But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Whenever the Legislators endeavor to take away, and destroy the Property of the People, or to reduce them to Slavery under Arbitrary Power, they put themselves into a state of War with the People, who are thereupon absolved from any farther Obedience, and are left to the common Refuge, which God hath provided for all Men, against Force and Violence. Whensoever therefore the Legislative shall transgress this fundamental Rule of Society; and either by Ambition, Fear, Folly or Corruption, endeavor to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other an Absolute Power over the Lives, Liberties, and Estates of the People; By this breach of Trust they forfeit the Power, the People had put into their hands, for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the People, who have a Right to resume their original Liberty.
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government
Don’t you know?
They’re talkin’ bout a revolution
Sounds like a whisper
–Tracy Chapman, Talkin’ Bout a Revolution
As the abuses go from sufferable to insufferable, people are going there. Michael Anton dares the question in American Greatness:
…the American regime itself. Have we conserved that? Does it function as it was designed to do? As a political scientist, and as a historian of sorts before that, I find the question laughable. If any of you want to make the case that we still live in the founders’ regime, go ahead.
Meanwhile, I will tell you some of what I see. A giant, unaccountable, unelected fourth branch of government that does what it wants without input or supervision from the people, and that usurps executive, legislative, and judicial power. Rights are routinely trampled. Two-track justice—one standard for friends of the regime, another for its enemies—is now the norm. Just last week a man killed with his car a teenager for the “crime” of being Republican. He’s already out on bail. Meanwhile there are still dozens of January 6 protesters in pretrial detention for ridiculous noncrimes such as “parading.”
The Justice Department, FBI, CIA—all the security agencies—are out of control in attacking American citizens. The FBI is now doing SWAT raids for misdemeanors. Earlier this month, the president of the United States gave a speech calling half the American population enemies of the state. I could go on.
The FBI jackboots and political repression are the effective tools of the usurpation of power Anton describes, not the thing itself, and not the greater sin–which is the tyranny necessitating such as FBI raids. Anton would have done well to invoke the four years of anti-Trump “resistance” wherein virtually everyone at the commanding heights of government and culture openly collaborated to disenfranchise, after-the-fact, the majority that elected Trump. Four years of serial conspiracies and hoaxes seeking to effect a coup, culminating in a vast project to disenfranchise this same majority in the 2020 election.
But with hindsight we can identify other points where the government of the United States arguably ceased to be representative and became hostile to the founding nation of mixed European stock. Those points stretch back like mountain peaks into a misty horizon; maybe we’ve never had a true republic at all.
A genuine revolt can only be exercised as a right when the powerful consent to being displaced. That is to say, never. The Declaration of Independence is a political document, not a legal one. There’s no such intemperate talk in the Constitution. The colonists invoked Locke in justifying violent rebellion for which they expected to hang if not successful. Like power, the “right” to revolt comes out of the barrel of a gun. Needless to say, the current power has all the guns.
Anton points out how thoroughly media conservatives have internalized the values of the left. These values constitute a post-Constitutional revolution that goes unrecognized as such because it was effected gradually–the patient revolution took three generations to achieve what people would have rejected in “real time”, but its victory looks eternal.
Anton repeats a lot what we already know about respectable conservatism.
What is conservatism’s response to all this? What is the response of “the weasels, compromisers, mediocrities, and losers of the Republican-conservative-libertarian establishment”? Those are not my words, but I like them. They sum things up concisely, accurately, and vividly.
The “conservative” response is not just to get mad, it’s also to be amused, or affect amusement. Whole careers are now made doing a mirror version of what Steve Sailer calls the “point-and-sputter”–when lefties call out gaffes and express outrage–I call it the “point-and-titter”, when righties laugh at some lefty silliness–often cases of pointing-and-sputtering. The problem is it isn’t all just silliness.
A perverse symbiosis exists between the sputterers and the titterers and one of its effects is to keep the titterers invested in the current state of things. Human nature already is such that no one ever expects things to change drastically in their lifetime, and the titterers certainly aren’t doing anything wrong. But they may constitute a giant sinkhole harmlessly absorbing popular wrath that might find its outlet elsewhere.
It’s just a historical fact that violence birthed America. Granted, that violence was justified, organized, careful, and the furthest thing from indiscriminate. But the American Revolution was still a war waged against a government that considered itself legitimate…
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Anton makes his most important point here:
It’s that they [“conservatives”] believe—against the Founders, and against all experience of history—that once implemented, it can never be lost. They defend every perversion, distortion, corruption, and topsy-turvy reinterpretation of that system as if it were the system itself.
The original system of republican government was hollowed out and replaced–slowly and then quickly as they say–so that eventually this thing that resembles our original system of government only in that it wears its skin, can invoke before a benighted people the founders’ vision as they put down any attempt to effect it.
It may be that revolution simply isn’t possible for more reasons than repression.
Is the right of revolution ever justified? Was it justified only that one time, in 1776, but never again? If so, why was it justified then and what makes it unjustifiable ever again? Because of historicism? Because the American Revolution was somehow an irreversible leap forward?
Human vanity is at work here. Acknowledging our republic has been rendered unrecognizable to even our grandparents, much less to the founders, is to acknowledge its failure, to acknowledge the failure of the “democratic experiment”–to acknowledge we have failed humanity in the cause of liberty and individual rights.
How many chances does humanity get to establish human liberty as a given fact of society before the ghouls take over? Are they endless or finite? Did we have but one? Were–are–we humanity’s last chance to live free?