13 February 2019

When Is Revolution Necessary?

Politics is not simply a matter of opinion.

If voters choose bad politicians in elections, and those politicians are able to implement bad policies, those bad policies will cause bad things to happen.

If voters choose good politicians in elections, and those politicians are able to implement good policies, those good policies will cause good things to happen.

Some outcomes driven by policy decisions are objective better than other outcomes which different policy decisions would produce.

But, our existing political system does not consistently elect good politicians and even when it does does not consistently make it possible for those good politicians to implement good policies.

Suffice it to say that the U.S. political system not only fails to consistently produce among the best available policies. It also consistently fails to produce policies as good as better designed, more modern political systems. The U.S. political system isn't just the Windows of political systems, compared to the MacOS of political systems. It is the Dos of political systems.

This isn't to say that the U.S. political system is by any means the worst in the world. But, there are currently about 50 other countries that have political systems that function better.

The State Of The Nation

Now, fortunately for us, the situation could be worse. 

While we aren't truly "at peace" the magnitude of U.S. involvement in "hot" wars is small and even if we fail in the conflicts that we are currently involved in on a "hot" basis, this is not a huge threat to domestic security. Nobody is even seriously thinking about a military invasion of the United States or a concerted effort to use military force to disrupt our global economic trading any time soon.

The economy could be doing better and there are dark clouds on the horizon. But, unemployment is low, inflation is under control, we aren't in a recession, Obamacare is continuing to provide more access to health care for average Americans than was available before the ACA was enacted even as this slowly deteriorates. The U.S. has not defaulted on the national debt. We have deferred a lot of maintenance on our nation's infrastructure and have failed to actively improve it, but it isn't in a shambles yet. Oil and gasoline prices are low. Technologies like IT and new medical discoveries have and continue to improve. The divorce rate for college educated families has fallen even as working class families continue to fall apart.

We face some serious environmental problems like climate change and the Trump administration is rolling back environmental regulations as fast as he can. But, the U.S. has made huge gains in reducing pollution and protecting the environment relative to the 1970s. Mass produced electric cars have a significant share of the market for motor vehicles in California. More electricity is being produced with renewable sources and less is being produced with coal. Recycling is much more widely done than it used to be.

Worker and consumer safety have significantly increased since the 1970s.

Yes, there are signs that the economy could take a turn for the worse. Trump's trade war has done harm to the national economy, especially to farmers and blue collar auto workers. Defaults on car loans are rising. Student debt levels are climbing. The national debt is soaring due to irresponsible tax cuts. While overall inflation isn't out of hand, the cost of housing in desirable markets, of health care, and of higher education have surged. Private sector unions have never been weaker. Life expectencies are falling.

There are far too many gun deaths, but crime including violent crime is still down dramatically relative to the early 1990s. Gay marriage is legal nationwide. The number of people who are Evangelical Christian is falling and even among them, the younger generation is much less crazy than the current generation. More people are going to college.

What If?

So, anyway, in the status quo, where the courts haven't completely rolled over to the Trump administration, even with conservatives in charge of the U.S. Supreme Court, and where Democrats control the House of Representative and deny Republicans a 60% majority in the U.S. Senate, and where many states have effective state legislative action underway, there are means to hold back the worst of the worst new policies that the Trump administration would like to propose. So, now may be the time to let the political process work.

But, it grows easier by the day to imagine a situation so dire and urgent that American civilization is at imminent risk of collapse, even though we aren't there yet. At some point, putting up with politicians with power in the U.S. could easily reach the point where bad policies with a real chance of presenting an existential threat to the nation could bring us to the point where the life according to the U.S. Constitution could become a suicide pact. And, at some point, many people might come to the conclusion that our nation is stepping in the wrong direction in an urgent way that would not be survivable.

So, the real question, which has taken a long time to set up with background and framing in this post, is: 

At what point is breaking the rules of the process to get a better result with a particular set of policies and a particular set of politicians, that a break from the authority of the regime might be the only way to save our nation. How bad does it have to get before a coup occurs, or a civil war breaks out.

I'm comfortable that there is such a threshold, however.. Maybe to head off a global thermonuclear war. Maybe we need to become tress, together forever, even if we have to bend or break the rules of the U.S constitution to achieve that. The flaws in the constitution as currently implemented, may lead to bad policies that imminently affects us with bodily harm on a widespread basis. And, at that point someone would have to intervene and either engineer a coup, or run street protests. But, what is that threshold and what can we instead, live with. 

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