Monday, April 25, 2011

Can The Revolution Be Modeled?

In my post earlier today, I stated that I had not read the Brookings.edu paper Modeling Civil Violence: An Agent-Based Computational Approach (linked in that post and this one), but that I would before the end of the day.

Well, I’ve read the paper, and it is rather interesting.  Though the title to the paper indicates that its focus is producing a model for predicting civil violence (one of two variants it can be utilized for), the model, as the paper itself disclaims, could be utilized in modeling revolutionary fervor, what the paper refers to as “A Ripeness Index” (see pg. 18 of paper), and comes complete with the formulas utilized in the modeling scenarios.  For this reason alone the paper is of interest.

In regards to the world of daily blogging the failings of government, I found this snippet from the paper (see pg. 23) also of interest.

...important implications for the tactics of revolutionary leadership.  Rather than chip away at the regime’s legitimacy over a long period with daily exposes of petty corruption, it is far more effective to be silent for long periods, and accumulate one punchy expose.  Indeed, the single punch need not be as “weighty,” if you will, as the “sum” of the daily particulars…

Though the paper is 46 pdf pages in total, it includes many graphs representing modeling results which make for interesting viewing, so it will not take as long to read the paper as one may surmise.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/25 at 06:27 PM
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Courtesy or Conditioning for Implementation of Martial Law?

Just stopped by Drudge and note the link to this article headline out of Georgia, Military patrols start Friday night in downtown Columbus, wherein one reads this.

Starting at 10 o’clock Friday, two senior non-commissioned officers from Fort Benning will be on courtesy patrol.  The soldiers will be wearing arm bands that read, “Courtesy Patrol.”

Fort Benning Commanding General Robert Brown and Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson made the announcement earlier this week.

Is this really a “courtesy” measure, or, a conditioning measure for future implementation of martial law?

Posted by John Venlet on 04/25 at 10:15 AM
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Only Three Percent or Falsified Preferences?

Mike Vanderboegh provides one of the more concisely written descriptions of what is known as a Three Percenter.  It is titled What is a “Three Percenter”?  Vanderboegh’s description of a Three Percenter opens as follows.

During the American Revolution, the active forces in the field against the King’s tyranny never amounted to more than 3% of the colonists. They were in turn actively supported by perhaps 10% of the population. In addition to these revolutionaries were perhaps another 20% who favored their cause but did little or nothing to support it. Another one-third of the population sided with the King (by the end of the war there were actually more Americans fighting FOR the King than there were in the field against him) and the final third took no side, blew with the wind and took what came.

Note, in that description, the cumulative percentages of individuals who supported the American Revolution.  This seemingly small percentage of individuals were expressing a preference, a preference for liberty, unfalsified.

Now, consider these words, taken from an essay written by Glenn Reynolds in 2002, titled Patriotism and Preferences, wherein Glenn reflects on the rise in the number of Americans willing to express patriotism for American after 9/11, and, collapses of totalitarian regimes.  Pay particular attention to the words in bold.

This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related issues). Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers – or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they’re also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference. (bold by ed.)

Though Glenn is speaking, here, in large part, about regime collapse in dictorial Arab countries, and the percentage of citizen support or approval of regime collapse in those countries, there is both a lesson, and encouragement, for Americans desiring a return to the revolutionary American ideals upon which this country was founded.

That lesson, and encouragement, is, quite possibly many Americans have falsified their preferences for liberty and freedom, and these “falsified preferences” can be explained this way (from that link).

...social pressures can make people say that they want and believe something that they really don’t want or believe…

The most powerful pressures can come from government, which may take your life or your property; but government is hardly the only source of preference falsification. The perceived opinions of others very much determine what people say and do, even in the most democratic of democracies.

Reynolds ends his Patriotism and Preferences essay this way.

One interesting question is whether a lot of the hardline Arab states are like this. Places like Iraq, Syria, or Saudi Arabia spend a lot of time telling their citizens that everyone feels a particular way, and punishing those who dare to differ, which has the effect of encouraging people to falsify their preferences. But who knows? Given the right trigger, those brittle authoritarian regimes might collapse overnight, with most of the population swearing - with all apparent sincerity - that it had never supported them, or their anti-Western policies, at all.

Perhaps we should think about how to make it so.

Perhaps we should be asking the above question about America, rather than the Arab states, additionally asking what is the “right trigger” to return America to its 1770s revolutionary ideals, as to make it so right here.  There may be more Americans in support of this than we actually are aware of due to falsified preferences.  What do you honestly prefer?

Link to Reynolds’ 2002 essay via Reynolds, in response to a reader’s email.

Additional reading, linked in Reynolds essay also, a Brookings paper titled Modeling Civil Violence: An Agent-Based Computational Approach.  Link takes you to the abstract and overview of the paper which can be downloaded and/or read in a pdf format.  The complete paper is 46 pages.  I have not read this paper, yet, but I will before the end of the the day.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/25 at 08:48 AM
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