Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Will the 2020s look like the 1970s?

Rick Perlstein reviews the book Days of Rage, a detailed account of the revolutionary period around 1970 -- the lead-in and the decade that followed it. Those familiar with cliometrics are familiar with Peter Turchin's observation that revolutionary periods come every 50 years, and that the last one was 1970.

That puts us on a course for 2020. One of the things I learned from the review is that there was a great deal of revolutionary literature being read in the lead-up and during the time -- something that should not be all that surprising. What I did not realize was how much of that literature was being read by prisoners. And those prisoners, upon release, often became the most violent revolutionaries. 

This suggests a few things to me. If we want to understand what kind of revolution we may have in 2020, we have to take a look at the kinds of revolutionary literature being read, particularly in our prisons. Is it leftist literature? Right-wing literature? Anarchist literature? (Of course, anarchist literature comes in a variety of flavors.)

The book also points out that in revolutionary periods, there is a strong, hierarchical center to the revolution, and a periphery of "worshipful followers." The latter are as dangerous as the former -- perhaps more so, as they often feel a strong need to prove their value, to prove that they, too, are as true of believers as the center. And those in the center are always happy to have useful idiots around.

Another thing of note was the fact that it was the police that were mostly targeted. This is probably not all that surprising, as the police are the first-line enforcement arm of the government. It is the job of the police to enforce the laws of the government -- the just laws as well as the unjust laws -- and it is not uncommon to blame the police enforcing the laws for enforcing the laws. For whatever reason, people love to blame the enforcers, not the legislators, the game-players and not the game rule-makers. For example, people love to blame corporations for their involvement in government, but give the government a completely free ride for creating the laws, creating the regulations, creating the regulatory bodies, and generally creating the rules of the game that the businesses have to play by.

There would be no cronyism if the government did not have regulations favoring some people over others. Businesses deal with government and work to corrupt government because the government creates the conditions where the businesses have to deal with the government to get anything done. Businesses "corrupting" government is a feature, not a bug, of government regulations. So long as human beings are involved and so long as human beings have their own self-interests they will look out for (even as they lie to others -- and themselves -- that they are doing it for the greater good), government regulations will always result in corruption. And that corruption begins and ends with government. Only government has the ability to literally force people into these kinds of situations.

Thus, people blame the companies for the corruption of government, and the people blame the enforcers of the law (police) while letting the legislators off the hook. This is why the police and businesses were targeted in the 1970s, and why they will be targeted again in the 2020s.

This isn't to say that each don't do things that aren't blameworthy. The degree to which one chooses to play the corruption game created by our governments varies. And the police do seem to have a nasty habit of targeting certain groups more than others. More, when the government acts in certain ways, we can expect the citizens to behave in kind, as the government acts as a moral model for many people. I heard someone suggest that the terrorist Dylann Roof felt encouraged by some of the recent actions of the police around the country -- and I don't doubt that to be, at least to some degree, true. The same people who recognize this connection, though, somehow fail to understand that if you make guns illegal that only the police will have guns. Somehow, the same people who want to disarm the people are the same people who complain about police brutality (and the same people who favor giving more and more power to the government are also the same people who complain that that same government enforces those laws); they fail to recognize that you cannot simultaneously be against a police state and for all of the conditions to create one.

All of these disconnects is what led to the eras of political violence in the 1920s and the 1970s. Given that, it seems, nobody ever learns anything from history, we can expect a repeat of these patterns in the 2020s. And we can also expect our legislators to create a large number of acts of legislation to appease everyone, creating the conditions for future problems as those changes work through the system, corrupting it further. They will be seen as the saviors, and the useful idiots of the revolution will be appeased by their oppressors, who they never really understood to be their oppressors in the first place. But how else would you expect a pro-government revolutionary to act when the government -- who they see as the savior of all -- expands its power in response to the revolutionaries' demands? After all, leftist revolutionaries don't actually see the government as the problem -- they are revolting to get the government to do more, to expand more, to seize more power over more people. What, then, could be better for our government than a revolutionary period around 2020? Nothing is better than having a bunch of useful idiots.
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