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Why Are People Rioting in the Middle East?

Because they’re hungry. See this very good analysis from Richard Spencer.

As David Hacket Fischer demonstrated in his monumental work The Great Wave (1996), commodity-price spikes—and related governmental interventions—regularly coincide with political violence and “regime change.” The 18th century, for instance, was an era of higher prices and political revolutions, most prominently in America (1776), France (1789), Switzerland (1792), Belgium (1794), the Netherlands (1794), Poland (1794), and Ireland (1798). In the French example, the Bastille Day riot (14 July, 1789) coincided almost exactly with a cyclical peak in grain prices. In turn, Robespierre fell from power when a public riot ensued after he had instituted wage controls. The whole era of instability in France was inaugurated by John Law’s infamous “Mississippi Bubble” inflation of 1719-20, which led to the destruction of the market for royal billets d’état and a near total economic collapse.


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3 replies »

  1. Is it fair to say that the reason the American Revolution was so popular amongst the masses is because they were feeling the squeeze financially from the British government? I’ve been kicking around the notion that some of the founders overestimated the support ideas like natural rights, limited government and excellence in leadership would have amongst the general public going forward, so they committed a fundamental error by instituting a democratic element to the federal system. This oversight ultimately led to what we have today, a democracy-worshipping therapeutic managerial state. Jefferson, I believe, hoped that out of the system the founders set up, a natural aristocracy would emerge. That never happened.

  2. I think a lot of things led to the creation of the present order.

    The importation of ideas like mass democracy, Jacobin centralism, European nationalism (which was regarded as a left-wing, progressive movement in its day), radical egalitarianism and the like from France and other continental European countries seems to have had the effect of overrunning the classical liberal republicanism that guided the American revolution. Also, the growth of the “monied interests,” central banking, the mass corporations that came out of the industrial revolution, “manifest destiny,” “American exceptionalism,” the residual cultural influence of puritanism, as well as technological and population expansion.

    I don’t know that the founders had an overwhelming confidence in the people. Thaddeus Russell’s new book documents that pretty well. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thaddeus-russell/fired-teaching-american-history_b_767172.html

    Jefferson seems to have actually been more of an egalitarian that some of the other founders. For instance, he was suspicious that the concept of judicial review that arose from Marbury v Madison was undemocratic and would lead to judicial dictatorship (much like present day “conservative” critics of “judicial activism”). In some ways, Jefferson’s thinking represents very well the interesting contradiction in American political thought between libertarianism and egalitarianism, and democracy and natural aristocracy, and the inherent tension between these.

  3. I agree that history tend to be shaped by many factors, often accidental. Peikoff and company like to believe that history is mainly shaped by the power of ideas and therefore great thinkers, and further believe there have been four main thinkers in Western history, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Rand. This belief allows them to believe that although the world is far from resembling a Galt’s Gulch right now, inevitably, it will be someday, because Rand’s ideas are just that great.

    Recently Lew Rockwell and others have been pointing out the power of people withdrawing consent as in Egypt. I’m not convinced Egypt had to go the way it did because people withdrew consent, however. I happen to believe that with modern technology and the proper amount of ruthlessness, an entire people can be enslaved.

    That said, ideas and beliefs are very important in shaping the course of history. As far as Jefferson’s misplaced, albeit cautious, faith in democracy, I believe on can go further back in history and find the seeds for it in the work of John Locke. Locke justified the existence of the state with a nonsense theory of popular sovereignty. I suspect that Jefferson, being heavily influenced by Locke, picked that up.

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