I’ve known about the “gradual revolution” idea for a long time, and always discounted it, because I couldn’t see how a sane person could believe it might work.

Jeff Goldstein points to an interview with a college contemporary and friend of Barack Obama’s, one Dr. John Drew; the interview is worth reading. Dr. Drew says, in part,

Obama was looking forward to an imminent social revolution, literally a movement where the working classes would overthrow the ruling class and institute a kind of socialist Utopia in the United States. I mean, that’s how extreme his views were his sophomore year of college.

Now, standing by itself this bothers me not at all. The very word “sophomoric” describes a state of mind in which the sufferer goes for grand and simplistic solutions, unaware of the complications he will learn about in the next couple of years of study, and there are very few grander or more simplistic solutions than the Great Socialist Revolution. Lots of people have that sort of attitude and learn better in later study and/or life; Dr. Drew himself was one such, and now describes himself as “…a Ronald Reagan, church-going, Baptist conservative.”

But there’s a pathological version of that change of heart, formed when the sophomoric idealist learns that the means won’t work but fails to consider whether the goal is desirable. Many, if not most, of the sophomoric Socialists of that earlier era fall into that category, and that is where the “gradual revolution” idea comes from. Goldstein quotes Peter Dreier:

…create government programs that only seem to be “reforms” of the capitalist system. Rightly understood, these supposed reforms are so incompatible with capitalism that they gradually precipitate the system’s collapse.

The reason I have, in the past, discounted the notion is that it is an almost ridiculously explicit example of “static analysis”, the notion that it is possible to make changes, even major ones, in one part of a system without the rest of it changing in response. One of the constant refrains by Democrats is that people should vote “in their economic self-interest”, that is, for people who will promise that the Government will give them money. It is, under that rubric, pretty stupid not to do so — if choice A says you have to work and give other people money, while choice B says you get money and don’t have to work, it’s clear which is the “smart”, self-interested choice.

But what happens when everybody gets smart?

As I never tire of saying, we live in an industrial economy, and the characteristic of an industrial economy is that wealth must be produced. If it is stupid to produce and smart to consume without producing, more and more people will get smart and cease to produce — and if everybody does so, there is no production and everybody starves.

The stupidity inherent in “gradual revolution” is assuming that production will continue despite everybody getting smart. Production, in that view, is static; it does not depend on the behavior of people or on the ratio of producers to consumers, and the wealth available — abundant food, fuel to keep us warm in winter, and all the rest — will continue to be available no matter what. It is such a ludicrous assumption that for a long time it never occurred to me that anybody might entertain it. But they do, don’t they? It’s the basis of the so-called “Cloward-Piven strategy” and nine-tenths of all Democratic Party campaign ads.

Dreier at least hints that his thought processes may not be totally erroneous:

In the longer run, it may give socialist norms an opportunity for ex tension or at least visibility…[but] this intentionally wrought crisis might actually backfire and produce fascism instead of socialism.

Well, d’oh.

It’s an asymptote. Long before everybody gets “smart”, the society reaches a point where the ratio of producers to consumers is no longer sufficient to produce enough to support it. At that point it becomes necessary for anyone who wishes to survive to possess strength and power, and the society dissolves into violent competition among the strong and powerful for control of the diminishing wealth. That competition is not, and cannot be, anything resembling “egalitarian”.

Much as I admire Common Sense, Thomas Paine descended into foolishness in his later essays, particularly those discussing “men in a state of Nature”. There is no evidence anywhere in the historical record of men in a state of Nature forming their Government by peaceful means. A “state of Nature” being by definition one of scarcity, lacking the production of industry or even agriculture, what always happens is that the competition for scarce resources takes place by violent means, and the Government that results exemplifies “the strong oppress the weak, according to their relative strengths.”

Since this is precisely the state of affairs modern leftoids describe by the word “fascism” (to the extent that that word has any concrete meaning in their discourse), there is no reason to suppose any other result than a fascistic one. It is no different when the “state of Nature” (i.e., scarcity) is artificially induced, and may be worse because the gradual approach of scarcity impels the formation of coalitions in an attempt to amass enough power to gain the means to survive. The most effective such coalitions will be those who already possess some amount of power: large corporations, financial institutions, and the like. “Gradual revolution” thus virtually guarantees that the society will come to be controlled by the very “banksters” and “megacorps” the leftoids are most vocal in opposing.