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The French and The Romans

The French Revolution?

Over the last few days, I have heard numerous references to the United States undergoing a process similar to that of the events leading up to the French Revolution

God, help us if that is true.  The years following the French Revolution were anything but sanguine for the French people.

Fortunately, I think the comparisons are fundamentally flawed.

The fall of the Roman Empire?  That may have some merit… but the French Revolution?…  Not so much.

Two of the biggest differences between the French Revolution and the United States (right now) are the facts that we are a Constitutional Republic and that we are a heterogenous society.  (This also bears striking resemblance to the Roman Empire, by the way.)

Constitutional Republics have “revolutions” built into the system.  There are physical mechanisms that allow the body politic to “revolt” against the status quo and allow for revolutionary transformative change, while still protecting minority rights and essentially keeping the architecture of government in place.  Homogenous populations also are more prone to revolutionary changes… and this rests primarily in the concept of tribalism.

When the “tribe” (in the instance of the French, the majority of the body politic) feels they are being oppressed by another “tribe” (the aristocracy and the mandarins of government), there is an impetus to revolt. 

When multiple “tribes” vie for power, there is the necessity for coalition building, and this often co-opts agents who have become part of the government itself.  As such, the dissolution of the government becomes extremely unlikely. 

Yet, could the dissatisfaction with our current system be so great that a massive call for systemic change ultimately ushers in a new era, free from the constraints of limited government, devoid of the Constitutional protections of the Bill of Rights, and based, instead, on the belief that the Intelligentsia is better prepared to make decisions for our citizens than our citizens themselves?

Yep… that is a real potential. 

Right now the raison d’être is a perceived racial animus against minorities by certain members of our nation’s police.  Here is a news flash:  it exists.

Here is another news flash:  it will never, ever go away.

(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)

During the last number of years we have seen a hardening of political vitriol.  Campus leftists are more than willing to abandon the protection of the First Amendment for the purpose of message control.  They shout down conservative speakers and malign the character of the opponents as opposed to the message they proffer.  The visceral hatred for those who do not agree with them transcends the political philosophy.  They must be silenced!  They must be marginalized!  They are not human!  They are the worst of society:  They are Conservatives, Libertarians, Free Thinkers, Climate Change Deniers!  Throw a little western religious belief into the mix and now you have a true monster!  (If they are devotees of eastern religions, though, that is okay… that suggests a degree of avant-garde.)

They may try and try and try, but they will never succeed in altering the “feelings” of an individual.  The most “progressive and enlightened” publicly may still harbor feelings of discomfort when their children choose to date members of the “other tribe” (be it a tribe of racial affiliation or political affiliation).

We are who we are, and the government, or society for that matter, can never crawl into the recesses of individuals’ minds and alter their thoughts or prejudices, nor would we tolerate an attempt to do so.  At our core, we still believe (or most of us do anyway), in the inherent dignity of the individual.  When our thoughts are co-opted by a third party we lose our humanity and become spare parts for the collective. 

We can, however, regulate behavior.

Actions or restraints, motivated by altruism or compulsion, can simply be judged on their merits not their animating philosophy.  The “racist cop” who behaves within the policies of her department can never be judged on her secret internal feelings… only on the public actions she undertakes. 

Our only hope for a “well-regulated” society is the standard we demand from each of us in how we deal with others. 

To be true, there are some areas that do create systemic problems.  Chiefly among them, in my opinion, is our criminal justice system, or, as I prefer to refer to it, our Criminal Justice Industrial Complex.

There is big money to be made in regulating human behavior. 

From lobbying donations, employment, contracting and union dues… the incarceration of a good chunk of the population makes money (primarily for the government). 

I have often said that our problem… our real problem… is not law enforcement.  Our problem is the law that requires enforcement.

Andrew Yang, when he was running for the Democratic Presidential nomination, proffered a cash giveaway:  a dividend that would be paid to each American every month.  A study of the cost of college education shows what would have happened if his proposal had come to fruition.  When a third party pays for something, the recipient of the cash simply raises the price to absorb the new money, and the individual still pays out of pocket the equivalent of the original price, now compounded by the need to pay the increase back to the lender. 

Our proliferation of laws and our loss of liberty at the expense of those laws, do nothing to decrease the victimization of one individual at the hands of another.  What they do allow for is the greater opportunity for the State to incarcerate its citizens and make them coerced participants in the leviathan that has become our justice system.  The original “cost” to society remains in place, but now we have “judicial inflation” that must be paid by someone.  This payment typically comes from taxes.

The “answer” has been in front of us all along:  Protection of minority rights through a reverential following of our Constitution and a fundamental adherence to the belief in limited government.

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Comments (5)

  • Roger Fuller Reply

    Thanks again Steve.
    I’ll be sharing this.

    06/10/2020 at 08:02
  • ken Anderson Reply

    Great article which has some merit and makes you think although I had to run to the dictionary fifteen times or more..

    06/10/2020 at 08:54
  • George Reply

    Great blog

    06/10/2020 at 11:04
  • Lewis Long Reply

    I have just two observations. First, you missed out on a great pun opportunity: the French Revolution and its immediate aftermath were quite “sanguine,” not in the current meaning of the term, but in the original latinate meaning.

    Second, it may not be fair to target “campus leftists.” Why ignore the big-government proponents OUTSIDE of the academy? As a college professor myself (and in Liberal Arts, to boot), I’m willing to concede that there is a vocal, highly visible segment of education that is loudly leftist, but that prominent, vocal group is not necessarily the only range of opinions within education, although perhaps the loudest, and who seem to get the most attention in the press. I have many conservative colleagues, too, perhaps almost as many as those who are virulently “leftist” (to the extent that I buy into the idea that all possible political positions can be ranged along a single bipolar continuum, which I don’t); most of us are somewhere in the middle (though admittedly on the left-leaning side of the middle). Colleges/universities incorporate a wide range of disciplines, attracting a wide range of political and social perspectives. Speaking from within the academy, I’m comfortable claiming that not all academics are flag-kneeling, big government socialists. They certainly exist, and they get a lot (perhaps a disproportionate amount) of press. But many of my colleagues occupy the full spread of possible political affiliations.

    Rather than targeting education, it may be more productive to target dogmatic political allegiance to the idea that “the government knows best,” in ANY portion of the population, because that seems to be the problem, regardless of who holds that belief. The idea that, anytime there is a problem, we need to enact a new law to control it, is not confined to universities. California, the poster child of the nanny state, is not necessarily governed by academics.

    The big-government, nanny-state problem is not just systemic, but it also contributes to the problems now faced by law enforcement. There are just so MANY laws, codes, regulations to enforce, and an even larger set of cultural expectations (e.g., people calling 911 because their pizza arrived cold). With that vast and growing body of laws, police officers have been put into roles that have so little to do with the traditional idea of policing. In how many professions does one have to master the skills and knowledge of criminal justice, tactical response, crowd control, traffic control, conflict resolution and mediation, mental health care, personal and family counseling, emergency medical care, code enforcement, etc., ad nauseum, and on top of all of that, anger management? Then, in addition to all of this regulatory overload, they now have to deal with what seems like universal public condemnation of anyone wearing a blue (or gray or khaki) uniform. What’s wonderful is not that a few bad actors manage to get into the profession, or that a few act rashly under the unimaginable pressure and stress, but that so many are able to manage so much so well.

    06/11/2020 at 11:26
    • Michael Dixon Reply

      As a retired Police Officer myself, I want to thank you Lewis Long for your thoughtful and insightful comment. It is refreshing to read a comment from someone who has their head screwed on straight. Keep up the good work!

      06/14/2020 at 16:43

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