Tuesday, October 3, 2017

St Thomas Aquinas vs. Thomas Jefferson on Revolutions

Saint Thomas Aquinas 
[I]t is the domestic separatist movement fighter who must be careful that his actions will not, from a domestic perspective, lead to more chains. The idea of separatism fills the air with high energy by the battlers for such, but rarely is the questioned asked: What will come in its place?

And in the end, domestically, that is the most important question.
The great Alaskan libertarian Joshua Bennett writes:
I like Jefferson’s thoughts on the subject.
“ The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.“ 
It’s when people become satisfied with the State that the State can become more tyrannical.
Maybe if the “spirit of rebellion” stays alive in Catalonia, they will one day achieve Liberty.  
Americans certainly would have been the better if such a spirit continued to thrive over the last 250 years. 
Rothbard and Hoppe both agree that the American Revolution itself was good.
And while the freest person on earth may have been the British American in 1775, he was not the most free in America.
It was the American from 1776 to 1788.
There were a few glorious years in America when there was no central government, and hardly any “government” at all, and certainly no State.
But  Dwight replies:
RW is actually consistent with the warnings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who said that even the overthrow of tyrants may lead to something worse, and hence cautions against that path.
My point has never been that all revolutions and separatist movements will end up bad but just that the participant in such must be careful so that worse, as is often the case, does not come about because of a separation or revolution.

Joshua points to the American Revolution to support Jefferson's argument but if one could ask Jefferson following Mao's Cultural Revolution and the Lenin led October 1917 revolution, which resulted in hundreds of millions dead, whether these results could justify "keeping resistance" alive for all revolutions, I think he would recognize the problem.

Saint Thomas Aquinas understood the dangers of revolution for revolution's sake. Paul E. Sigmund quotes Aquinas:
If the tyranny is not extreme, it is better to tolerate a mild tyranny for a time rather than to take action against it that may bring on many dangers that are worse than the tyranny itself.
And then Sigmund comments:
For it is possible that those who try to overthrow the tyrant will fail, and the tyrant will thus become more extreme, or, worse still, that those who overthrow the tyrant will themselves become worse tyrants.
I emphasize that a separatist movement is almost always good for those outside the region of the advocated separation because it shrinks the military strength and resources of an existing country. The concern must be for those within the sphere of the new separatist region. Will it mean more or less state oppression.?

As for battling revolutionary groups within a country, I generally don't mind them if they do not result in general crackdowns against the greater population. Battling groups that desire control of the entire state apparatus serve the function of preventing the full control of one ruling power.

For example, I wouldn't want to live under an Anifa regime any more than an altright regime but as long as they battle each other it makes it more difficult for either to gain a solid foothold.

When a totalitarian nutjob is seeking control, it is better that there be two nutjob radical groups opposing each other than just one power-crazed nutjob group. You would never want either to gain victory, let them battle each other to their dying breath.


  1. Good points Bob, and I don’t disagree. Even Jefferson’s support for the French Revolution was misguided at best.
    Outright violent revolutions are a coin toss to the outcome, and it is often the revolutionaries ideology is worse than what they are fighting.

    I do like rebellion against States almost no matter who is rebelling. The State has to spend its resources to put the rebellion down or in check, and I think anytime a State does this, it shows weakness. Leaders are worried about their power, and though it may take years, cracks in that power tend to grow.
    Spain is flat broke, and Catalonia is, from what I have read, the economic power in Spain.
    I wonder how much Spain could afford to spend, to keep the rebellion down. Not just money, but political capital.
    It seems to me, the more Europeans rebel, even for the wrong reasons, the weaker those States will become. Even if they grow stronger in the short term.
    Look at the Soviets, their revolution was horrible, and wrong, and was much worse than the previous Czarist state, but in the short term, 70 years, Russia now has a weak State.
    Just a thought.
    Thanks for the kind words!
    I hope someday Alaska will be looked at by the world as America was shortly after the Revolution. We are working on it.

    1. Problem with rebellion against States is that most are not against having a State but against the current State. They do not want to abolish Statism but replace the current State with another.

  2. One last thing, Locke and Jefferson both agreed with Aquinas now that I think about it.
    “While evils are sufferable”.

  3. Separatist movements should be of no more consequence than an individual who decides to relocate. That they are, shows that the might makes right attitude prevails among most people. It matters little what the ideologies are on either side of these movements. Only to the degree that most people accept persuasion over coercion in most situations will progress be made toward individual liberty and prosperity. That requires more people being mostly rational most of the time and that is an evolving situation. In the mean time one can only do what Voltaire reportedly suggested and stay out of harms way.