Posts tagged History



There’s hypocrisy in the former–anti-liberty actions are obviously not what pro-liberty rhetoric promises, but segregation, slavery, the Confederacy are all legitimate instances of decentralization

No they aren’t.

Just ask a black man who tried to secede from the Dixie slave system, or a white man who tried to join up with secessionist blacks and form a break-away republic in the Appalachians. See what they got for their trouble.

The problem with the Confederates and their so-called “decentralist” and predecessors, is that they weren’t nearly decentralist enough. A “states’ rights” position, sure, but who gave you the idea that preserving the prerogatives of big centralized states, as large as mid-sized European countries and ruled from the state capitol by a handful of racially, sexually and economically privileged oligarchs, counts as a non-hypocritical form of decentralism?

Re: No I don’t understand why

Arthur B.:

Racism is at best stupid not immoral.

So you say. But why do you say this? I can think of lots of examples where racism has led people to do incredibly violent things, which I think that you would clearly agree to be vicious. I can also think of lots of examples where racism has led people to do things that, while not violent, were extremely cruel. Do you mean to claim that that’s not immoral? Or to claim that the cruelty is immoral but not the racism which produced and justified it? Or something else again?

The only reason there are historical problems with racism in the US is because of forced integration through slavery (forced for the slaves that is) and then forced integration through the end of segregation (for the rest).

Your account of the history of racism and the law in the United States has an interesting lacuna. Specifically, the period from roughly 1865 – 1965.

For a hundred years of U.S. history black people and white people were forcibly segregated, partly through the use of contractual exclusions made on the market, but mostly as the result of government segregation laws. The connection between the existence of those laws and the prevalence of white supremacism among white people, especially among politically powerful and well-connected white people, was probably not entirely accidental.

However, I might also note that, as an account of “racism” in general, your explanation is somewhat lacking. There are more races of people in the U.S. who have been subject to racism, in its various forms (especially white supremacism) than just black people. The history of white prejudice and oppression against black people is a very important part of the story about American racism, but people of American Indian, Irish, Polish, Italian, Chinese, Filipin@, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Central American, Arab, etc. etc. etc. descent have all suffered from racist prejudices, racist exclusion, and at times racist violence, whether at the hands of mobs or at the hands of state, local, or federal government agencies. But it’s very rarely the case that any of these histories involved “forced integration” of any kind prior to the mid-1960s. Therefore, I conclude that American racism and the “historical problems” associated with it probably have at least some explanatory conditions other than what you call “forced integration.”

No I don’t understand why women might want to be treated “equally” with men. Women and men are not “equal”, in fact they are not even commensurate, the whole concept of equality is meaningless here. The closest thing to what you describe would be : treated without regard for the gender… I don’t see why.

Semantically speaking, “equality” is not just used to refer to position within a quantitative range (as in “equal portions”). It’s also often also used to refer to the lack of a particular difference or distinction (as in “treat me like an equal,” or “equal opportunity,” neither of which makes any claim about comparative quantities of treatment or opportunity). So if a woman or a group of women demand equal treatment to men, then what they’re likely talking about, in perfectly good English, is treatment which doesn’t make a distinction based solely on her or their sex.

As for why a woman or a group of women would want that, well, honestly, who cares whether you “see why” or not? Presumably those who are making it have their own reasons, which many of them have explained at length in conversation, in articles, in films, in music, in books, etc. If you have some specific case against those reasons as they have been presented, it would help to explain what you’re taking issue with and why, by engaging with those arguments rather than just playing dumb. If you acknowledge those positions, but have some specific reason to go on insisting on making sex-based distinctions in how you treat other people, whether or not they want you not to make those distinctions, then it would help to explain what are your own reasons for insisting on making those distinctions nevertheless.

Re: “Not just the signature on a series of essays”


… the decentralized republicanism advocated by Jefferson ….

You forgot to add an important qualifier. What you no doubt meant to say was “the decentralized republicanism advocated for white people by Jefferson.”

The system of rule that Jefferson advocated, and personally instituted, for black people, was not “decentralized republicanism,” but rather hereditary, personal, absolutist tyranny–tyranny of a form almost unparalleled in human history for its invasiveness, immiseration, and ruthless brutality against its unwilling subjects.

Re: “Not just the signature on a series of essays”

John V.,

But what I didn’t see in that entire article was something about Jefferson’s general views on governance and commerce.

Well, sure, but the post wasn’t intended to be a post about Jefferson’s views in general (much less to compare them to Hamilton’s views, which I also think were despicable). It was intended as a post about the need to take seriously his views and concrete actions with regard to chattel slavery.

If you want a more general take on Jefferson, I’d say that, besides slavery (which is an odd start–would you try to evaluate Augusto Pinochet’s record “aside from the torturing and murdering political dissidents”?) the following do deserve at least some critical attention: (1) his government-imposed Ograbme, (2) his decision to launch the first overseas war in American history, (3) his use of expropriated tax money for massive territorial expansion, (4) his government’s arrogation of title over the unclaimed lands in that new territory, and (5) due to that arrogation, his repeated actions against the land rights of honest homesteaders, in favor of the politically-fabricated land claims of speculators and political jobbers, who had done nothing to earn a right to the land that they claimed, but got the power to grab it away from the people who cleared and tilled it by right of the bribes they paid to the federal government. My own view is that another one of his profoundly anti-libertarian stances, and the root of many of the others, was his belief in the legitimacy of monopoly government, which necessarily involved the willingness impose a government on unwilling subjects, together with its regulations, its imposts and duties, its wars, its claims to vast tracts of land that it had done nothing to earn, etc., even without their consent, even if they wanted nothing but to be left alone to make an honest living in peace, and to violently repress any individual person who tried to do so.

None of this is to say anything about how you ought to rank-order Jefferson, on his libertarian merits, compared to Alexander Hamilton, or any of the other American revolutionaries. As I said in the post, I think Hamilton was perfectly awful as a person and as a political figure. I also don’t actually know or much care how you would go about making all the different kinds and degrees of anti-libertarian views or policies commensurable with each other so that you could do the rank-ordering. Does being for a central bank get you more or fewer or as many libertarian demerits as launching an overseas war, or a “national security” embargo on foreign trade? Or more in some respects but fewer in other respects? How do you even start to do the scoring?

Jacob T. Levy:

and is living in a monarchy– like, say, the UK, or Canada, or Australia, or New Zealand– really inherently more unfree than living in a state with widespread chattel slavery?


Today in the year 2008, no. But in 18th when even the world’s most “benevolent” monarchies – i.e. George III of England and Catherine the Great of Russia – left much to be desired

As opposed to American chattel slavery in the 18th century, which was just peachy.

Hamilton’s views on the Executive, in their more flamboyant monarchistic versions, were contemptible and absurd; his views on the Executive, in their more practical pseudo-republican versions, were no less despicable, and much more damaging (because they were more insidious). But the hereditary absolutist tyranny of slavery, as actually practiced (not merely advocated in speeches) by Jefferson and his fellow white slavelords was no less terrible for being inflicted by means other than formal government.

Jacob T. Levy:

As to whether Jefferson had any anti-libertarian views about government and commerce among whites– setting, as John V insists, “SLAVERY ASIDE”, the answer is yes, certainly. … The Embargo Acts were the most radical restriction of American trade in U.S. history.


They were also enacted as a genuine, if misguided, national defense policy amidst the turmoil of Europe’s Napoleonic wars, and this too was done within the full purview of the Constitution. Nor was the Embargo Act inconsistent with Jefferson’s advocacy of free trade, ….

Well, so?

As far as I can tell, Jacob was discussing libertarianism, not “national defense policy,” the Constitution, or the internal consistency of Jefferson’s anti-libertarian views. If his radical government lock-down on foreign trade was anti-libertarian (and it was), that suffices to show that “Jefferson had any anti-libertarian views about government and commerce among whites.”


That Hamilton not only proposed such a system for the United States but openly praised it as the best system of government illustrates conclusively that he was no friend of liberty.

I’m sorry, just who was claiming that Hamilton was a “friend of liberty”? My original post was explicitly about Jefferson’s vices and crimes, not about Hamilton’s virtues — which, as I said, I can find very few of. As far as I can tell, nobody else in the more widely-ranging follow-up comments made the claim you’re attacking here, either.

I think you’re walloping a strawman.

Denying the undeniable

It is not as if this has never been tried before.

When the First Intifada broke out, the PLO was in exile in Tunis, and in the absence of their militaristic posturing, the small-scale, freestanding popular committees that coordinated most of the anti-Occupation activism spent the first few years of the Intifada focusing overwhelmingly on nonviolent forms of resistance, among them burning identification cards, opening schools in defiance of military curfews, boycotts, general strikes, and refusal to pay taxes. The response from the IDF was relentless and punitive, with many of the committee leaders thrown in prison on sentences of up to ten years, and their money, land, and property confiscated. (Not surprisingly, the attacks on tax resisters, such as the committees based out of Beit Sahour, were especially harsh.) And, at the end of it all, here we are.

I think that the virtues of nonviolent resistance are very often underestimated or flatly ignored, while the effectiveness of violent resistance is all too often overestimated, and its terrible costs either ignored or, worse, romanticized. I think that more focus on nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action would probably make a worthwhile contribution to the Palestinian freedom struggle. But we should certainly remember that these strategies have already been used in the past, on a mass scale, and they didn’t make victory actual, let alone undeniable, then. We should not not pretend that nonviolent strategies would make even moderate success undeniable now, either.

Re: Smearbund Funnies

Have I been inducted into the Beltwaytarian Illuminati without having heard about it? If so, I eagerly await my imminent influx of cocktail party invites and Kochtopus cash.


The declarations of states are not reflective of their citizens …

No, but they are reflective of the opinions of the state governments at the time that those state governments determined to secede.

Of course, many if not most people in many southern states at the time felt differently. For starters, many if not most people in many southern states at the time were black slaves.

The white southerners who fought as common soldiers often had very different views of the import and justification for the war than those held by their governments. But of course it was their governments, and not they, who made the political and military decisions that we’re discussing here.

Charles H.,

I agree with you that any honest review of what the secessionists said (especially what they said at the time of the secession debate, rather than when they wrote their memoirs in the 1870s) would very quickly reveal that the perpetuation and expansion of race slavery was absolutely central to the Confederate cause. However, it would be an ignoratio elenchi to follow that evidence with the conclusion that ending or limiting race slavery must have been absolutely essential to the Union cause.

When people claim that the Southern states had the “right” to secede, what they mean is that a minority– adult white male landowners– had the right to decide for everyone else what form of government they would live under, and whether their basic human rights would be recognized.

I’m sure that when many people claim that, that is indeed what they mean, but I don’t think it’s at all fair to impute that meaning to most of the writers at or the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Whatever faults they may have (and some of them have a lot), most of the people in question are anarchists, who believe that no government whatever, state, federal, or other, has any legitimate right to compel anyone’s allegiance. Their point about the right of secession is that adult white male Southern landowners had a right to determine for themselves (and themselves alone) what form of government, if any, they should live under, a right which any principled and honest believer in the principle of government by consent would have to concede they do have. The obvious and hideous atrocity of southern race slavery hardly justifies military invasion and bayonet-point Unionism; what it justifies is the (Garrisonian) strategy of embracing peaceful disunion, and then supporting southern slaves in their efforts to secede from the from the illegitimate government created by their quasi-secessionist slave-drivers.

If you’re not already familiar with it, I’d like to recommend J.R. Hummel’s excellent book, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, which ably defends the Garrisonian-disunionist position and presents a much more accurate and sophisticated libertarian analysis of the war than the stuff churned out by, for example, Tom DiLorenzo or Tom Woods.


I think the issues at hand are a bit more complex than cultural affinities. When I see Yankees like Tom DiLorenzo running around affecting a fondness for the ol’ Moonlight-and-Magnolias, I just find it ridiculous. But when I see them actively distorting history for polemical purposes, in order to whitewash rabid slave-driving statists like John C. Calhoun, Robert E. Lee, or Jefferson Davis (cf. for example 1, 2, 2, 3, etc., not to mention DiLorenzo’s periodic attempts to portray Lysander Spooner, the author of the Plan for the Abolition of Slavery and a conspirator in an abortive attempt to rescue John Brown from the gallows, as an advocate for “peaceful” gradualist emancipation, I think there is something deeper and nastier at work that needs to be exposed and confronted.

Of course, those people who, in the name of “moderation” or “compromise” or politesse, attempt to water down or dissemble about libertarian principles on hard cases, or who try to marginalize radical libertarians for simply for making uncomfortably libertarian points — a group that intersects with, but certainly does not exhaust and certainly is not limited to — the staff at Cato and Reason deserves nothing but contempt for that kind of hand-wringing opportunism. But I don’t think it’s true that that’s the only reason that the Paulitarians and the VMI/LRC crew draw the kind of flak that they draw from within libertarian circles, or even from the Cato and Reason crowds specifically.

Re: The Confederacy was pure evil

“But in terms of the Constitution, the CSA was perhaps less evil than the North, wouldn’t you agree.”

I can’t answer for Anthony. But I certainly wouldn’t agree. Why in the world would anybody agree? The Confederate Constitution was deliberately modeled on the U.S. Constitution, and replicates nearly all of its defects. To these it adds new defects, in particular explicit new protections for “the right of property [sic] in negro slaves,” in particular explicitly forbidding any “impairment” of this so-called right by the confederate Congress (Art. I Sect. 9), explicitly protecting Confederate slaveholders’ ability to pass through or stay in other Confederate states with their slaves (Art. IV, Sect. 2), thus preventing any effective emancipation at the state level, and explicitly requiring that “the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government” in all newly-acquired territories (Art. IV, Sect. 3). Alexander Stephens, famously, described the changes (which he regarded as an improvement) as putting “to rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization.”

I can find no particular at all in which the Confederate Constitution is preferable, from a libertarian standpoint, to the existing United States constitution, with the possible exception of its ban on protective tariffs (Art. I, Sect. 8). But the Confederate constitution does allow for revenue tariffs and other taxes, and the Confederates at the time happily implemented every sort of tax, cartelizaton, and nationalization during the few years of their independence. In any case, compared to the massive and obvious evil of perpetuating chattel slavery, swapping on set of taxes for another set of taxes seems like pretty small potatoes.

So what exactly is a libertaran supposed to find “perhaps less evil” in the Confederate constitution?

“And in fact the CSA Constitution banned the slave trade”

Obviously it did not; they went on trading slaves. It did forbid the transnational slave trade (except with the slaveholding states that remained in the Union), which is something different.

Nor is it something especially noble. The prohibition on the transnational slave trade in 1808 was pushed through originally by the Virginian slavers. Not out of any moral scruple about trading slaves, which they continued to do with gusto, but rather because certain powerful slavers profited greatly from the internal slave trade, even while plantation agriculture became increasingly unprofitable for the longer-settled parts of the South. The basic impetus behind both the 1808 ban and the Confederate ban was not emancipatory; it was just another damn protectionist scheme.

Re: About the Minutemen protest


Well, you can use a word to mean whatever you want it to mean, but if you hope to be understood by other people, your meaning should probably have some kind of connection with the way that other people have historically used the word.

The original “Progressives” — Herbert Croly, John Dewey, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, etc. — were well aware of American anarchists, and they despised them. In fact, in the run-up to World War I, those with influence in the media blacklisted anarchists (such as Randolph Bourne) from publishing their writing, and during and after World War I, those with political power (such as Woodrow Wilson) had thousands of American anarchists (such as Emma Goldman) beaten, arrested, jailed, prosecuted, and/or exiled from the country.

I see no reason why anarchists should want to associate ourselves with a historical movement that has done everything in its power to hinder or destroy us.

Re: More on Rothbard’s Made-Up History

Gene: By the way, the worsening of conditions under agriculture is a well known fact, not a oddball opinion of Clark’s. Agriculture allowed a big population increase, but at the cost of a harsher lifestyle.

Sure. Of course, that still leaves open the further, and probably more interesting, question as to why the population increases enabled by agriculture outran the capacity to produce the necessities for comfortable living. I suspect that the answer to that question has little essentially to do with agriculture, and a lot to do with some of the species of vermin that were able to break in and feed off of the surplus grain and meat. Specifically, the professionalized military and theo-political classes.

Re: Memo to the netroots on immigration

Even if we went back to the days of Ellis Island, we didn’t have open borders. In fact America has always had strict rules about how you go about becoming American, some well-founded and some outright racist.

If you mean federal laws that imposed restrictions on who could enter, live in, or work in the country, then it is certainly not true that the U.S. has always had such laws. There were no such laws prior to 1882.

If you mean federal laws that impose restrictions and define procedures for immigrants, once they have arrived and set up in the U.S., to achieve status as naturalized citizens, then it’s true that the U.S. has always had such laws. But naturalization laws aren’t the primary issue in debates over “open borders.” The primary issue is the right to cross the border freely and to live and work where you choose.

And we’d have to figure out rules to govern who could stay in the country while their application was being processed, and what kinds of things they could do during the waiting period (Work? Go home for a visit? Etc.)

What business does the government have subjecting a peaceful Mexican immigrant to a higher level of scrutiny or restriction in the right to engage in everyday activities such as working or visiting home, than they would subject an American citizen to, simply because the object of their scrutiny happens to be Mexican rather than American?

Isn’t that just institutionalized bigotry?