Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Revolution or Coup d'Etat?

I don't often share my free associations, but today I am going to make an exception.

This morning I was reading an article by Victor Davis Hanson called: "Reflections on the Revolution in America." Link here. And, yes, I did notice that the title echoes Edmund Burke's famous work on the French Revolution.

Anyway, as I was reading it, a thought popped into mind-- that, after all, is the definition of free association--- and that thought was a book: The Russian Revolution by Richard Pipes.

Harvard Professor Pipes wrote a long, difficult, extensively documented tome to demonstrate that the Russian Revolution was not really a revolution. It was not about what Hanson describes as: "the abject poor and starving storming the Bastille." Not at all. According to Pipes the Russian Revolution was a coup d'etat, an overthrow of the government by a small group that arrogated all power to itself in the name of the poor and the starving.

The Russian Revolution was not an uprising of the proletariat against their capitalist masters. It was not a Hegelian rebellion of slaves against their masters. All of that is mythology, well suited for philosophy and literature classes but having little to do with reality.

In the Russian Revolution a small group that thought it knew what was best for everyone took power in the name of the working class and the peasantry.

So, where Hanson calls what is happening in Washington today a revolution, he is more clearly describing a coup d'etat. As long as we understand that a coup d'etat does not have to be violent, but can easily use the mechanisms of government to subvert the system, we have no problem grasping what is going on.

As Hanson describes it, you have an elite minority, American liberals, who have seized control of the Democratic party and the national government. They know that their days are numbered, but they want to make the best use of this opportunity to change the system to empower people like them.

They want to disempower bankers, industrialists, and entrepreneurs in favor of government workers, union members, trial lawyers, media intellectuals, academics, and stand-up comics.

Hanson eloquently describes the basis for their grievance, which has nothing to do with the conditions of the poor and underprivileged: "How can it be that the PhD who reads Old English, or the painter who emulates Pollock, or the writer who is the next Fitzgerald, or the AP teacher is given so much less by society than the crass, smug captain of industry, who reads less, has no real taste, and hardly understands his own existential dilemma? Should not salary and capital be predicated on good intentions, high education, rhetoric and argumentation, and a bit of necessary sarcasm?"

How are liberals mounting their coup d'etat? How are they trying to transform the nation so radically that the only question is when, not if, it will turn into Greece? By hyper-partisan legislative machinations, like deeming and reconciliation.

Having lost the debate on health care, having lost a Senate seat in Massachusetts, and having been revealed to be a minority, liberals are trying to ram the Senate health care bill through the House, regardless of what the people think. The more the polls show that the American people do not want the bill, the more the Democrats insist that they must have it.

Even if they have to pass it without even taking a vote, by deeming it to have been passed. To call things by their names, this is a counterfactual: the Democrats want to act as though the bill had passed regardless of whether it actually did.

Everyone knows that this is not really the American way. American democracy is based on a fundamental trust and that trust is based on the government's respect for the will of the people. The first words of the Constitution are: We, the people....

The point is not whether or not you can pass a law. The point is whether or not the people respect the law and obey it voluntarily. That is why major changes in social policy, when they are affected through legislation, have always been enacted on a bipartisan basis.

The enemy of that the consent of the governed is the form of hyperpartisanship called factionalism. Our founding fathers were especially concerned that the nation would be divided on partisan lines, to the point where the spirit of cooperation and compromise would be destroyed.

Now, we are not just seeing the intellectual elites, filled with Nietzschean resentment, punishing the productive class of society, we are also seeing them create fault lines of social division.

As Hanson and many others have pointed out, you cannot tax the productive sector into submission and assume that it is going to continue to produce the wealth that will keep the rest of the nation afloat. At some point, you are going to cook the goose and it will no longer produce those golden eggs.

The Obama agenda, based on health care reform, cap and trade, and card check, will, if it is enacted, cripple the economy. Even former Obama supporter Jim Cramer has come around to seeing this.

If this agenda does not pass, the threat of its passage has tamped down economic growth. Who wants to spend or invest or hire with the Obama triple threat hanging over him?

Whatever happens this weekend in Congress, the fact remains that the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats have borrowed so much money in the last fourteen months that we are unlikely to dig our way out without major social unrest.

What going to happen when the country runs out of money, or better, when it runs out of credit? How are all of those unionized workers going to react when they find that their precious contracts are not good for much more than papering their walls?


vanderleun said...

Great riff. That's more than worth a pointer:

Ralph said...

It happens all the time in smaller organizations where the requirements to join and run for office are minimal. I call it philosophical hijacking.

An example is a small non profit, organized narrowly to pursue a common interest, like maybe the environment. Americans being the good, open hearted kind, usually will accept anyone who wants to join. For outsiders with other ideas, you can more easily join an existing organization than start one on your own. You can use the public's goodwill of the organization to do what you want.

An example of above is Greenpeace, who's original founder had to quit when it was taken over by those more radical and outside his intended purposes.

The easiest way for a business foe to take down your company is to go to work for you.

Robert Conquest's third law of politics sounds a lot like a Coup d'Etat.

Deana said...

I, too, am worried about social unrest before all of this is over.

I wonder how many Americans grasp exactly how bad this can all get? Right now, it seems like many Americans are living in a bubble, as if all of this borrowing and spending can go on forever.

It won't. There will be a day of reckoning.

And it just makes me so angry - angry that we allowed it to get to this point.

Unknown said...

Yes, great riff.

Becky's right -- look at Vermont.

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