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Minimum Requirement for a Revolution

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I know that when a government has destroyed all opposition, violates all human rights, and murders its own people (Nazi Germany comes to mind), a revolution is justified.

However, what is the minimum requirement for the overthrow of a government?

For example - a government carries out mass genocide. In my view (hopefully the view of anyone else with a brain and heart) a revolution is certainly justified.

Another government passes a law taxing maple syrup by 10 cents. In my view (and again hopefully with those with the aforementioned organs), saddening as it is to pancake lovers such as myself, a revolution is not justified.

What is your opinion on the minimum requirement?

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This is not an answer to your question, but other than asking "how bad must the current government be?", one must also ask: "how good or bad will the alternative be?"

For instance, if one is an Iranian, one has to question whether a government run by Rafsanjani and Moussavi will be significantly better than the current one.

Edited by softwareNerd
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softwareNerd - This is true. Soviet Russia was just as bad, if not worse, than Czarist Russia.

For this topic, we'll assume that the new government will be exactly how you wish it.

Mousavi will not be the greatest leader ever for Iran, but he is significantly better than Ahmadinejad, largely due to the former's regocnition of the Holocaust, and the latter's complete insanity.

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I know that when a government has destroyed all opposition, violates all human rights, and murders its own people (Nazi Germany comes to mind), a revolution is justified.

I can think of two scenarios where a revolution is indicated:

1) When a government effectively suppresses freedom of speech. If that happens, then no peaceful opposition is possible. BTW I mean when you're jailed or killed for expressing anything the government deems unacceptable, not when government regulates speech.

2) When a large group of people within a political jurisdiction lacks representation or the possibility of representation before a government, and have legitimate grievances which are ignored by the same government. This naturally describes the position of the 13 colonies which eventually rebelled against the Brittish government.

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Sergio - If a disaster is coming, will the disaster be stopped by a revolution, or will the disaster strike whichever government holds power?

I vote no for the overthrow of the pre-disaster government. However, if I knew that the disaster was comming (in a case of Nazis taking over the United States, for example,) it would be better to be prepared, so that our nation can be ready to revolt when the time comes.

If the disaster cannot be stopped by normal means, can it be stopped by extraordinary means?

D'kian - How large must that group be?

Edited by Peripeteia
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D'kian - My use of 'revolution' includes any change in government, peaceful or armed.

Ghandi and his supporters managed to free India without an armed uprising.

But now that you mention it, would you consider two different sets of criteria for those two types of revolutions, or would they follow the same requirements, the two that you mentioned?

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But now that you mention it, would you consider two different sets of criteria for those two types of revolutions, or would they follow the same requirements, the two that you mentioned?

The first scenario I posed makes peaceful change impossible. How would you be able to effect change if you coulnd't spread your ideas?

The second makes it unlikely. To be sure there have been events like the Velvet Revolution, but such radical peaceful change is rare. The most likely result of such things is Tienanmen-style massacres. Remember Hungary in the 50s. But it depends on the country and circumstances. Still, I do advise standing a chance in an armed insurrection. Otherwise you're just setting up cannon fodder.

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Another government passes a law taxing maple syrup by 10 cents.

Since there is no context provided I'll have to qualify my answer: at the minimum a peaceful revolution would be appropriate and if needed a bloody revolution might be appropriate. It all depends on the nature of the regime.

I think my bases are covered with that answer. ;)

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Sergio - If a disaster is coming, will the disaster be stopped by a revolution, or will the disaster strike whichever government holds power?

I vote no for the overthrow of the pre-disaster government. However, if I knew that the disaster was comming (in a case of Nazis taking over the United States, for example,) it would be better to be prepared, so that our nation can be ready to revolt when the time comes.

If the disaster cannot be stopped by normal means, can it be stopped by extraordinary means?

D'kian - How large must that group be?

I was thinking of the governemnt in Atlas Shrugged: it had gone too far down the road to totalitarianism for it to be reversed "within the system" or through other means, even though it was a democratic system. There were 2 choices: wait for a total collapse, or change things earlier. The same can be said for America: certain flaws with the approach to American government make it impossible to reverse the direction that the country is moving in, unless there is a massive philosophical shift. Ayn Rand was complaining about America 60 years ago - and things are just getting worse for liberty. In the past year, the government has been nationalizing some major industries - things are getting bad. The same applies to any new government that is created which contains fundamental contradictions in its core: governments will naturally grow in size and power until they crush their host economies, unless they are restrained somehow. No government in history has ever been restrained, not even America. Objectivism intends to make it work by having an Objectivist constitution.

So, if it can be recognized that a particular government is doomed to eventually become desitructive and collapse, is it appropriate to have a revolution, even when things are OK at the moment? Should we nip them in the bud, before they get so bad?

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Sergio - If I knew for certain that a government will fail and become an oppresive regieme or descend into anacrhy, etc., and it cannot be stopped or changed through non-violent means, then it would be acceptable to stage a revolution, preferably as quickly and with as little bloodshed as possible.

My reasoning behind this is that although in this senario, there will be violence, it will be preventing the even greater amount of pain and suffering that would come about from the government's collapse.

D'kian - The only thing I can think of is the extremely unlikely senario that the entire or vast majority of the populace disobeys en masse.

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So, if it can be recognized that a particular government is doomed to eventually become desitructive and collapse, is it appropriate to have a revolution, even when things are OK at the moment? Should we nip them in the bud, before they get so bad?

If it really is okay, then there is no need to have revolution. If things are really just okay, talking to lawmakers or other people may be more than enough to bring about a change. If it's merely bearable, revolution could then be appropriate. You would then have to ask yourself "what do I need to do to begin a revolution and then succeed?" Revolution doesn't mean "violent change". In the context of Atlas Shrugged, Galt began a revolution. There was no violence. Provided you're not sacrificing values and you don't initiate force, I would say revolution is perfectly fine. The nature of the revolution and whether or not the government is acting immorally is what matters, not exactly "is it appropriate?"

Said more concisely, if the government/law system is acting immorally, revolution can be considered.

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  • 1 month later...
The single most important precondition for any revolution is the acceptance of certain ideas within a culture. Depending on the ideas being accepted, you'll witness different types of revolutions.

Well, I'd say a taxpayer revolution is in order. If we get enough people (on the order of thousands) to refuse to pay ANY taxes they can, and openly speak against the ridiculous government burden on taxpayers, and if they come from all across America, it might just be enough to put Republicans back in congress. Though Obama will probably win again in 2012, this is to be expected. We want to gridlock America, not hand it over to one of the two parties, both of which want extraordinary amounts of government power, in their own ways.

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Another government passes a law taxing maple syrup by 10 cents. In my view (and again hopefully with those with the aforementioned organs), saddening as it is to pancake lovers such as myself, a revolution is not justified.

Is this gov't otherwise rights-respecting or not? How did this maple syrup tax come about? Issues like this have a "straw that broke the camel's back" problem to them because you can't determine whether a revolution is justified except by looking at the TOTAL context. A single edict is not enough. Nor is any single piece of legislation going to suddenly reverse a trend.

Even the genocide issue by itself isn't enough! Why? Look at the history of the United States and the treatment of the native population. That was a hideous mess full of terrible behavior on both sides, yet if I'd been an American citizen at the time I don't think a revolution would have been justified because there were other methods open to seek a correction of the problem even if they were difficult and probably unpleasant.

Remember also that a revolution is an armed uprising with the intention of destroying the current gov't and replacing it with a new system. It is constantly appropriate to seek reform, but revolution is such a horrible undertaking that it should be left until reform is no longer possible. Even then, sometimes it is better to endure tyrrany until you have a good chance of winning.

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In a general sense, reaction to force with force in self defense is "moral" in the sense of relations between men. The real question is whether it is appropriate and good for one's life, and I hate to use this word but, in a pragmatic sense. Running around killing Nazis in in 1943 Germany would have accomplished little, except one's own death. Revolution, being either peaceful or (gasp! for the Libertarians) violent, depends on your ability to succeed. Galt waited for a tipping point where he could succeed and did so.

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In this Playboy interview, http://www.playboy.com/articles/ayn-rand-p...view/index.html , Rand never advocates the use of force in a revolution, but rather advocates revolutions of the mind, through press or productive power, depending on if there is a dictatorship in power or not.

In her Playboy interview, Rand is asked when the Producers should go on strike, and she replies:

"The action in Atlas Shrugged takes place at a time when society has reached the stage of dictatorship. When and if this happens, that will be the time to go on strike, but not until then."

Also, she says:

"A dictatorship has four characteristics: one-party rule, executions without trial for political offenses, expropriation or nationalization of private property, and censorship. Above all, this last. So long as men can speak and write freely, so long as there is no censorship, they still have a chance to reform their society or to put it on a better road. When censorship is imposed, that is the sign that men should go on strike intellectually, by which I mean, should not cooperate with the social system in any way whatever."

Most pertinent to your question on the minimum requirement for a revolution is this:

"PLAYBOY: Short of such a strike, what do you believe ought to be done to bring about the societal changes you deem desirable?

RAND: It is ideas that determine social trends, that create or destroy social systems. Therefore, the right ideas, the right philosophy, should be advocated and spread. The disasters of the modern world, including the destruction of capitalism, were caused by the altruist-collectivist philosophy. It is altruism that men should reject."

I believe the minimum requirement of a revolution is met whenever an individual's ability to live rationally is infringed upon by his government. That is, pretty much always. So revolutions are ongoing, and require the voice of whoever sees irrationality dictating lives, and is moved to speak. A government does not have to be overthrown for irrational policies to change, but a revolution in thought may be required.

If the government needs to be overthrown, Ayn seems to be saying that those who recognize the dictatorship for what it is should simply protect themselves, withdraw their aid, and let it destroy itself. In Atlas Shrugged many "innocents" do die or live much more primitively as a result of the Producers leaving, but these same people allowed the dictators to rise and leeched off of the Producers. So, in Atlas Shrugged, the non-Objectivists are left to destroy themselves, through mass murders or the inability to provide for themselves. As instigators of force as coercion, dictators do open themselves to being subjected to reactionary force. I am not sure who should ethically apply this force, or when. It seems only those who were still around (not Producers) and who were victims of the dictator should react. Otherwise, if other non-victims step in, they should have to justify the use of their country's resources un-altruistically to be moral. Perhaps they could do this by profiting from the dictator's leftovers, but I am not sure how without infringing on the property rights of those the dictator stole from, or perhaps by destroying a dictator that poses a threat to their country...

I would appreciate a quote from Ayn on when force is justified in revolution. I have read that force should only be applied to those who have already used force to sever men from their rights, but I cannot recall from which of her works more detail can be pulled from on this topic.

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Three scenarios:

1) Govt clampdown on free speech

2) Govt tries to confiscate arms from peaceable citizens

3) Govt tries to compel individuals to work for it under threat of force

I think any one of or combination of these three would justify a revolution.

Edit: For #2, I don't mean a registration or a ban on *some* weapons, I mean an outright, cops going door to door looking for guns kind of thing.

Edited by ers
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Are not many of these conditions somewhat arbitrary? I think they are good guidelines but not necessary. Once any government starts using force against its citizens, a more moral government would have the right to displace that government. That "better" government could be internal or external.

Of course for a just revolution, peaceful or otherwise, to succeed it requires that a large proportion of the population would be in disagreement with the government. These discussions are interesting but until there is a revolution of thought among intellectuals and the citizenry it is not a real life scenario. If a drastic change for the better occurs on the philosophical level, political change would be easy. (likely by ballot box and not armed rebellion)

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Edit: For #2, I don't mean a registration or a ban on *some* weapons, I mean an outright, cops going door to door looking for guns kind of thing.

By that time you're too fricken late because the ban's and registrations have done the great majority of the work already. the cops know who has what kind of weapon and they know how it would probably be stored.

Trust me. We have registration in Canada and an effective ban on handguns. Although we can still own weapons a lot of people don't because it is just too much of a hassle. The population is effectively disarmed already.

Then you can look at England where things are even worse and government is now making noises about "knife crime"...

No shit.

Wait too long and any cry for revolution will be stillborn.

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Yeah, I know my points were somewhat arbitrary, I should probably flesh them out a bit more. Unfortunately I'm going on a trip and won't have time. But good points about confiscation Zip.

I would assume anyone that didn't agree with bans/registration would just not comply, making them criminals. Since the right to bear arms stems from the intrinsic right of self defense, the government merely outlawing some or all weapons wouldn't be enough... it's when they come door to door, that's when it becomes time to resist with force.

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I largely agree with Rand's take on this. I believe she offered up 3 circumstances:

1.) Single-party rule.

2.) Silencing of political speech and/or criminal prosecution for "political crimes."

3.) Imprisonment/execution without trial, or with a show trial.

The only one of these that I'm not quite comfortable with is single-party rule. If the people vote such that a single party takes control of government...well, they got there legitimately. Before this health care bill revived the Republican Party, I was tempted to say that we were approaching single-party rule, but I certainly don't advocate overthrowing our government.

Edited by The Wrath
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The only one of these that I'm not quite comfortable with is single-party rule. If the people vote such that a single party takes control of government...well, they got there legitimately.

There is no such thing as legitimate single party rule especially if the people voted for it. Dictatorships are not the product of parties but collectives that are mindlessly uncritical by definition.

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