Should there be limits on the federal government? Yes. Should there be pluralism and competition in policies? Yes. Should those ideas be advanced by advocates of the cause of what was once known as “the slave power“? No, because that cause was not the cause of liberty, but of oppression. Here’s an example of how good ideas such as federalism and decentralization of power are poisoned by truly bad messengers: “Convention With A Fringe On Top.” When you’re singled out as the craziest person at CPAC, you’ve really got to be crazy. Congratulations, Tom Woods.
Why the Messenger Matters
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32 Responses to “Why the Messenger Matters”
I cringed when I read that. My liberal friends will go to town on that one.
Of course it’s more important that we libertarians cringe when we read of this. And until we do, our cause will continue to be associated with messages and messengers that are the detrimental to the larger cause of political, economic, and social liberty.
Hmm…and your source is a website which has been voted “Best Liberal Blog.”
But maybe more telling:
“Should those ideas be advanced by advocates of the cause of what was once known as “the slave power“?”
“how good ideas such as federalism and decentralization of power”
Federalism and decentralization of power were both “causes” promoted by slave-owners. So, since you are apparently advocating these things, which slave-owners also advocated, you must be a terrible racist champion of slavery. Shame on you.
You’re making my point, Mr. (or Ms.) Sigh. The dominant media have reason to tie decent people who resist more and more centralization of power in Washington with people who resisted attempts to protect the rights of black Americans. Federalism was not, in fact, promoted by the “slave power.” They promoted enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act and forced it on the free states, as you ought to know. But, in any case, a lifelong defender of the cause of South Carolinian secession (and please, do yourself a favor and read the statement of why South Carolina seceded — it’s easy and you’ll be a better person for it: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_scarsec.asp and then ask yourself if that’s a cause you would want to espouse) is not a good advocate for federalism.
Your logic is deeply faulty. I was against the invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was against the invasion of Iraq. Therefore, I endorse Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. That doesn’t follow. But if I had openly endorsed Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, that would be a different matter. And Tom Woods has endorsed South Carolina’s secession over and over.
Yes, the logic in that argument is faulty. Anyone can see that, which was the point–to highlight the problems with your argument. Do you really think Mr. Woods supports secession for the *same reasons* the slaveowners did? Because he believes in slavery?
Maybe people who don’t understand his reasoning might think so, just like people might brand one a racist if they do not support federally mandated anti-discrimination, or anti-gay if they don’t think the state should be in the marriage business in the first place. It is easier to attack the person for being evil-minded than to actually address their arguments. Maybe you shouldn’t encourage this kind of uninformed labeling.
A lot of people who opposed the Civil Rights Act and other similar legislation were racists and had terrible motives. But some people may have been opposed on principle–worrying about the supremacy of property rights and freedom of association, or the scary prospect of allowing the government to expand its powers to do something good, which could eventually lead to them using those new powers to do something bad. Do you suggest we brand those people as racist, or discredit what they say for fear the media will misinterpret them (or distance ourselves if we think we’ll be misinterpreted)? This happens to be a favorite tactic of liberals in pushing “socially progressive” programs on the public (if you disagree–you must hate children, black people, the poor, sick people, etc.) Exactly what I would expect from a blog like that. But not a libertarian blog.
“I was against the invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was against the invasion of Iraq. Therefore, I endorse Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. That doesn’t follow. But if I had openly endorsed Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, that would be a different matter. And Tom Woods has endorsed South Carolina’s secession over and over.”
You switch things at the end. Are you suggesting Woods supports the racist motivations behind South Carolina’s move to secede? I tend to think he has other reasons (reasons that he believes are pro-liberty) for his conclusions rather than a desire to return to slavery. I think that if historically things were switched around–that the secession issue came up via the anti-slavery states–that Woods would still make the same arguments. That is the logical problem. Am I evil if I think people should be able to hire whoever they want (even if I condemn those personally who discriminate based on race)? Or if I don’t support policies that advance good causes at the expense of liberty? There is a lot of room for discussion about these important issues, but your post (and all libertarian faction-feuding) doesn’t advance the dialogue. You seem to want to silence it.
How “Should those ideas be advanced by advocates of the cause of what was once known as “the slave power“?”, “bad messenger” and Tom Woods are supposed to be related?
No evidence regarding what Woods actually said at the convention.
The only “evidence” you offer is a link to an article which itself does not offer any evidence of what you insinuate and relies on other articles, most notably on Max Boot’s review of a “Politically Incorrect Guide to American History” in which one does not even find any evidence of what is claimed we can find, Woods’s sympathy for slave-owners that is. Since you rely on such authorities to make your “point”, I understand we are supposed to take them seriously, even though they do not offer anything but smears. On top of all that, you add that “When you’re singled out as the craziest person at CPAC, you’ve really got to be crazy.” which borders on insult. How “socially tolerant” is that?
Do you really think your invitation to take seriously this “Progress Report” and its sources will blindly be accepted? Are you never tired of smears? Don’t you realize that you’re not going to be taken seriously anymore with such a poorly argued case and vicious rhetoric?
Sigh is correct regarding the “logic” of your argument I’m afraid, which you try to claim is his though he was simply claiming it is yours. Your response further illustrates that: “in any case, a lifelong defender of the cause of South Carolinian secession (and please, do yourself a favor and read the statement of why South Carolina seceded — it’s easy and you’ll be a better person for it: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19t…..carsec.asp and then ask yourself if that’s a cause you would want to espouse) is not a good advocate for federalism.” So if there is a statement declaring an intent to secede for reason X or Y, any person (or does it apply only to Woods?) supporting South Carolina secession is supposed to espouse it for the same reason and presumably endorse the whole statement and intended project. That seems to be your logic.
I hate to stick in my nose, but I wonder what it must be like to have to point this out to people. If you want to be linked to the racism you should be seen warming up to Thomas Woods, Lew Rockwell, and Co. If you don’t want that, you should avoid them.
Advocates of South Carolina’s secession did not want to “return” to slavery, but to keep it. They saw that eventually they would not be able to hang on to their evil institution in the union; the demographics were against them. (That’s what they thought, at least.) So endorsing that movement was an endorsement of keeping slavery. But put it another way: if you think one could be sneaky in hindsight and endorse the secession contrary to the motives of the people who actually did it, it’s because you think you know something that they didn’t. Well, Thomas Woods does know at least one thing that they didn’t. The Union went to war with them, and that war had a staggering death toll. So if you think that supporting it was a good reason because of something you know that the South Carolina slaveholders did not know, then if, among your additional knowledge is the fact that it triggered a war, you should also oppose it, because of the deaths that war caused.
So he can’t have it both ways. If he supported it for the reasons the South Carolinians did, he is an advocate of keeping the South’s “peculiar institution.” If he didn’t, but had some other reason based on knowledge not known to them, then he also should condemn it, for the reason that he also knows it triggered a terrible war. That route won’t get him out of the problem. Moreover, even if he thought that he could bifurcate his knowledge and keep the alleged knowledge of some benefit to liberty from the secession of the Slave Power, but eliminate the knowledge of the war, he would have to come up with some pro-liberty account that would be simply staggering in its weight and significance to overcome the continued enslavement of over half of South Carolina’s population. Slavery was not some minor infringement of liberty, like Sunday closing laws, but the keeping in chains and treatment as breeding stock of the majority of the population. My imagination does not run to such extremes as that. No additional increment of liberty for the minority population of the state could have justified the perpetuation of slavery. Not for one minute.
It’s more than a tad disingenuous, Tom, to imply that the south’s secession was driven by an “additional increment of liberty for the minority population.” The 1860 census indicates that the 11 confederate states had a total population of 9,103,332. Out of that 5,582,222 were free and 3,521,110 were slave.
That makes 61% of the Confederate population free.
It is still not an excuse for trampling the freedom of the 39% that were slaves. But if we’re using majorities as the gauge, you need to at least be honest with your numbers. Also since you’re making arguments from hindsight, you should also remember that those 39% who were slaves (and a whole lot of other slaves in the states that remained in the Union) would have remained slaves for a long time had those states remained in the Union. There was no serious political threat to abolish slavery nationwide in 1861 (in fact, one of the conciliation terms Lincoln offered at the outset of the war was a Constitutional amendment that would have protected slavery where it existed from any future congressional intervention).
The only reason it happened when it did two years later is the fact that the North figured out they could arm the slaves as soldiers and rapidly increase the size of their armies over night. So in hindsight, slavery would have likely continued for at least a few decades longer than it did in BOTH the Confederate and the non-Confederate slave states without secession.
At the risk of playing too many historical what-ifs, I would also posit that had Lincoln let the Confederacy go in peace, he would have had greater success in offering his “compensated emancipation” program to the northern slave states of Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware, meaning within a few years slavery would have been gone there. That would have left it only in the 11 Confederate states, which had just geographically isolated themselves by voluntarily ceding any claim they previously had on the future of the Kansas and Nebraska territories (the alleged slavery-related “cause” of the Civil War). It’s difficult to say exactly when slavery would have ended there, but gauging by the general economic trends and emancipation trends in the rest of the western world, a fair estimate is circa 1880-1890 (which is also probably a fair estimate of when slavery would have ended had the south never seceded).
The question then becomes one of what results in the most liberty for the most people? There are three possibilities:
1. What happened – South Secedes, North invades, Civil War. Pros: 3.8 million slaves are emancipated in 5 years. Cons: about 1 million deaths (700K soldies, 300K civilian displacement, disease, starvation etc), 500K more wounded in action, severe disruption of the federalist relation between state and national government, severe civil liberties abuses by both governments during the war, rapid centralization and expansion of government power and budget at the national level, taxes skyrocket both to pay for the war and as a permanent fixture of the post-war protectionist regime.
2. South doesn’t secede. Cons: 3.8 million in slavery, lasts for next 20 to 40 years. Pros: No war, federalist balance maintained, growth in federal government occurs but at much slower pace. Taxes go up driven by northeast protectionist ascendancy, but are challenged by southern and western opposition.
3. South secedes, North doesn’t invade. Cons: 3.5 million in slavery in South, lasts for 20-40 years. Government centralizes in North consistent with Lincoln’s economic plan, taxes go up rapidly in North driven by northeastern protectionists, western states lack votes to stop. Pros: 300K slaves in border states emancipated via Lincoln’s compensation program within 5 years. Taxes go down in South, free trade pact b/w South and England likely signed. Government generally decentralized in South.
None is ideal for liberty. But both 2 & 3 are clearly better for liberty for the greatest number of people, and the case is strong that 3 is also better than 2.
First, you need to read more carefully. I was not being disingenuous, which is a rather cheeky thing to write when you are not reading carefully. South Carolina is not “the South.” It is quite clear that I was referring to the decision by the government of South Carolina to secede, not to “the South” (that may be why I wrote “Advocates of South Carolina’s secession,” for example), and the population of South Carolina was well above 50% enslaved. If you read the justification offered by those who made that decision, you will understand that they seceded for the purpose of preserving slavery. No decent person, and certainly no “libertarian,” would endorse that.
Second, your various scenarios (“there are three possibilities”) are hardly exhaustive, nor even especially plausible, other than the first one, since it’s the one that happened. Counter-factual history is, in any case, a different matter than looking at matters as they were experienced by the people who made the decisions at the time. And those who took South Carolina out of the union told us very clearly why they did so: to preserve slavery. Would you have voted with them to do so? (And note, that is a different question from the question, “Would you have voted to wage war on them for doing so?”)
Why, then, do you make a special distinction for South Carolina? I don’t believe Tom Woods caveats his arguments on secession with the claim that they pertain to South Carolina alone (and neither did the link you posted – it referred to the South in general). It’s not as if the Civil War was fought in that state alone, or if the 10 other Confederate states involved are to be neglected simply because they waited a few weeks longer to do the same act.
In fact, looking over the course of this discussion it is immediately evident that you and you alone turned its direction to South Carolina by describing Woods and/or another as a “lifelong defender of the cause of South Carolinian secession” when only the South as a whole had been defended. If that was intentional – and your present claim that you carefully chose to hone in on South Carolina specifically gives every reason to believe that it was – it is indeed a disingenuous critique to make, because in doing so you are misrepresenting Woods’ position, the position that the South or in fact any state – not just South Carolina – had the right to secede.
Returning to that question, as I have shown slaves were clearly NOT the majority of the population for the Confederacy as a whole. I’ll add that they were the majority in only two of the eleven (Mississippi and South Carolina) and in four Confederate states (Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas) the free population was 70% or higher.
So where then do you draw the line, Tom? And what makes South Carolina’s secession any more “representative” than any other state? Why should we take its stated causes for secession over those of Georgia, where there was a lengthy and heated debate over the Morrill Tariff act and its negative effects on the state’s commercial exports? Why should we take it over the conventions in Virginia and North Carolina, where the most prominent instigating factor for their secession had more to do with Lincoln’s call for troops than anything else? How about the border states and western territories that divided between north and south, not so much over slavery but the fact that opposing armies were marching through them and committing the typical atrocities of war? I’m not denying slavery’s place in starting the Civil War by any means, but I do question your apparent tactic of attempting to define that war, and with it Woods’ position on secession, by looking only to the example of the single most vehement and radical pro-slavery state.
That is neither an honest representation of Woods’ position, nor a sound argument against secession in itself. It is a prime example of artificial parsing by convenience and contrivance though.
I should also note as to my three scenarios, their plausibility is directly attested to in the fact that they represented the three major and competing positions on how to deal with the emerging crisis in the Winter of 1860-61.
#1 – answer secession with invasion – was incoming President Lincoln’s position, and the course that happened.
#2 – striking a compromise to prevent secession – was the position of the Washington Peace Conference headed by former President Tyler.
#3 – let the south secede but don’t really do anything – was outgoing President Buchanan’s position.
Why would I focus on South Carolina? Hmmmmm….. Maybe because it was the first state to secede and set a terrible chain of events in motion. The secession started with South Carolina. It has, shall we say, a certain prominence. Moreover, other states (notably the upper south) seceded when the war had broken out and they had to take sides, i.e., after the slave holders of South Carolina had seceded for the very clear purpose of keeping other people in chains. If the neo-Confederates would denounce that act of secession, I would be surprised.
As to your scenarios, I was referring not to the choices (which you re-sketch in your rejoinder), but to the outcomes you associate with them. Whether the outcome you describe would have happened in each case (other than 1, where we already know the answer) is not a necessary consequence of the choice made. That is where counter-factual history gets iffy. But again, the issue is whether secession on behalf of slavery — and don’t try to duck that issue again, sir, because that is why the secession took place in the first place — was morally justified. It was not justified. I am not “attempting to define that war” — that is a distortion of my view, since I clearly distinguish the secession (unjustified) from the war (also unjustified), but defining the initiation of secession. You suggest that if the secession was unjustifed, then the war was justified. That, sir, does not follow, and my views should not be so mischaracterized.
It wasn’t only the state of South Carolina that rested its case on the preservation of slavery. Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, in his famous “Cornerstone Speech” rested the foundations of the CSA on slavery:
“But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at 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. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
Like it or not, that was from one of the founders and highest officers of the Confederate States of America.
He was, moreover, in favor of secession because he opposed the “nullification” of the fugitive slave laws by the northern states, not because he favored nullification. That part of the debate is consistently overlooked by fans of the Confederate cause.
You write that “he can’t have it both ways. If he supported it for the reasons the South Carolinians did, he is an advocate of keeping the South’s “peculiar institution.” If he didn’t, but had some other reason based on knowledge not known to them, then he also should condemn it, for the reason that he also knows it triggered a terrible war.”
I’m afraid you are changing your arguments when convenient. In the discussion related to this very post on your facebook profile, you wrote that “The government (not “the people”) of South Carolina could have seceded, without the decision being followed by a decision of the government of the union to go to war.” Here you say the exact opposite. It is supposed to be obvious that secession triggered a terrible war. Well, how can you have it both ways? And how do you know that Woods thinks one or the other is true?
Furthermore, let me assume you are right on what happened with this episode of American history, that you demonstrated it, and that Woods is ultimately wrong, incoherent and confused. That is the most you would have proven. You would not have demonstrated anything regarding his motives. He could certainly believe, wrongly if you are right, that secession was better justified from a libertarian point of view than the status quo. So in order to show that Woods was actually an advocate of the “slave power” cause, as you insinuated, you need more than that, you need some evidence in regard to his motives. Otherwise, this is nothing but smear.
Or you could come back to the view you suggested before here and on facebook that if one sees favorably South Carolina’s secession, then this must be because one supports the view on slavery expressed in the declaration you mentioned. This view is of course a statement without a justification. Smear again.
My point is that there is certainly room for reasonable debate on these important topics. Smears do not help in this regard.
You need to think this through a bit more carefully.
A. Woods and the other neo-Con(federate)s support South Carolina’s secession for the reason that the people who pushed it through supported it.
B. They support it for some other reason.
If A, then the very best and most charitable interpretation is that they consider “liberty” a collective concept attributable to “states,” rather than to “individuals,” and the “state” of South Carolina would be freed, although the majority of the population would remain enslaved. That’s hardly libertarian, but the most charitable interpretation possible.
If B, then it’s because they think that, contrary to the intentions of the South Carolina secession promoters, it would promote, rather than retard, the progress of liberty. That means that they know something that the South Carolina secession advocates did not. (And that all the Confederates who asserted the centrality of slavery to their cause did not; see History Buff’s note below.) If they base their support for South Carolina’s secession on such highly conjectural and speculative knowledge claims, then they must also acknowledge knowledge claims that are neither conjectural nor speculative, viz. that the secession triggered a war and a series of horrors (Sherman’s march, for example). It need not be obvious that secession “would” trigger a war; it’s obvious that it did trigger one. And that’s what would be the important point for those who would invoke knowledge not available to the South Carolina secession promoters.
Put this in context of the bilious hatred directed toward those who stood up for civil rights by, among others, his colleagues at the Mises Institute, Rockwell, DiLorenzo, and Huebert. Their remarks about Martin Luther King (note Rockwell’s racist rants in the ugly Ron Paul newsletters case, with statements that Ron Paul, as a gentleman, rejected entirely) and about Rosa Parks, one of the most elegant advocates of American freedom in the past sixty years, give you a hint. (She wouldn’t “get off her fat lazy ass” was their interpretation of her motives for not giving up her seat to a white traveler when informed that it was required by “law.”) It’s a part of a very disturbing pattern.
History Buff –
I take issue with your contention that Alexander H. Stephens was an architect of the 1860-61 secession movement, or even a personal supporter of the secession and nullification doctrines.
He most certainly was not:
“Shall the people of the South secede from the Union in consequence of the election of Mr. Lincoln? My countrymen, I tell you frankly, candidly, and earnestly, that I do not think they ought. In my judgment the election of no man, constitutionally chosen, is sufficient cause for any State to separate from the Union. It ought to stand by and aid still in maintaining the Constitution of the country. To make a point of resistance to the Government, to withdraw from it because a man has been constitutionally elected, puts us in the wrong. We are pledged to maintain the Constitution. Many of us have sworn to support it. Can we, therefore, for the mere election of a man to the presidency, and that, too, in accordance with the prescribed forms
of the Constitution, make a point of resistance to the Government without becoming the breakers of that sacred instrument ourselves, by withdrawing ourselves from it? Would we not be in the wrong?” – Alexander H. Stephens, November 14, 1860
He only jumped on the Confederate bandwagon after the tide turned in its favor, and that only after vigorously opposing secession for months.
Tom – If I’m not mistaken, that Rosa Parks comment is a quote of a joke Cedric the Entertainer told in Barbershop, not the malicious “racist” comment you (and apparently Jesse Jackson) make it out to be.
Not only that, it turns out Cedric (and by inference those who quote him) was essentially correct. Parks’ case only became a cause celebre because she was a politically connected local officer in the left-leaning NAACP. Two other earlier cases of black women being arrested for not giving up their bus seats were ignored because they weren’t politically connected and weren’t deemed sympathetic enough by the “professional” wing of the civil rights movement. See this:
I can’t believe….no, sadly, I CAN believe that the Woods and DiLorenzo backers would sign up again to defend the smearing of Rosa Parks on the occasion of her death by DiLorenzo, Huebert, and Rockwell (http://tomgpalmer.com/2005/10/31/no-ugly-racism-here/comment-page-1/#comments). As soon as those people get caught with their racism showing, they and their fanatical backers start shooting out clouds of ink like a hyperactive squid, and for the same purpose, to obscure where they really are on the issue. The remark from DiLorenzo about Parks’ allegedly “big fat, lazy ass” was a hateful smear offered when the lady had died. Not only does it show no class at all, but it revealed pure hostility to the cause of justice and liberty for black Americans. (And I remember that Huebert in his LRC posts belittled and mocked Parks for refusing to give up her seat, comparing her to a cranky old lady who takes offense at everything.)
Nothing about the remark is “essentially correct” at all. Besides the beauty of Parks and her actiopns, the NAACP did a great service by helping to publicize that case. As a libertarian, I am grateful to the NAACP for their strategic vision. The Institute for Justice and the ACLU take cases on the basis of whether they are likely to win. Palmer and his co-plaintiffs have strategically advanced the right to keep and bear arms. They didn’t defend just anyone: they chose their plaintiffs and planned their case carefully. They, like the NAACP, are strategic. So Rockwell and DiLorenzo and Woods and the rest of the racists in Auburn (not that everyone in Auburn is a racist) condemn them for being successful in overturning Jim Crow Laws. They condemn them for advancing liberty.
I’m also a bit surprised that the Rockwellites are so eager to defend the immediate posthumous slander of a distinguished defender of liberty and justice, Rosa Parks. It’s so much like a dog returning to its own vomit. The stench of racism and of blacks being told to stay in their place is unmistakable. I will leave to others parsing the finer points of Stephens’s Cornerstone Speech, which put white supremacy at the foundation of the cause that is so central to the Rockwell worldview: “the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” After doing a little research, I found that Stephens was a reluctant supporter of the Confederacy, but only after he became convinced that it was the best way to preserve the South’s peculiar institution. History Buff’s comment seems entirely on point to me.
If Rockwell really believed the way Palmer says he does, why would he run this?
“And if you personally sport Dixie roots, don’t hesitate to apologize for your slaveholding ancestors. Just because they were dead wrong on slavery doesn’t morally compromise you today.”
“The basic root of the controversy over slavery to secession, in my opinion, was the aggressive, expansionist aims of the Southern ‘slavocracy.'”
“The government of the Confederacy, born, as we believe, to the parents,’ self-determination and liberty, was nothing but coercion, violence and force wearing a butternut uniform.”
Or how about this?
“Few Americans have ever heard the heroic story of how the people of Wisconsin and several other states stood up to the federal government’s tyrannical, unconstitutional slave laws with the help of their elected state officials.”
These articles are incompatible with the worldview that Palmer interprets from a few various pieces on LewRockwell.com. There are many, many others too, that simply make no sense in light of this interpretation. Either Rockwell doesn’t hold the views he is accused of holding, or these articles prove that he is willing to publish stuff he doesn’t fully agree with — which would also complicate Palmer’s argument.
Seriously, I ask people to read these articles and decide for themselves.
I will note that some of those are rather more recent, but Rothbard’s is the oldest and, as he plays the role of the guru there, all of his works are put online, including his many libertarian analyses and his occasional very non-libertarian ones (e.g., his eulogy to Che Guevara). During his last years, after zig-zagging from far right to far left and then stopping for a while in classical liberal mode, he had teamed up with Rockwell and concocted with him a strategy to ally with the far right, including protectionists, populists, nationalists, immigrant bashers, and racists. (That was when Rockwell wrote for the Los Angeles Times his infamous endorsement of the brutal beating of Rodney King and his call for banning video cameras.) The line may be changing…a bit. And I’m happy to see discussions anywhere of secession without endorsing secession for the purpose of enslaving others. (I think that the secession of the various Soviet Republics from the USSR was obviously a good thing overall, and Boris Yeltsin’s decision to let them go was the right one. It’s too bad it did not extend to others, as well, such as Chechnya.) But it is well known that Rockwell himself, as well as a few of his chief lieutenants, have displayed extreme hostility to equal civil rights for black Americans (and others) and an affinity for truly loathsome racist ideas, movements, and persons. If they are embarrassed by it and take their hateful posts down when I or others draw attention to them (including endorsements of the swastika, smears of Rosa Parks, etc., etc.), that’s fine with me. Embarrassment has some value, after all. The history of Rockwell, Woods, and others should give decent people reason to avoid association with them.
P.S. For those who haven’t seen it, here’s Llewellyn H. Rockwell in the Los Angeles Times:
IT’S SAFE STREETS VERSUS URBAN TERROR; IN THE ‘50S, RAMPANT CRIME DIDN’T EXIST BECAUSE OFFENDERS FEARED WHAT THE POLICE WOULD DO.
March 10, 1991
Los Angeles Times, Sunday edition
By LLEWELLYN H. ROCKWELL
If you offer a small boy one candy bar now or 10 tomorrow, he’ll grab the one. That’s because children have what economists call a “high time preference.” They want it, and they want it now. The future is a haze.
The punishing of children must take this into account. One good whack on the bottom can have an effect. A threat about no TV all next year will not.
As we grow older, this changes. We care more, and think more, about the future. In fact, this is the very process of maturation. We plan, save, invest and put off today’s gratification until tomorrow.
But street criminals, as economist Murray N. Rothbard points out, have the time preference of depraved infants. The prospect of a jail sentence 12 months from now has virtually no effect.
As recently as the 1950s — when street crime was not rampant in America — the police always operated on this principle: No matter the vagaries of the court system, a mugger or rapist knew he faced a trouncing — proportionate to the offense and the offender — in the back of the paddy wagon, and maybe even a repeat performance at the station house. As a result, criminals were terrified of the cops, and our streets were safe.
Today’s criminals know that they probably won’t be convicted, and that if the are, they face a short sentence — someday. The result is city terrorism, though we are seldom shown videos of old people being mugged, women being raped, gangs shooting drivers at random or store clerks having their throats slit.
What we do see, over and over again, is the tape of some Los Angeles-area cops giving the what-for to an ex-con. It is not a pleasant sight, of course; neither is cancer surgery.
Did they hit him too many times? Sure, but that’s not the issue: It’s safe streets versus urban terror, and why we have moved from one to the other.
Liberals talk about banning guns. As a libertarian, I can’t agree. I am, however, beginning to wonder about video cameras.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, an economics think tank in Auburn, Ala.
Are they changing their tune? If so, that sounds like a good thing. I attended some of the LvMI events and was exposed to more southern nationalism than I could take. I hope that they will throw that stuff overboard.
Since the Mises Institute has put audio and/or video of its events online for years, perhaps Drew could provide links to the recordings of the lectures where he alleges “southern nationalism” was espoused.
“If A, then the very best and most charitable interpretation is that they consider “liberty” a collective concept attributable to “states,” rather than to “individuals,” and the “state” of South Carolina would be freed, although the majority of the population would remain enslaved. That’s hardly libertarian, but the most charitable interpretation possible.
If B, then it’s because they think that, contrary to the intentions of the South Carolina secession promoters, it would promote, rather than retard, the progress of liberty. That means that they know something that the South Carolina secession advocates did not. (And that all the Confederates who asserted the centrality of slavery to their cause did not; see History Buff’s note below.) If they base their support for South Carolina’s secession on such highly conjectural and speculative knowledge claims, then they must also acknowledge knowledge claims that are neither conjectural nor speculative, viz. that the secession triggered a war and a series of horrors (Sherman’s march, for example). It need not be obvious that secession “would” trigger a war; it’s obvious that it did trigger one. And that’s what would be the important point for those who would invoke knowledge not available to the South Carolina secession promoters.”
First, even a cursory look at Woods’ guide to American History shows that option A is to be rejected, unless Woods wrote the opposite of what he really thinks.
Regarding option B, secession per se consists in desubmitting a whole bunch of people to a central government, which in itself is perfectly okay as far as libertarian principles are concerned. Of course, it is a genuine plus in the long run if it makes a difference, as far as the overall degree of tyranny is concerned.
Regarding additional reasons to support secession of South Carolina (or of any other state), that the South Carolina declaration would ignore and that would go against its declared intentions to preserve slavery, there is at least one favorably mentioned in Woods’ book held by abolitionist William Lloyd Garisson who “believed Northern secession would undermine Southern slavery. If the Northern states were a separate country, the North would be under no constitutional obligation to return runaway slaves to their masters. The Northern states would then become a haven for runaway slaves. The enforcement cost of Southern slavery would become prohibitive, and the institution would collapse” That he would collapse”
Second, even if it was absolutely clear that secession triggered the war and that from a libertarian point of view Woods should then be against it, I believe you engage here in a mischaracterization of his views. My understanding is that Woods claims that secession is okay at least for the aforementioned reasons, from a libertarian point of view. I don’t know what he would claim facing the interesting dilemma you suggest (given that we “know” a terrible war would happen, should we really push for secession even if our cause is just?) but I think his main normative point is that the cause of secession is just, which is a different thing, unless you want to conflate every issue when it suits a pre-determined conclusion against Woods, while asking us to seperate war and secession when we readers try to understand your position.
His edited book, We Who Dared Say No to War, also criticizes the Mexican War, partly for the Southern motive of expanding slavery, and attacks the Confederacy in its Civil War section.
Still waiting for Drew to provide those links. The media archive at Mises.org is really well organized and goes back years, so it should be easy enough to recall which events you traveled to Auburn to attend and provide links, so we can hear all this bad stuff for ourselves.
I mean, that would be way more damning than a 20-year-old op-ed by Rockwell, so it seems like this could be a really valuable contribution to the “Fever Swamp” literature, so let’s have it.
I can’t force people to revisit old blog posts to find challenges, but I’ll send a note to the email address he provided.
I do remember a discussion a few years back in which an enthusiastic LvMI backer (Marcus Epstein, a super-charged Rockwellian who recently pled guilty to assaulting a black woman in Washington while calling her “nigger”: http://washingtonindependent.com/45075/tom-tancredo-and-the-n-word ) noted that the most recent “Austrian Scholars conference” had only six presentations on the confederacy, which seemed an, um, unusually high ratio for a conference on “Austrian economics.” The discussion (note that most of the links are now dead, including those to the http://www.mises.org site) was here:
Thank you for the email, Dr. Palmer. It is not very pleasant for me to get mixed up in this, since I have friends who have attended Mises Institute events. With that prefatory remark, I can say that I did not hear any formal lectures that presented any southern nationalist or racist content, but the “South Will Rise Again” comments and the dismissing remarks against Martin Luther King and other civil rights workers from some faculty and some students made me very uncomfortable. I do not understand the hatred against, for example, Dr. Martin Luther King. I did not expect those views at an event on economics, but I heard enough to make me uncomfortable and to make me want to keep my distance. I know that I am not the only one who felt that way.
How did I know that, despite the Mises Institute’s efforts to put everything it does online, you would not be able to document your claim? No, I can’t actually prove it, it was just “in the air.” Take your word for it.
Anyway, you say “some faculty” made disparaging remarks about “Martin Luther King and other civil rights workers.” So even though you can’t document this, why not be specific? Why not tell us who said what? It doesn’t seem fair to associate such remarks with every faculty member when only some did this, so why not help us sort the good from the bad? Who was it, and what did they say?
Woods’ take on his past involvement with the League of the South and unlibertarian positions: http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/7450.html
Tom Palmer says
“Put this in context of the bilious hatred directed toward those who stood up for civil rights by, among others, his colleagues at the Mises Institute, Rockwell, DiLorenzo, and Huebert. Their remarks about Martin Luther King (note Rockwell’s racist rants in the ugly Ron Paul newsletters case, with statements that Ron Paul, as a gentleman, rejected entirely) and about Rosa Parks, one of the most elegant advocates of American freedom in the past sixty years, give you a hint. (She wouldn’t “get off her fat lazy ass” was their interpretation of her motives for not giving up her seat to a white traveler when informed that it was required by “law.”) It’s a part of a very disturbing pattern.”
You do not take seriously enough your guilt by association game. As a close associate to Lew Rockwell, you should by your own logic condemn Ron Paul. Ah, by the way, “gentleman” Ron Paul condemned the Civil Rights legislation that trample on legitimate (according to libertarian criteria) property rights, as the other authors you mention: http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul188.html
If simply standing up against these “civil rights” makes you cringe, so be it, but libertarians have good reasons for that. I think you would be well inspired to “check your premises”, as Randians would put it, before giving lessons in libertarian purity.