Friday, January 11, 2013

Tea Parties Cannot Overturn 153 Years of American Immorality

Dear Tom:

Please take me off your mailing list (of the Kingston-Rhinebeck, NY Tea Party).   I have concluded that there is no hope of reform of American tyranny.  In 1776 Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that just government derives its consent from the governed.  In 1860 the southern states concluded that they could no longer consent to the US government.  In response to their withdrawal of consent, Lincoln murdered hundreds of thousands, with a total death toll of between 500,000 and 800,000 Americans, a million casualties, and massive property damage—all to ensure government without consent.  Previously , the US government under Washington and Hamilton had violently suppressed Pennsylvania farmers who objected to a whiskey tax and had threatened violent suppression of South Carolina when it nullified a tariff in 1828.  Since those events, and especially since 1860, America, by Jefferson’s own definition, has not been governed justly. America is a tyranny, and there is no hope of reform, for the American people are immoral.  They have been satisfied with tyranny for 153 years.

Again, please remove me from your mailing list.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

No Consent of the Governed

In early January we're about six months from July 4th, but recall Jefferson's and the Continental Congress's words written 236 years ago in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...

 The Declaration of Independence claims that to be just government must derive its powers from the consent of the governed. Is this the case in the United States?  In 1860 the southern states said that they did not consent to the US government; the US government proved that its power is not derived from any sort of consent.  It invaded the South, and the death toll amounted to 600,000 to 800,000.  There were  a million injuries and massive property destruction.  Far from being a government that derives its powers from the governed, the US government is as authoritarian as Hitler's or Stalin's. It is based on the power of a ruling cabal, nothing more.  The cabal is more benign than Hitler's or Stalin's was, but it is not qualitatively different.  There is no more moral grounding to the US government than there is to the Mafia.  There is little reason to feel secure here, and there is no reason to assume that out-and-out tyranny is not around the corner. 

Progressives are not troubled by the Civil War death toll, and I have never heard a suggestion that the victims' descendents are entitled to reparations.   However, I have heard repeated complaints about Pinochet's killing 3,000 leftists in Chile.  That is wrong, and it is a significant crime, but it is tiny compared to what the US government did.

I decided to assign part of Thomas J. DiLorenzo's book Lincoln Unmasked as well as part of his Hamilton's Curse in a new course I have developed called Government and Business.  Usually Government and Business courses are textbook-based, cliche-ridden Progressive propaganda.  CUNY's new free institutions program gave me released time last year, and I have developed the Business and Government course from a libertarian, free market, and anti-statist persepective.

Most historical accounts of the Civil War are told from the northern point of view; they emphasize the role of slavery, which is fair to a point.  It is also true that there had been a southern secessionist movement in the late 1820s that had zero to do with slavery.  It had to do with a tariff, the so-called Tariff of Abominations.  There was much tariff talk in 1859 and 1860, and to say that secession had nothing to do with tariffs smacks of the kind of propanda that makes Pinochet the world's greatest criminal and Stalin an omelet maker.  The low quality of historical research in general becomes embarrassing whenever economic issues are relevant, as DiLorenzo points out.  An historian who claims that tariffs made the US wealthy, for instance, is a fool, not a formidable intellect as Americans often believe.

In 1828 John Calhoun published a tract entitled "The South Carolina Exposition and Protest" in which he argued for South Carolina's nullification of the 1828 tariff.  Jefferson, who had died two years earlier, would have approved.  Tariffs helped northern manufacturers but directly harmed southern agricultural interests. This is what Wikipedia says about Lincoln's position on the tariff:
The Republican party included a strong pro-tariff plank in its 1860 platform. They also sent prominent tariff advocates such as Morrill and Sherman to campaign in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where the tariff was popular, by touting the Morrill bill. Both Democratic candidates, John C. Breckenridge and Stephen Douglas, opposed all high tariffs and protectionism in general.[4]
Historian Reinhard H. Luthin documents the importance of the Morrill Tariff to the Republicans in the 1860 presidential election.[5] Abraham Lincoln's record as a protectionist and support for the Morrill Tariff bill, he notes, helped him to secure support in the important electoral college state of Pennsylvania, as well as neighboring New Jersey. Lincoln carried Pennsylvania handily in November, as part of his sweep of the North...On February 14, 1861, President-elect Lincoln told an audience in Pittsburgh that he would make a new tariff his priority in the next session if the bill did not pass by inauguration day on March 4.

Seven of eleven secessionist states had seceded by March 1861, and the Republicans took control of the Senate. The Morrill Tariff then passed.  It was signed by Democratic President James Buchanan. Buchanan was from Pennsylvania, and he voted for the tariff despite his Democratic affiliation.  He had bankrupted the US government, and a tariff was needed in part to cover the financial mess.  It cannot be said that the South seceded because of the Morrill Tariff because seven of the eleven states that seceded had seceded before the Morrill Tariff was passed, and the tariff likely would not have passed without the southerners' seceding.  At the same time, Lincoln's strong support for protectionism contributed to southerners' concerns about his election.

DiLorenzo is a clear writer, but he needs to tone it down;  in rhetoric less is typically more. Otherwise, his books are great.  His point that Lincoln was a racist who preferred to keep the territories all white to avoiding the Civil War is intriguing (see David Gordon's review on the von Mises site).  He follows through on an idea I have thought of for some time: there is an arc of statism that stretches from Hamilton, through Lincoln, through the Progressives, through the New Deal on to Bush, the bailout, and Obama.

One of the interesting points DiLorenzo makes in his two excellent books is that Hitler was an admirer of Lincoln. DiLorenzo quotes Hitler in Mein Kampf (p. 566, 579 Houghton Mifflin 1999 edition) as supporting the Lincoln position on secession:

 [T]he individual states of the American Union . . . could not have possessed any state sovereignty of their own. For it was not these states that formed the Union, on the contrary it was the Union which formed a great part of such so-called states...Certainly all the states in the world are moving toward a certain unification in their inner organization. And in this Germany will be no exception. Today it is an absurdity to speak of a ‘state sovereignty' of individual provinces.

Hitler would have been a supporter of today's European Union as well.  DiLorenzo makes the point that pro-Lincoln propagandists, who are quick to brand anyone who questions Lincoln's cult of centralization a racist, are in full agreement with Hitler.  If you have a bad argument like centralization, violent suppression of the governed, and totalitarianism, as do Lincoln's supporters, then it is necessary to divert the argument by calling those who disagree with you racists or advocates of slavery.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Land of the Serf

A nation that is willing to be told how large a soda to drink to satisfy the public good is capable of being told that it must give up its wealth to satisfy the public good or that it must suppress its speech to satisfy the public good. America may still be among the better games in the world, but there is less reason to think that it is exceptional than ever before, and there is increasing reason to question where the American path to serfdom is leading.