Libertarianism, Current Events

Bleeding-Heart Kansas

There’s an article in the Washington Post on the… divergence of views and attitudes among libertarians with respect to the Civil War.  Our own Steve Horwitz is quoted.  There’s a news hook having to do with a Rand Paul staffer, but the topic is sufficiently evergreen that that hardly matters.  See also Jason Kuznicki and  Conor Friedersdorf.

In the article’s terms, I’m of course a liberaltarian (an ugly word I nonetheless prefer to BHL) and a cosmotarian (a word that amuses me, and, I think, everyone to whom it is applied.)  I’m a longtime baiter of the people the article refers to as neo-Confederates and whom I unlovingly call Confederatistas.  Indeed, I talked about this stuff in my very first post here.

Mike Riggs from Reason tweeted  about the new uproar about Paul’s Confederatista staffer “Paradox: Libertarianism is too small to afford infighting, also too small to afford people like Hunter becoming representative.”  Steve’s quoted comment is similar: ‘“I think it’s to our advantage to try to keep as large a tent as we can, but I think at some point you have to say, that set of ideas is not okay,” said Steve Horwitz, an economist at St. Lawrence University. “Where that lies on this issue is very tricky.”’

I’m actually not concerned about the big tent here; these issues stand out for me in that sense.  They’re matters of historical interpretation and historical-tribal affiliation more than they are pressing questions of public policy (although see “not even past,” passim; one’s understanding of the Civil War and Reconstruction continues to matter for genuinely contemporary questions about, say, the interpretation of the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.)  There are self-identified libertarians who, for example oppose liberalizing immigration (one of the issues that leads them to call us “cosmotarians”), and I certainly believe that human welfare, liberty, and dignity are more harmed in 2013 by immigration restrictions than they are by the Stars and Bars.  So why do I get more agitated about the Civil War questions?

Being anti-immigration in any broad way is simply, clearly incompatible with libertarianism.  It’s easy, it’s straightforward.  If I’m going to write about the evils of immigration restriction, it’s not going to be aimed at the people who fail to see that; it’s going to be aimed at people who don’t care about libertarianism as such one way or the other.  It’s not an internecine fight I’m going to pick.  The libertarian restrictionsist think I’m wrong on the issue, but I don’t see any reason to care about that; they’re not the source of public opposition to immigration, and don’t have anything especially interesting or different to say about it.

There are fringe causes and weird ideas that get entangled with parts of the libertarian movement, too: 9/11 Trutherism, for example.  In that case, unlike in the immigration case, I do think there’s a disproportion: Committed libertarians may be more likely to be Truthers than members of the general population.  Again, I think they’re wrong; again, I’m not going to worry about it too much.  The psychology and sociology of the cultic milieu plagues small movements, kind of unavoidably.  If you hold a very unpopular opinion, and you come to think that you know enough to see the ways in which the establishment and official institutions and the flagship media organizations are unfair to your opinion or skew public information or otherwise stack the deck, that predisposes you to believe that it could be true in other cases, too.  You think you’re a brave, unorthodox, independent mind– and it might even be true!– and when someone approaches you with another unorthodox minority view that they say has been misrepresented or suppressed, well, you sense a like mind.  You’re necessarily less disposed than other people are to treating the weight of received opinion as authoritative.  That’s both good and bad; you’ve (presumably) invested some intellectual work and effort in arriving at your own initial unorthodox view, but information and time are scarce and you’re not going to do that every time.  Your new predisposition may deprive you of some of the informational advantages of conventional wisdom in areas where you aren’t investing that effort.  But, c’est la vie; and there are sometimes advantages to the mindset, too.  Anyway: not going to bother arguing about Trutherism.  (See also: transhumanism, about which I don’t have a clear view that it’s false the way I do with Trutherism so much as a lack of any views or interest at all.)

So: why bother with the Confederatistas?

Unlike immigration restrictionists, Confederatistas aren’t ignoring libertarian principles or classical liberal arguments altogether. They’re (IMHO, of course– sprinkle imputed “IMHOs” as liberally through this post as you like, since I’m talking about my own priorities and not about the world) misusing them, abusing them, drawing the wrong lessons from them, prioritizing them badly.  And they’re doing so in a way that runs deep in American political culture and history, not in an irrelevant fringy way.

Respecting established property ownership is important.  It is less important than the principle that human beings are self-owners and not owned by others– absolutely, lexically, hierarchically less important.  But it’s a genuine value.  The southern antebellum slaveholding class used a language of respect for property rights (among many other languages) to defend their false right to own slaves; they posed as defenders of liberty against an overreaching state that might expropriate their goods without compensation.

Limitations on the power of the central government and defenses of federalism are important.  They’re, on net, instrumentally valuable toward the protection and promotion of freedom.  The southern states– before, during, and long after the Civil War– hypocritically and opportunistically used those ideas to defend slavery and apartheid.  (Hypocritically: cf the Fugitive Slave Act; Dred Scott; the CSA Constitution; Woodrow Wilson’s federalization of Jim Crow; the New Deal  and the FHA; when the federal government supported white dominance, their federalist principles always vanished. )  They did so for so long and so successfully that “federalism= state’s rights=the untrammeled power of local white majorities over local black minorities” became a very ready shorthand in American political life.  And even a good-faith federalist classical liberal who understood slavery to be wrong, Lord Acton, could be taken in, believing the south’s pretense of federalism and respect for property and prioritizing those values over the wrong of slavery.

Freedom of private association is important.  As southern apartheid finally came under belated assault by the federal judiciary and Congress, it became a veil to get thrown over Jim Crow institutions that had been created and upheld by affirmative state power as well as by officially sanctioned terrorist violence for decades.  “The 14th Amendment prohibits racial discrimination in public schools?  Oh, look, no public schools around here any more; we just switched to a system of private academies in the same buildings and employing the same teachers and receiving the same taxpayer funding…”  By the end, breaking the apartheid system required overriding the normal freedom of private association.  The entanglement of state racial power and private racial power had gone on for too long and been engineered too deliberately for equality before the law to coexist with the normal extent of that freedom.

None of this means that property ownership, federalism, and freedom of association aren’t real values.  Some of it means that they’re means that can’t be prioritized over the ends that they serve; some of it means that they were falsely used to dress up the cause of racial dominance– but in a way that eventually shaped the public meaning those concepts have in American political life.

It all means that the link between those concepts and that cause isn’t a fringe problem.  It’s not a set of marginal cases.  In my view the Confederatistas perpetuate the white southerners’ two-century-long scam of dressing up the cause of racial dominance in classical liberal clothes, perverting the goal of liberty into the project of slavery.  This has been a defining fact of American political life; it has served to discredit some of those classical liberal values and institutions, while also perpetuating a story in which the freedom of African-Americans (postbellum as well as antebellum) lies somehow outside the calculus of American liberty.  These weren’t uniquely southern problems; they were problems in and of the American Revolution and Founding.  (Samuel Johnson on the Americans: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” See also Adam Smith’s prescient analysis of the problems of herrenvolk democracy, and why monarchies were better bets than republics for the abolition of slavery.)  But they became especially and enduringly southern problems, and the rival views about how to think about the Civil War are rival views about the meaning of classical liberal/ libertarian ideas in American political life.  Are those values that have been especially strongly associated with the states of the old Confederacy, making southern white pride an attractive source of energy for libertarianism today?  Or are they values that were both misused and publicly discredited by that association, and that need to be rescued from it?

Libertarians are rightly quick to say “that Che t-shirt you’re wearing stands for the entanglement between your socialist ideas and murderous totalitarian Communism.”  There are social democratic and democratic socialist traditions that were opposed to totalitarian Communism and continue to be so, and those who belong to those traditions are (at their best) thoughtful and attentive about the problem posed by that entanglement.  The fact that Communism used socialist ideas doesn’t discredit those ideas utterly and forever; but neither is it something to brush aside and pretend to be irrelevant, and certainly it’s not something to playfully flirt with (coughZizekcough).  It’s a live problem about the publicly understood meaning of socialist ideas and about their actual inner logic, and the social democratic thinkers I admire don’t shy away from that problem, and definitely don’t treat nostalgia for Stalinism as being a charming bit of egalitarian energy to draw on for support.  The Confederatistas’ romanticization of apartheid and continued conflation of libertarian ideas with southern nostalgia is a live problem in a similar way, and isn’t just a disagreement to paper over in search of a big tent for our little team to huddle under together. (Your  Stars & Bars t-shirt isn’t any cuter than the other guy’s Che t-shirt.)   The Confederatistas think that means that people like me are picking fights with them as a signalling device to curry favor with left-liberals; but the fact that they think so is itself a symptom of the fact that they don’t think the history of southern white racial dominance and terror is an especially important part of the history of American unfreedom.  For those of us who think otherwise– or, well, at least for me, as someone who thinks otherwise– this isn’t a difference that can be papered over.

  • Steven Horwitz

    Yes. Exactly this Jacob.

  • jtlevy

    One aside: this all means that I’m not in principle opposed to idea that, say, classical liberals’ opposition to Communism entangled them with support for vicious kinds of anti-Communist political actors (particularly in the developing world), or at least created a culpable blind spot when it came to those actors’ actions, and that this is a matter calling for contemporary reflection.

    Judith Shklar held that liberalism is “monogamously, faithfully, and permanently married to democracy — but it is a marriage of convenience.” I think that the history of libertarian temptation by murderous dictators so long as they were (or posed as) holders of the line against Communism might well call for libertarians to move toward a view like that. We don’t have to give up on our view that democracy is only instrumentally valuable, that collective self-government is not itself liberty, or that electoral majorities are often abusive and despotic. But we might have to treat it as nonnegotiable anyways. The temptation to negotiate it might very well be a bad heuristic, encouraging us to see liberalizing transitional dictators where, really, there are just dictators.

    I eagerly await the results of Kevin’s research.

  • Kevin Vallier

    FWIW, these sorts of considerations soured me entirely on southern revisionist history among libertarians around the time I turned 21. I grew up on the Gulf Coast in Alabama, and as a white Southern male in that culture, I was not as racially sensitive as I should have been (I’m sure I’m far from perfect now!). The deal was sealed quickly after my conversion to Christianity at the same age. When I came to realize how black Christians deeply and profoundly identified with Old Testament narratives on the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, I was somehow better able to appreciate the horror of it all. When I thought of black slaves crying to the God who is Love for liberation, I found myself especially moved. As I say in my writings, sometimes religious reasons are the ones that really break through for people, helping them to more clearly understand how to understand the flaws of their own culture and its history. I guess that’s true for me.

    Oddly, I’m sure I’m pretty alone in my journey. Christian libertarians tend to be much more sympathetic to Southern revisionism. Those hostile are almost always secular. A cultural coincidence, I hope.

    • Kevin Vallier

      I should add that I still very much love my Alabama home, and so much about its culture, but I like to think the parts I love can be separated from our dark legacy. I’m pretty sure I’m cool in my case, since I grew up in a town established by a Georgist splinter group in 1894 (Fairhope, AL) and its Fairhope I love most. When you’re standing on a bluff over Mobile Bay next to a three-sided obelisk (see photo) with Henry George quotes on each side, you’re probably not in the Southern mainstream! When I learned a little Civil War history, I felt inclined to defend my culture. When I learned a little more, I realized that I came from a pretty crazy quasi-socialist utopian experiment gone wrong, so I decided to love more locally!

      • (I dropped in via Volokh to hear the fuss so my comment is bewilderment — that anyone would think on ideological much less political grounds to defend slavery, which is obviously the bottom-line, literally — but I just wanted to tell you that I’ve been to Fairhope and it is a wonderful little town with the strangest history!)

    • Jameson Graber

      Thanks for this comment. You can count me among those Christian libertarians who have never been sympathetic to Southern revisionism.

    • matt b


      If I may, and I hope you don’t take offense, but if I may ask you about you’re being a Christian. I know of few philosophers who are theists of any kind or do you just mean that you subscribe to certain central Christian moral themes? Or do you believe in the virgin birth, walking on water, and so on and so forth?

      • Kevin Vallier

        Nicene Creed, all the way. And I am not alone. The Society of Christian Philosophers is the largest subgroup in the American Philosophical Association, with over 1100 members. We’re everywhere! Heck, I’m not even the only Christian on this blog! But they can reveal themselves as they like.


          Just out of curiousity, is there a Society of Jewish Philosophers? My guess is that this is not a rare species, and not merely in the sense of “has a Jewish mother.”

        • matt b

          I guess I’m with Bill Maher on this one to be honest: I just don’t see how you make a million and one decisions based on evidence in accordance with the principles of logic and then go and believe in talking snakes and people walking on water and a series of other stories from a period in which people didn’t know what a germ or an atom was. I don’t even know how you can believe in God when there is no evidence but it’s more plausible than the particular stories I just mentioned, at least deism is. I can certainly appreciate certain Christian moral principles but the theology of Christianity, or any religion, just strikes me as painfully silly.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I am sure that Kevin will immediately renounce his “painfully silly” Christianity and I, of course, will give up my equally silly Judaism now that you have weighed in with your unsolicited, but authoritative, opinion. Shockingly, I had never previously thought about whether my religious convictions could be reconciled with reason in the appropriate way, and I am sure the same is true for Kevin, and the countless Christian and Jewish philosophers, scientists, theologans, etc. who hold these “painfully silly” views. But, fortunately, we need not bother our pretty heads about this because you have offered us an absolutely irrebutable argument, and you are so very, very, smart and accomplished as demonstrated by your numerous books and publications in this field. Thanks!

          • matt b

            This is a rather strange response, though I’m sure not the one who down voted you. It’s so unnecessary. I’m not sure what the fact that religious people, whether they may be Jews or Christians or Muslims, have considered the argument that their views cannot be reconciled with reason and rejected it means here. People hold all sorts of views (belief in astrology for example) that they believe are perfectly compatible with reason. Should I and others who disagree stop criticizing them because they’ve thought about our arguments, rejected them, and went on to continue promoting astrology?

            I’m not sure what the fact that I haven’t written books in the field here means. Very few people who comment on anything have written, let alone published, a book in that area. By your logic, all of their arguments are invalid. If there was a section in Barnes and Noble with a book written by me entitled “Religion is Painfully Silly” would that somehow automatically make my argument more forceful in your eyes? It’s a truly odd standard to adopt but it’s not surprising because when people, perhaps especially intelligent people are questioned on beliefs that are utterly unsubstantiated by evidence, they often resort to adopting indefensible standards or wild charges (bigoted, don’t understand religion, secular fundamentalist and so on and so forth).

            Your empirical claims do not withstand the slightest scrutiny. The overwhelming majority of philosophers are atheists or agnostics and even more so with scientists. Sure you can find some philosophers and scientists who are religious just like you can find CEOs of below average height but they are very clearly in the minority.
            Now you took great offense to my description of religion as “painfully silly” So the floor is yours: do tell me how believing in the idea of a virgin birth and a man walking on water and the Noah’s Ark story is not “painfully silly.” And why Judaism or Christianity instead of Islam or Hinduism?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            As near as I can tell, you hold confident views on every possible subject, and yet in my experience these views are not backed up by a knowledge of the relevant literature or the sort of interesting, original thinking that makes it worthwhile to engage with them. Accordingly, forgive me for not wanting to discuss this subject further with you. However, if you want an education here, I suggest the writings of the philosopher Alvin Plantinga and the scientist Francis Collins.

          • matt b

            We both have views, regarding both moral claims and empirical assessments. I’d like for you to provide one piece of evidence that your views are better supported by “the relevant literature” than mine. You’ve committed the classic error of interpreting an absence of agreement as an absence of depth. As for original thinking, I’m not sure what that even means. You basically think Nozick solved the major questions of political philosophy and seem to think that the fact that people object to forced organ donations is a big gotcha against redistribution. Say what you want about such thinking but original….
            We’ve talked for months and months and had a series of (typically) reasoned and respectful exchanges. Sorry to hear this was just a big waste of time.
            I guess you’re just one of those people who, when challenged on the evidence free fairy tales they believe in, get upset but,rater than offering any sort of defense based on the reason that supposedly supports your faith, resort to the charge that the critic is either ignorant of how rational religion really is, is mean, or both. I guess there’s just some issues some people cannot discuss without getting emotional.

          • good_in_theory

            The funny thing about Theology is that the *more* one writes and publishes about it, the less credible they are…

          • matt b

            Exactly. I also find it funny that one of the people Mark mentions is Francis Collins who was utterly annihilated when he tried to defend his “rational faith” in Bill Maher’s documentary. He’s clearly not thought these things through very well. But he’s the guy they always bring up because there is so few scientists who are Christians or adherents of any faith for that matter. At the end of the day, it’s impossible to defend belief in virgin births and men walking on water so you have to resort to the charge that your critics or ignorant, mean-spirited, or both. It’s quite ridiculous.

          • Kevin Vallier

            Matt, from how dismissive you’re being, I’m not sure if my recommendations will be of interest to you, but I was an atheist for a long time before my conversion. Philosophy of religion helped me think through and set aside a number of my objections. It defeated my defeaters, in other words.

            In the sub-field of philosophy of religion, there are a huge number of theists and atheists in the field have far more respect for theistic belief than in philosophy generally. Yes, most philosophers are atheists. But while philosophers are OK outside of their sub-fields, they’re not all that great, so I’d stick to considering the arguments of the most important experts in the sub-field, that is, if you’re genuinely interested in exploring the rationality of theistic beliefs.

            You mention other religious views, but all I can say for them is that they gain considerable plausibility on theism, so my discussions with unfriendly atheists like yourself usually begins there.

            I think four philosophical considerations moved me from atheism to theism (other considerations drove me as well, but my own introspection on how I changed my views if of limited value).

            1. I closely examined many versions of the three classical argumentative classes for theistic belief: the cosmological, ontological and teleological arguments. I came to believe that there was a specific version of each argument that might succeed, and that while not a proof of God’s existence, made theistic belief rational. For my part, I like the cosmo arguments put forth by Alex Pruss and my friend Josh Rasmussen. You can google their stuff. I quite like Plantinga’s modal ontological argument, though Godel’s is also nice. And while I reject biological teleological arguments, I think cosmological fine-tuning arguments give one reason to believe theism over atheism, especially the classic one developed by Robin Collins. I also quite like the Bayesian rationalist approach to theistic belief offered by Richard Swinburne in many of his works.

            2. I decided that the problem of evil did not provide a defeater for God’s existence. I moved to adopt the skeptical reply, which I favored based on reading Stephen Wykstra and Peter Van Inwagen. I can send you links to their articles if you like. Trent Dougherty also has a nice summary of where the literature is on the problem of evil in Analysis that’s available in free PDF. I was also hugely influenced by Eleanore Stump’s masterpiece, Wandering in Darkness. I took a seminar with her while I was reading it.

            3. I came to believe that naturalism is almost certainly false (the view that all that exists is describable by physics). On my best analysis, all of the following phenomena are incompatible with naturalism: mathematical knowledge, knowledge of modal truths (see Mike Rea’s World Without Design on this), consciousness, intentionality, free will, moral responsibility and morality itself. This led me to believe in immaterial substances. I came to be a substance dualist about the mind (or a Thomstic hylomorphist, depending on my mood). And once I thought there we were immaterial souls, believing in pure spirits became a lot less implausible.

            4. I came to believe that theistic belief did not require a higher degree of evidence to be rational than almost any other belief. Atheists tend to hold theistic belief to a ridiculously high evidential standard, but Plantinga and Wolterstorff convinced me this was mistaken. I now think either one needs no evidence whatsoever to believe in God (just as one needs no evidence to believe in other minds or the external world) or that one needs only very modest evidence.

            So, again, assuming you’re genuinely interested, there are four intellectual factors that moved me toward theism.

          • matt b

            I appreciate the thoughtful response and I’m actually an agnostic and not an atheist and atheism dogma can be awful too. I don’t think I was dismissive of you but rather of biblical literalism which I’m still not sure whether or not you believe in and, again, I don’ think I was unfriendly towards you but rather towards Mark response which was long on sophomoric sarcasm and short on substance (and Mark if you’re reading this I don’t think that’s true of your posts generally which I think are quite good, this just seems to have struck a chord emotionally).
            I think there’s a big difference between the views you lay out and what I spend most of my time critiquing which is the fairy tales/ miracles and the idea of a God who watches you like the NSA and punishes you if you’re gay or have sex before marriage. You don’t seem to subscribe to that though, or maybe you do believe in the miracles? You also don’t seem to think the Bible must be accepted in its entirety.

          • ThomasD

            “I just don’t see how you make a million and one decisions based on evidence in accordance with the principles of logic…”
            Far be it from me to challenge your wholly unscientific, faith based misconceptions of human behavior…

  • Bruno Mynthi Showers

    “…and isn’t just a disagreement to paper over in search of a big tent for our little team to huddle under together. The Confederatistas think that means that people like me are picking fights with them as a signalling device to curry favor with left-liberals; but the fact that they think so is itself a symptom of the fact that they don’t think the history of southern white racial dominance and terror is an especially important part of the history of American unfreedom. For those of us who think otherwise– or, well, at least for me, as someone who thinks otherwise– this isn’t a difference that can be papered over…”

    Amen. Couldn’t stand Tom Woods piece on “sweetie pie” libertarians because apparently he thinks the only reasons one could be against the neoconfederates is because they either a) support Lincoln or b) want to cater to those who do. How foolish. IMO.

    • Bruno Mynthi Showers

      I don’t want this post to be taken as a shot at the Lew Rockwell or Mises Institute crowd in toto… If they weren’t around, there would be no praxeological economics, and that would be bad (again, of course, imo).

      • jdkolassa

        Eh, praxeology is overrated. Though I think Mises himself wasn’t a bad guy. His followers, on the other hand…

        • Fallon

          What exactly about praxeology you don’t like? How do you come to your criticism? I am new to understanding science. Yet I cannot find a knock-out blow to the teleological systematization of the general trend in economic thinking over centuries: starting from simple, rather non-controversial, propositions and deducing from there. ‘Humans act consciously using scarce means to attain scarce ends….’

          You may say that Misesean thinking fails falsifiability criterion and, hence– is more like poetry (Tyler Cowen), or ought to be sharply sequestered like religion, faith, Marxism, Freudianism, astrology, and other such realms of unprovables and unobservables, i.e. metaphysics.

          As wary of this criticism one should be– it still needs to be recognized that any science at the pragmatic level, no matter how far into realism, probability, or even these formers’ constructive empiricist objections one travels– there are always unobservable phenomena and unprovable assumptions about causality embedded. That’s just how science goes. At least that’s how it appears to me now.

          This is not to say that there is no difference between religious faith assumptions and scientific causality. But what about Austrian praxeology makes faith assumptions?

          As an ancillary note re your “followers” comment. Isn’t it quite possible and reasonable to hold e.g. Hans Hoppe’s defense of apriorism in very high regard while damning his foray into racialism? Or are we to be like children and it’s all or nothing?

          • jdkolassa

            The problem I see with praxeology is that it’s more of a “we can sit here and think about things, and discover things through this thinking.” That’s not even wrong. While I am a big fan of rationalism–indeed, in the Hayek distinction of the “British Tradition” and “French Tradition” of classical liberal, I lean a bit more French–it needs to be tempered with empiricism. Most Miseans (is that how it’s spelled?) don’t seem to temper it with anything. That’s the problem with praxeology as I see it.

            As for my “followers” comment, many fans of Mises are kinda cultish. They’re not the only ones, you see it in many groups–Objectivists, Molyneux’s “group,” etc.–but I see it a lot in the LvMI crowd. Some of the writings from LvMI almost read like passages from the Bible. “For as von Mises said…”

            Sure, if someone gets X right but Y, W, Z, V, A, B, and C wrong, I’ll praise them for X and call them out for everything else. As for your specific example of Hoppe, though, there’s really nothing there that deserves praise. He’s just a nutjob.

          • Bruno Mynthi Showers

            “Praxeology without thymology is empty. Thymology without praxeology is blind.”

          • Fallon

            Even if it were a cult it would not be of Mises, but Rothbard. Nonetheless, the ideas still have to be judged on their own merits. And given that the disparate likes of BHL Prof Long, who publishes in the Industrial Radical, and Hoppe have good things to say about apriorism…. what kind of cult would it be? Or is it that some are nutjobs and others are cultists? Unless you want to pull back the lens and make it an Austrian cult. But then now you would have to explain why there are changes, differences between Menger, Bohm-Bawerk, Wieser, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and many others. I believe Charles Koch still likes Mises too.

            If aprioristic econ were only derived from mere contemplation, like some modern Descartes project, you would have a point. But there is much reflection upon observation too, even if ‘discovery’ maintains a deductive logical structure. Many propositions remain contingent. Money only comes into play under certain conditions, e.g. Further, Rothbard borrowed from Aristotle as a starting point, not the organization of Kant, the latter trying to resolve the rationalist/empiricist divide. Rothbard began his apriorism from general observation.

            If the aprioristic method does not solidly refer to reality then it has no value.

            Hayek did not add the empiricist compromise at the individual level, though. When referring to social interaction is where Hayek leaves his one time teacher Mises’s apriorism and adds some Popper and Quine friendly mods.

            Empiricism in social science, and especially econ, is problematic because the very concepts that give meaning to phenomena are themselves dependent on aprioristic thinking. e.g. One does not understand “exchange” unless one already has the concept in hand. Again, the discovery of this concept may be inspired empirically but does not rest on empirical foundations.

          • jdkolassa

            “Even if it were a cult it would not be of Mises, but Rothbard.”

            Fair enough. Most of the problem is with Rothbard, not Mises.

            “Or is it that some are nutjobs and others are cultists?”

            Nutjobs and cultists are kinda synonyms.

            “Unless you want to pull back the lens and make it an Austrian cult. But then now you would have to explain why there are changes, differences between Menger, Bohm-Bawerk, Wieser, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and many others. I believe Charles Koch still likes Mises too.”

            Nah, mostly just the Rothbard/Lew Rockwell types. Hayek and Mises are okay.

            “One does not understand “exchange” unless one already has the concept in hand.”

            That could apply to anything and everything.

          • Fallon

            Yeah, there is no need for demarcating the natural from social science or, more specifically, economics. Mill’s methods, falsification, reproducible experimentation, physics? Meh.

            And what’s with this super collider nonsense?

  • Aeon Skoble

    Nails it. Spot on. And I love this digest version: “Your Stars & Bars t-shirt isn’t any cuter than the other guy’s Che t-shirt.”

    • Fallon

      Then explain the semiotics of the popular tv show The Dukes of Hazzard. Or Lynyrd Skynyrd?

    • Fallon

      And the USA flag, representing slavery, destruction of the native populations, Jim Crow, segregation, the rape and pillage of the Phillipines….?

  • Fernando Teson

    Agree entirely, Jacob and Steve. I gave my arguments on this forum: The infatuation of some with the Confederate cause goes back to some nefarious passages by Rothbard, and should be rejected with the utmost firmness. It’s not even close.

  • Wow. Powerful and emotionally moving article. Bravo.

  • Theresa Klein

    IIRC, some of the founders, maybe it was George Mason, I don’t recall exactly who, commented on how the British had essentially inflicted this stain on the New World by transporting slaves from Africa to work on plantations. You have to take into account how so many of the early settlers were religious refugees who saw the New World as a “promised land”, free of original sin. Lots of them had utopian dreams of founding a perfect Christian society. So from that perspective many of them saw slavery as a profound violation of what was an unstained “New” World and lamented what they saw as this sin having been inflicted upon them by the “Old” World. I believe some cited it as a reason for rebelling.

    • Damien S.

      The Spanish had first enslaved the Indians, then been importing African slaves from the early 1500s. Loewen says the first Old World settlers in the future United States were probably black slaves from a failed Spanish colony.

      Lots of the early settlers were here to make money. Jamestown and New Amsterdam bracket Plymouth. It’s been said the bulk of the white immigration to the US were indentured servants. And Puritan Massachusetts is said to be the first British colony with slaves.

      Blaming it on “the British” is rather rich, too; the founders were largely descendants of those very British.

    • good_in_theory

      A good book on this is WEB Du Bois’s dissertation: the Suppression of the African Slave Trade.

    • good_in_theory

      It’s even free online. It’s very well outlined in its set up so you can get a nice picture of the conflicts over slavery from it:

  • Jesse Walker

    Someone needs to make a T-shirt of Che against a Confederate battle flag. Just to see who would buy it.

  • Russell Arben Fox


    Best. Side comment. Ever. (Or at least today.) Bravo, Jacob (for the aside and the whole post).

  • Libertymike

    Jacob, a well written essay.
    However, your column is not without its strawmen and misapprehensions.
    First, as a matter of fact and intellectual honesty, it is axiomatic that just because one is critical of Saint Abraham, it does not thereby follow that one is sympathetic to the cause of the ante-bellum south and to the CSA. Thus, to label one who denounces Lincoln as a neo-confederate, is pure, unadulterated intellectual dishonesty.
    Second, I note that you do not allege that Tom Woods or Prof. DiLorenzo or Murray Rothbard or Walter Williams or Judge Napolitano “romanticiz[e] apartheid” or “conflate[e] libertarian ideas with southern nostalgia.” It would appear that you have a certain construct in mind when referring to the “Confederatistas”, but, alas, you do not provide a specific example of a such a person. Put another way, you did not cite a single person who poses as a libertarian and uses the language of liberty and property rights as cover for his fondness of ante-bellum southern culture and the plight of the slave owning class.
    Third, your failure to identity a single person, never mind a libertarian, who “perpetuate[]s the white southerners’ two-century-long scam of dressing up the cause of racial dominance in classical liberal clothes” only serves to undercut your thesis. Instead of giving us some flesh and bones, you have erected a strawman.
    Instead of looking for racism or tacit acceptance of life in the ante-bellum south in writers like Woods, Rothbard, Williams, Rockwell and DiLorenzo, those critical of such thinkers should thank them for puncturing holes in the Lincoln hagiography. It was not Robert E. Lee who masterminded and planned for the extermination of the Plains Indians. It was not southern white pride which forcibly uprooted the Cheyenne and the Sioux and the Arapaho and penned them into concentration camps. It was not Jefferson Davis who orchestrated the Sand Creek Massacre on November 20, 1864, where, in addition to the men slain, over 100 women and children were slaughtered by union army boys as part of Lincoln’s war of extermination.
    It was not southern white racial pride which instituted the income tax. It was a power hungry, crony capitalist, mass murderer who championed and imposed the income tax.
    It was not southern white racial pride which insisted upon a high protective tariff. The tariff was championed by a power hungry, crony capitalist, mass murderer. The tariff stifled competition and was nothing more than naked theft and protection for the businesses who supported the power hungry, crony capitalist, mass murderer.
    It has been the legacy of Lincoln, i.e., the income tax, the great centralization of the government, creating bigger and more intrusive bureaucracies, the creation of concentration camps, the triumph of equality at the expense of individual liberty, the mass murder of civilians, the willingness to make total war, the triumph of democracy at the expense of individual liberty, the planned extermination of ethnic minorities, the mushrooming of debt, the suspension of HC and the constitution, creating a gulag in the North at places like Fort Washington, the incarceration of thousands of writers, reporters, editors and publishers who opposed the regime and crony capitalism, which has played a far greater role, to borrow your phrase, “in the history of American unfreedom”.
    It should also not be forgotten that the likes of Woods, Rockwell, Butler Shaffer, Prof. DiLorenzo, Brian Walter Cisco and Judge Napolitano are writing against the dominant narrative that Lincoln was a great man who “saved the Union” and “freed the slaves” and helped to make America great. How many buildings, monuments, obelisks, parks, streets and schools are named after Lincoln and how many are named after Lysander Spooner?

    • j r

      There’s a reason that things are named for Lincoln and not Spooner and when you understand why you’ll understand why the Paulite branch of the libertarian universe will likely never accomplish anything meaningful, other than making themselves feel alternately righteous and persecuted.

      • Libertymike

        And that reason is…………………?

        • j r

          That Spooner’s actions didn’t lead to the end of slavery, but Lincoln’s did.

          • Libertymike

            Ah, that is not exactly the whole truth.

            Are you claiming that the actions of Spooner and other abolitionists did not have any impact upon the resolution of slavery?

            It would be hard to answer my query in the negative given the ample evidence that some abolitionists provided assistance to those fleeing slavery. They certainly assisted the likes of George Latimer win his freedom.

          • j r

            Spooner and the abolitionists as a group certainly did a tremendous amount of work both in assisting individuals and towards the end of slavery as an institution. However, I am specifically talking about Spooner’s opposition to the war and defense of southern secession. It was Lincoln who fought the war, it was Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and it was Lincoln who pushed through the 13th Amendment.

            It is certainly a tremendous tragedy that it took a war and 600,00 deaths to end slavery in this country, but that is what it did take. That is the historical truth of it. The idea that there was some other way completely ignores the fact that slavery as an institution was more important to the southern economy in 1860 than it was in 1800.

            More importantly, I can’t understand the Civil War as a discrete event. It can only be understood as part a longer ongoing war against all of those men and women who were kidnapped, beaten, raped, extorted and murdered.

          • DavidCheatham

            More importantly, I can’t understand the Civil War as a discrete event. It can only be understood as part a longer ongoing war against all of those men and women who were kidnapped, beaten, raped, extorted and murdered.

            This. The Civil War was just a very violent middle of a three and a half century long assault in this country against human beings with darker skin tones. (Let’s say from ~1630 to ~1970, and yes I know ‘1630’ isn’t ‘this country’.)
            We just remember the Civil War because some whites decided to join in on the black side for a bit, which caused some confusion and disarray in the white government, and got a lot of _white_ people killed. (And the same with the ‘Civil Right’s Movement’, aka, ‘When some moderately large amount of white people started finally caring, again, about the struggles of black people’.)

  • Irfan Khawaja

    For a sustained libertarian defense of the Union cause in the American Civil War, I’d recommend this 2006 piece in Reason Papers by Tim Sandefur:

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    Look, I grew up in the South, and those of us with brains were not proud of slavery or Jim Crow. But we were proud of the somtimes heroic armed struggle against a superior foe. We certainly did not wish to live in an elitist Confederate States of America even if slavery would have eventually been eliminated. But we did think that Federalism and local government suffered too much in the aftermath of the civil rights movement.
    It is possible to hold these views simultaneously, they are not mutually exclusive.

    • Mark

      This is the typical Neo-Libertarian Confederate response everytime their in an ideological bump. Roll over and cry “it is possible to hold these views simultaneously, they are not mutually exclusive.”….sorry..stop trying to whitewash history.

  • Pingback: Neo-secessionism, anti-Zionism, and the epistemology of counterfactual conditionals in historical inquiry « The Institute for Objectivist Studies()

  • Fallon

    This post has all of the critical incisiveness of a tide pool jellyfish. Where
    are the names, quotations? Could it be that the classical liberalism and
    market anarchism of the Lew Rockwell ambit far outweighs whatever truth
    might be in Levy’s narrative? And if all the facts were on the
    table, might it actually suggest that it is really the Levy “liberaltarian” crowd that covers over violence of a greater magnitude– that of the state–through their decadent ‘social justice’ rhetoric and “history”?

    Surely BHLs can do better than officially enforced Nor’east secular elitist prejudice.

    • jtlevy

      Interesting fact: the CSA was a state. So too were the southern states under Jim Crow.”State” is not a synonym for “the entity that is headquartered in Washington DC.”

      • CT

        Excellent point. This whole states’ rights bullshit is just that, bullshit. If you really believe in secession then, logically, this right must reside with the individual. If you claim to be a volunteerist, the confederate states were just as illegitimate as Washington.

      • Fallon

        My word, you are headed in the right direction. If the CSA was allowed to go on then that would have meant not one, but two states. So obviously the pro-secessionists were even more statist, and hippocritters to boot! Because two is…. more than one and less than three.

  • Mark

    About libertarian immigration, I tend to be more on the open borders side of immigration but you absolutely can be skeptical of immigration and be a libertarian. Thomas Sowell certainly is very skeptical. Would it be moral to allow socialists free immigration into the US and voting rights? I don’t think so at all.

    I used to think the instigators of libertarian conflicts was the Rockwell crowd. I’m clearly wrong about that. It is absolutely insane the intolerance of libertarians toward other libertarians.

    It is always amusing reading the self importance of different libertarian factions and their commitment to ideological chastity. Just so everyone is in reality. 95% (or more) of the coverage that libertarian ideas get in the media comes from Rand Paul and Ron Paul. There would be no public discourse of Austrian Economics without Ron Paul. It would be nice to see these blogs at least get behind the best things to ever happen to libertarianism, instead of chortling with each other about how urbane you are and how uncouth everyone else is.

    • “Would it be moral to allow socialists free immigration into the US and voting rights? I don’t think so at all.”

      The term “open borders” is synonymous with the term “free labor market.” A socialist who avails himself of an open border is no different than a capitalist who closes the border up. Both are selective defenders of markets, and selective opponents.

      How far can we push this contradiction? Do you oppose the sale of financial instruments to socialists? Do you oppose the sale of goods and services to socialists? Do you favor higher taxes on socialists?

      • Mark

        The answer is, of course, no on all of the questions and it’s hard to see the larger point that you were making with them.

        I am for a free market of labor and am for open borders-just for labor. The question is should anyone get citizenship. I believe the answer is probably no. It is immoral to use government to vote away someone else’s property. I see no reason why you can’t withhold voting rights to groups that have a propensity to vote socialist. The citizens of a country should not have to be altruistically self-sacrificing to people entering the country.

        • Sergio Méndez


          What makes you think inmigrants are more prone “to vote away someone else’s property” than natives? As far I am concerned, natives in the US who have voted republica nd and democrat have consistently violated not only the property rights of individuals, but also all other forms of freedom.

        • DavidCheatham

          It is immoral to use government to vote away someone else’s property.

          Whereas, according to you, it _is_ moral for human beings to live in this country and have no ability to have any say over its governance. Because that _certainly_ couldn’t cause any problems. It’s not like we had a revolution over that.

          Oh, and it’s entirely permissible, according to you, as to what groups should have voting rights based on what they are likely to vote for.

          People here often look at me, confused, when I assert that the belief that ‘taxes are theft’ is _harmful_. Not just wrong, but it is an outright harmful belief. They wonder why I think that.

          _This_ is why. Right here. If a _function of the government_ is defined as immoral, and yet is very popular, it’s only a certain amount of time before the _only_ possible step to ‘fix it’ is ‘not letting the majority of people who like that behaviour vote’.

          And, no, this isn’t the same thing as stuff like the first amendment, which can indeed be repealed with super majority support, was passed democratically, and is, in fact, actually popular in general, even if specific violations might tip a 51% threshold. This is easy to demonstrate by the fact we _have_ a first amendment, and we have very few restriction on taxes.

          Beliefs that are so far outside the mainstream that they have no support eventually result in _goddamn nonsense_ from true believers who can’t grasp why no one is willing to support their idea that it is immoral to fund the government, or whatever weird believe they have. This goddamn nonsense tends to be in the form of fetishing violent revolution, or restricting voting rights for ‘dumb people’, or whatever the hell would eventually get their very unpopular ideas in power.

          None of them seems to notice that governments govern by consent of the governed. And if the US constitution really does give people the freedom to not be taxed (It doesn’t, but let’s pretend.) then what would _actually_ happen is a constitutional amendment changing that, because, uh, people being taxed is fairly damn popular as a general policy.

          And it’s certainly fine to argue that certain things should have a higher threshold. I can see the argument that the New Deal should have required a constitutional amendment or two. But the problem is…it would have _gotten_ them.

          Libertarians have a _real_ problem with this idea, especially when they retreat behind philosophy, inventing all sorts of moral arguments that means everything they’re saying is true.

        • good_in_theory

          “I see no reason why you can’t withhold voting rights to groups that have a propensity to vote socialist.”

          I think that should stand for itself.

        • reason60

          ” It is immoral to use government to vote away someone else’s property. ”
          This is what genuinely puzzles me.
          What undergirds this moral principle?
          Is it a self-evident postulate, or is it the conclusion of some moral argument?

          • Mark

            What is immoral for an individual is also immoral for a government.

          • reason60

            I’m not getting the leap you make from one line to another.
            Your first statement was sweeping and unqualified; was this your intent, or are you acknowledging qualified conditions under which it is perfectly moral to outvote someone’s right to property?
            I usually see property rights argued in utilitarian terms, and understand the moral case for the right to property, but the moral case is always conditioned, that an individual’s right to property was balanced by the moral right of the community to define its own conditions.

          • good_in_theory

            It’s just a means of smuggling in the presumption that standards of propriety are unambiguous and easily settled.

            It is immoral to exclusively claim things for oneself without consulting others.

          • Nathanael

            Particularly land. Every coherent theory of land ownership says that land is either the natural inheritance of all humans jointly, or owned by a broader group of species larger and above and beyond humans.

            You find such theories of land ownership among the Iroquois. You do not find them among the fanatical property-rights people, who maintain an incoherent and unsustainable theory of property.

            The only property which we have an absolute and unconditional right to — is our own bodies and minds. Everything else… well, we were born with nothing else, and we must have taken something from someone else or from the commons in order to get any other property. Therefore all other property is conditional on societal approval.

          • good_in_theory

            But but but society doesn’t exist. Collectivist! Collectivist!

    • j r

      The Confederacy does not rank in the top 10000 issues that are currently important.

      Would that were so.

      In fact, the arguments over history are just a proxy for a whole other set of beliefs. Confederatista-ism is really just white populism (ie the belief that America is inherently a white, Christian, heterosexual nation and that any gains by other groups represent an encroachment on the real America). And white populism is incredibly relevant to almost every other important issue: immigration, the drug war, gay marriage, fiscal spending, etc.

    • matt b

      Intolerance? Of crypto-racists and people who, if not racist themselves, act as apologists on behalf and romanticize vicious oppression? Yeah I’m pretty intolerant of that and make no apologies.

      I think we need to be very clear that Rand Paul holds a series of decidedly unlibertarian views and to the extent that libertarianism is identified with him it’s a mixed blessing at best. I think it further alienates thoughtful people on the center-left, As for Austrian econ, I get a little annoyed when I see it identified as libertarian. Many libertarians reject, in whole or part, the Austrian worldview so it’s not synonymous with libertarianism.
      Finally, I just reject the idea that the Pauls are the best thing to have ever happened to libertarianism. I would put Hayek and Friedman and Buchanan in that category, not people who have spent years in bed with the racist far right.

      • CT

        “As for Austrian econ, I get a little annoyed when I see it identified as libertarian”
        What would you identify it as then? It may not be the only strand of libertarian econ but I don’t see any other label for it.

        • matt b

          I just meant synonymous with libertarianism as if people who reject Austrian econ are secret statists.

          • Fallon

            You are an open statist on war. The only way that your interventionism can work is if there is a trillion dollar military machine spread out around the globe. This disqualifies you, like Mark Friedman, from being taken seriously as a libertarian.

      • Mark

        Ron Paul has almost certainly convinced more people in just the last 5 years of libertarian philosophy than Hayek, Friedman, and Buchanan combined during their entire careers.

        If you think Rand Paul is hurting the spread of libertarianism, you are not rational. There is no libertarian movement in politics without Rand Paul. He’s it and will likely be it for the foreseeable future. His reach to new libertarians is magnitudes greater than Reason, Cato, and Mises.

        Austrian econ might not be libertarian explicitly, though it seems that almost every self-identified Austrian is one.

        • matt b

          Oh wow where to begin. First of all you speak of “libertarian philosophy” as if it’s monolithic when, in reality, there are many different strands with Ron Paul representing a strand many of us consider profoundly unattractive (the newsletters, friendliness with the Lew Rockwell crowd, isolationism and so on and so forth).

          I think it’s hard to argue against your empirical claims about his influence when it comes to turning on college students and disaffected folks and so on and so forth. But in terms of practical policy impact he’s accomplished little. His purist, make the perfect the enemy of the good approach actually leads him to oppose steps in the right direction such as free trade and school choice. Compare that to Milton Friedman who played a major role in ending the draft, the monetary policy reforms of the 80s, and other economic reforms such as the lowering of rates and the reduction of regulation.

          Now please don’t me wrong. I’m not totally anti- Ron Paul, I appreciate much of what he’s said and the way he’s given libertarian ideas like opposition to the drug war and bailouts attention but I dislike the uncritical way he’s often received. Any guy who puts out racist, homophobic, xenophobic, “the Jews are in control” fringe far right newsletters under his name (and no I don’t believe he wrote them but that’s no excuse) is hurting us as well as helping us.

      • Spatial Orientation

        “Finally, I just reject the idea that the Pauls are the best thing to have ever happened to libertarianism. ”

        Agreed. And that would place libertarianism in one sad state of affairs if two politician asshats are the best thing to happen to a movement that counts, Hume, Smith, Hayek, etc., for its intellectual force.

        • matt b


    • Damien S.

      “The Confederacy does not rank in the top 10000 issues that are currently important.”

      Related issues definitely are in the top rank, though. Cf. the recent court decision crippling the Voting Rights Act, and the widespread moves to de facto limit the right to vote.

  • jtlevy

    To the commentators below who suggest that there’s no such thing as Confederatista or Confederate-nostalgic libertarians, only upstanding principled people who consistently uphold libertarian principles and through that consistency are led to oppose Abraham Lincoln, I’ll note:

    Jack Hunter not only ran around with a Stars and Bars luchador mask; he was a member and chapter leader of the League of the South. Even on their self-description, they’re a southern Christian-nationalist secessionist organization devoted to protecting the “Anglo-Celtic” “core population and culture” of the south, “structured upon the Biblical notion of hierarchy […with] a recognition of the natural societal order of superiors and subordinates.”

    This is not the non-aggression principle or a matter of interpreting the legality of secession under the 1787 constitution or a principles concern about Lincoln’s violation of habeas corpus. This is active support for the southern white cause, openly continuous with that cause’s history. The League is, by its own description, named after the League of United Southerners, a proslavery– yes, actually proslavery– antebellum group of secessionists.

    There: now I’ve named a name. Anyone want to claim that the League of the South is reasonably thought of as neo-Confederate? head on over to DixieNet and poke around before you answer.

    • Libertymike

      The fact remains that Jacob did not identity a single example of the Confederatistas phenomenon of which he writes.
      I did poke around at the League of the South’s cite and could not find any indication that they claimed to be libertarian, much less anarcho-free enterprise-individualists like Rockwell, Justin Raimondo, Tom Woods, Butler Shaffer or Bob Wenzel.

      • j r

        How about this essay on Just War by Murray Rothbard on Lew Rockwell’s site?

        Calling the “War for Southern Independence” one of only two just wars in American history would certainly seem to count, no?

        • dino

          Or this one defending David Duke.

          • CT

            It’s absolutely deplorable what Rockwell and Rothbard have done to the legacy of Mises.

          • CT

            Actually, I’m amazed at how there seem to be two Rothbards; the one who did an amazing job simplifying Bohm-Bawerk, Mises, Hayek, etc. and analyzing economic history …. then there’s unfortunately this Rothbard.
            And I agree with the general thrust of this post, the tent is much too large in some libertarian camps. It is one thing to criticize Lincoln and the way slavery was ended, but it is quite another to act as if the south was some kind of victim.

        • Libertymike

          Please cite where in this column Rothbard applauded southern white racial pride or white power or ante-bellum southern culture.
          Rothbard was making the point that Solzhitnitsyn often made:
          The higher the ends the higher must be the means.

        • Libertymike

          How so?

          Again, my point is that Jacob did not refer us to a particular individual who professes to be an anarcho-free enterprise-individualist but who nonetheless professes to love ante-bellum southern culture or love southern white racial pride, etc.

          As for your citation of Rockwell’s article, I do not see where he expresses some kind of affinity for ante-bellum southern culture or southern white racial pride, etc.

      • jtlevy

        I’m authentically puzzled. Why do you not think that Jack Hunter is an identified example?

        • Spatial Orientation

          I’m also confused. Where does Jacob’s comment say or claim that the League of the South is a libertarian or libertarian supporting entity?

        • Libertymike

          Mr. Hunter is not, as a matter of fact, an anarcho-free enterprise-individualist. Nor, as far as I can see, does he claim to be one.

    • Fallon

      Hunter is usually tagged with the paleo-conservative label, not libertarian. There is elective affinity (thanks Corey Robin for this silly phrase, ha) there– since Tom Woods shares an anti-neoconservatism with Hunter. Sorry, you will have to try again.

      Further, I have listened to Thomas Fleming and Clyde Wilson lecture on the South– and I do not recall either of them being pro-slavery in anyway. In fact, Wilson called it a stain on the South’s history. Wilson is quite big on Mises, too. Mises, a pro-secessionist, came down on the Noth’s side nonetheless. And speaking of Fleming and Wilson, it is well known that there are internal debates at League of the South over the status of blacks, etc. I am not defending that organization. But in what way is it libertarian or using libertarianism at all?

      There are bodies to be dug up. But your comment shows no indication that you want to rise above the dumbed-down Southern Poverty Law Center version of events.

  • adrianratnapala

    I have no idea what a “cosmotarian” is — it sounds like the result of a Soviet space launch gone horribly wrong.

    • Tim O’Keefe

      A cosmotarian is a little-known drink made with vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and lemon juice.

  • martinbrock

    The American Declaration of Independence was a thinly veiled effort to preserve slavery in British colonial North America four years after the Somersett case effectively ended enforcement of slavery in the British Isles under monarch notable for staunch opposition to slavery. Every “libertarian” pretense of the revolution was political cover for this indisputable historical context, and to this day, defenders of the United State (including the Washington Post) and its most totalitarian rulers (including Abraham Lincoln) participate in the contrary national mythology.

    So don’t bore me with the neo-confederate BS. It’s just more of the same diversionary tactic.

  • Eric Hosemann

    The Confederacy was despicable, evil, and worthy of the contempt of all thinking and caring people, all of which raises the question of why the Union spent so much blood and treasure in making sure such a despicable collection of evil remained a part of it! Rightly condemning the Confederacy and mocking its modern “supporters” seems as good an argument for secession as any I have heard. Yes, slavery was abolished, but it was abolished elsewhere with less bloodshed. Yes, slavery is wrong, but the post-bellum Union still practiced conscription, which is slavery by another name. Yes, the South has a terrible legacy of racism, but this in no way absolves the north’s similar legacy of restrictive labor laws and licensing and zoning rules that amount to de facto prohibitions against minorities working in certain fields and owning property. In focusing our disgust on a war and culture in which none of us fought or lived through we run the risk of sidelining the more important discussion of what is racist and horrible now, which is the only time frame we can do anything about.

    • Devon Sanchez

      “The Confederacy was despicable, evil, and worthy of the contempt of all thinking and caring people”

      …And so is the Union. Why dwell on “what is racist and horrible now”? If the greater American population have learned nothing of the gross misuse of power of the American Civil War, in what many people thought and continue to think of as a legitimate state action, then how do we hope to learn from the discussion of any new “racist” or horrible (social) occurrence?

      • TracyW

        We should dwell on what’s racist and horrible now because we can do something about what’s happening now.

        We can’t go back in time and make the Union in 1870 less racist, nor the Confederacy.

        And why do you speak of the gross misuse of power of the American Civil War, and not the grosser misuse of power of the US Confederacy?

        • Libertymike

          Upon what factual basis do you assert that the CSA’s misuse of power was “grosser”?
          Did the CSA plan and execute the extermination of the Plains Indians?
          Did the CSA plan and execute the 38 Santee Sioux in the largest mass hanging in US history?
          Did the CSA plan and execute the extermination of hundreds of thousands of civilians?

          • TracyW

            The holding of slaves of millions of people. That’s the basis.

          • Libertymike

            So, which is worse, holding slaves or mass murder?

          • j r

            Also, arguing over whether slavery or the Indian Wars is worse is really daft. Reasonable people should be able to condemn them both.

            I am curious. What is it exactly that makes you want to defend the CSA? There is a long history of mythologizing the antebellum south that is intimately tied up with white supremacy. Of all the causes that hard libertarians could champion, why this one?

            It should be pretty obvious to anyone with a modicum of reading comprehension to realize that Rothbard and Rockwell were trying to tap into white populism in order to bring more people to libertarianism. What’s not so obvious is why people like you cannot see this.

            Libertarians often do this weird thing where, in attempt to elevate deductive reasoning, they end up with all sorts of absolutely absurd beliefs. So, taxation is theft and debt is slavery, but actual slavery is, eh, no big deal… it would have died out eventually.

            If you hold up liberty as the absolute highest value, but you decry Alexander Hamilton (an abolitionist) as a great villain because he supported a central bank and hold up Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, as some sort of libertarian idea because he wrote pretty words, then you’re doing this whole libertarian thing very wrong.

          • Fallon

            It is true that Rockwell and Rothbard sought to exploit white populism. And Rockwell is still paying the price; rightly so. It does not end there though. At least for those who are willing to leave the plantation. It gave Rockwell’s enemies– especially other libertarians associated with Koch, Cato and DC, easy means to deflect attention away from their own hypocrisies. Indeed, letting Horwitz and Levy define the issue is creating counter perversity. If you gain basic familiarity with Tom Woods’ work on interposition, nullification and secession, you will understand that there is no core defense of state, CSA or otherwise.

            Again, I think the case is stronger that the opposition to Rockwell use the race and neoconfederate card so they do not have to defend against e.g. the political ideas of John C. Calhoun or the anti-Establishment, anti-war, free market angle of Ron Paul. In fact, they can continue their comfortable status-quo sycophancy uninterrupted.

            They remind one of a puritanical teacher that upon hearing a kid yell “Fucking fire!” allows the kids to die because the swear word must be dealt with first.

          • Fallon

            Jeffrey Rogers Hummel offers some strong counter Woods’ here:

            This is a criticism of a pre- anti-state Woods, however.

          • Libertymike

            Why do you persist in the false narratives that I want to defend the CSA and that I favor the mythologized version of the ante-bellum South?
            You keep attempting to squeeze me into your narrative cookie cutter. You will note that I do not and have never considered any type of slavery as “eh, no big deal”. Why do you continue to conflate condemnation of Lincoln’s mass murdering ways with acceptance of slavery?

          • TracyW

            It depends on the numbers. A million is, as a number, really amazingly bigger than, say, 10, or 38. We tend to forget this because government budgets are so big that a billion looks small, but it’s still true. For example, a million seconds is about 12 days, even though a second is a very short period of time.
            And an ongoing situation affecting multiple generations is different to a one-off event, even a one-off mass murder.

            So, I think holding millions of people as slaves for the whole of their lives is worse than a one-off murder. (Note, I don’t have any single tipping point between the two balancing, just in the case of millions, this is a big one).

          • martinbrock

            Holding a single person in prison is worse than holding him in slavery, all else being equal. With a truly astonishing incarceration rate, it’s not clear to me how much freer the land of the free has become in the last century, yet apologists for states (practically everyone) nowadays routinely treat one case of nominal “slavery” as worse than millions of cases of locking people in cages, even for “crimes” that most people don’t consider cage-worthy.

          • TracyW

            Having read Frederick Douglas’s autobiography, and other ex-slave’s accounts, and also ex-prisoner’s accounts, I have my doubts about your comparison.

            I agree that holding people in prison, particularly for crimes that most people don’t consider cage-worthy, is very bad.

          • martinbrock

            If you want to compare slavery to cagery, based on a nineteenth century account of slavery, you need to compare nineteenth century slavery to nineteenth century cagery, not to 21st century cagery. All else being equal, I’d much rather be enslaved for a year than in a cage for a year. That a slave master may treat me cruelly doesn’t change my opinion, because a cage master may also treat me cruelly and being treated cruelly in a cage seems doubly intolerable to me.

          • TracyW

            On the contrary, I am entirely capable of comparing 19th century slavery to 21st century cagery, as well as to 19th century cagery. I am under no necessity to artificially limit myself in the way that you suggest.

            You are of course free to have your preferences and to have them differ from mine, but you haven’t convinced me that your preference is the right one.

          • martinbrock

            You should do whatever you please, of course, but to be clear, when I specify “all else being equal”, I am not comparing 19th century slavery to 21st century cagery.

          • Nathanael

            You’re dead wrong, martinbrock. Not least because:

            (1) 19th century prisons were pretty open — they were NOT solitary confinement prisons.

            (2) 19th century slaves were frequently locked in small solitary confinement cages in stress conditions and tortured.

            In short, get a clue. A life as a house slave in Rome was better than being in prison; a life as a black slave in the Confederacy — I’d take prison any day.

          • martinbrock

            i’m skeptical of this rosy assessment of prison life in the 19th century, but you may take any hypothetical fate you like, of course.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            And allowing the South to secede would have saved the Plains Indians…how? So what is your point?

          • Nathanael

            The individual states which constituted the CSA actually did such things, being responsible for the Trail of Tears, among other things.

            The CSA state governments are *more responsible* for the assaults on Native Americans than the states which were not part of the CSA.

        • Devon Sanchez

          “We should dwell on what’s racist and horrible now because we can do something about what’s happening now.
          We can’t go back in time and make the Union in 1870 less racist, nor the Confederacy.”

          The US Congress can take up the honorable action (of the current US Constitution) of ruling themselves and all other governmental branches and (independent) agencies less powerful and less involved. Yes, Congress can help change the future. They can remove the government from all racial profiling (government positions, programs, education benefits, etc.).
          Racism has always existed and (most likely) always will. To rule upon it is ludicrous. The government cannot legislate morality.

          “And why do you speak of the gross misuse of power of the American Civil War, and not the grosser misuse of power of the US Confederacy?”

          The most egregious actor throughout that time was the Union.

          • TracyW

            The Confederacy was holding millions of people in slavery. That makes it the most egregarious actor throughout that time.

            As for whether or not the government can legislate morality, why do you assume that when someone says “we”, they were talking about the government?

          • Devon Sanchez

            “The Confederacy was holding millions of people in slavery.”
            As was the North (Union).

            “And the Confederacy was no supporter of civil rights for non-slaves either.”
            As was the North (Union).

            The Union overtly taxed most of the Southern States into acting against and taking up arms; the Union blockaded the largest Southern ports and trading routes; the Union held slaves in the same respect until almost the wars end and continued class and racial profiling throughout the Postbellum era (particularly in the South); the Union mercilessly raped slaughtered and pillaged in its path to the battlefield; the Union, by Lincoln’s orders, postponed Habeas Corpus, striking down any dissenters (termed Copperheads, etc.) and ruining many peoples lives (very similar to the previous administration’s “War on Terror” and George Bush signing the Patriot Act, etc.); Lincoln and the Union unilaterally postponed the gold standard and spent so much that it began printing its Greenbacks endlessly to fund the war and subsequently destroying the Union money.

            “As for whether or not the government can legislate morality, why do you assume that when someone says “we”, they were talking about the government?”

            To be clear (again), no government can legislate morality. It can never be achieved as set out. Why do you assume I correlated the two (we and government)?

          • Nathanael

            Statistically wrong (the number of slaves in Union territory was under a million). Factually wrong on taxes (you’ve never looked them up). On rape, slaughter, and pillage, factually wrong — look up the detailed records of Sherman’s march (quite civilized) — then look up the massacre at Fort Pillow by way of contrast, to see what the CSA was doing, which was murdering prisoners of war.

            Et cetera. You’ve been reading Confederate apologia.

            It is true that after the war, in roughly 1876, the neoconfederates basically won and rewrote the textbooks for the next 90 years.

          • Devon Sanchez

            “Statistically wrong (the number of slaves in Union territory was under a million).” Yes, you are correct. Though the real numbers for the “North” or the “South” cannot be verified, the “North” had “less than one million slaves” and the “South” had “roughly 3.5 million slaves” by the onset of the American Civil War.

            “Factually wrong on taxes (you’ve never looked them up).” Yes, I have looked them up. Before and during a class I participated in that conducted research on the American Civil War. From the 1820s to (roughly) 1850, the North imposed protective tariffs on finished goods coming from the “Old World”, and those protective tariffs limited the “Old World” supply, thus limiting the acquisition of raw materials (mainly cotton and hemp) coming from the South. Much of the trade and tariff revenue went to funding the Mexican-American War. And to finance the American Civil War, the Union taxed its citizens much more heavily than the Confederacy (mainly excise taxes on just about everything), and forced its citizens to take Greenbacks as payment of debts.

            “On rape, slaughter, and pillage, factually wrong — look up the detailed records of Sherman’s march (quite civilized)” I hope you are joking. So, I should read the field records of the Union Army and believe it to be the sole factual record of what happened? And I was not only speaking of Sherman’s March to the Sea. Are there fact books that keep records of how many people are raped during war? Sure…advancing armies never take away personal liberties (i.e. destroy property). Yes, the Confederate soldiers acted violently towards the Union soldiers. I never excused the Confederacy of their malpractice.

            “Et cetera.” What?

            “You’ve been reading Confederate apologia.” Thank you for telling me what I have been reading. Have you been reading Union apologia?

            “It is true that after the war, in roughly 1876, the neoconfederates basically won and rewrote the textbooks for the next 90 years.” Unfounded.

          • Devon Sanchez

            I replied to you but for some reason disqus did not record it. If I feel up to it, I will rewrite the response. Either way, your statement put words in my mouth, charged me of things you have no idea about, ignored that I never claimed “sides”, and claimed ignorantly that Sherman’s March to the Sea was “quite civilized” and “neoconfederates basically won and rewrote the textbooks for the next 90 years.” Good job.

          • good_in_theory

            I think your reply did show up. Sometimes disqus does some weird stuff where if you go directly to the comment you only get a partial view of the thread. Try looking w/o a link to the specific comment number (e.g. comment-33641, or whatever)

          • Devon Sanchez

            Thank you.

    • good_in_theory

      It might not be the greatest thing to let the “despicable collection of evil” be when it has over 3 million victims stuck inside of it.

      In any case, the set of “those who defend the confederacy” has a not insignificant overlap with “those who are racist and horrible now,” so I don’t think the historical issue is going to go away. If there were racist “northerners” who went around whining about the glory days of restrictive covenants and what not and founding associations to commemorate them, then perhaps the history of such perfidy would be more of an object of discussion.

    • Nathanael

      “all of which raises the question of why the Union spent so much blood
      and treasure in making sure such a despicable collection of evil
      remained a part of it!”

      It is an interesting question. The answer can be found in the firing on Fort Sumter, the plans to annex Cuba, the attempts to force slavery into the Western Territories, the attempts to attack DC and Gettysburg.

      The Confederacy was aggressively expansionist. The Civil War was necessary just in *self-defense*. Remember, the Confederacy fired the first shots. Had they not done so, secession would probably have been successful — Lincoln was bending over backwards to be agreeable and pacifistic at the time.

  • jdkolassa

    One of the things that baffles me about the whole issue, is when someone says “Look, real America doesn’t care about Jack Hunter or all this stuff, this is just inside-the-beltway nonsense. They don’t even care about the Confederacy.”

    But this is wrong for the simple reason that 95% of Americans have it in their head that “Confederacy = human slavery.” (And rightly so.) Thus, having any “libertarian” spout pro-Confederacy talk damages our entire movement and makes people wonder if libertarians are pro human slavery, which is so NOT the case it’s not even a punchline.

    Libertarians need to push back on this lest they get tarred with some very unfortunate smears. Simply ignoring it and saying “It doesn’t matter” in the hope of promoting a big tent ends up doing far more damage.

    (As an aside, I myself am a largely big tent libertarian; I’m tired of the intra-libertarian arguments and the excommunications and the different subcamps. I just want to expand individual liberty and shrink oppression. At this point, there are only two lines that I draw: First, against the racists and bigots and “Confederatistas,” for they just don’t belong here anyways. Secondly, against the more hardcore anarcho-capitalists who start all political discussions (or even non-political discussions) with some Rothbard line about abolishing the state. That’s a PR issue; you just don’t win over people with stuff like that, and making that the face of libertarianism doesn’t do too well. It’s generally counterproductive.)

    • Fallon

      You just have butt-hurt because your arguments for the state are weak and rather religious. The racism, bigotry issues are made larger than they need to be in order to not to deal with the more serious fundamental issue of state and political monopoly.

      • jdkolassa

        As an atheist, I’m amused that you think “my” arguments for the state are “rather religious.”

        Furthermore, I make a distinction between government and “the state”. Government is a tool we use to enforce rights. “The State” is an emergent property that evolves out of too much bureaucracy and hierarchy, and that’s the real problem.

        If anything, anarcho-capitalist arguments are way more religious. It’s a statement of faith, of dogma, that if we did away with government and completely privatized the legal code that everything will be hunky dory and people will respect each other’s property, instead of taking the opportunity to withdraw from other people’s legal codes and use force to bend others to their will. You wouldn’t be creating “anarchy,” as most philosophers would like to think; you would just be taking the modern states as they are today, breaking them up, and distributing their power over many geographically smaller states. Now maybe that’s desirable, but that’s not really anarchy as I think you’re shooting for. And in any case, anarcho-capitalist legal systems are right now based little more on faith than anything.

        Arguments for minarchism are “rather religious?” Please. Look in the mirror.

        • Fallon

          You guessed it. Atheism and belief in the state can be considered secular religion. They are metaphysical (in both science/faith terminology) assertions. Atheism has no more solid rational/reasonable foundation than Plantinga’s wordy attempt at defending divinity, at any rate. This is not a jibe at faith, though.

          Any anti-state thinker that rises beyond your “cult nutjob” threshold, haha, recognizes that there is no solution that will effect utopia. There will always be bad people regardless of any social system. The question is, what kind of political arrangement has the best chance of dealing with the human condition? Political monopoly, as you suggest; or competition, a distinct lack of presumption of monopoly?

          That you read my earlier comments about science and the care that one must take around metaphysics and unobservable phenomena and would still assert that I carry what is really your belief attitude towards government, state and atheism– is quite ridiculous. I am the one bringing substantive questions to the table here.

          • jdkolassa

            You’re really not, but continue to think that if you wish. I won’t stop you.

            As for competition, yes, I believe in competition. But there is no competition in rights. They are just there. Creating a marketplace of competing legal codes will not protect our rights. It will just protect those of the highest bidder. I don’t subscribe to that idea.

          • Fallon

            “No competition in rights”. Ok. Does this minarchist state of yours tax perchance? Does it bar secession?

            One cannot logically be for a tax and equal rights at the same time, can they? Unless you are of the Animal Farm ‘some are more equal than others’ camp. Or you believe, equally horribly, that property is theft unless regulated by taxation… Minarchism has serious internal contradictions.

            Maybe its adherents are cultists.

  • martinbrock

    I don’t say, “that Che t-shirt you’re wearing stands for the entanglement between your socialist ideas and murderous totalitarian Communism,” and I would not be right to say it. I would rather be right to ask someone wearing a Che t-shirt why he wears it rather than leaping to conflate whatever I think of Che Guevara with everything the wearer thinks, even if he has repeatedly disassociated himself from the Cheisms most offensive to me.

    A Martian (or someone wearing a Che t-shirt) may similarly claim, every bit as accurately, that anyone defending the America Revolution is an apologist for slavery, and the simple minded, political tribalism that imagines libertarianism much “divided” by loyalty to the Confederacy (as opposed to distinct political concepts like secession and nullification) makes hardly more sense than asserting a substantial “division” among Anglicans on loyalty to revolutionary Marxism.

  • Stamford

    Regarding a minor point in the thread: Trutherism.
    I agree with everything you say with respect to unorthodox thinking. Additionally, small sample sizes have higher variance. So just statistically, we should expect libertarians (relatively small) to have more people in the tails with extreme view points than more ‘mainstream’ groups.

  • Joseph R. Stromberg

    Is the New England indignation meeting over yet?

    • Fallon

      Funny. But there was that time you suggested to Hans Hoppe that he recognize Jefferson Davis’s birthday during a lecture. The room cheered. Yet nothing was explained.

      • Joseph R. Stromberg

        It must have been June 3rd.

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  • Jod

    Very well said.
    As for ‘libalterian’, however, it sounds less respectable than ‘classical liberal’. The ‘alt’ makes it sound like ‘alternative’, which raises the spectre of hipsterism. Alternately, it sounds like an alien from some forgotten episode of Deep Space Nine.

  • Anthony Gregory

    ‘‘“I think it’s to our advantage to try to keep as large a tent as we can, but I think at some point you have to say, that set of ideas is not okay,” said Steve Horwitz, an economist at St. Lawrence University. “Where that lies on this issue is very tricky.”’’

    I don’t know where to draw the line myself, but I would include pro-war and pro-mass-surveillance views in that mix. It seems to me that some libertarians want an open tent but think war is beyond the pale, and others want an open tent but think bigotry is beyond the pale. On the one hand, I think both are beyond the pale. On the other, I don’t, thank goodness, have the authority to read people out of the movement.

  • MiddleAgedKen

    The southern antebellum slaveholding class used a language of respect
    for property rights (among many other languages) to defend their false
    right to own slaves; they posed as defenders of liberty against an
    overreaching state that might expropriate their goods without


    The southern states– before, during, and long after the Civil War–
    hypocritically and opportunistically used those ideas to defend slavery
    and apartheid.

    True. The above parallels my own position, which — once I thought ‘er through — is best summarized as: “I’d like to thank the Slave Power for giving a bad name to resistance to the centralizing of power in the national government.”

    It is possible to have no sympathy whatsoever for the Cause, while believing the Southern states had (for better or worse) recourse to secession, and should have been permitted to do so.

    I don’t think I know many genuine neo-Confederates, and no one I know will defend slavery or Jim Crow out loud (or, so far as I know, otherwise), but most of the people I know who claim libertarian views recognize the right of secession.

    • TracyW

      Why should the Southern States have been permitted to do so? It seems fairly clear that they didn’t have the support of the majority of their citizens (as a number of white Southern men voted against it, and black male slaves weren’t permitted to vote). If I, and 50% of my fellow citizens, have no interest in seceding, what right does a minority have to decide that we’re seceding anyway?
      J.S. Mills gave the great example that if a bunch of bandits took over the Isle of Wight, enslaved a significant bunch of the population, and then held a vote that found that a majority of the remaining bunch (but a minority overall) didn’t want to secede, why would the British government be expected to recognise that decision?

      (There is also the issue of women being denied the right to vote in both the Union and Confederatist states, which does rather reduce the Union’s claim to democratic decision-making procedures as well, but that does not in any way help establish the Confederate’s rights.)

      • Nathanael

        You really don’t need to worry about the “right of secession” — you can support it and still want the CSA to have been crushed dead.

        The fact is, secession has often been successful, as when Norway seceded from Sweden.

        But the CSA went about secession in the most abusive and evil possible way. First they seceded unilaterally after the election of Lincoln — before he was even in office! Then they raised an army and *started attacking federal forts* — firing on Fort Sumter. When Norway seceded from Sweden, it left all the Swedish military installations alone. If you believe in property,you would agree that the federal government should get to keep, or at least be paid for, its military forts.

        The next thing that happened was that a whole bunch of counties said “We don’t want to be part of the Slave Power CSA” and seceded from it! This included all of West Virginia, Jones County MS, and lots of others (there’s one mentioned in _To Kill A Mockingbird”). The CSA spent a year mercilessly crushing as many of these secessionists as they could with their army. (They were unable to beat West Virginia, but they tried.) So the CSA didn’t believe in secession! Hypocrites to the core.

        • TracyW

          I don’t need to, but I do like these sorts of conversations, they sharpen my own thinking about edge cases.

    • TracyW

      I’ll add to my earlier comment, that it’s quite sensible to believe that one’s right to do something is dependent on what you plan to do with that right and your motives for the action. To take a simple statement “Your right to swing your fist stops where my nose starts”.

      Or, to take another example, I think every libertarian agrees that we have a right to kill another person if that’s necessary to stop that person from murdering a third, innocent, person, but doesn’t have a right to kill another person to stop them from proselytising about their religion or lack there-of (thus risking the immortal soul of a third, innocent person).

      The right to secede in order to be able to continue and expand slavery strikes me as about on the same moral level as claiming the right to kill people to stop them from luring other people away from the one true religion. It’s a decision taking in pursuit of violating the rights of others.

      • MiddleAgedKen

        The right of secession exists independent of the slavery question. If the Union has the right to prevent secession in order to prevent the seceding states from expanding slavery, it also has the right to invade any country it chooses in order to spread the blessings of liberty across the world on the points of their soldiers’ bayonets.

        • good_in_theory

          Guess states better not do anything to get in the way of slavery, lest they be facilely construed as imperialist.

          • MiddleAgedKen

            That is so non, it can’t even see sequitur from where it is.

            I guess BHL has changed altogether little; it’s still “Libertarianism with whatever exceptions we can come up with.”

          • good_in_theory

            I’m not a BHL.

            But go ahead and continue about how states rights, and the violation of them, trump the rights of slaves.

          • TracyW

            Placing limits on what rights governments have (let alone people representing minorities purporting to set up a new government) is the essence of libertarianism, not an exception.

        • TracyW

          You’re trying to subtly change the terms of debate. Your initial claim was:

          It is possible to have no sympathy whatsoever for the Cause, while believing the Southern states had (for better or worse) recourse to secession, and should have been permitted to do so.

          I critised this claim, and you have ignored my criticism, and are instead trying to change the topic to what rights the Northern States may have had, given that the South seceded. Even if one assumes that the Northern states had no right to use force to try to stop slavery, that does not make it any more right for the Southern States to secede in order to continue and expand slavery. The right to secession does not exist independently of what the seceders plan to use the new powers that secession gives them for.

  • Richard Harrington

    Great thoughts. If I could channel the founding fathers I think they would have agreed that a federalist government was more likely to create an environment where inalienable rights were protected. In other words, federalism is a means to an end – freedom, but freedom is the ultimate goal. There is no possible way for the concept of “federalism” to trump “freedom”, and absolutely no honest way to logically support slavery while espousing freedom.

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  • circleglider

    Libertarianism is almost the precise opposite of progressivism. As Richard Reinsch recently wrote:

    abstract humanitarian ideal underlying progressivism is its commitment
    to the evolutionary ascent of human consciousness through elimination of
    the perceived hyper-competitive self-interested striving that dominates
    civil society and republican government within the classical liberal
    framework. Achieving a more wholesome development of man has entailed a
    firm national superintendence of the supposed atavistic tendencies in
    civil society and government with an eye towards their gradual
    elimination. Eliminating the perceived negative externalities of a
    largely free and competitive social, political, and economic order has
    meant creating new fields of energy in government that reform the
    national spirit, moving citizens towards a grander, more consequential
    national telos.

    The Civil War was the opening act of the humanitarian progressive movement. If it’s OK to go to war to correct a moral wrong, why isn’t it OK to use the power of the state to prevent substance abuse? Or reduce income inqeuality? Or make quality, cheap health care
    available to all our fellow citizens?

    • good_in_theory

      Why not start the progressive movement with the crusades then?


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  • Harlan

    Nicely put.

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  • James Klapper

    Even if you ignore the entire slavery/race issue the Confederacy trampled on individuals rights at least as much as the North, with the added insult of paying its bills and salaries in worthless paper, a monstrous tax on its people. This agricultural region was incompetent to even feed its own soldiers and half the Confederate Army deserted. Conscription was universal except for those who owned enough slaves. Confiscations, burnings, lynchings and unfair trials and summary executions were common.