Whether the revolution has the right, whether the revolution will happen and whether it will succeed are three different questions. The first question is an ideological or moral question; Second, an economic question (see Mankur Olsen The logic of joint action); The third is both an ideological question (what are the criteria for success?) and an economic question (how do revolutions develop?).

The answer to the ideological question—is there a right to revolution?—depends on one’s moral philosophy, and many have evolved since Homo sapiens began to think. A right to revolution exists if one adheres to a consistent individualistic philosophy in which all individuals have equal worth and rights. More specifically, it exists in the individualist political philosophy (and perhaps the zenithal one) that underlies the work of economists James Buchanan and Gordon Tulk, as presented in their 1962 classic. The Calculus of Consent: The Rationale of Constitutional Democracy (Also see my Econlib review).

a independent The right to revolution follows from the primacy of the individual over the collective, which does not mean that a revolution is easy to lead or that it will necessarily succeed. For example, the French Revolution was rather unsuccessful by any classical-liberal standards. probably In the long run. The right to revolution is a common belief of modernity, which Buchanan and Tullock take to its logical conclusion:

The person can refuse [social] “Agreement” as a whole; He may return to a “state of nature”—in this case a rebellion against the established social order. Moral grounds should always grant the individual the “right” to make such a choice, but, once he has done so, the remaining members of the group have no contractual obligation to regard the revolutionary as “under the protection of the treaty.” (Page 261)

In his appendix to the book (each of the two authors has one), Gordon Tullock notes an important, but often overlooked, consequence:

The state should not have monopoly power. The Eastern States were “too strong for society,” and we should do everything in our power to avoid a similar situation. The state should have enough power to “keep the peace” but not enough to tempt ambitious men. The state should not be given enough power to prevent a true mass uprising against the state. …In this, as in other aspects of our construction of the constitutional implications of a consistent individualist philosophy, changes in the fraction of the population that approve or disapprove of particular changes are not of central importance. (p. 348)

The last sentence—which captures the essence of our authors’ philosophy—means that it is not morally “of central importance” whether it is one or 75 million individuals who revolt against the state because their rights are trampled upon. (In my opinion, though, Tullock should have written “individualist” instead of “individualist”.) See also James Buchanan’s 2006 book Why I am, too, not a conservative (And my review in the Spring 2022 issue Regulations) Whether or how such a state is possible seems to be an important question of political economy.

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