Conservative revolutionCivil disobedience might make it harder, not easier, to change the system.
by T.J. Nelson
ibertarians and conservatives all took a break this month from bashing each other to read Charles Murray's new book advocating civil disobedience. The verdict: law-and-order types who would never step outside a zebra crossing think it's too extreme, while some others think civil disobedience is not extreme enough.
Nobody's seriously advocating revolution yet. (I discount as moonbattery the article on salon.com citing a survey by gun-control advocates, where they call us authoritarian and claim that 44% of Republicans say “an armed revolution might be necessary to protect our liberties.”)(Sorry, no link!)
Anyway, the only conservatives who ever participated in a revolution were the so-called conservative revolutionaries of the Weimar period, who were opposed to Hitler and communism. Claus von Stauffenberg, the German officer who tried to assassinate Hitler, was one. If you have three kids and a mortgage, your only concerns are to keep those kids fed and keep that mortgage from going underwater. Or, from what my married friends tell me, keep those kids from going under water and keeping the mortgage fed. The original conservative, Edmund Burke, famously watched the French revolution not with hope, but with horror at its destructiveness. In contrast to what you hear from leftists, we don't believe in slaughtering large numbers of people. It's them. Them, they're the ones.
A revolution happens when people think they have something to gain from it. A revolution is a war, even if it's just a bunch of pushing and shoving instead of shooting, and in a war things get broken. Things get burned and people might even get killed. Only young people, who are immortal, have little enough invested in things to be interested in breaking them.
A conservative lives for the next generation. Young people are the next generation. A libertarian just got to be free. Libertarians are the ones who are the most oppressed by our current totalitarian atmosphere, and if a revolution starts, it will come from there.
But a revolution also needs people who are ignorant of history. So libertarians are unlikely to start one unless the government gets a lot nastier than it is today.
Unlike in the 1960s, the young people today don't have anything to gain from revolting. They already have everything they want—all the sex, drugs, and, if they can get off their collective butt long enough to create it, all the rock and roll they want. Some of them don't seem to care much that they're no longer free.
So instead of a global revolution for freedom we will have a global thermonuclear economic collapse. That is what Paul Krugman, the Democrats in Congress and the president are really advocating, whether they realize it or not. Like other radicals in other times, these folks know you can't openly advocate radical change until it's too late for others to stop you. You have to advocate something that appears to give people something they want, but in reality gives them what you want.
In the case of urban liberals, that something is socialism, which is why they become so enraged when conservatives call them that. Pointing it out threatens their goal: even the most uneducated kids know that socialism = slavery.
But our problem is that conservatives will never fight against that, either. All they really want is to be left in peace, to put things back as they once were. It is young people, who by nature have no concept of history, who create history (which why it keeps going around in circles).
Libertarians like Charles Murray are basically conservatives who want to return to the limited government we once enjoyed. As such, they lack the urge to kill and burn that would be required for a revolution. So the idea of gradually reducing government's power by use of civil disobedience, as advocated in Charles Murray's book, is appealing.
But would it actually work? Unless accompanied by outright resistance, as in Gandhi's India, civil disobedience can actually stabilize the status quo. In southern Europe and in Latin America, it's rampant—tax evasion is its most common manifestation—which is probably why those countries are still politically stable. Time magazine once estimated the rate of tax evasion in Mexico to be 70% for small businesses and 40% for large businesses. In these countries, political connections are essential to get anything done.
To be effective, civil disobedience would have to make the population ungovernable. It needs a clear goal, like eliminating foreign influence, or it risks turning into Mexican-style corruption. Civil disobedience has a noble history in America, but in reality the equation is simple: government = taxes. Depending on organizations to ease the burden of regulation would do little to get rid of the regulations, but it would give more people power over us, and those people would be selected not by votes but by their ability to grab power. This could make it harder, not easier, to change the system.
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