The Nature of the Revolution

L. Neil Smith

Sometimes I wish that my soapbox were just a little bit taller.

Over the past two or three decades, I have more-or-less accidentally made a number of historically significant predictions in various of my books and essays that have turned out to be correct. In 1977, for example, in my first novel, The Probability Broach, I predicted the Internet, wall-sized computer/television screens, laptop/tablets, computer-aided forensics, and laser designators for handguns. Some time around the same period, I talked about what would become known as the “Strategic Defense Initiative” or “Star Wars” (in an article for Reason/Frontlines, and I predict now that the concept is coming around again). In 1981, in The Gallatin Divergence, I said that the Marxist regime in Russia would not survive to celebrate its 100th anniversary. My editor at the time, supposedly an expert on Soviet affairs, dismissed that as “wishful thinking”. In numerous books and articles, I insisted that Global Warming is a crooked scam, that the very notion of “peak oil” was absurd, and that our species would be far better off emphasizing travel to and exploitation of the Asteroid Belt than the Moon or Mars.

But the thinking I’m proudest of, and believe to be my most important is this: primarily as a result of the Internet turning human communications completely sideways, depriving those who have falsely believed they own us of their lofty perches, the 10,000-year-old Age of Authority is ending. Communication between human beings is now lateral, egalitarian, even Tweets from the President, and it doesn’t matter at all how much governments stomp their jackbooted feet or scream and shout. Their kind of social structure is doomed as humanity enters a new era.

One set of consequences of this change is examined, if a bit superficially, in a June article on by one Liam Deacon, who informs us that a new study finds that “Traditional Views on Same Sex Marriage, Abortion, Pornography [and sex before marriage] in Britain [are] Rapidly Diminishing”. These are trends of the last four years, and to the extent they’ve also occurred long since in America—add in the legalization of marijuana and the increased tendency of individuals to arm themselves against crime and terrorism—it means that most academic and official analyses of socio-political events from, perhaps, the Tea Party Uprising of 2009. through the election of Donald Trump to the triumph of Brexit are dead wrong. We are not undergoing any merely conservative or populist (whatever that means) swing of the pendulum, but an all-out libertarian revolution. I think I know one when I see one: I’ve been doing my best to arrange one for my entire adult life.

According to the study, conducted in 2016, the latest edition of the “British Social Attitudes” survey, resistance from organized Christianity, even the Roman Catholic Church, which used to form a bulwark against social changes like this, is now crumbling, with 64 percent in favor of gay marriage, and 75 percent favoring pre-marital sex. Seventy percent of Catholics believe that abortion is within a woman’s rights. Pornography, too, is now approved by a majority.

Researchers somehow, irrationally, believe that these changes are in opposition to other events, such as “Brexit, Trump, and Le Pen” but they’re wrong. The object in all cases, is self-determination, which is the very heart of libertarianism. Increasingly, people—of all ages, the article observed with a note of amazement—are unwilling to accept dictation from once-respected leaders and traditional social, political, and economic structures. I’d like to believe this is because of the conspicuous failures of authority over the past century or so, but, entirely without condescending— most people are just too busy earning a living and living their lives for theories—I’m not certain that the average person’s thinking is that informed or organized.

More likely, the soap-opera of everyday living has taught them far better than the pompous pronouncements of the fat-heads in power. And for those of us who never believed in Authority, that’s very good news.


  1. Unfortunately, it also means the replacement of the stupid ideas of a few for the stupid ideas of the many.

  2. Well, you seem to have done well with your forecasts, Neil.

    The late USSR was market based, as Michael Polanyi held in his book, _USSR Economics (1936) and as Mises, Hayek, and even Arthur Seldon should have held after Mises had put the economic calculation argument [eca] over in his 1920 essay and repeated the basic ideas in his book _Socialism (1922). The Late USSR had more to do with Lenin than Marx, and Lenin rightly called it “state capitalism” in 1918 and in later articles too. In 1921, he was quite explicit, yet again, in the New Economic Policy [NEP]. So it is no counter example to Mises eca thesis that there is no non-market, or money, economy in any mass urban society whatsoever, nor is any due in the future; as Marx did imagine.

    The Greens seemed to transfer horror from the films in the cinemas to the news in 1965 but, by about 1980, they seemed to be only mustering fearful false scares. They have not done better since, though when they cry wolf we always do need to check the actual facts yet again; as there might just be a wolf next time.

    However, I am very sceptical about your new statistics. Since when has any teenaged male ever been truly against sex before marriage? Or pornography? Are older men against either of those? I have seen no sign that they are so far, and that goes back to my experience of the 1950s. Lately, I never seen anything but indifference on homosexual marriage, even from my homosexual friends, but I have from the Politically Correct [PC] politicians, or from the journalists on the backward mass media. But I take that as sham.

    Indeed, PC, itself, looks way worse than the Bolshevik-Nazi outlook of Lenin and Hitler to me. It is not liberal tolerance but more like witch-hunting.

    Mises himself did a lot to obfuscate his eca stance by adopting backward Romance instead of the Enlightenment outlook; and the likes of Hayek and Seldon did likewise. The mass media love the Romantic perennial swings of the pendulum, as you have it, but the Enlightenment outlook wants to see some light at the end of the tunnel and it has no enemies at all but is, instead, out to make pristine, or classical, liberals of one and all and, later, anarcho-liberals too, so the state can go entirely, by real tax cuts and by real full privatisation and by repealing all state regulation.

    But this will not be a null-set “revolution”, any more than it will be a unicorn, for that sort of crass claptrap, usually from the backward ignorant Romantic historians is the stuff of mere myth. We start from here and all change will be daily and gradual rather than it all happening at once and overnight. It may take even a few decades.

    But I do not see a sudden advance in the last four years, as you report. And in the wake of figures like 70%, you then go on to tell us that most people are too busy earning a living to have any theories on liberty at all!

    My own view is that liberty was the top moral idea back since about 1700 but that most people do not vie, or mesh, it against rival illiberal ideas, such as equality or democracy, as the doctrinaire LA members do. They do, basically agree with the LA, but they are not yet deliberate liberal ideologues on principle. Ironically, they tend to see such ideological fuss over liberty as being a bit illiberal itself, nerdish,but that is great apathetic folly. Indeed, it is, maybe, the chief reason we all have to still suffer the existence of the state.

  3. The NHS is still a national religion and until that monster is staked through the heart nothing is going to change. I’m the only person I know who understands that the NHS must be burned down and the ground salted. Wake me up when the Mises Centre starts proselytising against it.

Leave a Reply