Two Types Of Revolutions

Yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution as Czechs and Slovaks commemorated the end of the end of 25 years of Soviet occupation. As much as I object to the actions of the US government, it is clear to me that living in a liberal democracy, even one that is far more democracy than liberal, is infinitely preferable to living under communism. Just as the Czechoslovaks threw off their communist oppressors, I can only hope that those currently living under communist governments are able to do the same someday.

The events of 1989 showed that a government's power depends on its acceptance by a significant part of the citizenry. While guns and people in uniforms enforce control, underneath it all is a foundation of legitimacy in the eyes of the populace. Those in power are much fewer in number than those whom they control. Only with a presumption of propriety do the much larger majority yield to their authority. When this veneer breaks, as it did in mid-November fifteen years ago when a half-million gathered in the streets, the incumbent government can be toppled with nary a drop of blood spilled.

The revolution was Velvet because it stemmed from the beliefs of the common man. It was a cultural groundswell. Too often, revolutions are about power and attempting to grab control of the enforcement structure. They result in less liberty for the populace, as the new regime feeds on the dying carcass of the old establishment. If a revolution is to create more freedom, it must be derived from general popular consent and have as its goal simply to reject the prevailing sovereigns rather than to capture command, much like the American Revolution and Velvet Revolution were. Only then will there be the necessary cultural institutions present for liberty to thrive. Such an outcome is more secession than revolution. Otherwise, the result will be simply bloodshed and more tyranny as the French Revolution and Bolshevik Revolution showed. Libertarians dreaming of revolution ought to take note.

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I think it is critical to

I think it is critical to note that the people holding the weaponry agreed with the people/popular movement. If the armed forces believed in the supremacy of the state, the velvet revolution would have been a crimson tide of blood on the streets. 15 million, 15 schmillion, a few massacres here and there and its all over.

Otherwise Cuba & China would be free today.

If that's what it's to be,

If that's what it's to be, we libertarian types are doomed and may as well sign up for a nice cruise with Patri. You will never assemble a libertarian majority in any civilized country: Civilization's resources are too great for a majority not to wish to rearrange them.

Try as you may, libertarianism will never appeal to the masses, nor will progress make of the people something other than masses. Libertarian revolution will never be democractic or velvet; our ideas, however right, are widely despised, and this will not change with time. Liberty is a frightening burden, a cruel master, and a dangerous friend; it is not lovable, nor should we expect it to be so.

Decent revolution, in short, is impossible.

It's all about the soapbox,

It's all about the soapbox, and that's the job of the blogosphere. You once asked what we could do for Korea, and the only principled answer I have been able to come up with since is education. We need to make sure that ideas of Liberty are accessible enough that once circumstances allow a change in government it is for the better.

Thanks for that and right

Thanks for that and right on.

Surely Americans are as smart as Czechs and Slovaks, aren't they?

I think it is critical to

I think it is critical to note that the people holding the weaponry agreed with the people/popular movement. If the armed forces believed in the supremacy of the state, the velvet revolution would have been a crimson tide of blood on the streets.

Of course. Some people will fight no matter what. Especially if they see their enemies as subhuman or are promised a reward in the afterlife.

But, given that the people with weaponry exist, the best way to actively depose them is for large numbers to simply not recognize their authority. The British held the weaponry in India and didn't agree with popular movement, but they were civilized enough to let go in the face of mass civil obedience.

In no way did I imply that this is always a winning strategy. I doubt the Nazis would have given up facing the same situation in Germany. There will always be cannibals among us.

Decent revolution, in short,

Decent revolution, in short, is impossible.

Then revolution is not an option. If it isn't decent, then it won't have the results that libetarians desire - which is what my post was implying.

Try as you may, libertarianism will never appeal to the masses, nor will progress make of the people something other than masses. Libertarian revolution will never be democractic or velvet; our ideas, however right, are widely despised, and this will not change with time. Liberty is a frightening burden, a cruel master, and a dangerous friend; it is not lovable, nor should we expect it to be so.

I disagree. Libertarian ideas have never been stronger over the long term. If your idea of "libertarian" is "market anarchism" then yes, the average person finds little in common with that idea. But if by "libertarian", you mean holding the view that the world is a positive-sum place, that live-and-let-live the best general policy for interacting with our neighbors, that the few cannot be trusted with power over the many, and that man can create decentralized political strucutres that help him escape the state of nature of his ancestors, then libertarian ideas are flourishing and growing stronger every day.