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January 23, 2011


Nick Drew

In my business experience, dominos often fall rather slowly - surprisingly so


just an empirical observation

you are writing of social rather than economic phenomena, of course (and there is 1989 to take into consideration): but hey, markets are human constructs too, there's often crossover

Matt Young

The thought of protesting simply doesn’t occur to him, until he sees others - people like him doing so. And when he sees this, he figures: “I can do that.”

Take that marginal calculation, and add the smart phone which tells the agent much more about what other people are protesting at the moment, where and when. Now the protester can choose much more precisely how much to participate, be at the edge of the crowd, in the middle, or in a hotel room. Protesters gain a ten fold increase in risk mitigation.


There seems much too simplistic an assumption of what goes on in people's minds when they protest here. When I join protests in London, I know it is likely to be ignored by government and that there is a strong chance of getting horse-charged, detained, kettled, hit, crushed etc.... I go despite these facts because I feel it is the right thing to do. I'm sure I'm not the only person that has the same motivation - I was listening to interviews with the Tunisian protesters and a similar sentiment was echoed - the feeling that one had to join the protest because it was everybody's responsibility - precisely because if everyone "free-rides" there can be no resistance.
I think it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of a sense of "solidarity" in people's decisions; plenty of people have gone through great hardship or even died for obviously lost causes. No purely rational cost/benefit weigher could ever have taken part in resistance against the Nazis, the many peasant revolts of Medieval Europe or even the Paris Commune - nobody involved in these movements could have failed to notice that their efforts were almost certainly doomed, and indeed most came to unpleasant ends.
I think masses of people can very quickly become radicalised and are willing to take great risks when there is a sense of collective resistance to an injustice that threatens them all - there is a kind of "now or never" sense of being compelled to take part.

Tom Addison

Very interesting stuff, cheers for that. I've only been on three protests in my life, and two were regarding the anti-Glazer movement at Man United (which I wrote about here, http://www.trulyreds.com/20101107/the-must-anti-glazer-movement-is-rolling-again/)

May try and link this stuff into that and get things moving again, a lot of the more complicated, political philosophy is beyond me but I'll give it a go! There has been a lot of activity and rumour recently regarding a takeover of United, which can only inspire more people join the anti-Glazer cause.

Leigh Caldwell

I'd have thought that there's a beauty contest/Schelling effect of some kind: if enough other people are going to protest, it's rational for me to do so. This effect can be explained by different aspects of discounted utility: personal safety; the chances of successfully achieving the goal; and the admiration (contingent on both of the above) from telling your grandchildren, or the person you're chatting up in a bar, that you were there.

In order to gauge how many other people will show up on the streets, you need to guess what they might be thinking - and what they might think you might be thinking. And a successful revolution in the next-door country is a strong influence on that. It simply acts as a focal point to implicitly coordinate, without direct communication, the intentions and actions of many people.

Dave Malaysia

Events in Vietnam do not concide with the gist of yr article. It was a war against communism. Communism that wud not have only bashed in yr head or horse charged u,but wud have had u gone from this planet.

For us in south east asia ,it was a regional fight against the puppet masters China/Russia. In my country ,Thank God ,we won and we have a free life.

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