Comparative Revolutions, with Jason Kuznicki

What, exactly, is a revolution?

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 Who are the actual revolutionists?—the radicals or extremists who end up overpowering the moderates and installing the new regime?

Further Readings/References:

Crane Brinton, The Anatomy of Revolution, Revised Edition. Vintage. 1965.

Klooster, Wim. Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History. New York: New York University Press. 2009.

Palmer, R.R. The Age of Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800, Volume One: The Struggle. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1959.

Anthony Comegna: Under the historians crafty influence, revolutions tend to occupy a glowing, almost magical space in our imaginations. They are moments when the whole world changes or at least an entire civilization and they [00:00:30] fascinate as much as they terrify. What can we learn from these wild events, these frenzied mish mash moments of human action, violence and progress? Jason Kuznicki joins me now to talk Comparative Revolutions.

Welcome to Liberty Chronicles, a project of Libertarianism.org. I’m Anthony Comegna. [00:01:00] I think that right off the bat, some people in the Austrian tradition, some certainly post modernists, people who are methodological individualists and people who are not, but have other intellectual concerns at hand might bristle at the somewhat [00:01:30] old idea of comparative history. By now, it’s a somewhat old idea at least. Aren’t all situations in history unique? Sculpted by unique individuals that can always choose to do something different, so what is really the value or purpose of comparative history?

Jason Kuznicki: Yes, all situations are unique. Individuals make choices, individuals are the constitutive elements of all societies and [00:02:00] they are the basis of a social science founded in methodological individualism, that’s all true, but comparative history can still be valuable because there are despite the differences brought by individual actors, nonetheless, some commonalities that are worth looking at. There are not exact parallels, but there are near parallels in history and [00:02:30] the book, The Anatomy of Revolution by Crane Brinton, which we’re going to be discussing, is a classic study of four revolutionary events in Western history that certainly had parallels. They certainly had some significant similarities that appear to be more than just coincidence or just a sufficiently large number of people making the same choices.

Anthony Comegna: What are the examples we’re [00:03:00] working with then? We have here the English Revolution, the American Revolution, the French.

Jason Kuznicki: The French Revolution and the Russian Revolution, that is to say the transition to Communism and I know that a lot of people will be furious to hear the four of them put into the same category. I am aware of that and guess what, there are reasons to do this. There are certainly commonalities despite our [00:03:30] necessarily very different evaluations of the end products of each of these revolutions.

Anthony Comegna: How do we know that when we look back in the past, we’re not just imposing our own view to see commonalities? We’re imposing patterns on the past rather than sort of digging them out naturally. How do we avoid doing that?

Jason Kuznicki: In a sense, we’re always at risk of doing that. In a sense, we’re always at risk of bringing to the historical data [00:04:00] some framework and imposing it on the data and then determining that this must be what happened and the reason that this is always a risk is because we can’t run experiments in history that are designed to falsify our preconditions so if we have some preexisting notion of how revolutions take place and we look at a revolution and we find it, well, we’ve confirmed it, but that doesn’t [00:04:30] necessarily mean that all revolutions are that way and it doesn’t mean that it had to be that way. It also does not mean that simply because it looks this way to us that we have seen it accurately. We might be looking at data that we sort of squashed or distorted in some way to fit into the mold and that’s always a risk that historians run.

Anthony Comegna: So the historian’s most important virtue is sort [00:05:00] of an extreme humility?

Jason Kuznicki: I would say so.

Anthony Comegna: Okay.

Jason Kuznicki: I would say so, not all historians would say that. Some would say, “Look, I’ve got it all figured out. I’ve got the pattern that explains everything.” What I like about Crane Brinton in particular is his intellectual modesty. He admits, he has this really great sort of theoretical preface where he admits that what he’s doing is in some ways, an exercise in metaphor. He says, “I’m going to compare revolutions to [00:05:30] a fever.”, and I know that this is a metaphor and this is fanciful and there are limits to it. There are limits to what a naturalistic metaphor, naturalistic processes metaphor can actually do for us and he also admits that when you say that the English Civil War and the French Revolution were like one another, that again is an exercise in metaphor and we have to be very careful not just to identify similarities, but also differences.

Anthony Comegna: It’s the art in the arts and sciences, [00:06:00] right? The craftsmanship involved here.

Jason Kuznicki: Absolutely. It’s absolutely the arts and it also gets back to one of my sort of favorite intellectual hobby horses, which is lumpers versus splitters. Yeah, do you lump together the English Civil War and the French Revolution because of their similarities or do you split them apart because of their differences? Well, the correct answer there is it depends what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want to point out that both of them had a sort of Thermidorian reaction [00:06:30] at the end, that’s a useful comparison. If you want to distinguish that Cromwell was a person of very different temperament from Robespierre, well, you might want to do that. There’s something useful there.

Anthony Comegna: Well, I’m not somebody who sort of dogmatically thinks we should exclude methods that are slightly problematic or maybe even a lot problematic so let’s take the risk of doing comparative history here and dive into this idea of revolutions having a particular anatomy. [00:07:00] I want to focus in first on that idea of a revolution. What exactly is a revolution? In the way that Brinton is talking about.

Jason Kuznicki: Brinton is trying to give us an account of this historical phenomenon that is emphatically not Marxist and also not reactionary. There’s a tendency among [00:07:30] those on the right to view all revolutions as presumptively bad and there’s a tendency of those on the left to view all revolutions as sort of the stepping stones of human progress toward a more perfected society and he’s trying to sail a sort of middle path between them and not to take either of those two views, instead what he wants to do is look at what we can say based on empirical data without having this [00:08:00] sort of builtin conceptual framework that might prejudge or predispose our thinking to one conclusion or another.

Anthony Comegna: Is a full revolution something that’s unique to the modern world or the early modern world, modernity in general? Were there premodern revolutions?

Jason Kuznicki: There were certainly premodern popular political actions. No doubt about that. I think what is new [00:08:30] in the modern era is the ideological revolution, revolution that takes place motivated by a set of causes that are simultaneously secular and political and held by a substantial segment of the society so Alexis de Tocqueville writes about the French Revolution, he writes that it was unusual because it had almost [00:09:00] a religious character and this is a very insightful observation I think. The word we would use is it had an ideological character. The French Revolution had an ideology to it. When you look at it compared to the English Civil War, it’s a lot harder to disentangle religion from the English Civil War because religion was just constantly a part of the revolutionary’s own program. Religion certainly had an important part to play in the French Revolution as well and when it often gets underplayed, [00:09:30] but there were a whole lot of secular, ideological concerns in the French Revolution that you don’t see so much of in the English Civil War. 

I would say as modernity progresses, you got more and more people who are literate, who are absorbing ideas about politics and who would like perhaps to act on them and that’s one of the factors in modern political revolutions.

Anthony Comegna: Are there any necessary preconditions [00:10:00] that society, the economy, the political system has to fulfill before a full revolution is possible?

Jason Kuznicki: Well, Brinton certainly thought so. He thought that there were a number of preconditions that he could discern in all four of the revolutions he studied. One of them was that the society was facing difficulties over government finance. People were complaining about taxes [00:10:30] and yet the government did not have enough money and these questions of finance are precipitative causes of certainly the English Civil War, the French Revolution, the American Revolution and the Russian Revolution, all of them are in some ways tied up with government finance. Another precondition that he claims to discern in all of them is the sense that social mobility has been impaired [00:11:00] in some way that is unacceptable to the people in the society so when the French bourgeoisie complains about their position in society and how they ought to be able to rise and they are denied that, this is something that very strongly alienates them from the social order and inclines them to revolution. 

For a long time, the bourgeoisie [00:11:30] had hoped to rise and it was not an unusual or an unfounded hope. They hoped that they could buy their way into the nobility, which was the way that you typically became a noble man in France. You bought an office and it conferred on you a noble title and then you could think of yourself as being of a higher social station. This seems like a very venal and corrupt process to us and of course, really it was, but this was the way that you get it. This was how you rose in society. Well, leading [00:12:00] up to the revolution, there were a lot of people who wanted to do this and who did not have as many opportunities as their ancestors had, had and they were bothered by this and they felt that sting of wanting to rise and feeling they were entitled to rise and not being allowed to rise.

Anthony Comegna: The military sort of becomes one of the main vectors for advancement there, right?

Jason Kuznicki: It does and a lot of people at the time justified turning their allegiance to Napoleon [00:12:30] because they saw him as someone who made the careers open to talents, which in the case of military is absolutely true. If you wanted to be an officer in the old regime, you had to be a noble pretty much. It was just a requirement, but under Napoleon, the way to become an officer was to win battles and this is in a way, this is why Napoleon was a successful military commander.

Anthony Comegna: Now we know that there are maybe dozens, perhaps hundreds [00:13:00] of potential possible revolutions for every single one that’s successful. They die in their infancy you know. They never really get going. They’re discovered and found out, the potters are hanged or banished or what have you. What are the necessary preconditions for a successful revolution?

Jason Kuznicki: This is one of the most interesting points of the book to me. Brinton distinguishes successful revolutions by pointing [00:13:30] out that in each of the cases, there is a kind of parallel set of institutions that develop alongside the government. He calls it an illegal government and by this, he doesn’t mean necessarily that it’s formally illegal. I might call it a shadow government to avoid that connotation.

Anthony Comegna: Oh, please.

Jason Kuznicki: There’s a shadow government that people transfer their allegiance to, rather than be [00:14:00] loyal to the old system or the existing system. They are first and foremost, the Jacobin or they are first and foremost, a member of the Soviet or their allegiance is to, in the case of the American Revolution, their allegiance is to their state not primarily to the British crown and in each of these cases, it’s not necessarily true that there’s anything illegal going on, but there is a transfer of loyalty [00:14:30] and these outside institutions attempt not just to command the allegiance of their followers, but also increasingly to do the work of governing and they’re there to step in and take over when the time comes.

Anthony Comegna: When is that? Do there have to be huge numbers of people involved or can a small, very well orchestrated click of individuals take over [00:15:00] and establish a new government? Does society have to be in shambles like Russia during the war? Things falling apart all around everyone?

Jason Kuznicki: Not necessarily. It’s not necessarily the case. Brinton says that there’s a key moment in all of the revolutions where the old order resorts to violence to maintain itself and is defeated, in every single one of the cases. Charles I, I’m sorry, Charles II rather. [00:15:30] No, Charles I

Anthony Comegna: No, first, the first loses his head, yeah.

Jason Kuznicki: Charles I succeeds, Charles I did not succeed at violence. Charles I is not able to maintain himself on the battlefield. You’ve got exactly the same failure of violence in the Storming of the Bastille. It was not even a terribly strategic military asset. It’s [00:16:00] a prison. It was not holding very many people. There were seven of them there and as the phrase among historians goes, arguably they all deserve to be there. They were counterfeiters and rapists and just not very good people who are in there.

Anthony Comegna: You’re putting those on par?

Jason Kuznicki: No, look, I mean arguably, they all deserve to be there. They were not politically persecuted. There had been political prisoners in the Bastille previously, but not currently. [00:16:30] There weren’t any weapons, but what happened there was the old order tried and failed to defend itself and that sent a very powerful signal to the society. That sent a signal that things are capable of changing and that’s the case in all of the revolutions. All of them have this kind of signal, early attempt to use violence that fails.

Anthony Comegna: Is it fair to say then that some revolutions come from above and some come from below? [00:17:00] There’s not necessarily a fixed model or a certain number of people you need. There’s not a magic critical mass in society that you need to hit.

Jason Kuznicki: That’s correct. That’s correct, and it’s also the case that you don’t see revolutions that are taking place merely on the basis of social class antagonisms. The French Revolution is not just made by the bourgeoisie. Brinton looks at the composition of the [00:17:30] Jacobin clubs and he finds that they, the people who are in these clubs come from all walks of life virtually. Not the nobility, but just about everyone else in society, you find some of them there and that’s remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, because it falsifies claims made by Marxist historians that the revolution was made by the bourgeoisie alone for their interests and they shape the government to be what they wanted it to be. It’s not really the [00:18:00] case and second, it’s interesting because it’s in parallel with the other revolutions. You find this pattern repeated that people join the revolution not merely based on social class, but based on ideology.

Anthony Comegna: What kinds of constraints do revolutionaries operate under once they are in control of a new government or even a new society perhaps?

Jason Kuznicki: They are [00:18:30] in a lot of ways at their most vulnerable when they take over power because immediately, whichever revolutionary faction gains political power, they are called upon to do the things that the old government was failing to do and often, that old government was failing for reasons beyond its control so it is not necessarily the case that the new government can do any better. [00:19:00] They’re inexperienced. They are facing violence in the streets commonly. They are perhaps one faction among many. They have now got people to their left and to their right who hate them and so when a new government takes over at an initial early stage of a revolution, it’s commonly, it’s a moderate perhaps a reformist government and it fails. This is a [00:19:30] commonality to be seen certainly in three of the four revolutions, not so much in the American Revolution, but certainly in the English Civil War and French Revolution and the Russian Revolution, all three of them had that characteristic very, very strongly.

Anthony Comegna: You know I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that the American Revolution, it’s 13 separate entities basically cooperating together, maybe there’s less, there’s more of a sense of unity because of the fact that they have to join across [00:20:00] governmental bodies, but it strikes me, that seems like Oliver Cromwell at Putney during the Putney Debates. They have the king basically captive, and they’re camped with the New Model Army at Putney outside of London between the king and the parliament physically, and Cromwell is having to listen to all these radical levelers talk about getting rid of aristocratic [00:20:30] privileges and landholders privileges, get rid of the house of lords, get rid of the monarch, get rid of property. He’s got to sit there and listen to it all. He can’t, it’s most of his army perhaps that believes this stuff so what do you do?

Jason Kuznicki: Yeah, what do you do indeed, because a lot of times, these governments are faced with very strong ideological demands and also [00:21:00] conditions on the ground that may make them completely impossible. Expectations become very, very high, the ability to satisfy them is very, very low.

Anthony Comegna: Now one of the things that revolutionaries are constantly on their guard about is the impending counter revolution so what kinds of things you have to do then?

Jason Kuznicki: Well, I mean you seem to be getting ahead of yourself because we haven’t even talked about the terror yet. We haven’t talked about the height of the revolutionary fever.

Anthony Comegna: Well, what’s the point [00:21:30] of the fever that does seem to strike societies when they’re in the midst of revolution? Whether it’s terrorism against Tories or terrorism by the new French regime, the massacres in the Vendée? What is it that gets a hold of people that seems to make them think all enemies have to be liquidated?

Jason Kuznicki: Well, this is one of my favorite parts of The Anatomy of Revolution. Crane Brinton does a very good job of [00:22:00] ruling out individual character traits as constitutive of terror. It’s not that vicious people got in charge. It’s not that these people would have maybe even serial killers during time of peace or something. He has seven factors that he points to as seemingly the precursors of terror and if you listen to them carefully with the example of the French Revolution in mind and also the American Revolution, you can see why the American Revolution [00:22:30] was notably short on terror. His factors are as follows, first, there is a habit of violence that develops. People become accustomed to violence as the solution to problems. In the French case, the law courts had been out of commission for quite some time before the terror had even started. There was popular revolutionary justice. There was popular vigilante justice even for causes unrelated to the revolution. People took the law into their [00:23:00] own hands. Violence was something that people were much more accustomed to seeing and to performing. 

Second, he says that a key factor is pressure from a foreign civil war. Now the American Revolution was a war of national liberation, but we were not fighting some other foreign power at the same time. If we were, if say Prussia was on our border and they were invading us, then that might have been a prompt to terror, that [00:23:30] might have been a prompt to much more extremism. Third, there is the newness of the machinery of the centralized government. This is not the case in the American Revolution. The state governments go on more or less as they had. They reorganized themselves somewhat, but they’re not radically transformed or abolished. Fourth, there is an acute economic crisis. 

This is certainly true in the French Revolution where crops had been failing and where the paper money [00:24:00] scheme that they got into ended up going bust and the paper money was worthless and lots of people were impoverished. Not so much the case in the course of the American Revolution, although we had our own paper money scheme, which I’m sure you’ll cover in another talk. Fifth, there are class struggles. Now in the American Revolution, there are some class struggles, but not nearly to the politicized [00:24:30] and Identitarian extent that they were in the French Revolution.

Anthony Comegna: Certainly race is something that is not really present in the other revolutions.

Jason Kuznicki: Yes. Race is present in the American Revolution in a way that it is not so much in the other revolutions we’re talking about although there have been revolutions with a very significant race component like the Haitian Revolution. There’s a sixth variable, which is sort of difficult to describe, [00:25:00] but the revolutionary leaders have undergone what he calls an apprenticeship in revolutionary tactics. They’ve been selected in almost the Darwinian sense for their ability to manipulate an extremist revolutionary group and this to me, this is Lenin. He spent his whole life trying to make revolution. He was very accustomed to it, not just accustomed to violence, but accustomed to the kind of manipulation [00:25:30] of small group dynamics that allows you to ruthlessly turn on a dime and cash in your former friend, now makes sense to turn into an enemy so you do it. 

Finally, there is what he calls an element of religious faith, which was shared by the independence, the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks. This gets back to what we were talking about earlier with the idea that ideology is a kind [00:26:00] of secularized religion. It’s a modern secular version of religious belief so all of these different factors seem to contribute to the development of a reign of terror in a revolution.

Anthony Comegna: Now from what I know about the French Revolution, the Jacobins were terrified that the counter revolution would always be out there, no matter where a monarch was left, right? They [00:26:30] always be waiting to come back and reinstall feudalism because what else do kings do, but rule over serfs, right?

Jason Kuznicki: Absolutely. Yeah, the great deal of concern about that and their concern was not unfounded, let’s face it. There were kings who were very much hostile to the French Revolution.

Anthony Comegna: They did roll back the revolution, right?

Jason Kuznicki: Not only were their kings were hostile to the revolution, but uncomfortably for Marxists, they were peasants who were hostile to the revolution and [00:27:00] where Marxist historians often struggle to talk about events like Vendée counter revolutionary uprising. We don’t have to share their discomfort. I’m fine with believing that peasants were devout and loyal to the Catholic church and when they saw the revolution going after the Catholic church and trying to nationalize its lands and convert the Catholic church into a sort of national religion, I’m fine with saying okay, they were angry about that. They were [00:27:30] motivated sufficiently that they would try to strike back, that makes sense to me as a motivation.

Anthony Comegna: Do the revolutionists ever find themselves in the position of having to become the counter revolution?

Jason Kuznicki: Well, there is this sense in which revolutionaries often have to ask when the revolution stops or ask how can we stop the revolution. Where is the point at which we’re done? This is [00:28:00] a question that cease to come up with the greatest intensity I think in the French Revolution where we have a revolution that first produces the kind of constitutional monarchy and people are very happy that it’s done and they think, “A-ha, the French Revolution has just happened and here we are and France is improved.”, but there are still problems and one of the problems is what to do with the church? What to do [00:28:30] with its extraordinary powers, which are guaranteed by the central government? What to do with the king who’s constantly dragging his feet on all sorts of revolutionary questions and turns out, is increasingly and finally decisively sympathetic with the counter revolution, so how do you deal with that and how can you maintain a constitutional monarchy where your monarch is not a willing player? 

This isn’t Queen Victoria kind of gradually easing into a constitutional [00:29:00] monarchy where you have ceremonial powers and very little else. This isn’t the case. This is a king who is determined to rule as his ancestors have ruled as something as close to absolutist as he can.

Anthony Comegna: Yeah, it seems like maybe Lenin in the Russian Revolution is the hardest case of this, but I could certainly see Cromwell being a counter revolutionary figure later in, I mean he’s a dictator probably.

Jason Kuznicki: He becomes the Lord Protector because they don’t want to call him the king.

Anthony Comegna: Yeah but he’s making war everywhere.

Jason Kuznicki: [00:29:30] You know functionally, he’s pretty much a king by the end of his life, yes. He makes his son be the Lord Protector after him. I mean if that’s not an inherited, if that’s not monarchy, I’m not sure what is. We could say that the same thing has happened even in the present day in North Korea, where there was a Communist revolution that ended up producing something that looks an awful lot like a monarchy now, looks an awful like an absolute monarchy.

Anthony Comegna: Yeah, ultimately. Now that leads me to [00:30:00] my question here. Do moderates ever really win a revolution? Perhaps the American Revolution is the best case of that here. Washington’s no king and he’s not exactly the old colonial establishment either, though it is definitely, the new federalists are a collection of elite interests.

Jason Kuznicki: Washington’s political enemies were certainly quick to make him out to be a king and to complain that he was behaving like one. The fact is though they’re [00:30:30] not tremendously numerous or influential and he also confounds them by actually stepping down from the presidency. Probably he could have ruled for as long as he wanted to as President and if he had overstepped the constitutional bounds, it’s an open question how well those bounds would have restrained him but he was fairly scrupulous about not doing that to the best of his understanding and also to relinquishing power, which is a pretty important example. 

[00:31:00] Also, I think it may matter that Washington didn’t have children.

Anthony Comegna: Yeah, nobody to inherit, right?

Jason Kuznicki: No one to inherit from him exactly.

Anthony Comegna: Are there any other examples, major examples of moderates winning the revolution and actually forming the regime in the end?

Jason Kuznicki: You could say that certain of the post-Soviet revolutions, the anti-Soviet revolutions in the late 20th century turned out that way. I mean Poland, [00:31:30] Czechoslovakia, these went on to produce societies that became more or less Western and liberal and that the moderates in a sense did win there. Yeah, it does sometimes happen but the classic revolutionary phenomenon that Crane Brinton is looking at, this is not something that you should expect. You should not expect the moderates to win, again because of the situation that they find [00:32:00] themselves in, which is sort of like beating the old regime but also having enemies on both sides, which does not make things terribly stable.

Anthony Comegna: Yeah, he says power always moves from right to center to left. It can stay on the right for an awfully long time like Middle Ages long but once it starts moving to the center, it doesn’t last there very long before the Left take control of it and presumably you swing back around the other way at some point.

Jason Kuznicki: Yeah, Tocqueville has this famous aphorism that [00:32:30] the most dangerous time for a corrupt society is when it undertakes reforming itself, that this is when things can become very, very unstable but you are correct to point out that there is, in each of these revolutions also a reaction, a reaction that brings back something like the old order or something that does decisively put the end to the revolution. [00:33:00] You got the Russian Revolution, Stalin takes over and he is certainly a Communist although he’s disputing that, but the idea of the revolution being ongoing is something that he actually is quite opposed to and it’s done, we’re going to stop here.

In the French Revolution, you have the Thermidorean reaction, which is sort of the paradigm of it and in English Civil War, there’s the [00:33:30] Restoration, where we’re done with Cromwell. We bring back literally the same royal line that we had before, Charles II, excuse my earlier difficulty, Charles II returns as king and we go back to something not exactly like but something quite similar to what had been before.

Anthony Comegna: Is a permanent revolution possible in your opinion? What would that entail, do you think?

Jason Kuznicki: I don’t think so. I don’t think so and I think that The Anatomy of Revolution does [00:34:00] a very good job of pointing out why this isn’t something that’s possible, and that’s because the ordinary people who are not usually interested in or involved in politics find that they are tremendously imposed upon by revolutions. Revolutions, even at their best, are inconveniences and often, they are massive inconveniences, and often they are deadly and people don’t want to have constant disruption in their lives. [00:34:30] There is a very strong counterweight that pushes in the direction of stability of some kind, I don’t care what it is but let’s just have an ordinary life of some kind. Revolutions are intermittent periods in history. They are times of instability before a new equilibrium is to be found.

I know that equilibrium is another one of those metaphors [00:35:00] that can’t really be applied to the social sciences with any great exactness but it does seem clear that these desires by the part of ordinary, not tremendously politically motivated people matter and they do help to bring an end to periods of revolutionary change.

Anthony Comegna: As a libertarian, do you think revolutions are desirable? Political revolutions are the kind we’re talking [00:35:30] about.

Jason Kuznicki: Well, I mean that’s sort of like asking whether rain is desirable. 

Anthony Comegna: When you have been on any of these sides that we’ve talked about today, would you be with the revolutionaries?

Jason Kuznicki: Of course, of course, I hope I would at least. I hope I would have sided with the American Revolution and I hope I would have sided at least with the initial stages of the French Revolution. I admire Thomas Paine a great deal.

Anthony Comegna: You would have been on the block.

Jason Kuznicki: He nearly was, he nearly was. Thomas Paine, [00:36:00] who despite being a very bad speaker of French, got elected to the convention in the French Revolution based on his reputation and on what he had done in the American Revolution. He at one point gave a speech in which he recommended that Louis XVI should not be executed and that turns out not too long afterward to be a cardinal sin and [00:36:30] he’s marked for death and escapes it.

Anthony Comegna: Condorcet wanted the king sent to the galleys, right?

Jason Kuznicki: Well and Paine wanted him exiled. Paine said, “We should send him to a little farm in America and make him work for his living.”, which is a preciously naïve kind of suggestion.

Anthony Comegna: Talk about a revolution though. That’s a good one.

Jason Kuznicki: Yes, and less bloodthirsty than what they eventually did with him. I mean they might have been nicer if it didn’t turn out that way.

Anthony Comegna: That sounds like a much more libertarian kind of French Revolution.

Jason Kuznicki: [00:37:00] I wish that it might have turned out differently but the proponents of liberty are apt to lose out very frequently in these revolutions to those who are less squeamish about using the political means instead. 

Anthony Comegna: Jason Kuznicki is [00:37:30] a historian here at the Cato Institute, editor for Cato Books with a Ph.D. in history from the Johns Hopkins University. His latest book is Technology and the End of Authority: What is Government For? 

Liberty Chronicles is a project of libertarianism.org. It’s produced by Tess Terrible. If you’ve enjoyed this episode of Liberty Chronicles, please rate, review and subscribe to us on iTunes. [00:38:00] For more information on Liberty Chronicles, visit libertarianism.org.