09 June 2021

Counterbalancing And The Second Amendment

The original political theory of the Second Amendment is called "counterbalancing" in modern political theory. 

Counterbalancing means that armed civilians, including citizen militias, but also Presidential guards, secret police, paramilitary forces, and the like, counterbalance the military with the hope, usually, of discouraging a coup or authoritarianism. 

Three years ago, a major new empirical study which has been widely cited since its publication, Erica De Bruin’s How to Prevent Coups d’état: Counterbalancing and Regime Survival, examined outcomes of this strategy looking at examples from 20th century history.

The bottom lineCounterbalancing doesn't prevent coups but does make coup attempts more deadly and more likely to escalate into full fledged civil wars.


Tom Bridgeland said...

The second amendment isn't really aimed at countering coups, but more at easing resistance to an authoritarian state. Who would bother with a coup in the US, since there simply isn't any benefit to be gained. The nation as a whole would be ungovernable, without at least passive buy-in from the populace.

The recent January 6th event is a case in point. In spite of all the big talk, no guns were recovered inside the Capitol from the nutters. They, again in spite of a lot of big talk, had no means of enforcing a coup and no plan for accomplishing one.

We see this also in this last year's nationwide protests/riots. The local populace, apparently with a lot of outside help, is able to make major cities or portions of them ungovernable, but has not actually changed the governing people/party in any case that I am aware of. They are getting some changes (we will see if they benefit from them) made via some actual violence and the viable threat of a lot more violence.

This is an intra-party feud, with Democrats on both sides. Republican look on with amazement, rarely if ever being able to inspire their people to such widespread violence. On January 6th the only violent death was one lady killed by a cop. Everything else was pushing, shoving and bear spray.

andrew said...

"On January 6th the only violent death was one lady killed by a cop."

Four insurrectionists were killed as was one cop. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_United_States_Capitol_attack#Deaths

Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, 42, a 13-year veteran of the force, was pepper-sprayed during the riot, and had two thromboembolic strokes the next day. He was placed on life support, and soon died.

In addition there were 138 officers (73 Capitol Police and 65 Metropolitan Police) injured, of whom 15 were hospitalized, some with severe injuries, and there were many more insurrectionists injured and seriously injured.

There was also, of course, significant property damage and there were significant threats to the legislative process and the security and well being of the lawful users of the Capitol, now and in the future.

It wasn't precisely a coup attempt, although it came close to that, but it was sedition, and it was not bloodless.

The analysis extend to resistance to an authoritarian state, and I don't agree that the nation as a whole would be ungovernable, at best that is an open question and similar historical situations in other countries with a democratic tradition, suggest otherwise.

Tom Bridgeland said...

Four insurrectionists were not killed. One was. The others died of various pre-existing medical causes like heart attacks, and apparently one ODed on illegal drugs.

Officer Sicknick has been determined to have died of natural causes, not from being bonked with a fire extinguisher as we were initially told, nor by assaults from rioters.

There is no need to exaggerate what happened, unless the goal is not clarity or understanding.

Tom Bridgeland said...

By the way, thanks for pointing out that book review. Very interesting.

It almost appeared that the author (or perhaps it was just the reviewer) was cheering on authoritarian regimes. The tone was very odd, for someone from a background of preferring democracy.