Wednesday, September 17, 2008

American Revolution

Many Americans fiercely believe that the American revolution was justified. But a strong case can be made that it wasn't. Regardless of the moral justification of a revolution, revolution in general is pretty messy business. Revolution often results in a bloody mess ending with similar system of governance as before. The winning faction gains power and proceeds to abuse it.

A practical man in 1776 probably would have placed only a slight probably of success for the American revolution. Consider the odds against military victory alone. Next consider the odds of the formation of a stable, democratic government. Cost of defeat? Thousands of lives and a likely loss in degree of civil liberties. The benefit of victory? A gain in degree of civil liberties, but with a high variance in outcomes minus the cost of thousands of lives.

With this perspective maybe our founding fathers took some pretty large risks to secure a relatively small degree of liberties.

How did a stable government form? A big question in history for sure. I'll blurt out that it might have something to do with numerous competing factions instead of a single overthrowing party. The revolution succeeded militarily through the consolidation of the states. The same may be true for the success of government, but for opposite reasons. In order to remain a viable government they needed to consolidate to ward off future invaders. The initial pressure to form united states may have provided the pressure needed to keep diverse groups practical, enabling compromise. Although some states were clearly more powerful than others, the disparity of power seems thin. Equal yet competing agents may have been a critical ingredient towards the acceptance of disagreement and establishment of a tradition of compromise. The emergence of these cultural norms may have contributed to the production of both governmental stability and liberty.

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