Democracy

It's Not an Arab Spring; Governments Everywhere Spark Revolts

Protests against any particular government are birthed by the power of government generally.

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It's the winter of their discontent from Venezuela to Ukraine to Thailand. Those countries' respective governments have all faced opposition demonstrations that in recent weeks have turned violent, seeing protesters killed in all three countries, with the death toll in Ukraine estimated at around 75 dead and more than 1,000 injured. In Venezuela, at least five have died, though based on accounts on the ground, that number too could rise. In Thailand, at least five people died and 65 were injured on Monday alone, as police worked to clear protesters from the capital city, Bangkok.

Were the unrest in three countries that were geographically or ethnically closer to each other, the Western media might have bundled them together the way they did with the "Arab Spring." Like the current concurrent protests, of course, the Arab Spring was actually a set of disparate protests that spanned the Arab world. And while the protests ended differently: in toppled governments (Tunisia, Egypt), a Western intervention (Libya), a protracted civil war (Syria), multiple failures (Bahrain, Iraq), they did all share one general grievance, that their governments no longer represented them. Though Iraq was perhaps the only democratic (at least in name) country in which "Arab Spring" protests occurred, democratic governments are not immune to becoming so disconnected from the people in the country that protests arise there. To varying extents, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Thailand have democratically-elected governments.  And in each case, those governments, rather than working to do their best to represent all people, have demonized and alienated the opposition, claiming their slim margins of victories as mandates to act in any way they please.

The root problem in each country is unaccountable government. That unaccountability, in each case, is an outgrowth of the attitude that a mere democratic majority (of the actually-voting voting population) suffices to permit the government to do anything it wants under the guise of having a popular mandate for it. In Ukraine, which has received the lion's share of media coverage, protesters with Euromaidan oppose President Viktor Yanukovych's policy of moving the country toward a closer relationship with Russia; they want, instead, for the government to build closer ties with the European Union. That political argument, however, was not what escalated protests. Rather, as is usually the case, state violence against protesters brought new life to demonstrations.

This week, in his latest bid to finally end protests, Yanukovich agreed to hold early elections, to form a "unity government," and to offer constitutional reforms that would reduce the power of the presidency. A dispute over which superpower Ukraine would entangle itself with became a grievance over government power. Whether that grievance ends up being addressed remains to be seen. However, given the desire of most imaginable potential Ukrainian governments to extract financial aid in exchange for alignment with either the European Union or Russia, it's possible that the friction between East and West in Ukraine (a word that meant borderland) will explode again, as it did before in the era of the mid-2000s "color revolutions."

The source of Venezuela's unrest, isn't as easily framed as a team vs. team issue. Nevertheless, the Venezuelan government does its best to try to link the legitimate opposition that its self-destructive economic policies has fueled to American intervention. The government, for example, expelled three U.S. consular officials, accusing them of conspiring with the opposition because they allegedly met with some protesters. The late Hugo Chavez built his brand of socialism, chavismo, as a decidedly anti-American project.  Chavez's framing was aided by alleged U.S. involvement in a 2002 coup attempt against him. Nevermind that Chavez himself had led his own failed coup attempt a decade earlier, one that ended with him spending the night at a museum.

In explaining why he thought the state violence against Venezuelan protesters might have been so overshadowed in Western media coverage by the violence in Ukraine, Francisco Toro of the Caracas Chronicles offered that the "freakout" in Eastern Europe was "more photogenic" and happening in "an even more strategically important country." American interests in Venezuela extend from the days of the Monroe doctrine, which asserted that the whole of North and South America were for the U.S. to exert influence over, not other (European) world powers. Venezuela is also a major oil-producing country. But the protesters in Caracas, and around Venezuela, are not necessarily pro-American in the way, say, Ukrainian protesters could be considered "pro-European." While the political opposition to chavismo in some way has to be about rejecting the socialist program's anti-Americanism, what has largely driven protests in Venezuela is a rejection of the government's nationalist and socialist policies, which have deteriorated economic conditions in the country. Because such state socialist policies also require the scapegoating and demonization of the opposition, a parallel deterioration of political conditions also occurred. In such an environment, the kind of protests Venezeula is now seeing were inevitable. Hugo Chavez's successor Nicolas Maduro, after all, was only able to secure an "official" victory margin of under 2 percent, despite throwing the force of the party-controlled state behind his candidacy. Despite that, Maduro acted as if his government had a mandate to do whatever it wanted, in the name of the people. Enough people have now had enough intrusive government to push back.

Anti-government protests have also persisted in Thailand for months, to much less coverage than Ukraine or even Venezuela. That country's prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister who was overthrown in a 2006 military junta that followed several months of protests. Thaksin's government was accused of various human rights abuses, corruption, and stifling free press. Yingluck, who campaigned in 2011 on a theme of "reconciliation" after the half-decade long political crisis following her brother's overthrow, sparked protests late last year after proposing an amnesty bill. That billincluded dismissing corruption charges against her brother, on self-imposed "exile" to avoid an existing conviction. It also dropped murder charges against two former Thai political leaders, a prime minister and a member of parliament who resigned last year to "lead" protesters. Thailand is, in fact, a constitutional monarchy. In December, clashes between police and protesters paused for the king's 86th birthday. The king used his birthday address to call for stability. A few days later the prime minister dissolved her government and scheduled new elections. Those elections occurred on February 2, but results have yet to be announced. Protests, which include an "occupation" of Bangkok and its government buildings, continue.

The protests in Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, and those in many other countries in recent history, have generally been about discontent with government. Even "Occupy Wall Street" in the U.S. was, at its core, about discontent with government. In their case, the solution of many was, depressingly, more government. And so it is in the protest movements of every country. In Brazil, which has also seen sporadic protests in the last several months over government spending on the World Cup, the economist Rodrigo Constantino noted that there's "no use to roar like a lion in the streets and then vote like a donkey in the polls." Where government power is unchecked, where political opposition is demonized, marginalized, and suppressed, where people are molested by agents and offices of the state, the fact that a government can point to a "democratic" victory to defend its actions will never preclude popular protests. And a change in government, as we saw in Egypt and elsewhere, is no guarantee that popular discontent is alleviated. Although it is grievances about specific governments, specific policies, and specific abuses of power that animate any particular protest, it is the ability of government to wield as much power as people have allowed it to that give life to protest in the first place.

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90 responses to “It's Not an Arab Spring; Governments Everywhere Spark Revolts

  1. those governments, rather than working to do their best to represent all people, have demonized and alienated the opposition, claiming their slim margins of victories as mandates to act in any way they please.

    Sounds vaguely familiar, no?

    What’s fascinating to me about these kinds of protests/revolutions/coups in other countries is that they are played out on a very old model; essentially, capture the flag. When the opposition physically seizes the seat of government, they are pretty much deemed to have pushed out the old order.

    These are relatively small countries with heavily centralized governments. I’m not sure how the capture-the-flag model would work in the US.

    1. Sounds vaguely familiar, no?

      Naah, nothing like that could ever possibly happen here.

      “Obama’s election will end centuries’ worth of odious racial discourse in America.”
      -Nick Gillespie

      1. I just got paid $7500 working off my computer this month. And if you think that’s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $8k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do, , WORKJURY.COM

    2. The perennial ‘capture the flag’ game is probably an acknowledgement of the ruling powers that they no longer maintain exclusive control over the ‘legitimate’ use of force.

      The loss of control of the ‘symbols of state’ are tangible signs of the complete failure of a political process; from there, only few options remain: civil war, abdication, or reconciliation.

      Its usually around that point that the “servants” of legitimate power (aka ‘armed forces’) pull the civilian leadership aside and say, “Look boss = we like you and all, but the way things are going? It may just save everyone a lot of trouble if we shoot *you*. So why don’t you make nice with the people with the torches and pitchforks, eh? Because for most of us, this is just a job, see? And we really don’t want to die protecting your dumb ass”

      I’d guess in more than half of “armed citizens storming the capitol”-situations, the army intercedes, shoots the old dictator, tells everyone to go home, and installs a new dictator. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      The best outcome here is if the Russian-backed kleptocrats capitulate and share power with the Euromaidan in some organized fashion, hopefully shepherded by regional neighbors like Russia, Poland, EU diplomats.

      Right now, most of the papers seem to be saying ‘who’s in charge here’?

      http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02…..?hpt=hp_t1

      the longer that lasts, the more dangerous it is.

      1. Government 101, Rule A: Don’t piss off your praetorians.

      2. Right now, most of the papers seem to be saying ‘who’s in charge here’?

        Because to most newspaper people, a space without power is inconceivable.

    3. It’s occurred to me that another purpose served by our active interference in these places is indeed to distract us from monitoring similar trends here at home, which would also help to explain why the entire for-profit western media establishment seems complicit in misinforming us.

      1. …”which would also help to explain why the entire for-profit western media establishment seems complicit in misinforming us.”

        Do you presume a non-profit news source would be better?

        1. But of course! A state run media would be even better. Double plus good!

        2. Of course, which explains why BBC’s coverage of Ukraine appeared largely indistinguishable from Russia Today’s.

          1. As well a Venezuela’s.

  2. There’s nothing in the Ukrainian or Venezuelan protests that says the population wants anything libertarians would find valuable. Pretty sure they both are griping that their free shit isn’t free enough and they’re not happy about it.

    1. I would say the difference is the socialists are more extreme than their opposition, which would probably be content with some welfare and cronyism rather than full-on retarded price controls and so forth.

    2. My understanding is that the Ukraine is split between the old-line communists who side with Putin and want to try to reconstitute the old U.S.S.R. one piece at a time, and the more pro-Euro, pro-American faction that wants to say goodbye to the U.S.S.R. forever and finally join the modern world and the 21st century.

      1. That split has a nasty ethnic side to it, as well. The pro-Russian side is largely(?) made up of ethnic Russians who can trace their presence in the Ukraine back to Stalin’s famines/massacres and relocation programs.

        1. This.

          It is a rarely acknowledged fact of history that the USSR engaged in a kind of Russian neo-colonialism.

          Every former Warsaw Pact nation has substantial communities of ethnic Russians and Russian speaking ex-communists who were transplanted there during the Soviet era. These people used to be the elites. They were the oppressors, official agents of the Soviet state, loyal communists who got funneled the black-market luxury goods that the non-Russian majorities in the subject nations couldn’t get.

          Since the USSR has collapsed a lot of them emigrated back to Russia or elsewhere, but you still have significant number of these people, still influential, still with strong ties to Russia. And I don’t doubt that Russia is using that to it’s advantage.

          Isn’t that the whole point of colonialism, after all?

      2. Any links on that?
        I’ve been looking and just haven’t found anything.

        1. Wikipedia, dude

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R…..of_Ukraine

    3. “Sevo|2.23.14 @ 12:29PM|#

      There’s nothing in the Ukrainian or Venezuelan protests that says the population wants anything libertarians would find valuable”

      Do you consider “self-determination” valuable?

      regarding ‘free shit’ and the ukranian economy =

      The Euromaidan is agitating partly over a trade agreement with the EU which would lower tarrifs and increase free trade between Ukraine and the West. In the short term this would likely put pressures on the domestic economy which would make things harder for certain industries, yet allow for greater outside investment.

      while there is no doubt that many in both Ukraine and Venezuela are strong proponents of ‘free shit’, I don’t see why that should in any way temper ones enthusiasm that people in other countries struggle for ‘more freedom’ than they enjoy currently

      1. “I don’t see why that should in any way temper ones enthusiasm that people in other countries struggle for ‘more freedom’ than they enjoy currently”

        I don’t either, I just haven’t seen evidence of that being a goal.

        1. I just pointed out that a primary reason for the Euromaidan org’s intransigence was (among other things) for reducing trade barriers.

          How is that not ‘evidence’?

          1. Gilmore,
            With all due respect, you claimed that, but I don’t see that as evidence.
            The link to the Russification was appreciated, but I was asking Mike M. for links on his statements. I’m aware of the Russification of Ukraine (and the Baltic states).

        2. The opposition in Venezuela would like the freedom to be able to leave their houses at night without having to worry about being shot,kidnapped,robbed or murdered. Also freedom to sign a petition or grievance that doesn’t sit well with Maduro or his hacks, without losing their jobs.

          They’d like to be able to buy milk and toilet paper. They would like to have electricity 24 hours a day. They would like to see what they worked for not pissed away by 50% plus inflation. They would like to not have to wait years after buying an automobile to have it actually delivered.

          They would like to be able to send their children to school and go to work without having to worry that they will be kidnapped, robbed or murdered with IMPUNITY because the government has more important things to do, like send oil to Cuba and make speeches on television.

          And they would like to be able to express those grievances without some authority dismissing them as the fault of the yanqui “imperio” and sending the military to haul them off to jail.

  3. “The root problem in each country is unaccountable government.”

    I’d argue that root problem is population stress – too many people for the amount these economies produce. If people have prosperity they could pretty much give a shit if governments are accountable unless they are personally affected by the government’s actions.

    Policy leaders and media pundits are so focused on the specific manifestation of population stress – ‘unaccountable government’ or whatever – that they never really come up with solutions to address the basic issue – the declining regional prosperity.

    1. “too many people for the amount these economies produce”

      Or, “an economy too sucky for the people.”

    2. Ukraine is undergoing a pretty rapid population decline, with fertility at well below the replacement level.

      1. They technically are even *more* drunk than Russians.

        if you have ever been to Russia, you might find this hard to believe.

      2. Dude, don’t spoil his overpopulation narrative.

        1. “Dude, don’t spoil his overpopulation narrative.”

          Yeah, I got that vibe, too. Ukraine is real high on the list of places where overpopulation ain’t an issue.

    3. The declining regional prosperity that just “happens” because…too many people? Venezuela is about the size of Texas and has around as many people. I’d argue that population stress is largely imaginary.

      1. Not “too many people” . . . too many who don’t produce what they consume?
        What’s the alternative? Global warming? People don’t fight over shit when they are satisfied.
        Look at the US. The absolute population number isn’t my point. If you have a fixed population that transitions to collectivist economics and government grows as a percentage of the economy but is overall a net consumer (food stamps, useless bureaucrats and excessive and unnecessary defense contracting) then the economy gradually spirals into “resource stress population stress whichever. Population is just one variable.
        Even if Ukraine’s population is dropping if it’s productivity is dropping faster you get stress.

  4. the attitude that a mere democratic majority suffices to permit the government to do anything it wants under the guise of having a popular mandate for it.

    In other words, Progressivism.

  5. A Michigan Congressman named Peters, through an attorney, threatens the license of broadcast stations which air an anti-Obamacare ad:

    http://americansforprosperity……letter.pdf

    1. it’s almost as if they decided to let the mask fall completely and not even make a pretense of believing in dialogue and dissent.

    2. If it weren’t for these people thinking bad thoughts about O-care, everything would be wonderful!
      We MUST stop them from thinking bad thoughts!

    3. If the ad is false, I understand why they would be miffed. It seems unlikely to be false though.

      Going after the tv station and alleging that they have a responsibility to investigate the claims of every advertiser that buys time is a can of worms I doubt we want opened.

      Yet another example of the dems taking the low road.

      1. “Going after the tv station and alleging that they have a responsibility to investigate the claims of every advertiser that buys time is a can of worms I doubt we want opened.”

        Obo would never appear on the tube again!

  6. To varying extents, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Thailand have democratically-elected governments. And in each case, those governments, rather than working to do their best to represent all people, have demonized and alienated the opposition, claiming their slim margins of victories as mandates to act in any way they please.

    In the case of Thailand, that’s absolute nonsense. Thaksin’s Peua Thai Party consistently wins elections in landslides due to their massive support in the impoverished north and northeast parts of the country. (This is just one recent article on the subject.)

    1. What the protests in Bangkok are about are a hissy-fit by the Bangkok elite and upper middle class of mostly Chinese ethnicity who not only look down upon the mostly Lao-ethnics that make up the supporters of Thaksin, but also feel threatened by Thaksin’s populist policies of wealth redistribution to the poor of the north and northeast. And while I agree with the economic concerns of the Bangkok middle-class, unfortunately, their solution is to use these protests to overturn the results of an election through a Heckler’s Veto. The opposition in Thailand’s solution is to return to military dictatorship or corporatism where the country would be ruled by an unelected “People’s Council“).

      Sorry Ed, your analysis attempts to knock a square peg into a round hole.

      1. And just in case anyone is interested, I came across this wonderful set of satrical cartoons by the “Red Shirts” (Thaksin’s supporters) commenting on recent events. The joke is that they are parodies of a classic Thai reading textbook “Manee and Friends”, which is basically the Thai version of “Dick and Jane”.

        Even if you can’t read Thai, the image of kids beating the shit out of dogs wearing Guy Fawkes masks is worth the price of admission.

        1. I am sure there are serious issues being addressed in these, but…HAHAHAHAHAHA

        2. Guy Fawkes Pepsi was a hoot.

        3. It is a hilarious running gag, but what does the dog represent?

        4. They must really like their WWE over there…

        5. That’s somewhat disturbing. But I’m a dog lover.

      2. Thaksin was thrown out over election irregularities no? Either way, both sides are awful. We got redistributionist authoritarians on one side and royalist authoritarians on the other. The latter wants to continue the law making it illegal to criticise the king. Thailand’s future is not so bright.

        1. Thaksin was thrown out over election irregularities no?

          He wasn’t exactly “thrown out” for any reason other than the military staged a coup while he was in New York to address the UN. The military justified their coup through long-standing allegations that Thaksin was involved in a corrupt deal with Temasek Holdings, which was even stickier considering Temasek is owned by the Singaporean government.

        2. Is it just me, or have a lot more people been doing the ask a question and then put “,no?” at the end lately?

          Seems that this obnoxious platonic bullshit has become endemic here lately, no?

          I don’t know why it irks me so but it just does. Sorry for the people that like using this; I’m sure it’s just my personal preference and it’s not something horrible.

          1. I’m sure we can find something else, yes?

          2. I’ve noticed in this century people starting to answer questions on the air with “So…”. That annoys me, and I can’t figure out how it started, but it’s noticeably a 21st C. thing, starting right around the turn.

            1. Yes, I’ve noticed that as well.

              Here’s an article analyzing the meaning and origins of answering questions starting with “So,”

              It was first noted in ’99 by a guy writing about the tech sector. The claim is that it started with microsoft employees in the 90s.

              1. I have never noticed this trend nor would it even occur to me to talk like that. And I work in “tech”.

            2. That and “going forward”. Too many have to crowbar that into a sentence I wonder if they even realize they’re doing it now.

              1. So we’re going forward with this construction, no?

                1. At the end of the day, if you will.

              2. “Going forward” is just corporate-speak – useful at the office but awful in the real world.

  7. I’d argue that root problem is population stress – too many people for the amount these economies produce.

    ^this

    And the US is on the same trajectory. Without the reassertion of a republican democracy, I don’t see how we avoid this fate here. I am hopeful, because of people like those that post and comment here, but not overly optimistic.

    1. Malthusian catastrophe? When will I stop hearing people peddle this shit?

      1. Yup.

        Has there ever been an instance of declining population coupled with strong economic growth?

        1. That one time where everyone abandoned Detroit, and it really started to thrive? Oh, wait…

        2. Not that I can remember. However nuking DC would probably fit the bill.

        3. Probably not overall growth, but it would seem possible to have higher growth per capita, which is what would really matter. Of course, the banks, the fed, the treasury, and the congress have set up a nice pyramid scheme that requires perpetual overall growth in output, prices, government, and population, so maybe it’s moot.

          But in theory it would seem that higher productivity could lead to the need for fewer people.

  8. I’m not sure how the capture-the-flag model would work in the US.

    Puny civilians and their popguns will never overthrow the mighty American government.

    1. I enjoy you P Brooks, but you would burn down the Realm to be king of the ashes.

    2. What we need is a shoot-the-flag model, or rebellion without revolution.

      Revolution = revolve or cycle through rulers. Rebellion minus revolution = going against authority without trying to replace it.

  9. you would burn down the Realm to be king of the ashes.

    Just as long as I get to sit on a throne made of skulls.

    1. Wouldn’t you prefer a throne made of swords, oh, Your Grace, Brooks of the House Late P, the First of Your Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm.

      1. Uneasy lies the head that wears unthreaded comments.

  10. But aren’t these protests (with the possible exception of Venezuela) more or less the next Arab Spring? It’s really not the “unaccountable government” that’s fueling their revolt, but whatever crappy situation they’re having to suffer at the moment.

    These protesters will repeat a lot of talking points about more power to the people but will end up voting for a new government scarcely better than the one before. Egypt threw out a dictator that was friendly to the US and Israel with one that isn’t.

    1. I don’t know if it’s an “Arab Spring”, exactly.

      But it does have the whiff of “something is going on”. And whatever that something is, it is something different. It is something that doesn’t fit the narrative. Which is probably why the Western News Media is doing such a shitty job reporting on it.

      I think Ed’s take on it is basically right. The Arab Spring was about revolts against straight-up dictatorship. But this is about revolts by minorities in Democratic countries. In all of these cases you have a situation where the majority party is forcing it’s will upon a substantial minority faction that is deeply opposed to it’s agenda.

      I think the point of this is that there is a crisis of legitimacy in government if you have a significant minority faction that withdraws it’s consent. To be legitimate, you don’t just have to have the majority of the votes, you also have to have a government that respects the interests of all the major factions so that the government is one of mutual benefit for all parties. It can’t just be the benefit of some at the expense of others. If there is a big enough group in society that feels that the social contract is no longer in it’s interest, they will withdraw their consent.

      1. Addendum… and if that group is big enough and powerful enough to shut down the state, they can prevent the majority from getting what they want too.

      2. Hazel, Venezuela is not at the present a democratic country. Ever if Maduro won by 50.2% of the vote, which I doubt because he and his political cronies were in charge of the results. When his major opposition, Capriles asked for a recount and investigation, he was roundly refused.

        What is, or should be, clear is that the institutions are no longer free or democratic. When the president can shut down all television and radio stations except his own, can confiscate jounalists’ cameras and microphones, and can send the military to jail his political critics, we can no longer call that country democratic.

        And that president is no longer a president but a dictator and a tyrant.

  11. Students defend crappy school with horribly written letters…

    A junior wrote: “What do you get of giving false accusations im one of the students that has blended learning I had a course of English and I passed and and it helped a lot you’re a reported your support to get truth information other than starting rumors?.?.?.”

    1. The really sad part is their teachers wrote the letters for them.

    2. NOTHING LEFT TO CUT

      The school’s $52,332-a-year “community coordinator,” Kian Brown ? also a private “branding” consultant ? encouraged kids to write letters to The Post praising Principal Lottie Almonte and her program. Copies went to Chancellor Carmen Fari?a.

  12. Did Charlie Kelly write that letter?

  13. This is totes OT but too interesting to not post.

    THE rapidly growing economic relationship between Australia and South Korea will be augmented by a $5 billion three-year currency swap deal

    firms can borrow funds in their partner corporation’s currency for trade settlement from local banks, to which the central banks will lend funds secured under the currency swap line, up to the agreed limit.

    This saves money that would otherwise have to be spent on exchanging in and out of a third currency — usually the US dollar.

    But the growing trend towards such deals indicates in part a weakening of the ubiquity of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

    Drip, drip, drip…

    1. Sorry to burst your ideological bubble, cyto, but I’ve been informed by the best minds of economics, such as shrike, that we’ll never have inflation and the dollar will be the world’s medium of exchange forever and ever.

    2. “Drip, drip, drip…”

      Economic gonorrhea is neither pleasant nor easily cured with a shot of penicillin.

    3. If they don’t use the US dollar as reserve, ultimately all they can do is buy US goods.

      Countries using the dollar as reserve doesn’t help the US at all.

        1. Wot wot?

          Do think that some country backing up their crappy currency with dollars help us?

          If someone breaks over and buys US goods that will help.

  14. Coming Soon To An America Near You!

  15. From the Arab Spring to Turkey to Ukraine, all of these “uprising” began because of collapsing or the near collapse of economies/currencies.

    The Egyptian revolution occurred after the price of subsidized bread in Egypt increased by 50% over the course of a month.

    The protests in Turkey began in earnest after their currency debacle.

    It’s all about the MONEY, MONEY, MONEY…….

  16. my buddy’s ex-wife makes $85 hourly on the laptop . She has been unemployed for 10 months but last month her paycheck was $19513 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Look At This……
    http://www.Jobs84.com

  17. It’s Not an Arab Spring; Governments Everywhere Spark Revolts

    The Arab Spring wasn’t an Arab Spring.

  18. The protests in Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, and those in many other countries in recent history, have generally been about discontent with government.

    No, they reflect discontent with the ruling elite. A lot of libertarian analysis goes off the rails when it treats “government” as an abstract entity rather than a tool of elites to control the rest of the population. Ukraine and Russia are both ruled mainly by intrusive, incompetent, greedy bureacurats who support the interests of a small group of elite families. The difference is that in Russia (or Kazakhstan, or Azerbaidjan, or the US) the elites can generate significant wealth from resource extraction, and it is easy enough for them to share enough wealth to buy loyalty from a significant part of the population. In Ukraine wealth has to be produced the hard way – actually physically producing things people want to buy. It is easy to swallow high taxes when you aren’t working that hard in the first place. In Ukraine the only route to wealth is to work your ass off, and there is far less tolerance among the population for government thievery. Ukrainian bureacrats keep trying to live like their Russian or Kazakh peers – but the resource wealth is not there to sustain it.

  19. Pretty sure they both are griping that their free shit isn’t free enough and they’re not happy about it.

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