Communism, Revolution, and Optimism
By Bryan Caplan
The worst thing you can say about a revolutionary situation is, “Things couldn’t possibly get worse.” Things can always get worse. If you have trouble imagining how, just wait for the revolution to unfold. Events will usually oblige you: see France in 1789, Russia in 1917, Germany in 1933, China in 1949, or Iran in 1979. I hope Egyptian policies improve when Mubarak goes, but I’m not optimistic.
That said, I have a confession: I never lost a moment’s sleep about the collapse of Communism – and nothing that’s happened in the ex-Communist world has given me second thoughts. Since I spurn the “Things couldn’t possibly get worse” sophism, it’s hard to articulate why I was so complacent. The least unconvincing story I can come up with is that the point of totalitarian regimes is to give people less freedom than the median voter wants, but the point of authoritarian regimes is often to give people more freedom than the median voter – or at least the median man of violence – wants.
Anyone got a better account?