During the last 30 years we Americans have been so politically divided that some of us have called this left-right, liberal-conservative split a "culture war" or even a "second Civil War." These descriptions are no longer accurate. The precise, technical word for what is happening in the United States today is revolution.
Because of our country's history, we tend to think of revolutions as military conflicts, and of the revolutionaries as the good guys; the image of Minutemen fighting valiantly against the British forces at Lexington and Concord lies deep within our DNA. But sometimes -- quite often, actually -- revolutions aren't military conflicts, and the good guys are the ones trying to keep the revolution from happening. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany by its elected president; he would spend the next two years consolidating his power with the legislative connivance of his political allies in the Reichstag. In October 1917, Lenin and his Bolsheviks took control of Russia from Kerensky and his Social Democrats -- who had overthrown the Czar earlier that year -- entirely through parliamentary maneuvering in Russia's fledgling Duma.
What defines a revolution -- and this is the crucial point to grasp -- is that when it's over a country has changed not merely its leaders and its laws, but its operating system.
Now, just as computers have operating systems so too do countries. In fact, countries have dual operating systems - one political and the other economic. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of each: Politically you can be a democracy or a dictatorship, and economically you can have either a free market or a command economy. Because countries don't buy their operating systems off the shelf, the way we buy our computer operating systems, each country develops its own versions. This is why our country's democracy is somewhat different from Canada's, which in turn is slightly different from Australia's, and so forth. These countries all have free-market economies, but again they aren't quite the same. Still, the similarities among democracies and free-market economies are more striking than the differences. Likewise, while no two dictatorships are the same, and no two command economies work in exactly the same way, the differences among them are comparatively trivial.
Since no country's operating systems are perfect, can they be improved? Of course they can. Every time our Congress passes a new law, or enacts a new regulation -- or whenever the Supreme Court issues an opinion -- that's the equivalent of an update to our political or economic operating system. Can you change a country's operating system? Yes, you can. And the precise, technical word for replacing one political or economic operating system with another is -- revolution. ...
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