Daniel Greenfield writes And This is Revolution in his excellent blog, Sultan Knish, 1/14/13.
It’s the aspiring middle class that begins revolutions, but when they turn bloody enough, then they usually aren’t the ones who inherit them. An ascending middle class begins revolutions to protect its privileges, only to see those revolutions hijacked by the fanatics, who to be fair, often began them, the lawyers who want to be executioners, the demagogues who fail at everything but street corner tirades and the psychopaths who drift in and then take over.
The American Revolution avoided being overtaken by these types of lunatics, though at times it was a closer thing than anyone realizes. If history had gone a little differently, Aaron Burr could very well have been our Robespierre. And General Lafayette could have been France’s George Washington. Instead the American Revolution stayed in the hands of the people who wanted peace and prosperity, rather than radical social change, and France descended into blood and chaos at the hands of those who thought that revolution was worthless unless it allowed them to completely transform society.
The American middle class can feel itself sinking. Its prosperity has been stagnating and the jobs are drying up. The educational revolution isn’t doing what it was supposed to, for most, instead it saddled much of the country with even more debt. Debt is the watchword of the present, as it was of France before the Revolution. Everything is in debt and mortgaged to the hilt for everything else. International financial systems have made it possible to spread the pain and bury it in complicated financial transactions and speculation, but that just means the debt is bigger and badder than ever.
An interesting observation in history. It is not the poor and the weak who revolt. It is those just well enough and educated enough to know that something is wrong and that the existing institutions are failing. The American Revolution is rare in that we avoided the degeneration into fanaticism and utopianism. A strong middle class is the basic building block of political stability.