands,” but rather “from that which moves, changes, and multiplies their demands without end. That is the Progressives’ affirmation of superior worth, to be pursued by exercising dominance: superior identity affirmed via the inferior’s humiliation.” Affirmation of one’s own superiority by punishing inferiors is an addictive pleasure. It requires ever stronger, purer doses of infliction, and is inherently beyond satisfaction.

In short, the Progressive ruling class’s intensifying efforts to oppress those they imagine to be their inferiors is not reversible. It is far less a choice of policy than it is the consequence of its awakening to its own identity—awakening to the powers and privileges to which they imagine their superior worth entitles them. It is awakening to its deep resentment—indeed, to hate—for whoever does not submit preemptively.

Let there be no doubt: the ruling class’s focus on Donald Trump has been incidental. America’s potentates do not fear one pudgy orange-haired septuagenarian. They fear the millions of Americans whom they loathe, who voted for Trump, who gave his party control of House and Senate, and who will surely vote for folks these potentates really should fear.

The Trigger

America’s oligarchic transformation had proceeded smoothly for decades because the ruling class had taken care not to add insult to injury. But as time passed, its arbitrariness and contempt increasingly tried the patience of ordinary people who practiced constitutional restraint.

During the 2008 financial panic, however, as the Progressive, bipartisan ruling class scrambled incompetently to save itself and its clients’ assets, it fatefully flaunted its united contempt for the rest of Americans. Republican president George W. Bush, Republican presidential candidate John McCain, the overwhelming majority of Republican politicians and institutions, and the literati from the Nation to the (post-Buckley) National Review were of identical minds with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Democrat politicians and institutions regarding measures to be taken—to which three fourths of the public objected, to no avail. United, this ruling class scoffed at popular opposition.

Insult having awakened substantial numbers of Americans to the injuries being inflicted on them, they looked to push back.

That began a cycle of recrimination which laid bare and accentuated the differences that had been growing between America’s rulers and ruled. At the time, I wrote that

The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners—nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, “prayed to the same God.” By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God “who hath created and doth sustain us,” our ruling class prays to itself as “saviors of the planet” and improvers of humanity.

The people who killed one another in 1861-65 respected each other as individuals and shared standards of truth, justice, and civility. But as our ruling class put the rest of America beyond the proverbial pale, what remained of friendship among the American republic’s components drained away.

By 2016, most Americans preferred either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders over ruling-class candidates for president. And of course, they increasingly despised one another. In short, the popular basis for constitutional restraint had ceased to exist on all sides. But mostly the ruling class, unaccustomed to outright opposition to its presumption of authority, deemed the voters’ recalcitrance to be illegitimate. That began the revolution’s active phase.

At that time, I wrote that, regardless of who won the upcoming election, the United States of America had crossed the threshold of a revolution, and that though no one could know how that would end, we could be sure only that the peaceful American way of life we had known could never return. Hilary Clinton’s or Donald Trump’s victory in the election would merely have channeled the revolution onto different courses. We would look back on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as relics from an age of moderation… (continues)

AIER: So You Want to Overthrow the State – Ten Questions for Aspiring Revolutionaries

Art Carden, writing for the American Institute for Economic Research, has some questions for those interested in overthrowing the government. These apply whatever your political bent, not just right or left. So You Want to Overthrow the State: Ten Questions for Aspiring Revolutionaries

A professor at Washington and Lee University is offering a writing seminar called “How to Overthrow the State,” which “place(s) each student at the head of a popular revolutionary movement aiming to overthrow a sitting government and forge a better society.” Students are charged with writing their own revolutionary manifesto in light of readings from revolutionaries like Che Guevara. The right-wing outrage machine, as you can imagine, is feasting on it and offering it as an example of the radical takeover of higher education.

I’m intrigued by the class because I tend toward free-market anarchism myself and think that states are neither necessary nor sufficient for prosperity. There’s a burgeoning academic literature on this with books like Peter T. Leeson’s Anarchy Unbound exploring the theory and history of statelessness and AIER’s own Edward Stringham’s Private Governance looking at how institutions and organizations that protect people and property have emerged without coercion. There’s a lively and ongoing debate in these circles about whether or not one would push a button that would allow us to wake up tomorrow morning without governments. WLU’s course represents an excellent opportunity for students to take the revolutionaries’ arguments seriously, and if they do their due diligence, to think really hard about their shortcomings. I offer, therefore, ten questions for the young leaders of these revolutionary movements.

  1. Do I have the facts straight? Karl Marx said that “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” I doubt very much that you will know which changes you need to make if you don’t have a very good idea about your starting point. In his book Factfulness and in his many excellent online presentations, the late Swedish Professor of International Health Hans Rosling identifies a lot of the ways things have gotten better, especially for the world’s poorest.

    Suppose, for example, that you encounter the name “Milton Friedman,” perhaps in connection with lamented “neoliberalism” and maybe in connection with human rights abuses perpetrated by the brutal Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Friedman has been denounced as the “father of global misery,” and his reputation has taken another beating in the wake of the fiftieth anniversary of his 1970 New York Times Magazine essay “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits,” which I suspect most people haven’t read past its title. But what happened during “The Age of Milton Friedman,” as the economist Andrei Shleifer asked in a 2009 article? Shleifer points out that “Between 1980 and 2005, as the world embraced free market policies, living standards rose sharply, while life expectancy, educational attainment, and democracy improved and absolute poverty declined.” Things have never been so good, and they are getting better, especially for the world’s poor.

    In 2008, there was a bit of controversy over the establishment of the Milton Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago, which operates today as the Becker Friedman Institute (it is also named for Friedman’s fellow Chicago economist Gary Becker). In a blistering reply to a protest letter signed by a group of faculty members at the University of Chicago, the economist John Cochrane wrote, “If you start with the premise that the last 40 or so years, including the fall of communism, and the opening of China and India are ‘negative for much of the world’s population,’ you just don’t have any business being a social scientist. You don’t stand a chance of contributing something serious to the problems that we actually do face.” Nor, might I add, do you stand much of a chance of concocting a revolutionary program that will actually help the people you’re trying to lead.

  1. What makes me so sure I won’t replace the existing regime with something far worse? I might hesitate to push the aforementioned button because while the world we actually inhabit is far from perfect, it’s not at all clear that deleting the state overnight wouldn’t mean civilization’s wholesale and maybe even perpetual collapse. At the very least, I would want to think long and hard about it. The explicit mention of Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara in the course description suggest that students will be approaching revolutionary ideas from the left. They should look at the results of populist revolutions in 20th century Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The blood of many millions starved and slaughtered in efforts to “forge a better society” cries out against socialism and communism, and macroeconomic populism in Latin America has been disastrous. As people have pointed out when told that “democratic socialists” aren’t trying to turn their countries into Venezuela, Venezuelans weren’t trying to turn their country into Venezuela when they embraced Hugo Chavez. I wonder why we should expect WLU’s aspiring revolutionaries to succeed where so many others have failed.
  2. Is my revolutionary program just a bunch of platitudes with which no decent person would disagree? In 2019, Kristian Niemietz of London’s Institute of Economic Affairs published a useful volume titled Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies, which you can download for $0 from IEA. He notes a tendency for socialists and neo-socialists to pitch their programs almost exclusively in terms of their hoped-for results rather than in terms of the operation of concrete social processes they hope to set in motion (on this I paraphrase my intellectual hero Thomas Sowell).

    Apply a test proposed a long time ago by the economist William Easterly: can you imagine anyone seriously objecting to what you’re saying? If not, then you probably aren’t saying anything substantive. Can you imagine someone saying “I hate the idea of the world’s poor having better food, clothing, shelter, and medical care” or “It would be a very bad thing if more people were literate?” If not, then it’s likely that your revolutionary program is a tissue of platitudes and empty promises. That’s not to say it won’t work politically–God knows, nothing sells better on election day than platitudes and empty promises–but you shouldn’t think you’re saying anything profound if all you’re saying is something obvious like “It would be nice if more people had access to clean, drinkable water.”

  1. Is my revolutionary manifesto really any better than the Underpants Gnomes’ business plan from this 1998 episode of South Park?

    In 2011, I wrote that a lot of policy proposals are “‘Underpants Gnomes’ Political Economy” after an episode of South Park in which the Underpants Gnomes’ business plan had three phases. Phase 1 was “collect underpants.” Phase 2 was a question mark. Phase 3 was “profit.” Most revolutionary proposals are like that. Phase 1 is “abolish private property” or “Build That Wall” or something. Phase 2 is a question mark. Phase 3 is “equality and superabundance” (from the left) or “America has been made Great Again” (from the Trumpist right). There are more than a few very important details missing.

  1. In other words, how is this actually going to work? I’m not a socialist not because of antipathy toward poor people or callous selfishness. I’m not a socialist because it doesn’t work in practice and doesn’t even work in theory. Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, among many others, have argued that private property, market prices, and market-determined profits and losses are necessary for rational economic calculation. Marx summarized the program of the communists as “abolition of private property.” Mises countered that socialism, or abolition of private property, would mean “abolition of rational economy.” Marx (in)famously never spelled out exactly how socialism would work; he just knew it would. Vladimir Lenin didn’t appreciate the calculation problem and thought that managing an entire economy as if it was just one big factory didn’t require much more than arithmetic and receipts. He was grievously, tragically wrong. I think Mises and Hayek, ultimately, were the ones vindicated by theory and history.
  2. Does my argument for how it will work rely on people discarding self-interest, becoming a lot less horrible, and/or becoming a lot smarter? In a famous cartoon by Sidney Harris, two scientists are standing at a chalkboard. There are equations on the left and right sides of the board with “THEN A MIRACLE OCCURS” between them. One scientist says to the other, “I think you should be more explicit here in step two.” If you’re relying on a change in human nature to make your program work, be prepared for a very long wait. Or be prepared to spill oceans of blood like those who tried to create a “New Socialist Man” in the twentieth century. The socialists and communists wanted to run the economy as if it were one big factory. For the most part, they have also wanted to run the rest of society as if it were one big family. This brings us to a problem that vexed Friedrich Hayek his whole career. The rules, norms, traditions, and other practices that make families or very small communities work well don’t scale. Similarly, if you tried to run your life with family and friends according to a “market logic” in which you try to do everything via literal price-mediated exchanges–charging your kids to rent the TV when they want to watch a movie, for example–it’s probably going to backfire spectacularly. You can’t run your family as if it’s the Chicago Board of Trade. You also can’t run a society of millions of people as if it’s one big happy family.
  3. How has it worked the other times it has been tried? Are you considering “land reform,” whether land expropriation and redistribution, or straight up collectivization? Satellite images of the effects of land reform in Zimbabwe should make you think twice.

    Years before the Russian Revolution, Eugene Richter predicted with eerie prescience what would happen in a socialist society in his short book Pictures of the Socialistic Future (which you can download for $0 here). Bryan Caplan, who wrote the foreword for that edition of Pictures and who put together the online “Museum of Communism,” points out the distressing regularity with which communists go from “bleeding heart” to “mailed fist.” It doesn’t take long for communist regimes to go from establishing a workers’ paradise to shooting people who try to leave. Consider whether or not the brutality and mass murder of communist regimes is a feature of the system rather than a bug. Hugo Chavez and Che Guevara both expressed bleeding hearts with their words but used a mailed fist in practice (I’ve written before that “irony” is denouncing Milton Friedman for the crimes of Augusto Pinochet while wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. Pinochet was a murderous thug. Guevara was, too). Caplan points to pages 105 and 106 of Four Men: Living the Revolution: An Oral History of Contemporary Cuba. On page 105, Lazaro Benedi Rodriguez’s heart is bleeding for the illiterate. On page 106, he’s “advis(ing) Fidel to have an incinerator dug about 40 or 50 meters deep, and every time one of these obstinate cases came up, to drop the culprit in the incinerator, douse him with gasoline, and set him on fire.”

  1. Are people moving toward or away from the kind of society I want to establish? We get a lot of information from how people “vote with their feet” for different policies. If you’re advocating some version of socialism, you have to deal with the fact that so many people are trying desperately to leave socialist countries. The East German government did not build the Berlin Wall to keep westerners out, and pretty much all of the traffic between Cuba and the United States moves in one direction. It isn’t toward the Castros’ workers’ paradise.
  2. What will I do with people who aren’t willing to go along with my revolution? Walter Williams once said that he doesn’t mind if communists want to be communists. He minds that they want him to be a communist, too. Would you allow people to try capitalist experiments in your socialist paradise? Or socialist experiments in your capitalist paradise (Families, incidentally, are socialist enterprises that run by the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”)? Am I willing to allow dissenters to advocate my overthrow, or do I need to crush dissent and control the minds of the masses in order for my revolution to work? Am I willing to allow people to leave, or will I need to build a wall to keep people in?
  3. Am I letting myself off the hook for questions 1-9 and giving myself too much credit for passion and sincerity? The philosopher David Schmidtz has said that if your best argument is that your heart is in the right place, then your heart is most definitely not in the right place. Consider this quote from Edmund Burke and ask whether or not it leads you to revise your revolutionary plans:

    “A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood. He would feel some apprehension at being called to a tremendous account for engaging in so deep a play, without any sort of knowledge of the game. It is no excuse for presumptuous ignorance, that it is directed by insolent passion. The poorest being that crawls on earth, contending to save itself from injustice and oppression is an object respectable in the eyes of God and man. But I cannot conceive any existence under heaven (which, in the depths of its wisdom, tolerates all sorts of things) that is more truly odious and disgusting, than an impotent helpless creature, without civil wisdom or military skill, without a consciousness of any other qualification for power but his servility to it, bloated with pride and arrogance, calling for battles which he is not to fight, contending for a violent dominion which he can never exercise, and satisfied to be himself mean and miserable, in order to render others contemptible and wretched.” (Emphasis added).

A lot of colleges and universities have first-year writing seminars that try to teach students to write by exploring a particular set of issues, and as long as the course actually teaches students how to become better writers, we should welcome new experiments. A course that asks students to put themselves in the positions of aspiring revolutionaries and to prepare their own revolutionary manifestoes is extremely creative. I think it’s the kind of course from which students can benefit mightily–if, of course, they ask the right questions.

Mises Institute: Mises and Rothbard on Democracy and Revolution

In this piece from the Mises Institute, David Gordon examines von Mises’ statement that the only convincing argument for democracy is that it allows for a peaceful change of power. Then he discusses Murray Rothbard’s critique which says that if that is true, then the democratic government that results must exactly resemble the government that would have resulted from a violent revolution and why that doesn’t happen. Another argument comes in when a government like the US is full of un-elected bureaucrats with great power who are protected from change from an election. In that case also, you end up with a government which does not reflect what might have been obtained by violent revolution.

Ludwig von Mises rejects the standard arguments for democracy. Not for him are the alleged virtues of public deliberation. For him, there is only one argument for democracy that is convincing. He says that only democracy allows for a peaceful change of power. Every government, he thinks, rests on popular consent. If a sufficient number of people find the government no longer tolerable, it won’t be able to maintain itself in power. In a democracy, people in this situation can peacefully replace the government with an opposition party more to its liking. Without democracy, there is liable to be a violent revolution, because those in power and their supporters are likely to cling to power, even if their position is in the long run unsustainable.

Mises puts the argument in this way in Liberalism:

Government by a handful of people—and the rulers are always as much in the minority as against those ruled as the producers of shoes are as against the consumers of shoes—depends on the consent of the governed, i.e., on their acceptance of the existing administration. They may see it only as the lesser evil, or as an unavoidable evil, yet they must be of the opinion that a change in the existing, situation would have no purpose. But once the majority of the governed becomes convinced that it is necessary and possible to change the form of government and to replace the old regime and the old personnel with a new regime and new personnel, the days of the former are numbered. The majority will have the power to carry out its wishes by force even against the will of the old regime. In the long run no government can maintain itself in power if it does not have public opinion behind it, i.e., if those governed are not convinced that the government is good. The force to which the government resorts in order to make refractory spirits compliant can be successfully applied only as long as the majority does not stand solidly in opposition.

There is, therefore, in every form of polity a means for making the government at least ultimately dependent on the will of the governed, viz, civil war, revolution, insurrection. But it is just this expedient that liberalism wants to avoid. There can be no lasting economic improvement if the peaceful course of affairs is continually interrupted by internal struggles….

Here is where the social function performed by democracy finds its point of application. Democracy is that form of political constitution which makes possible the adaptation of the government to the wishes of the governed without violent struggles. If in a democratic state the government is no longer being conducted as the majority of the population would have it, no civil war is necessary to put into office those who are willing to work to suit the majority. By means of elections and parliamentary arrangements, the change of government is executed smoothly and without friction, violence, or bloodshed.

There are various points at which you can challenge this argument. For example, what if the majority of people oppose the government, but there isn’t a consensus backing a particular opposition group? (I don’t mean that the party in power won’t let popular opposition groups run. Mises when he talks about democracy assumes that elections are fair.) But even if the argument can be challenged, it seems to have much in its favor.

Murray Rothbard raises a remarkable objection to this argument that hasn’t received the attention it deserves. His book Power and Market contains a profusion of arguments, one right after the other, and this one has escaped much notice.

His argument, in brief, is that if democracy is supposed to be a substitute for violent revolution, then the democratic government must exactly resemble the government that would have won out in a violent revolution. It is most unlikely that this will happen. If so, Mises’s argument fails.

Rothbard explains what he has in mind in this passage:

There is, moreover, another flaw in the “peaceful-change” argument for democracy, this one being a grave self-contradiction that has been universally overlooked. Those who have adopted this argument have simply used it to give a seal of approval to all democracies and have then moved on quickly to other matters. They have not realized that the “peaceful-change” argument establishes a criterion for government before which any given democracy must pass muster. For the argument that ballots are to substitute for bullets must be taken in a precise way: that a democratic election will yield the same result as would have occurred if the majority had had to battle the minority in violent combat. In short, the argument implies that the election results are simply and precisely a substitute for a test of physical combat. Here we have a criterion for democracy: Does it really yield the results that would have been obtained through civil combat? If we find that democracy, or a certain form of democracy, leads systematically to results that are very wide of this “bullet-substitute” mark, then we must either reject democracy or give up the argument.

How, then, does democracy, either generally or in specific countries, fare when we test it against its own criterion? One of the essential attributes of democracy, as we have seen, is that each man has one vote. But the “peaceful-change” argument implies that each man would have counted equally in any combat test. But is this true? In the first place, it is clear that physical power is not equally distributed. In any test of combat, women, old people, sick people, and 4F’s would fare very badly. On the basis of the “peaceful-change” argument, therefore, there is no justification whatever for giving these physically feeble groups the vote. So, barred from voting would be all citizens who could not pass a test, not for literacy (which is largely irrelevant to combat prowess), but for physical fitness. Furthermore, it clearly would be necessary to give plural votes to all men who have been militarily trained (such as soldiers and policemen), for it is obvious that a group of highly trained fighters could easily defeat a far more numerous group of equally robust amateurs.

Could Mises respond to this argument? He might have said that even if Rothbard is right that democracy isn’t a perfect substitute for the results of a violent revolution, it’s close enough to merit our support, given the costs of violence. But I’m sure Rothbard would have had a counter for that as well. Murray had an amazing ability to counter any argument against him, and I’ve never met his match in this.

Rutherford Institute: Founders Would Be Anti-Government Extremists Today

Constitutional law attorney John Rutherford of the Rutherford Institute writes about America’s founding fathers and how they would be branded by our modern imperial government in America’s Revolutionary Founders Would Be Anti-Government Extremists Today

“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.”—Thomas Paine

“When the government violates the people’s rights, insurrection is, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indispensable of duties.”—Marquis De Lafayette

Had the Declaration of Independence been written today, it would have rendered its signers extremists or terrorists, resulting in them being placed on a government watch list, targeted for surveillance of their activities and correspondence, and potentially arrested, held indefinitely, stripped of their rights and labeled enemy combatants.

This is no longer the stuff of speculation and warning.

In fact, Attorney General William Barr recently announced plans to target, track and surveil “anti-government extremists” and preemptively nip in the bud any “threats” to  public safety and the rule of law.

It doesn’t matter that the stated purpose of Barr’s anti-government extremist task force is to investigate dissidents on the far right (the “boogaloo” movement) and far left (antifa, a loosely organized anti-fascist group) who have been accused of instigating violence and disrupting peaceful protests.

Boogaloo and Antifa have given the government the perfect excuse for declaring war (with all that entails: surveillance, threat assessments, pre-crime, etc.) against so-called anti-government extremists.

Without a doubt, America’s revolutionary founders would have been at the top of Barr’s list.

After all, the people who fomented the American Revolution spoke out at rallies, distributed critical pamphlets, wrote scathing editorials and took to the streets in protest. They were rebelling against a government they saw as being excessive in its taxation and spending. For their efforts, they were demonized and painted as an angry mob, extremists akin to terrorists, by the ruler of the day, King George III.

Of course, it doesn’t take much to be considered an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) today.

If you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched by the police, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you’re at the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.

Indeed, under Barr’s new task force, I and every other individual today who dares to speak truth to power could also be targeted for surveillance, because what we’re really dealing with is a government that wants to suppress dangerous words—words about its warring empire, words about its land grabs, words about its militarized police, words about its killing, its poisoning and its corruption—in order to keep its lies going.

This is how the government plans to snuff out any attempts by “we the people” to stand up to its tyranny: under the pretext of rooting out violent extremists, the government’s anti-extremism program will, in many cases, be utilized to render otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist.

The danger is real.

Keep in mind that the government agencies involved in ferreting out American “extremists” will carry out their objectives—to identify and deter potential extremists—in concert with fusion centers, data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics (in which life experiences alter one’s genetic makeup).

This is pre-crime on an ideological scale and it’s been a long time coming.

For example, in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released two reports, one on “Rightwing Extremism,” which broadly defines rightwing extremists as individuals and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely,” and one on “Leftwing Extremism,” which labeled environmental and animal rights activist groups as extremists

Incredibly, both reports use the words terrorist and extremist interchangeably

That same year, the DHS launched Operation Vigilant Eagle, which calls for surveillance of military veterans returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and other far-flung places, characterizing them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.

These reports indicate that for the government, anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—can be labeled an extremist.

Fast forward a few years, and you have the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Congress has continually re-upped, that allows the military to take you out of your home, lock you up with no access to friends, family or the courts if you’re seen as an extremist.

Now connect the dots, from the 2009 Extremism reports to the NDAA, the National Security Agency’s far-reaching surveillance networks, and fusion centers that collect and share surveillance data between local, state and federal police agencies

Add in tens of thousands of armed, surveillance drones that are beginning to blanket American skies, facial recognition technology that will identify and track you wherever you go and whatever you do. And then to complete the circle, toss in the real-time crime centers being deployed in cities across the country, which will be attempting to “predict” crimes and identify criminals before they happen based on widespread surveillance, complex mathematical algorithms and prognostication programs.

Hopefully you’re getting the picture, which is how easy it is for the government to identify, label and target individuals as “extremist.”

And just like that, we’ve come full circle.

Imagine living in a country where armed soldiers crash through doors to arrest and imprison citizens merely for criticizing government officials. Imagine that in this very same country, you’re watched all the time, and if you look even a little bit suspicious, the police stop and frisk you or pull you over to search you on the off chance you’re doing something illegal.

Keep in mind that if you have a firearm of any kind (or anything that resembled a firearm) while in this country, it may get you arrested and, in some circumstances, shot by police.

If you’re thinking this sounds like America today, you wouldn’t be far wrong.

However, the scenario described above took place more than 200 years ago, when American colonists suffered under Great Britain’s version of an early police state. It was only when the colonists finally got fed up with being silenced, censored, searched, frisked, threatened, and arrested that they finally revolted against the tyrant’s fetters

No document better states their grievances than the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

A document seething with outrage over a government which had betrayed its citizens, the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, by 56 men who laid everything on the line, pledged it all—“our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”—because they believed in a radical idea: that all people are created to be free.

Labeled traitors, these men were charged with treason, a crime punishable by death. For some, their acts of rebellion would cost them their homes and their fortunes. For others, it would be the ultimate price—their lives.

Yet even knowing the heavy price they might have to pay, these men dared to speak up when silence could not be tolerated.

Read the Declaration of Independence again, and ask yourself if the list of complaints tallied by Jefferson don’t bear a startling resemblance to the abuses “we the people” are suffering at the hands of the American police state…(continues)

Law Enforcement Today: John Kerry Suggests Revolution Possible if Trump Elected Again

Ukraine revolution, 2014

Law Enforcement Today reports that Former Senator John Kerry suggests there will be a revolution if Trump gets elected again in a statement made at the Alliance of Democracies.

“If people don’t have adequate access to the ballot, I mean that’s the stuff on which revolutions are built. If you begin to deny people the capacity of your democracy to work, even the Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, we have an inherent right to challenge that. And I’m worried that increasingly, people are disaffected.”

John Kerry also suggested that America would be in terrible shape globally if Trump were to lead America in a second term as President, according to Politics.

Kerry added while at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit 2020, that America can only become a world leader again if former Vice President Joe Biden wins in the November election.

PJ Media sheds some light on this rhetoric by Democrats due to some relation between the U.S. State Department and their associated NGOs such as USAID, Freedom house, and NED of which they gave significant amounts of money to George Soros funded businesses in Ukraine.

The plan by the U.S. State Department was to develop a program named Tech Camps where people in other nations would be taught on how to use technology, tools, and media to form movements of protestors. All of these movements received money from Soros related NGOs and U. S. agencies.

Such movements helped overthrow Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine. The movement was known as the Maidan protestors and known as the Maidan Revolution.

This revolution caused U.S. diplomats to ensure they governed who would be in office after Yanukovych. The Maidan Revolution is not the only movement where our U.S. State Department has participated in such behavior…(continues)

Intelligence Analyst Sam Culper at Forward Observer adds:

One factor that led to regime change in Ukraine’s Maidan revolution was the ability of political opposition to quickly establish popular belief that elections were rigged or ballots were falsified. Kerry is painting a soft justification for domestic revolution upon claims of voter disenfranchisement in a Trump electoral victory. While a left wing revolution will include violence, we’re more likely to see the development of a Maidan or Tahrir Square type of mass protest scenario, than a traditional armed revolution. Throughout the past year, left wing influencers have encouraged mass mobilization protests where millions of Americans would fill the streets and become disruptive enough to force President Trump to resign. Those efforts have so far fizzled. Taking into consideration some recent predictions that President Trump will not willingly depart the White House if defeated, it’s clear that certain elements are priming widespread activism going into November.

Forward Observer: Is This a Revolution?

Intelligence analyst Sam Culper of Forward Observer asks Is this a revolution?

Last night, a veteran friend and I were talking about our takes on the protests and riots.

Is this a civil war? A revolution? A rebellion or insurrection?

My initial assessment is that this actually is a revolution, in the sense of the Maidan or Tahrir Square, where organizers attempt to foment a popular uprising against the government.

Maidan, of course, was Ukraine’s 2014 revolution. Tahrir Square, Egypt’s during the 2011 Arab Spring. In both cases, mass protests and violence eventually succeeded in forcing the resignation of the countries’ leaders. There were other cases, too: Puerto Rico, South Korea, Spain, Iceland, and Finland each had their own bouts of widespread protests that led to political change.

All the way back in 2017, which now seems like 20 years ago, a U.S.-based militant socialist web magazine began promoting the idea of mass protests and small scale direct action as a means to bait President Trump into cracking down on Leftists nationwide.

The anticipated iron fist reaction would rally support for the Leftist cause, the authors explained, and expand the class conflict against capitalism and the state.

Since then, the idea of mass mobilization has become regular fare for both liberal and leftist think-pieces.

Rising to its highest popularity during the impeachment debacle, left wing authors encouraged mass protests where millions of Americans would fill the streets in major cities across the country, demanding an end to the Trump administration. According to this calculus, only mass mobilization could produce enough sustained political, social, and economic pressure to force President Trump’s resignation.

The country’s proponents of class conflict saw this push as a launching pad for socialist revolution. That mass mobilization effort fizzled along with impeachment, but what we’re seeing now is the result of the same organizing.

Riding on top of the protests against police brutality and the death of George Floyd is the socialist class war against law enforcement, capitalism, and the state. This is their revolution — not a singular event but a process.

In response to the protest demands, some municipalities are cutting police budgets. In some cases, there’s serious talk about dissolving police departments altogether. Ostensibly, this is to reduce police violence and redirect budgetary savings to social programs.

For the socialist revolution, without police, there are no evictions. There’s no one to stop looting, theft, and the forced redistribution of goods. Without police, there’s no one to enforce laws that protect the exploitative capitalist class against expropriation and violence from the proletariat, so the theory goes.

Now let’s answer the question: is this an actual revolution? Yes, for a few reasons.

1. These aims are nothing short of revolutionary.
2. The proponents of these political, social, and economic policy changes believe this is a revolution and describe themselves as revolutionaries.
3. We’re seeing some signs of success towards these revolutionary aims.

Success isn’t assured through electoral politics. This is why “dual power” exists. This is the concept of developing both political and social power. Institution-building in oppressed communities, outside of politics, is a form of power that can accomplish what politics often can’t. According to the theory, social power eventually grows larger than the opposition’s political power, and that becomes the basis for socialist revolution.

The bottom line is that the conflict here and it’s going to get much worse as the other side responds. Welcome to the next phase of our low intensity conflict.

South Africa News Roundup

Civil war ‘becoming real threat for South Africa

From World Net Daily

Civil war is looming larger and larger as a threat in South Africa as the once-prosperous nation pursues a race-driven agenda that already has damaged its neighbors to the north, says Charl Van Wyk, a longtime missionary in the troubled nation.

 It’s because of the current government’s aggressive move toward communism, he explains.

“We are going to see the same disaster in South Africa that we’ve seen further north of our borders,” Van Wyk told WND in an interview…

“We’ve had a major challenge with communism in South Africa,” Van Wyk said. “In fact, the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela’s group, was completely communist backed. Both by China and Russia.”

Now, the current president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, plans to dig deeper into communism, hoping to seize white farmers’ lands without compensation, according to the London Telegraph.

Zuma plans to unite the black parties in the parliament of South African to vote for the plan, as it would require a significant majority in parliament to change the law.

Click to read full story

ANC Member Says South Africa Needs Revolution

ANC Member Tiisetso Makhele writes in a News24 opinion piece that South Africa needs another revolution in order to “crush white monopoly capital.”

The primary interest of white monopoly capital is to ensure that profits are maximized at all costs. White monopoly capital receives its mandate from Wall Street in the US, in the main, and it is very powerful.

Just like Cuba, which has had two revolutions so far; one in 1868 to overthrow the Spanish colonizers, and the socialist revolution of 1959, South Africa needs a second revolution. Given our own unique material conditions, we might not require a military struggle to wage this second revolution. But, no matter what shape it takes, South Africa needs a revolution to crush white monopoly capital. Any hope that the revolutionary movement led by the ANC can negotiate with this powerful force is an illusion. White monopoly capital must be weakened or the county will face a storm.

Click for full story

Zuma Tightens Grip as South Africa’s ANC Censures Rebels

From Bloomberg News:

It’s payback time for South African President Jacob Zuma as his ruling African National Congress censures its lawmakers who openly backed a move to oust him, increasing his sway over who’ll succeed him.

The ANC fired Makhosi Khoza as chairwoman of parliament’s public service committee last week after saying it would punish three legislators who announced they’d back an opposition motion of no confidence in Zuma. It then wrote to Derek Hanekom, the head of its disciplinary committee, rebuking him for his Twitter postings calling for the president’s removal.

Click to read full story