We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed.I was just thinking about this because my wife is reading a book about Mao's China. Thinking about the madness of Mao's policies, especially the Great Leap Forward, I keep asking myself: why didn't people say no? It seems quite obvious to me that Mao was insane. Why did hundreds of millions of Chinese people follow his mad commands, which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions? Why didn't one of his guards shoot him?
The answer seems to be sociological. By themselves, people are weak. After all, if one or two or a thousand people defied Mao, they would simply have been killed. In order to act effectively, people must be organized. The reason the colonies were able to defy Britain was that they already had governments and militias, headed by recognized leaders. In Mao's China the communist party had wiped out all competing organizations, and without organization the people had no way to effectively resist the government.
Also, it is very helpful in organizing people to have a common set of ideas to motivate them: a religion, an ideology, a myth of shared kinship, a nationhood. Under Mao there really were no other widely shared beliefs that could be used to challenge his blend of communism and nationalism. There still are no competing ideologies in China, which is how the communist party stays in power despite abandoning its own belief in socialism.
People are social animals. Whether they do good or bad, act rightly or wrongly, depends more on the social supports around them than on their own characters. With no competing system of beliefs, and no group to join, most people submit to existing authority. Only with the proper institutions and the right tools of thinking can most people live freely and justly.