Posts Tagged “revolution”

Tahrir Square ended in revolution in Egypt.  “Occupy Wall Street” probably won’t.  Why not?

What is similar?

They are both demonstrations protesting general disaffection with the current state, with the economy, etc.

They are both using social media.

They are/were both disorganized somewhat at first, but growing in clarity and numbers.

In short, they are about the same things thematically; why did it end in revolution in Egypt, but not here?  What is different?


Tahrir started with about 50,000 people and ended with about 300,000.

“Occupy Wall Street” has about 5,000 now; 700 were arrested over the weekend.  The numbers are growing.

So…Tahrir had more people (especially when you consider Egypt’s population of 82M people). “Occupy Wall Street” would need about 1.1M people to converge on Manhattan to achieve similar numbers per capita.

Income inequality:

The US’s income inequality is actually worse than Egypt’s by a fair bit. We are near the Ivory Coast and Uganda.  Egypt is more in par with the U.K.


Unemployment in the US is about 9%.

Unemployment in Egypt was about 20% at the time of the revolution, concentrated among the young and educated.

So…I don’t consider this a ton different.  Our unemployment numbers are usually understated, and this is relatively small difference, not an order of magnitude different.

Hmm….I don’t see the general conditions as all that different; certainly somewhat different, but not an order of magnitude different.

Let’s make a few hypothesis as to why so many people showed up at Tahrir square, and so few show up at “Occupy Wall Street”.

1) The US is geographically distributed.

Even if we would like to show up (and it is largely young unemployed males that do something like this); we are pretty far from NYC.  All of Egypt is just a train ride away.  Most people live just a few hours from Cairo.

2) In the US, we can get married, even if we are poor.

As long as people can have a family and put food on the table, they will let the rich play their games and the government do what they want.  The Middle East in general could take a lesson here.

Stable societies are ones where men and women can have families.  If you have polygamy, some men will get zero women.  If you have restrictive socializing between men and women, men feel like they can’t get women.  If you have dowries, some men can’t get women.

And if you have a bunch of unemployed men who can’t get any women, they have nothing to lose…and so are apt to fight for revolution….so they can have a family in peace.

3)  In the US, we can still mostly put food on the table.

Income inequality is worse in the US, so relatively we are worse off than Egypt.  However, in an absolute sense, the poor still have more money in the US.  In Egypt food inflation had made it so that some people couldn’t eat.  That is a recipe (no pun intended) for revolution.

4) In the US, we have a democracy?

I actually don’t think this makes a ton of difference; it is a perceptual difference perhaps and gives us an outlet to say “I’ll just vote someone else in next time instead of staging a revolution”; however, in the end it is not democracy that keeps us from revolting; it is the ability to live our lives in relative peace.  Democracy or not, if that condition isn’t met, the government is in trouble.

So, there you have it.

If you want to keep people from a revolution, follow this recipe:

Make sure there are not a bunch of single, unemployed men around who cannot afford food.

If boys have too much time on their hands, they usually chase women.  If they can’t chase women, they eat.  If you take both those options away, they get really mad.

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