Redistribution and the Argument from Extortion

In a comment on my post on approximating a consumption tax by eliminating caps on IRA contributions, Brad Warbiany refers ironically to an argument for redistribution which I like to call the argument from extortion:

You need to catch up with the lefty talking points. Their redistribution is still protection. They’re protecting rich people from the “revolution"…

I don't think I need to go into the reasons I find this sort of argument distasteful, but I do want to mention two reasons why I think it's wrong, and why the US and most other industrialized nations are probably immune from revolution.

The more obvious reason is democracy. If the masses can't be bothered to vote for the sort of changes the radical left has in mind, they're not likely to risk their lives by trying to effect the same changes through violent revolution. Of course, this assumes that the oppressed and their sympathizers constitute a majority of the population. If we suppose instead that they make up a sizeable minority---say, 30% of the population---then revolution may be the only way to effect such a change.

Which brings us to the second flaw in this argument. I'm less certain of this one, but I do think it has some validity. Countries where socialist revolutions occur generally have very rigid class structures, which means that the lower classes are often filled with intelligent, hard-working, and ambitious people who are poor only for lack of opportunity. In contrast, the US is largely meritocratic. Despite what the left would have us think, anyone with a reasonable amount of drive, ambition, and/or intelligence can avoid a life of poverty, regardless of the circumstances of his birth. Consequently, the cream rises to the top, and no one remains to lead the revolution.

In Tsarist Russia, revolution looked like this. In the US, it looks like this.

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I like this latter argument

I like this latter argument quite a bit but there seems to be a caveat: a revolution is a risk if wealth is concentrated enough. I don't mean "in the upper 1%" or what have you, but in the hands of truly few people. I believe it was Midkiff that dealt with a similar problem in that 47% of Hawai'i was owned by 72 people (49% was held by the state and Federal governments) and it was difficult for others, no matter how hard working, to get real property. If we equate a rigid class system with such "overwhelming ownership" problems, the argument works absolutely.

The Nintendo Revolution is

The Nintendo Revolution is coming to the US pretty soon, so you don't really have much time.

If and when a revolution

If and when a revolution comes to the US, it'll be time to leave. The only question will be whether or not there's enough time and resources to get out.

Ok, so the state was able to

Ok, so the state was able to confiscate some of the property of those 72 so that instead of possessing 47% they possess 40%, yet still there has been no revolution in Hawaii. No Armed rebellion has begun for two good reasons: the land people want is in the cities which is held in quasi-competitive hands. The people of Hawaii want skyscrapers to live and work in, not the farmland currently possessed by the 72. If there is a circumstance that the average Hawaiian resents it is zoning restrictions which prevent the construction necessary to serve everyone.

You must remember that the average person in an industrialized country has no use for land, land is just a resource men use to get what they really want which is a place to live and work.

I suspect if "the people" ever got control over that 47% we'd see suburbs and strip-malls open up, relieving some of the demand pressures in the cities but it would never be as economically productive as today's DOLE plantation which supplies the world with pineapple.

Hawaii aside, this is the U.S., we have a long history of tolerating the better-off. The tradition of "minding your own business" is very strong. Yea, we may fight if it is our jobs being lost or we feel we are being taken advantage of by an employer, but in all such conflicts throughout history I've never seen the general population of a city rise up against even the most cruel businessman, much less against their state institutions in the name of fighting some business interest.

Almost all of the general rebellioned the U.S. has experienced have been against Governmental intrussion in their lives, such as the Whisky Rebellion against taxation or the numerous slave revolts.

"The Revolution" doesn't

"The Revolution" doesn't require a majority of the population to succeed. It only requires that the people willing to die for the revolution outnumber the people willing to die to stop it.

Most revolutions are waged

Most revolutions are waged by minorities, not majorities. This is even true of the American Revolution.

I posted a quote by Samuel Adams in this post yesterday.

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.

That being said, I still don't think that we're in danger of a revolution, and it's largely because Americans (even poor ones) are fat and happy. The only problem is that many of them think they're fat and happy because of government redistribution, while we tell them they'd be fatter and happier without it.

I said that a majority was

I said that a majority was necessary for democratic change, not for revolution.

Of course, in democracy,

Of course, in democracy, minorities do sometimes get their way, in the form of concentrated interest groups. Sometimes the majority is bamboozled, or can't be bothered to care.

I can't say I understand

I can't say I understand this..

But the only Socialist

But the only Socialist Revolution that really mattered was not really a revolution at all, was it? It was a coup d'etat against the revolution that had already disempowered the Tsar. The American Revolution hasn't really got much of a claim to be a revolution either, I'd have thought. The paradigm must still surely be the French Revolution? :behead:

"Countries where socialist

"Countries where socialist revolutions occur generally have very rigid class structures, which means that the lower classes are often filled with intelligent, hard-working, and ambitious people who are poor only for lack of opportunity. In contrast, the US is largely meritocratic."

A brilliant observation. One I've made myself related to unionism. The reason why unionism is on the decline is because all the smart people have moved up to jobs where they at least think they are part of the "haves" and there's no one smart enough to lead the workers. In fact, most of the workers don't think they deserver better.

Very Bell Curve, Half Sigma.

Very Bell Curve, Half Sigma.

[...] long after Leah

[...] long after Leah mentioned it that the topic of such revoltionary visions was brought up at Catcallarchy, and an argument made there and then [...]