Up from Slavery

There's no such thing as a golden age of lost liberty

For many libertarians, "the road to serfdom" is not just the title of a great book but also the window through which they see the world. We’re losing our freedom, year after year, they think. They (we) quote Thomas Jefferson: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” We read books with titles like Freedom in Chains, Lost Rights, The Rise of Federal Control over the Lives of Ordinary Americans, and yes, The Road to Serfdom.

The Cato Institute's boilerplate description of itself used to include the line, "Since [the American] revolution, civil and economic liberties have been eroded." Until Clarence Thomas, then chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, gave a speech at Cato and pointed out to us that it didn't seem quite that way to black people.

And he was right. American public policy has changed in many ways since the American Revolution, sometimes in a libertarian direction, sometimes not.

Brink Lindsey talks of an "implicit libertarian synthesis" in American politics today in his book The Age of Abundance. He argued in 2007:

Nevertheless, the fact is that American society today is considerably more libertarian than it was a generation or two ago. Compare conditions now to how they were at the outset of the 1960s. Official governmental discrimination against blacks no longer exists. Censorship has beaten a wholesale retreat. The rights of the accused enjoy much better protection. Abortion, birth control, interracial marriage, and gay sex are legal. Divorce laws have been liberalized and rape laws strengthened. Pervasive price and entry controls in the transportation, energy, communications, and financial sectors are gone. Top income tax rates have been slashed. The pretensions of macroeconomic fine-tuning have been abandoned. Barriers to international trade are much lower. Unionization of the private sector work force has collapsed. Of course there are obvious counterexamples, but on the whole it seems clear that cultural expression, personal lifestyle choices, entrepreneurship, and the play of market forces all now enjoy much wider freedom of maneuver.

Has there ever been a golden age of liberty? No, and there never will be. There will always be people who want to live their lives in peace, and there will always be people who want to exploit them or impose their own ideas on others. If we look at the long term—from a past that includes despotism, feudalism, absolutism, fascism, and communism—we’re clearly better off. When we look at our own country's history—contrasting 2010 with 1776 or 1910 or 1950 or whatever—the story is less clear. We suffer under a lot of regulations and restrictions that our ancestors didn’t face.

But in 1776 black Americans were held in chattel slavery, and married women had no legal existence except as agents of their husbands. In 1910 and even 1950, blacks still suffered under the legal bonds of Jim Crow—and we all faced confiscatory tax rates throughout the postwar period.

I am particularly struck by libertarians and conservatives who celebrate the freedom of early America, and deplore our decline from those halcyon days, without bothering to mention the existence of slavery. Take R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., longtime editor of the American Spectator. In Policy Review (Summer 1987, not online), he wrote:

Let us flee to a favored utopia. For me that would be the late 18th Century but with air conditioning....With both feet firmly planted on the soil of my American domain, and young American flag fluttering above, tobacco in the field, I would relish the freedom.

I take it Mr. Tyrrell dreams of being a slave-owner. Because as he certainly knows, most of the people in those tobacco fields were slaves.

Take a more recent example, from a libertarian. Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation writes about the decline of freedom in America:

First of all, let’s talk about the economic system that existed in the United States from the inception of the nation to the latter part of the 19th century. The principles are simple to enumerate: No income taxation (except during the Civil War), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, economic regulations, licensure laws, drug laws, immigration controls, or coercive transfer programs, such as farm subsidies and education grants.

There was no federal department of labor, agriculture, commerce, education, energy, health and human services, or homeland security.

Then he writes:

Why did early Americans consider themselves free? The answer is rooted in the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. As Thomas Jefferson observed in that document, people have been endowed by their Creator with certain fundamental and inherent rights. These include, but are certainly not limited to, the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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  • Tony||

    Are you trying to tell me that people having to pay for their civilization rather than getting it all handed to them for free is not the greatest imposition on freedom in the universe? That raising a billionaire's tax rate is not the most oppressive action a government can possibly take?

  • Stereo Apple||

    The depth of your ignorance and the sheer amount of strawmen you invoke never cease to amaze.

  • alan||

    How Tony successfully pushes the buttons of so many people with a deftness unmatched by any other troll is what amazes me. I see very little weakness in his methodology. It is his sincere sounding approach that lacks any of the e-cock ego that Chad constantly stumbles over that gets people to do what they know they shouldn't, and that is to try to debate Tony. Bravo, Tony, your are a real hoot, and you make mince meat of so many of us who don't get your stick from my side that I should be shedding tears instead of laughing. But thanks anyway.

  • alan||

    don't get your stick from my side

    Uhm. Nobody saw that right?

  • ed||

    Alan is Annie Hall?

  • ||

    Believe it or not, there is a "libertarian center"; people like Boaz and Lindsey represent it. It's one of the reasons I consider libertarianism as a distinct political paradigm with it's own left, right, and center.

  • ||

    Agreed. The biggest problem I have is people who claim to be libertarian, but on being pressed you discover they favor progressive taxation, hospital cartels, government backed home loans, etc.

    So it's fantastic to have some diversity of thought within the movement, but there are far too many that try to hijack the title for its prestige.

  • ||

    Much like how conservatives are doing right now.

  • ||

    And like the Left did with the term "Liberal" long ago.

  • ||

    To a degree yes. But many in the conservative movement have a very low regard for libertarians because they don't understand the Ron Paul phenomenon. See Sean Hannity's interview with RP.

    The main policy difference is in foreign policy... and in my experience it takes little more than a 10 minute debate to "convert" a conservative to libertarian foreign policy.

  • Bill Maher||

    "The biggest problem I have is people who claim to be libertarian, but on being pressed you discover they favor progressive taxation, hospital cartels, government backed home loans, etc."
    I thought libertarian just meant you like pot.

  • ed||

    I liked you when you were funny, Bill. I think it was 1985.

  • Scott||

    Obligatory:
    http://www.theonion.com/articl.....an-c,1480/
    see especially the photo of the Vermont and Ohio delegations.

  • Dan Morrison||

    Thanks for that.

  • ||

    I smoked pot once to make an English exchange student happy. She was hot so well worth it.

  • ||

    Libertarian means believe in individual autonomy, and like pot. To a point.

  • "it's toasted"||

    Interesting thought. I wonder if this is because it's an opposition ideology that grows by examining our political system as a whole...those inside see blue and red, but those of us on the outside see different shades of purple. Or maybe it's because we seek to conserve(red)our beloved liberal(blue) traditions.

  • ||

    Right on man, if I was a billionare even inherited like 5 or 6 generations later I wouldn't give it up for nothing!

  • Soonerliberty||

    If Tony is the result of our civilization that we pay for without choosing to, then we're fucked. Could we at least get our money back and trade him in for a man with half a brain?

  • ||

    I have felt for some time that all billionaires should be shot in order to increase the funds available to the rest of us and make us all more free.

  • ||

    What the hell was the point of that? Does it really take 2000 words to say "Slavery Sucks. Slavery is the opposite of freedom. No libertarian lover of freedom should make peace with slavery." No, obviously it can be accomplished in much greater brevity. And nowhere do I see that abolishing slavery and instituting equal protection for all persons, means that you have to accept "income taxation (except during the Civil War), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, economic regulations, licensure laws, drug laws, immigration controls, or coercive transfer programs, such as farm subsidies and education grants" as the price for that.

  • Applederry||

    "Slavery Sucks. Slavery is the opposite of freedom. No libertarian lover of freedom should make peace with slavery."

    That's not at all what this article was talking about.

    Please read again.

  • MrGuy||

    It was actually.

  • St. V||

    No, sir, it was not. Bless you though!

  • SIV||

    I think what Boaz is saying is that if we had no FDA,no income tax, no Department of Education and Wickard vs Filburn had gone in favor of Filburn then African Americans would be draft animals and any woman not being beaten regularly by a husband or father would be free to rape.

  • ||

    I see absolutely no link between your premise and your conclusion.

  • Someone||

    Agreed, just because some changes over the last 200 years have resulted in more freedom does not mean that many others did not restrict it. I think it is a fair assumption to make that when most people look back and quote Jefferson, they are not forgetting slavery or advocating it, but wondering why we couldn't have preserved the regulatory environment.

  • SIV||

    The author's not mine.

    From TFA:
    If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?

    While some liberty has been extended to categories of individuals over time those liberties lost are lost to us all.

  • Some Guy||

    I think people who posted between 6:45 and 7:00 should be sent to labor camps and that farm subsidies should be eliminated.

    I think this is a good policy because it benefits everyone, and only oppresses certain categories of individuals.

  • ||

    Hippy! Haha just kidding....I think, I dunno what that means, if you want to reach the masses (ie me! :) you should spreken das lamens :)

  • MrGuy||

    "Cake, or death?" - Eddie Izzard

  • Comrade Zero||

    I think the overall point of the article was to point out that overall the average American has a lot more freedom today that in the time of the founders. Could the son of an immigrant, having a broken family and no great wealth and very dark skin realistically aspire to be President in 1795? Okay, there are obvious downsides to that example but the point is that there are far fewer barriers in the way of individuals.

    And with patience, work and dedication the barriers raised by progressive liberalism will fall too. It is not the price for freedom but the next attempt by those who benefit from tyranny to subvert liberty.

  • ||

    This is a socialist comment and it is a socialist argument that Boaz is making: that because a small minority were dramatically less equal, that it was necessary to reduce everyone's freedom drastically before we can morally allow anyone to have more freedom than another. This was precisely the strategy of the Soviets, to reduce everyone to the same level of poverty before allowing for any rising level of prosperity. That this is coming from David Boaz and Cato only demonstrate the degree to which Washington is a poisonous environment for any one, no matter their goodness or intentions. The young Boaz at the young Cato Institute in San Francisco would never have written such nonsense.

  • ||

    Really? Point to the part in the text where he says that.

  • Patriot Henry||

    @RC

    Great post. I'd quibble though that Boaz never actually quite makes that argument, he just dances around it.

  • Say wha?||

    What are you trying to say? Cuz, RC, what you wrote makes no sense at all. His points are clear to me. Maybe you should go back and re-read the piece tomorrow when your head is clearer.

    Boaz rocks.

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    You have simply got to love our society of narcissists. Who was the most oppressed ever? We are!

    Women make up over 50% of the population, hardly a "small minority". The actual definition would be majority. Many who were denied the right to vote less than a century ago.

    Taxes and regulation, however onerous, hardly equate to human slavery but to those who think history began with the election of Bill Clinton, it is even worse.

    Clearly an example of the lack of historical knowledge of our people, and a complete lack of perspective.

    The internet has provided more Liberty than anything since the Gutenberg press. The very fact that we can disseminate so many different ideas and opinions quite cheaply slaughters the idiotic idea that we have less Liberty today.

    When is the end of the world? Tomorrow!

    "But, but, but....I have to take off my shoes at the airport!" Less than a century ago there were not airports and the Liberty of movement that technology has created.

  • Zenmaster||

    Yeah, blah, blah, blah...
    Everything's amazing and nobody's happy... heard it before...

  • Zeb||

    Well, it's better than everything sucks and nobody's happy, like most of history.

  • B||

    We are certainly more free in many ways than ever before, but there are also essential freedoms that have been lost, especially in the past 30 years.

    The elephant in the room, so to speak, is children's rights. Children and adolescents have gradually been excluded from society and are regularly denied basic rights. Likewise, adults who care about children and their well-being have been dehumanized in order to make way for the PROFESSIONAL "child advocates" who constantly find new ways to restrict children "for their own good".

    Having recently traveled abroad, I was delighted to see that in most of the world children remain relatively free and are integrated into society. I'm thinking about emigrating if things don't change soon. I don't want to raise children in the USA.

  • ||

    Indeed, I was having this very thought while the IRS was whipping me within an inch of my life and selling my wife and children to Germany's Finanzamt.

  • "it's toasted"||

    To RC, This is like the zero-sum fallacy of economics, spilling over into theories of liberty. This is your Marxian world view casting everything you read as a struggle between rival tribes and rival interests. An increase in freedom by some doesn't, necessarily mean a loss by others. And boaz never even implies that it does. He never once draws a direct line between freedoms lost and freedoms gained, only shows that, as a whole(which admittedly is rough water to tread)we've gained some ground in some areas and lost ground in others. not that one causes the other.

  • St. V||

    Wrong, yet again. I didn't think this article was that hard to understand...

  • Greg||

    Hmmm ... The name is "RC," the email is "childs@gmail.com," and the comment is about a young Boaz at Cato in San Fran...

    I think someone is pulling our leg here. Eh, Roy?

  • ||

    "I think the overall point of the article was to point out that overall the average American has a lot more freedom today that in the time of the founders."

    Which is why it is so preposterously bad and which is also why anyone who seriously thinks Boaz is a "libertarian" is misinformed.

  • ||

    (1) The average (median) American is a woman.
    (2) Women have more freedom today than in the time of the founders.
    (3) :. the average American has more freedom today than in the time of the founders, QED.

  • ||

    I have a saying I use to describe the tendency to ignore the faults of the past, "Life was better 20 years ago". By this I mean people have a tendency to remember the good things that happened and gloss over the bad. Of course there are also people who only see the bad things in the past.

  • Gene Berkman||

    20 years ago I was 20 years younger. Other than that, things are better now. At least for me.

  • Some Guy||

  • ||

    Yeah dude, the grass is always greener!

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Excellent article, with points that cannot be made too often.

  • ||

    LIberty? Whats that? I have no clue.

    Lou
    www.anon-resources.at.tc

  • Sam Wainwright||

    I blame public education.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Or being a 'bot. We have so much to learn from one another, synthoids and organoids.

  • SOS Jack||

    It was an EMP

  • Dello||

    Black are free-er than they historically were, but are they as free as Whites historically were? For that matter, are Whites as free as they historically were?

  • JD||

    I think one of Boaz's points, and a correct one although he could maybe have made it more clearly, is that the past was not a libertarian paradise for anyone. Yes, there were some ways in which we were less restrained, but there's been a net gain in freedom. Porn is a great example: these days, the production of porn is largely taken for granted, despite some harassment of the producers. 100 years ago (or less), you could find yourself brought up on charges for selling material that would look very tame today; google "Comstock" for more on that. Or how about the Espionage Act of 1917, used to put people in prison for the crime of making a speech, and to prevent politically unpopular materials from being mailed? Bad as things may be now, they're not like that.

  • SIV||

    Or how about the Espionage Act of 1917

    That example is from the modern "progressive" era.

  • ||

    This is the wilsonian shit that we are still living with...these bastards took over foreign policy and these fuckers are destroying the country. the real debt to GDP ratio is about 500% never happened before..

    country meet shit,
    shit, meet the fan.
    Boaz, stand right there.

  • Adonisus||

    Don't forget the Alien and Sedition Acts, which essentially made it a crime to criticize the Adams administration. And THAT was in the 18th century! A dude actually went to jail for over a YEAR because of it!

  • robc||

    the past was not a libertarian paradise for anyone.

    Some of the frontier pioneers might disagree.

  • ||

    Which ones? To grab a few examples - the Massachusetts Bay Company was subsidized by Britain. The Lewis and Clark expedition was funded by the government. Lots of individual settlers got former Indian land cheap through land redistribution programs. By and large, the settlement of the frontier did not occur in a libertarian context.

  • robc||

    ummm...libertarian != anarchist.

    But, say those who jumped across the appalachian despite British rules against it.

    Or the great plains settlers. Or the early Oregon settlers.

    I didnt say it was settled in a libertarian context, I said they lived in one. Roughly. At least more so than their east coast counterparts.

  • ||

    Some of the frontier pioneers might disagree.

    You mean like the Donner Party?

  • Zenmaster||

    Yes, they were free to make a bad decision, made it, and suffered the consequences. Perfectly libertarian.
    Libertatianism isn't about everyone having everything they want, but earning and keeping what they get, by their own effort, their own choices.

  • ||

    Indeed, it took a lot of effort to choose which leg looked the meatiest, to hack it off, and then to find the wood necessary to make a fire to properly roast it. You would have needed an army to pry those hot, dead legs from their cold, dead fingers in the libertarian paradise of Truckee Lake.

  • Camel||

    Tocqueville wrote about the tyranny of the majority, where individuals wouldn't speak their minds lest others hear them. Sodomy used to be illegal (not just homosexual sex but also heterosexual oral and anal) and someone can correct me if i'm wrong but i believe these things were/are puritanical throwbacks...Long before Wilson.(i await a response)
    But more broadly, commenters seem to be taking this post down the black hole of woe-is-me. If you continually try to collectivize a vast spectrum of individuals, and then also, collectivize a vast spectrum of different wrongs or violations, all of which vary greatly, you travel into an abstract and somewhat trivial argument that will always be answered by your own perspective.
    (And here is my perspective, at least on Boaz's post) I believe he has pointed to a flaw with our messaging,and the the subsequent comments seem to justify him pointing it out. When we shout out "they're taking our freedoms" we do not help spread our message. I'm not convinced it hurts it, but your average person categorically places this kind of rhetoric among the "doomsayings" most people are sick of...We get people by showing them what freedom can do for them personally, not by complaining about old freedoms now lost, that we, living today, never even experienced...

  • Sudden||

    One peeve I have with the article (and a reason.tv piece the jacket did some months ago): the discussions about the liberating effects of technological advancements. We are "more free" today due to TEH INTERWEBZ and airplanes, et al. But all of these are positive liberties, and the Libertarian critique of government specifically rejects the provision of positive liberties and only focuses on the limiting of governments ability to trample our negative liberties. Furthermore, these positive liberties we have today as the result of technolgy, though they liberate us to a degree unknown before in history, are not relevant in a libertarian's duscussion of the level of liberty present today because we specifically refer to those things we can (theoretically) control like the size and scope of government, not the advancement rate of technological improvement.

    Other than that, the article is reasonable if not over-simplified in areas.

  • "it's toasted"||

    exactly...you can't get a grassroots movement by saying Obama wants to raise taxes on the richest five percent,You have to ask them if one day they would like to be the richest five percent.

  • smartass sob||

    ... not by complaining about old freedoms now lost, that we, living today, never even experienced...

    I am very late to this thread. However, I must point out that there is at least one very important freedom that all of us living today have experienced, yet have lost. That would be the freedom to be alive without having to pay a tax via mandatory health care insurance to be so. Only slaves, serfs, and various other subjects need pay for the drawing of breath.

  • B||

    On the other hand, you can find yourself in jail for LIFE for possessing pornography today.

    One fellow in Florida got prison sentence over 100 years because a 14yo friend decided it would be funny to borrow his video camera when visiting his house one day, and moon the camera. The police found that and charged him with possessing child pornography. He served over 5 years in solitary confinement, and is still in jail, despite the fact that he never knew that that footage was on his camera until the police seized it.

    Oh, yes! it's wonderful to live in a free country!

  • ||

    Dello, it saddens and amazes me that your short post contains the same questions asked by the people Boaz is trying to, I suppose, criticize in his lengthy... the words escape me. And it took you only two lines. Amazing.

  • ||

    Blacks were as historically free as whites, they have a whole friggin continent! We think we were so much more advanced but they were totally happy in Africa I'm sure back in the day, just like Native Americans they didn't know they were technologically inferior I bet they they had more freedom then whites before we abused them for labor :oP

  • Applederry||

    Hear hear. I really hate it when people pine for the "good ol' days." In a lot of ways we are much more free than we were before. In other ways we're a lot less free. Whether or not we have a net gain of freedom requires a grand quantification of freedom that I'm not sure is possible.

  • ||

    I pine for the old days because of the gay ass war on drugs, I wanna be able to cultivate and buy cocaine over the counter. I'm from Maine I woulda made a wicked lot of cash all without slaves and been wicked wasted all the time without having to worry about jail!

  • Sudden||

    But a lot of the ways we are "freer" today are the result of market forces (i.e. tech advancement) and the resulting positive liberties that are affordable and pervasive. We are culturally more tolerant of the "other" and that advancement in our collective conscienceness is a social advancement that I think would have happened in the absence of govt as well.

    My point is that most of the ways we are more free today are not because of government.

  • Xeones||

    American institutions may have changed over the years, sometimes in ways that increase the freedom of those that live under them, other times in ways that inhibit liberty, but one thing remains constant: Tony's total lack of anything even resembling reading comprehension.

  • ||

    HA!

  • TP||

    Bam! Blindsided.

  • MrGuy||

    +1

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I like how Clarence Thomas schooled Cato. Maybe he should speak at the Mises Institute.
    He "...pointed out to us that it didn't seem quite that way to black people."
    = a good argument for the value of (voluntary) diversity.

  • ||

    Thank you very much. :)

  • ||

    +1

  • The American People™||

    We're hardly free if our government steals money from us and our children to finance what will very shortly become a ruinous debt. Bad things happen to debtor nations.

  • ||

    Yes, the debt is a major problem. The solution is to pay it off. Which means higher taxes, as well as cut spending, for a time.

  • ||

    nope...wrong answer. The money was stolen by crooks...my kids don't need to pay that.

    Cut spending all you want. What nobody will lend to us now?...problem solved.

  • ||

    Okay, have the IMF on our doorstep. The crooks may have spent our money, but I, and my kids, are stuck with the bill. That's just tough. It's just the way our unjust world works.

  • robc||

    The country could declare bankruptcy. If we arent borrowing in the future, who cares about what it does to our credit rating?

  • ||

    Not to us :) In a normal situation, like a real situation if you owed alot and didn't pay you would get hurt because the people you owe are so powerful. But were #1, we can tell everyone to "sit on it and rotate" and there is nothing they can do to us short of nukes and that would ruin our natural resources and stuff and they would be SOL in the end

  • Rick||

    I think it is a bit unfair to paint the people that want to go back to levels of government of 150 years ago, as wanting to replicate the entire system.

    Does it really have to be spoken that what those people are pining for is that level of government, while maintaining the extensions of those freedoms to all groups of people? Does every historical and perhaps nostalgic look at smaller government eras have to contain a "But I don't want that slavery stuff!" disclaimer on it?

    Is Boaz falling into the fashionable "all white people are inherently racist" club?

    Let's not confuse freedom with equity. Everyone being equally screwed by government is not the same as freedom, but we sure are making great strides in the former.

  • Applederry||

    No, he's simply saying that things weren't as great as some people think they were back then, even if you were a white male. It's the ideals and working towards them that is important, not looking back in the past for a freedom that didn't really exist.

    Remember, we complain about how much the government ignores the Constitution today, but the Constitution has been ignored ever since it was ratified, including when the Founders themselves were running the country.

  • ||

    True enough. Which is why I want libertarianism to, once more, become a forward looking philosophy; one focused on maximizing freedom TODAY and TOMORROW.

  • Rick||

    Boaz didn't "simply" say anything. He could have made the point (if you think that was his point) without claiming that some guy who gets all dreamy about the 18th century "with air conditioning!" secretly wants to be a slave owner, and without implying that "conservatives" (whatever that means) hate blacks, jews, and gays.

    What I took away from his article was "my DC friends would let us libertarian folks hang out with them if you weren't such racist, anti-semitic, homophobes"

    But, Applederry, I do agree with you about idealizing the philosophy of freedom, and some of the concepts that the founders helped enunciate, not the history attached to it, nor the fact that those ideals were really just initially meant for a small group of the priviledged.

  • ||

    I don't think he was trying to say that. Get off Cato's case. They're not as cozy with DC as you think. If they were, they would be more influential than they actually are. Further, Rockwell and Rothbard DID court such bigoted characters...and the Southern Strategy did as well.

  • ||

    Buddy Rockwell and Rothbard aren't racist. Do you ever read any of their stuff? They both have always stuck up for the individual regardless of race and have always railed against the collectivism of bigotry. Rothbard is Jewish just like I am and just because somebody believes that you should be able to do business and associate with whomever you choose doesn't make that person a racist. There will always be racist and anti Semitic dolts who won't do business with blacks or Jews but those will be few and far between. Voluntary association is a basic human, libertarian right. Get your facts straight before you shoot off on your keyboard again.

  • ||

    The main thing to take away from this article is that the concern should be with POWER. Size and power often go together, but not always. Hayek makes this point in The Constitution of Liberty, a book which I am enjoying very much.

  • Rick||

    I agree with the power vs. size point you make, but 1 sword chopping off your head, and 5000 paper cuts, can lead to the same result.

  • ||

    I know, but the question is: do we have that 5000 papercuts? Personally, I think the answer is no. We have lots, but better to have them than a big sword. Little paper cuts can be remedied with very little effort. A big sword requires concentrated, collective action against a large force.

  • Rick||

    Depends on how much blood you've lost. I'm almost at the tipping point where I'd welcome the sword - OK, not really, but at some point those cuts reduce your strength to the point where you can no longer mount a defense against the sword.

    And that's just when it will come swinging down on us.

  • ||

    This is a really great article. Thanks!

  • ||

    Everything was pretty good up until this line: "For the past 70 years or so conservatives have opposed the demands for equal respect and equal rights by Jews, blacks, women, and gay people."
    Um, blanket statement, anyone? You do know that more Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act, right? There are (and were) many bigots, both left and right over the last 70 years. Don't assign conservatives exclusively to that role.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    Those Republicans were Rockefeller Republicans, not the Jesusland crew in there currently. Google "southern strategy" and read about how the GOP changed.

  • ||

    I disagree with the whole "southern strategy" theorem, which states that the Republicans courted southerners with racism. However, this flies in the face of the fact that GOP policy probably became LESS racist during the period of the supposed "Southern Strategy." Neither the GOP or the DNC have made OUTRIGHT racism a part of their platform since the Civil Rights Act. To do so would have been political suicide, even in the South. If there was a "southern strategy," it had more to do with economics than it ever had to do with slavery.

    Unless you could point to a sudden Racist swing in the GOP circa 1980, you are full of shit. BTW, Reagan gave reparations to the interned Japanese Americans, plus granted a form of amnesty to Hispanics. The next Hitler, I know.

  • Comrade Zero||

    Exactly. What about all the government expanding liberal legislation enacted by Arch-Evil White Guy Nixon?

  • TP||

    Well, Reagan did ban the Quaalude. That was pure evil.

  • J_L_B||

    The whole idea of the southern strategy and its success is exaggerated. It generally concludes that the South turned swiftly for Republicans after passage of the Civil Rights Act as Republicans used racial divisions to win votes. Recent history suggests the strategy, to whatever extent it was implemented, was a relative failure. Most southern senate seats belong to Democrats in the 1960's didn't turn Republican until the 1990's, long after the civil rights act had passed to history (SC didn't have two Republicans until 2004).

    Also, plenty of racial division was seen over policies such as busing in places such like Boston, which is no bastion of conservatism. The changes in voting patterns predominantly come from an ideological shift to appeal to the voting populations in those areas. This explains the why Rockefeller Republicans and Reagan Democrats are slowly disappearing. Republicans gains in the south were not absolute, as Democratic gains in the northeast and west were not absolute (as Scott Brown has shown us).

  • Kolohe||

    Most southern senate seats belong to Democrats in the 1960's didn't turn Republican until the 1990's

    A lot of it was those same Senators were still in office until the 80's - e.g. Stenis of MS only retired in '88, Hollings of SC only retired in '05.

  • robc||

    If the southern strategy had been successful, those Ds would have been defeated.

  • Sudden||

    And the "Jesusland" crew were the ones that were fervent abolitionists and got the repeal of slavery enacted. Religious types have accomplished great things in the advancement of liberty. Remember, collectivization is wrong. PERIOD. The relentless bashing of people of faith is just as ignorant as racism, sexism, etc.

  • Applederry||

    Yes, liberals have had their issues with things like racial equality as well (such as union discrimination against minorities), however I must point out that conservative does not equal Republican, nor vice versa.

    Of course, the fact that the terms conservative and liberal have become far too vague and malleable is another problem.

  • SkepticalTexan||

    Woodrow Wilson was both a progressive Democrat and a racist. The same could be said of most of the early 20th century progressive movement, though it did include a number of Republican racists (e.g., Teddy Roosevelt.) Huey P. Long was a populist, anti-business Democrat and a racist though, unlike Wilson, he did not openly endorse the KKK. Until 1950, the KKK was a community organizing group with ties to the Democratic Party as strong as ACORN's were in 2008. Since 1950 the ties between the Klan and the Democratic Party have weakened to the extent that only one Democratic former Klansman remains in the US Senate.

  • Greer||

    I thought the same thing. Jim Crow was enacted by and held in place by Southern Democrats.

  • robc||

    IIRC, the first Jim Crow law was in Milwaukee (laws werent "needed" in the south until much later).

  • ||

    Everyone knows the republicans were the racist.

  • Zeb||

    Nate, it is not the case, and it was even less the case in the past that conservative=republican and liberal=democrat.

  • ¢||

    Um, blanket statement, anyone?

    Boaz speaks D.C., so by "conservative" he means "bad."

    70 years ago was the '40s. You know, when all those bad things got done to Jews and gay guys. By bad guys. Who were socialists. Of several kinds. Bad kinds. And some of them were also gay, or women. But they were bad-gay and bad-woman. So, conservatives.

  • Some Guy||

    The overall problem is the belief that the word "conservative" means the same thing to any two people. It is pretty well useless as a descriptor, as it could be used to describe Ron Paul by one person and Sarah Palin by another. Or both of them by a really retarded person.

  • Some Other Guy||

    Sucks that some people think Palin is a White-hooded, cross-burning, hate-newsletter-publishing racist like Ron Paul.He should be called a "Cracker-tarian" or a "market-bigot" or something to distinguish him from true conservative liberty-loving individualists like Sarah Palin.

  • ||

    Yes, "liberty-loving individualists" support wars based on propaganda, destroy whole countries, leave millions as refugees, etc. Publishing some insensitive newsletters is much worse than that!

  • ||

    Even conservatives can't agree on what a conservative is.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I have long been saying that "over the course of history" we have gotten much freer as a nation and a race. From the time when "gods" walked among us and could act with zero consequence to the deposition of monarchys the world over. It is a long gentle trend but one towrds freedom none the less. I would argue that small sample sizes are key to seeing and experiencing bad thigns. France ousted their monarchy for a short time = good. Bloody revolution and Napoleon = bad. over time however (no matter how stupidly socialistic they are) France has done better not worse.

    Check your premises

    ohh, and Tony sucks...no really.

  • ||

    Sure, Boaz is correct that the U.S. was never a libertarian paradise, especially for certain groups. We shouldn't have to choose between 1789 and 2010, though.

    There are a great many people who think that they are enjoying great freedom today, yet it comes at the expense of the serfs who are providing for them now and who (they expect) will be providing for them in the future. That is a serious flaw in the popular assessment of our freedom (or lack thereof).

  • Contrarian P||

    It must be said, however, that even the "serfs" of which you speak have it much better than such folk did in preceding centuries. And freedom does not preclude economic hardship, last I checked. Sure, you could call a McDonald's counter person a serf if you want, but they may or may not see things that way. One of the happiest guys I knew cleaned a motel in Georgia much of his late adult life and lived in a junky shack. But as he had grown up in the poorest section of a poor part of the state in the poorest family, he thought of himself as rich.

  • Some Guy||

    Anyone who supports having a deficit is in favor of redistribution of wealth from future generations to current ones.

  • blagnocevik||

    Of course the article could just have easily been entitled the myth of freedom. Has the world ever been a free place? it depends on which freedoms you are talking about. The main problem with the article he says that people feel more free than X numbers of years ago or whatever. People want to be slaves, and to be honest the welfare state model is bankrupt. So man is going to have to reconsider his relationship with security and slavery. Would a system of voluntary slavery achieve security for those who desire dependency in order to cope with inborn inequality? I would argue that it would.

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    Of course the world has never been a free place. Civilization has been a process of giving up freedoms, not asserting them.

    That's why I'm not a libertarian. You can go live in the jungle or a dessert island and be as free as you like. Oddly, few libertarians do any such thing. What they want are the benefits of living in a society, without complying with the consensus that makes society possible. And they certainly aren't about to endorse freedom to the extent that one might, say, be free to grab our shooting irons and use those annoying libertarians for target practice.

    It may well be valid to say you're "more free" with respect to a situation where you're "less free", but "free society" is an oxymoron. Freedom is always relative. And I doubt I'd consider myself free in a society where David Boaz got to define the meaning of "free".

  • ||

    Spoken like a true conservative. Beneath all that bluster about freedom, lies a tyrant, such as yourself.

  • SkepticalTexan||

    Here's a real conservative's take on the meaning of freedom:

    "freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do."

    -- Rudy Giuliani, 1994

    Orwell could not have put it better.

  • a||

    That's the same Rudy Giuliani whom Randy Barnett described as "electrifying": http://www.opinionjournal.com/.....=110010344

    I'm going to go way, way out on a limb here and guess that David Boaz takes a far more charitable view of "libertarians" who support the Iraq war and Rudy Giuliani than he takes of libertarians who dissent from middle school history textbooks.

  • nj||

    Uh, no

    I suggest you read this:

    http://www.cato-at-liberty.org.....oting-for/

    Boaz article was on point

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    Let me ask you again: do you think I should be free to drop by your house and toss a grenade in your window if I don't like your comment? If not, why not? And if did, who has the authority to punish me? And from whence do they draw that authority?

    As I pointed our earlier, you can always move to a deserted island and live how ever you please. But you don't actually want freedom, what you want is to be able to dictate how society should organize itself, and call that freedom.

    Sorry, but I don't find passive-aggressive tyranny any more appealing, or any less tyrannical than any other kind.

  • ||

    Subject is projecting his faults onto his fellow commenters, as a way of hiding his own tyrannical nature. In fact, he is the one who would chuck a grenade. Possibly sociopathic.

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    Subject has yet to address a single one of my points. One might conclude subject is shooting blanks.

    Look sonny, if you spent as much time cracking the books as you do mouthing off cluelessly here, you might learn how to debate some day.

  • ||

    In fairness, you do have a point. I'll spend some time reading so that we may debate each other.

    Are you Taki, or otherwise a staff on his magazine?

  • Contrarian P||

    "Let me ask you again: do you think I should be free to drop by your house and toss a grenade in your window if I don't like your comment? If not, why not? And if did, who has the authority to punish me? And from whence do they draw that authority?"

    Allow me to answer, in order:

    1. No.
    2. Because your rights extend up to the point where your actions begin to trample on my rights, in this case property and possibly life.
    3 and 4. Government exists by the consent of the governed. We as a body give the government a certain amount of power in order to safeguard our rights from the abuses of others. This is the original purpose of collective organization of humanity: for protection against those who would use their superior size, strength, or weapons to do us harm. It's when the opposite occurs, that the government begins to stop protecting and uses its power to start harming (even if such harm is well meaning and with the best of intentions), that it becomes malignant.

    There is nothing in the libertarian platform that states you should have unlimited freedom, only that you should have freedom when your actions are not harming or likely to harm the rights of others. We are not anarchists. I think you're confused.

  • ||

    Some of us are, but anarchists (of all stripes) are merely opposed to rulers and authority. Not order.

  • robc||

    I was just going to post a link to Common Sense, but you handled it more concisely.

  • ||

    What a lot of flapdoodle.

  • Ikus||

    "If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?"

    Ok. Your entire article makes it sound like there is something wrong with slavery... I kept laughing all the way through it.

    My second point... Did not Jefferson also want a limited army? Admittedly, he was hypocritical because he did establish West Point and engaged those pirates. However, that does not mean he wanted to abolish the military...

    Moreover, both the huge military and welfare expenditures, choking the American people, are detrimental to America. Your article makes a bizarre point about a large military in a more limited government setting.

    3. Fire solves all problems.

  • Comrade Zero||

    "If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?"

    How about this: Would you choose "Brave New World" or "1984"?

  • SkepticalTexan||

    Do you support Obamacare or do you hate children?

    I think this is called a false dichotomy.

  • ||

    Brave New World totally, the sex was better!

  • Forward-Looking Libertarian||

    Boaz's article is great! He hits the nail right on the head. I'm so embarrassed when some "libertarians" go on about how great 1820 (or whenever) was. And don't get me started on all the weirdos around Lew Rockwell. (Is he related to George Lincoln Rockwell?)

  • ||

    In that site's defense, both it and it's proprietor have been "mellowing" a bit over the years. The "crazy" levels seem to be going down.

  • ||

    That's not saying much, though.

  • James Wilson||

    The freedom philosophy is forward-looking, not nostalgic. The main thing from the past to invoke is the Constitution - not because it is a perfect document, but because it shows us how office-holders violate their oaths.

  • TP||

    Not necessarily. If you are talking about economic freedom, one can be nostalgic of a time when there was an actual gold standard and no central bank to centrally plan the economy. It depends which freedoms you are talking about.

  • Joel||

    Some of us see it a different way. I know people - "libertarian-leaning conservatives," primarily - who fetishize the constitution. Others see it as more like a coup, a betrayal of an original pretty good idea.

    You're right to say that office-holders violate their oaths to it, though.

  • James Wilson||

    Joel, I don't fetishize the Constitution. But it's better than what we have now.

    TP, I agree that we are losing economic freedoms, which underscores my point about holding politicians accountable to their oaths of office.

  • ||

    Okay, guys, think of it this way: if you were a minority (of whatever sort), and you came across this website where a bunch of straight white men talk about how awesomely free the late nineteenth century was, with nary a mention of how much it sucked to be black or a woman in those times . . . wouldn't you be a bit put off?

    To us, it goes without saying that we want the same freedoms extended to non-white men as white men enjoyed in those times. But that's the problem — it goes without saying, so we never actually say it. Until it's one of these threads, where we fall all over each other explaining how that's not what we meant. If it's not what you mean, then say what you mean.

    As Boaz pointed out in his article, this happens quite a bit in the libertarian community. And when it's pointed out to us, we get all huffy and shirty about it, which just reinforces the impression that there may be some darker, uglier motive to hide.

    Look, it will not hurt anyone to look at the ways in which society was not free in those halcyon, liberty-filled days of yore. It almost certainly will help the greater cause of liberty by making libertarianism more inviting to minorities. Impressions are every bit as important as realities, and the impression libertarians give is that we don't really care about the ways in which minorities were less free. That's not racism or sexism, per se, but it skirts awfully close.

    Think of it this way. We are, again, overwhelmingly white and male as a group. We have few of us had to deal with the vestiges of racism or sexism that linger in American society. We focus, as a group, almost entirely on governmental power, because it's both the most pernicious threat to freedom and the easiest threat to deal with, at least from a theoretical standpoint. Because we are many of us geeks, social considerations take a back seat in our estimation. After all, we don't care about social pressure, so why should others? Given all that, libertarianism is very unwelcoming to minorities. And we can't afford to eliminate well more than half the population as allies in the fight for freedom.

  • Michael K.||

    You're making a good point, but I think the problem that many people have with Boaz's piece, is that he seems to imply that larger government was necessary for women and minorities to enjoy their current freedoms. That strikes a raw note with me (and probably many of the other white guys here) because for the entirety of my 30 years on this earth, the government has pursued a policy of institutionalized discrimination aimed solely at us. Of course, you can't compare affirmative action to Jim Crow, let alone slavery - but the point is that those ended long before I was born. When I think of growing government involvement in the social sphere I simply do not think about increased liberty, I think about less liberty. At least implicity, Boaz seems to disagree.

  • ||

    I didn't read that implication in the article. I see it that Boaz has observed that the increased equality under the law and the expansion of government have come in roughly the same time period. I sense the implication that this confluence is interesting, revealing as facile some popular generalizations about the trends in American society, and is worth further thought.

  • Puzzled||

    Nowhere does Boaz imply that. I see no implication like that in his article. None at all.

  • robc||

    Bullshit. It is implied by:

    If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?

  • Julian Sanchez||

    Seriously? He's pretty clearly just pointing out that the lost freedom represented by the first two policies is of a different order of magnitude than that represented by the latter two. There's not even a hint of a suggestion that you somehow MUST choose one or the other, only that when you do compare the two historical scenarios, it's a no-brainer which is the more serious imposition on freedom.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Actually, the words "if you had to choose" do convey the concept of a necessary choice rather well.

    But I see you'd rather argue about which kind of unfreedom is worse. Enjoy.

  • ||

    Hahahaha

    "The government has been pursuing a policy of discrimination aimed solely at white men"

    Oh Heavens to L. Ron, that was comedy gold.

    You are of course referring to the recent era, when the government scaled back slightly its long standing policy of preferential treatment for white men.

    What I mean to say is that what you perceive as discrimination is in reality an attenuation of your privilege.

    Would you like to now have a fight about whether white male privilege exists? That would be fun!

  • SIV||

    Go back to your own Obama-loving website where you belong.

  • guy in the back row||

    Is this comment to grylliade or Michael K?

  • ||

    Dude, who cares?

  • SIV||

    Does Michael K have a website devoted to Obama-lovin' Freedom-haters too?

  • Not all libertarians love cock||

    fighting.

  • Norbert Wronkletoad||

    I say, my good man. It's not an Obama loving site. It's a carpet humping site.

    And some of us enjoy gently, sweetly making love to the neck stump.

    Mein gott. I suggest you learn where we prefer to stick it before you embarrass yourself any further.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Think of it this way. We are, again, overwhelmingly white and male as a group. We have few of us had to deal with the vestiges of racism or sexism that linger in American society. We focus, as a group, almost entirely on governmental power, because it's both the most pernicious threat to freedom and the easiest threat to deal with, at least from a theoretical standpoint. Because we are many of us geeks, social considerations take a back seat in our estimation. After all, we don't care about social pressure, so why should others? Given all that, libertarianism is very unwelcoming to minorities. And we can't afford to eliminate well more than half the population as allies in the fight for freedom.


    Governmental power was and is the instrument used to deprive women and minorities of their freedoms.

  • Kerry Holey||

    Governmental power was and is the instrument used to deprive women and minorities of their freedoms.

    Freedom and Liberty are tools of the patriarchy!

  • Joshua||

    Perceptions are important!

    For women & minorities & gays alive today, they see the government as their liberator. They just can't see that it was also the agent of their servitude in times gone by.

  • Joel||

    Then they're wrong. Government isn't trying to raise the formerly oppressed, it's trying to make us all equally squalid. With free football.

  • Tony||

    Yeah but we didn't get more equality for women and minorities without government's help either.

    There will always be a government. The key is to make sure it does good things.

  • ||

    Corrected text: "There will always be a government. The key is to make sure it does as few things as possible."

    You keeping making these mistakes and I'll start charging you for the copy editing.

  • Tony||

    Why is the status quo always the optimum for libertarians?

    Because you don't want to admit that government is capable of doing things well?

  • Soonerliberty||

    Isn't the status quo government? Oh, and it wasn't gov't marching on the Mall. Government only gave that power up reluctantly, after heavy social pressure. I would give much more credit to Americans than the gov't.

  • Tony||

    Yeah and I'd be thankful we have a government that's responsive to the people rather than one with its boot up your ass under the authority of a deity or something. You don't really have a choice of no government. Just bad government or good government.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Name one.

    Government is the use of force. It isn't anything else. The use of force is good for destroying things. It's not so good at anything else. That the use of force is necessary does not mean it shouldn't be limited.

    Why is that such a hard pill to swallow?

  • ||

    Relative stranger around these parts. So I'm scrolling down the comments and this is the first comment that actually GOT THE POINT.

    Good job! Seriously, you showed an ability to step outside your own reality and consider how you and yours might come off to people who don't share your background. Which is important if you are going to try to recruit people who don't share your background. However, the defensive reactions of your comrades shows that your movement has a long way to go.

  • Robert||

    There are so many more examples that could've been stated about how much freer we've gotten in the past 50 yrs. There's no more Iron Curtain. No more draft in the USA. You can legally own gold in the USA. In the USA you can now own as many broadcasting stations as you can buy, and many other countries have privatized many communications factilities. Most states in the USA now have shall-issue laws concerning gun carry permits.

    Even recipients of gov't largesse in the USA have greater freedom in that regard. You can buy almost all foods with food "stamps" rather than being limited to a much narrower menu to spend them on.

  • fortyouncer||

    "In the USA you can now own as many broadcasting stations as you can buy"

    Just wanted to add, that for me, that number is still zero. But i get your point.

  • SIV||

    80 years ago you could have a lb of marijuana and an unregistered machine gun.The police and DA wouldn't care.100 years ago you could walk into a pharmacy and buy anything in the pharmacopoeia, even if you were only eleven years old.75 years ago you could grow peanuts, and sell them for human consumption w/o a special limited license from the government. Today you can go to prison for doing that.

  • Tony||

    And this is the point. You sound like you getting high and your stupid gun are more important than another guy's actual, visceral ability to live in the world unmolested despite his race.

    On balance I think we're more free now than we've ever been. Actually we're more free than most people who have ever lived. So bitch about your drugs and guns--the world isn't perfect--but don't act like there aren't greater oppressions for people not necessarily like you.

  • ||

    In fairness, you could admit that we ought to liberalize our drug laws.

  • Joel||

    False dichotomies abound. Do you think it might have been okay to free the slaves and let gays marry, and also let them own drugs and guns if they want to? Because I don't really see why liberating the one requires stomping on the other.

  • Soonerliberty||

    Tony only sees things in terms of "anal rape or oral rape?" He is a false dichotomy. He can't understand that someone who wants liberty really means it, and for all people. For him it is impossible to hate slavery and gov't, when, in fact, they are perfectly harmonious. The gov't that has the power to grant rights has the power to take them away. He'll never get that, and, thus, he'll be at the trough of entitlements always begging for more to appease his greed.

  • Tony||

    I'm sorry I just can't believe in rights that exist in the ether. Most people in history have never enjoyed the rights we have today. That's a strong argument that they aren't "natural" at all, but that they are the product of a good government that protects them.

  • ||

    Rights just are moral claims about the legitimacy of using force; governments do not create or destroy them, as governments can not create or destroy moral claims. Rights do not "exist" in the ether; they are conceptual, not ethereal, entities.

  • Some Other Guy||

    Don't forget the iPods and now iPads. The hedonic factor counters any measly liberties.

  • robc||

    No more draft in the USA

    What was that thing I signed up for when I was 18 then?

    The fact that they currently draft 0 people per year doesnt mean it doesnt exist.

  • ||

    There is no "draft" if no-one is drafted. There's only a potential draft.

  • robc||

    As long as selective service registration exists, selective service exists. The fact that they arent, AT THIS POINT, selecting anyone, is irrelevant.

    Its a better situation than actually selecting people, but it still exists.

  • SIV||

    Nixon abolished Selective Service. A few years later Jimmy Carter and his Democrat Congress brought it back. Conscription is a progressive cause.

  • ||

    Absolutely right. "Small government" is at best an imprecise metaphor. Taken literally, it doesn't necessarily correlate w/ freedom. Freedom is an intangible which is hard to measure, and different types of freedom are incommensurate. Golden-age fallacies (of both the Right and Left) need to be done away with.

  • ||

    All this talk of "the majority" is antiethical to libertarianism; isn't about protecting the rights of minorities, the individual being the smallest of all?

  • SIV||

    Would you rather be caught by the law with a few oz.s of cocaine and a 14" barreled shotgun in 1910 or 2010? What if you are a convicted felon? Black? A woman? A white male?

    All had property rights to such things in 1910.

  • lunchstealer||

    If I were black, I don't think I'd want to be caught by the law with a sawed off shotgun in 1910 Mississippi.

    I wouldn't want to be caught trying to vote if I were black in Mississippi in 1910.

    I pretty much wouldn't want to be black in 1910 in Mississippi. I'm not sure it's such a cakewalk now, either. I sure as hell wouldn't want to be gay in Mississippi right now.

    (sorry to pick on Mississippi here)

  • ||

    Well, this is exactly the point. A woman did not have the same property rights as a man in 1910. At that time, most states had enacted specific legislation to grant married women some measure of legal control over their property, but it was still less than the control a (white) man had over his. The default setting was "coverture," a legal doctrine which subsumed a woman's legal identity to her husband's when she got married. That particular legal doctrine only began to change in the late 1800s.

    But the right to control your own property, while important, is secondary to the right to have full control over your own body. South Carolina was the last state to remove the exemption in their state laws for spousal rape. That was in 1993. And let's not get started with abortion.

    Your comment is like Exhibit A for the article.

  • ||

    Deviants, minorities and women may be doing better but white men are looking for the KY.

  • ||

    Okay, now I'm beginning to wonder if there is any truth to the concept of "white privilege", because this reply is dripping with it.

    Look, the aforementioned groups are just as shafted by the government as we are. Quit whining.

  • ||

    Of course they are just as shafted. They were just better prepared by having been relatively more shafted in the past, and hence already availed themselves of the KY.

  • Chris||

    *barfs*

    When white no men longer hold virtually every seat of power in both business and government, maybe I'll start to feel sorry for us. The idea that white men are the only remaining victims of racism in the USA is puke-worthy.

  • ||

    When it no longer matters who sits in the "seats of power in both business and government", then we'll all be free. Racism is a condition which injures both the object and the subject of it. Consider for a moment Prof. Gates of Harvard: after a working lifetime of preaching that white men hate blacks and are just waiting for a chance to "do it" to them, he comes face to face with the demon of his nightmare: a white cop demanding to see his ID. Because of his racist view of whites, he had one of those times when you ain't sure if you've had a stroke or a heart attack or just need to change your underwear. Because, you see, the point is that he belived all that crap he's been teaching and went right back to teaching it. Do you suppose that ... oh, hell, I forgot his name! .. Strom Thurman, I think it was, who had a child with a black lover back in the late '40's or early 50's didn't love that child and that woman? That wasn't a one-night stand, ya know? But his racism, his blindness, his hatred, turned around and bit him. Don't you know that in the middle of the night he'd wake and wonder how his child was? How his lover was? And why he couldn't say nothing about them? If you think he never had those thoughts or feelings, then you deny his common humanity with all of us. Just as Gates suffered from his racist views, so did Thurman and so do all the rest of those who have that affliction. These were and are men: human beings. "Hath not a Jew eyes...", etc from Merchant of Venice; you see??

  • ||

    Slavery still exists. If one must surrender a portion of one's income to any entity on pains of incarceration, one is a slave. Period-notwithstanding any socialist twaddle to the contrary.

  • ||

    I hear Somalia is a paradise of freedom...

  • Banjos Kick Ass!||

    I declare Somalia be the new Godwin's Law.

  • Joshua||

    so how should the common defense be funded then?

  • robc||

    Funded? Why not a volunteer army? You think there wont by a fleet of pick ups heading north to pennsylvania (NY is on their own) if the Canucks ever invade?

  • robc||

    Also, if we needed a paid defense, could it not be funded by donation?

    I would happily donate 5-10% of my income to a national defense fund that truly that.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Because volunteer armies suck. See the histories of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, and Spanish-American War for further elucidation.

    Volunteer armies are an undisciplined rabble fit only for guerrilla warfare. They follow no military discipline and do not respect the laws of war.

    Those wars I mentioned were "won" by the United States in spite of the fact that it fielded volunteer armies, not because of it. Each of those armies had to be hammered on the anvil of battle failure before it was worth a damn, as Washington, Jackson, Zach Taylor, & U.S. Grant discovered.

    You snark that "NY is on their own" but in the War of 1812 the state volunteer militias had exactly that attitude, and it nearly ruined the nation.

    No friend, anyone who is serious about the common defense wants a professional military. The rest are still embracing the myth of the minuteman.

  • robc||

    Read my other post. Im sure you will happily donate large percents of your income for the cause.

    Also:

    Each of those armies had to be hammered on the anvil of battle failure before it was worth a damn

    That might be a price well worth paying to avoid a permanent army.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Preposterous. An army, like a gun, is a tool. In a gunfight, do you want an arquebus, or do you want a AR-15?

    Who do you want defending the nation's borders? A collection of undisciplined yahoos with unstandardized equipment & supply, purely notional understandings of authority, who will quickly fall to abusing any civilians that come into their line of sight?

    Or do you want the 10th Mountain Division?

    The "price" you consider worth paying is paid in the blood of other men wasted in battle and the lives of civilians destroyed. It does not take a long study of military history to establish this.

  • ||

    You're fixated on income. Women and minorities have spent most of the past few centuries just securing the right to be secure in the belief that no one is going to invade our bodies, and that if they did, we would have legal recourse against them.

    We're only just now getting around to worrying about property and income.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Boaz is exactly right. I personally believe libertarians should only hold up certain founding fathers as "heroes," like Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine who were adamantly opposed to slavery while disregarding Thomas Jefferson and George Washington who didn't really practice what they preached. We must constantly remind the "Left" that heroes like Frederick Douglass were classical liberals who believed in private property and freedom from government tyranny.

  • ||

    Thomas Paine & Ben Franklin were totally bitchin' And Douglass was a badass.

  • ||

    And it's a shame the way "liberal" has come to mean "progressive". I stopped using the former a few years ago and now almost always use the latter to describe folks who advocate for more government.

  • Adonisus||

    I agree as far as George Washington goes. As far as I'm concerned he essentially betrayed the Revolution by using a temporary economic crisis to impose the government's will on the people, particularly with the taxes (Google 'Whisky Rebellion' to learn more)

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Fact is "progressive" doesn't even mean progressive by its economic definition. The classical liberals were progressives - i.e. they supported a naturally progressive tax rate (land taxation), did not like corporations (as they are artificial legal entities created by government and not naturally by markets) and believed everyone should have ideally equal opportunity to advance themselves. Most of the classical liberals recognized that government was a tool of power for the powerful and the disempowered will only be used as political tools for further power by the elite, the monopolists and the aristocracy.

    Libertarians SHOULD be progressives for a large array of reasons, but mainly because massive economic inequality is the easiest excuse for growing government (maybe besides supposed threats to national security).

    I support progressive tax rates (or ideally a complete overhaul of the system to a land value tax system) because the poor have less proportional discretionary income, thus I'd rather them spend the money on themselves and their family's needs than on paying taxes. That doesn't mean I support soaking the rich. In an ideal world, the richest would pay about 5% or less and the poor would pay nothing.

    Also in an ideal free market world there would be no such thing as a corporation, only proprietorships and partnerships that purchase liability insurance.

    Of course neither of these seem attainable in the foreseeable future but both merely reflect the ends of an ideal classical liberal system.

    Anyway, back to my original point: most of the policies of the Left do nothing but hurt the poor.

    - I say this in almost every thread, but debt is regressive, because the devaluation of currency that is the most politically feasible solution to debt creates price inflation, which disproportionately hurts the poor's ability to pay bills, buy food, etc. Those with discretionary spending have a cushion, but the poor do not.

    - Minimum wage laws merely limit the number of low income jobs available, pushes those who keep their jobs to pick up the slack, hurts small businesses and eventually cancels itself out with price inflation.

    - Business regulations intended to reign in big business ends up shackling small businesses disproportionately, as they do not have access to the lawyers, accountants and tax professionals megacorporations do.

    - Public education as is currently configured merely reinforces the cycle of poverty as children in areas with lower property taxes (i.e. poorer areas) are more likely to be stuck in failing schools. The teachers unions and the statist Left who embrace them want more control and money instead of what is in the best interests of the children.

    - Welfarism has proven that well-intentioned government policies intended to help the poor breed dependency and tend to end up destroying lives, communities and families.

    - Besides environmental justice (which should be a cause of every libertarian, for it comes down to property rights violations by big government and big corporations) environmentalism is a naturally regressive mindset, pinching those hardest (via gas taxes, price inflation, car emissions mandates) for whom the environment is barely on their hierarchy of needs.

    I think it goes beyond just what Mr. Boaz is saying - besides rejecting a false revisionist history, libertarians need to full on embrace the idea that economic progress of the poor and the social progress for minorities is a valuable end for society and can end up reducing state interference and increasing liberty in the long run. A truly meritocratic society would have less need for government welfare. Many barriers to meritocracy are created by government favoritism and we must point out that the reason for the original inequality is almost always bad government policies and discriminate protection of individual rights.

    However, we must refuse to accept any of the statist orthodoxical policies that have proven to be utterly self-defeating and devoid of even basic economics.

    Moreover, we should refuse to call them progressives because that inherently assumes that they actually support socially and economically progressive policies, as opposed to simply defaulting to the nearest government solution every time a problem or inequality occurs. Call them statists, Keynesians, socialists, Leftists or whatever, but don't give them the term they really want to be called (progressive) or the term they stole from people who did understand economics (liberal).

    Sorry for the rant...

  • Comrade Zero||

    No apology needed. You should submit that for Reason Magazine.

  • ||

    "Sorry for the rant..."

    I was a good rant.

  • ||

    "It" (sheesh).

  • Tomcat1066||

    While I may not agree with everything you said, you gave good reasons for what you said. I wouldn't apologize, but expand upon it and publish it. :)

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Thanks!

  • ||

    That was one badass rant. I learned a lot from it, thanks.

  • TP||

    Bullshit. Thomas Jefferson was adamantly against a central bank. Jefferson and Washington were also non-interventionists. Nobody's perfect. Andrew Jackson brought down the second central bank, but he shit on Native Americans. So what. It doesn't change what he said and did about the evils of central banking. He is still correct about that and always will be. If you look hard enough, you can discredit anyone. You can agree with some things about a person and disagree with other things. This is why we've had almost a century of weak presidents in this country. Real men of character and principles are too easily discredited.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Sorry, but for me central banking is far, far below the murder of people with red skin and the enslavement of people with black skin in my book.

    In fact, I don't even have a problem with central banking in the sense of an entity to protect the stability of domestic money supply by buying currency from trade back from foreign banks and vice versa - trading back foreign currencies. That doesn't mean I support printing money out of thin air, nannying banks and giving away swaths of public money to who know who, but I still see legitimate reasons for having one. Not that this is a debate I care to get into at this moment, as it is off topic.

  • robc||

    Sorry, but for me central banking is far, far below the murder of people with red skin and the enslavement of people with black skin in my book.

    Im not interested in weighing Jackson's soul.

    When discussing banking, I can consider Jackson's view without any concern of his treatment of the Indians. And vice versa. I dont have to temper my disgust at his Indian policies by his positives on the bank.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    The difference that Boaz is trying to make is that we shouldn't hold Andrew Jackson up as a libertarian hero just because his view on central banking might synchronize with our own. We can use his arguments against central banking, but we must delineate that we are specifically fans of his central banking policy and not fans of Andrew Jackson himself.

    Same goes with Jefferson and Washington, who while they did a lot of good and set up a fantastic if flawed government system, were slaveholders who could have freed their slaves at any point but chose to wait until after they died. A slave owner by definition should not be a hero to a libertarian. Period.

  • robc||

    My point is, in a discussion of central banking, I CAN hold up AJ as a hero, because no one should assume anything about my views on him otherwise.

    Fell free to assume I think he is racist and pro-genocide, because I do.

    If his Indian policies are being discussed, dont assume I oppose his central banking policy because of me calling him a disgusting fuckhead.

  • robc||

    We can use his arguments against central banking, but we must delineate that we are specifically fans of his central banking policy and not fans of Andrew Jackson himself.

    This is wrong. As pointed out above, this CAN BE FUCKING ASSUMED BECAUSE WE ARE FUCKING LIBERTARIANS. Anyone who assumes my praise of Jackson's banking policy means I agree with his genocide policy is a moron of the highest order.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    If you were in a discussion specifically confined to the topic of central banking, that would make sense. However, if you were walking around saying "Andrew Jackson is my hero" or "my favorite president" people outside of libertarianism might not know or care about his central banking policy and people inside libertarianism would assume you're not a libertarian. Personally, I consider Jackson amongst the absolute worst presidents in American history, and he was hardly libertarian on the role of government. My point is clarity must be present if you wish to be seen as consistent.

  • robc||

    if you were walking around saying "Andrew Jackson is my hero" or "my favorite president" people outside of libertarianism might not know or care about his central banking policy and people inside libertarianism would assume you're not a libertarian.

    I dont call any politicians heros, so I agree with you on that.

    But, if I say that the Democratic Party should return to the ideals of Jefferson and Jackson [you know, since they have that dinner], I would hope I dont have to clarify "except for the slavery and genocide".

  • Zeb||

    I would say that placing any historical figure in such high regard is a mistake. Everyone has good ideas and bad ideas, good actions and bad actions. Focus on the ideas and the things that can be done in the future.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    I feel obligated to defend Jefferson and Washington on the slavery question. It's far easier 200+ years after the fact, when the issue has been well and bloodily dealt with, to be an abolitionist. It was a great deal harder when there were actual slaves and actually yours.

    The United States did not invent chattel slavery; it inherited it from the British. At the time the constitution was drafted, slavery was only beginning to become controversial in the West. Washington and Jefferson had to deal with this, we didn't.

    They were aware of the distance between the principles of freedom they espoused and the reality they lived. For his part, Washington acted within the confines of Virginia law and made arrangements for the manumission of his slaves in his will. This was not hypocrisy. Mount Vernon was not a profitable plantation and Washington refused to sell his slaves (nor after the early 1770's, did he buy any), thus denying him an important source of revenue. During his presidency, he often let slaves that he took north with him free on the sly.

    Jefferson's draft of the 1776 Virginia state constitution explicitly forbade the further importation of slaves; his draft of the 1783 state constitution had a clause establishing the gradual emancipation of slaves. In 1784 he proposed to Congress banning slavery in all western territories; by which we mean, everything West of the Appalachians. Each of these were rejected. His lone victory was urging, during the final year of his Presidency, the federal ban on the slave trade in the first year it was constitutionally permitted.

    Could they have done more? Perhaps. But they felt they had other responsibilities to the nation as a whole, and not merely to those suffering under it. Within those responsibilities, they did what they could. Maligning their character and accomplishments because of circumstances they did not create strikes me as entirely unjust.

    As does the entire thrust of Boaz' article. Are we really going to decide, now that we have addressed the crimes against liberty in the past, that the ideal of liberty is forever tarnished?

  • Jim Wilson||

    George Washington was not perfect, but he is the one who really made this nation--really and truly. He could've been king, he could've been president for life, he could've used the Colonial Army to keep himself in power. He did none of those things, and established the military tradition of behaving like Cincinnatus, which is why we've got the one of the oldest extant government in the world. As a nation we may be young whipper-snappers but thanks to Washington our government is a hoary old fellow. No wonder he's senile.

    Regarding slavery, Washington did free all his slaves as part of his will--the socially acceptable way to free them at the time. Despite the constant attempts to rationalize slavery everyone always knew it was wrong, hence the 'make peace with God' effort at time of death. Washington had a much greater belief in proper behavior than we can imagine today, and he held to his professions. It is not inconsistent or hypocritical.

    Jefferson is more of a problem. He went for much higher-flown rhetoric, far more radical in outlook and in preaching, and yet his slaves were passed out among his relatives in his will. However this is not as inconsistent as it might seem. The best 'science' of the day was behind racist slavery. We often forget today that blind reliance on the latest thing in science has doomed a lot of otherwise good people to wrong and even evil deeds. Scientific opinion can seem invincible right up until it's completely overturned, so skepticism is ALWAYS worthwhile. The same goes for a lot of others; TR, Wilson, etc. Today we look at racism and eugenics as plainly, clearly stupid and backwards--but there was a time when common folks weren't racist and the highly educated were. Racism is not a natural outgrowth of any society; xenophobia is, provincialism is, and of course the oldest natural state of all: tribalism. Racism is a very carefully, scientifically created construct. It may be plain now that the science is bad, especially since they've been finding the weirdest most unexpected things with genetic testing, but when it was new it must've seemed like a 20-foot solid granite foundation. And even better, it flattered the vanity of the scientists who created it in Europe. Small wonder that belief became so popular until the Nazis finally discredited it so completely that the holdouts around the world finally had to give up on it too. Well mostly. I guess Iran is still 'Land of the Aryans,' instead of Fars/Persia.

    Frederick Douglass was indeed one of the best men who ever lived, but was still not quite perfect. But then anyone who expects perfection from heroes is doomed to disappointment. I think being superior to the vast majority of human beings who ever lived is sufficient to justify my admiration for all three of these men, warts and all.

    I made a list of heroes more than 30 years ago when I was a kid, and only had to dump a couple of them since, and despite that fact the list has just grown longer. Franklin, Paine, Jefferson, Washington and Douglass have been on that list from the beginning.

  • Holy Cow||

    Oh, who cares about freedom and low taxes and less govt. intrusion in our lives? I mean, come on, what if Palin was VP and she prayed while in the Oval Office? What if she came out even stronger against abortion?

    You know where that kind of talk leads. To personal responsibility. To limited govt.

    But what good is limited government if you can't fantasize about smoking weed on a porn set with the President?

    To hell with Freedom. Progressivism rules the day as long as anti-weed, pro-Jesus folks are kept out of office. Oh,

  • Sean||

    Thank you for the excellent article, David. It is important to remember the broadest aspects and interpretations of liberty (ie, not just economic), for people in all sorts of situations (ie, not just the leftwing "bogeyman" of propertied white males), even as we fight against the most pressing current threats to freedom.

  • ||

    For those of you who are white, I recommend reading a speech given by William Douglas on 4 July, sometime in the 1850's or 1860's, published in
    "The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass", Volume II, Pre-Civil War Decade 1850-1860, by Philip S. Foner
    International Publishers Co., Inc., New York, 1950. In that speech he anticipates Boaz' article by about 160 years. FYI, the title of the speech is, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" and it was given on an Independence Day celebration in Rochester, NY, where Mr. Douglas was the owner and editor of a newspaper.

    A larger government is not required for freedom to be extended to all those who are human; by which I mean all of those to whom it has come in the last 100 or so years. Notice, please, that all the protestations of the abolitionists were of no avail, their cries to free the slaves in North America went unheard until several hundred thousand white men died for that cause. Yes, in a war that was government against government for the privilege to oppress all of us a bit more than they had been previously allowed to do. But - and an important one! - by the end of the 1870's, blacks were as free as poor and working class whites; not much of an improvement, you say? I think it was. That the Democrats - and the Republicans who came after the Radical Abolitionists in Congress who acceded to the deal with the devil - instituted the Jim Crow laws and used the KKK and similar organizations as their party militia in the South took some of it away.

    But the necessary precondition for liberation was fulfilled by those who took literally the words of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic": "...as He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free...". Not government of a modern size; men who were willing to die to free their fellow men. We got any of them around these days? Maybe some in the uniforms and working clothes; not many - if any - in suits or going to colleges and universities getting what my dad called "a fancy man's education". Nope and that ain't changed a damn bit either: it's just us who are willing to fight and die for liberty, not you Harvard/Yale etc boys. Never were. You are the sunshine patriots of whom Thomas Paine wrote with such contempt; and Sam Adams: "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!"

  • Historian||

    I'm pretty sure you mean Frederick Douglass the great classical liberal. His speech is reprinted in David Boaz's really great collection, The Libertarian Reader

  • ||

    So shoot me because I can't remember the correct spelling of his name.

  • *||

    Bang!

  • Mad Max||

    The Founding Fathers violated their own standards of freedom very often, most obviously in the case of slavery.

    But here's why they are still worthy of admiration: They set up a country based on a freedom philosophy which would still be a good idea today.

    Tocqueville was aware of the failings of the USA - he had sections on the treatment of black people and Native Americans, which he regarded as major exceptions to the American practice of freedom. He also warned about the abuses of the administrative state and mob rule - abuses existing at the time or in the form of portents for the future. But he still thought the USA was a model of freedom worth studying by other countries (specifically France, which didn't quite seem to be getting that whole freedom thing right).

    The American freedom philosophy of the Founders was antagonistic to slavery, and the best evidence of this was the slavery apologists who flourished in the 1950s - one of them, Jefferson Davis, became a key leader of the Southern bloc and President of the Confederacy, so they weren't marginal cranks, they were the leading defenders of slavery against the abolitionist and free-soil critics. These defenders of slavery admitted that the Declaration of Independence breathed a spirit of hostility to slavery, and that even slaveholding Founders like Jefferson were against it. The proslavery apologists responded to this by criticizing the Founders and the Declaration of Independence.

    The supporters of slavery knew who their enemies were.

  • Mad Max||

    1850s, not 1950s

  • ||

    The dude actually brings up some pretty good points!

    Lou
    www.anon-resources.at.tc

  • Monica||

    Well done, Mr. Boaz. You make your points well. You will wake some people up, even as you managed to annoy the reprehensible pseudo-libertarian segregationist Thomas Woods, founder of the "League of the South" ( http://dixienet.org ). To think that such people are infiltrating as "libertarians" is nauseating.

  • ||

    Woods a "segregationist"? What is it with the hysteria around here?

  • Tom||

    Oh, and nice to see you, Tom Palmer. Going by "Monica" these days, huh?

  • alan||

    Gave it a once over reading. Here is my problem. The article is well written, the argument substantive, but what does it do for me? Does it lift a hand to help reduce my income taxation or the bureaucratic mess that I have to go through to get anything done on land that is mine in title and deed? Am I able to buy and sell a vast array of things I could not buy or sell yesterday without running foul of the law because Boaz wrote this? Can I expect the cop that passes me by on the street to address me as sir? Can I expect him to work the next thirty years and not have to pick of the tab of his extended pension plus that of two generations of cops that succeed him after he retires? Does it strengthen my hand, or does it weaken it? In my opinion, in a subtle manner as it gives ammo to those who don't care much for freedom to tell me to quit bitchin', it does weaken my hand. So, I really don't have much use for it.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Alan,
    His point is that if you want to advance the cause of liberty, you have to stop embracing revisionist history. A majority demographic (women plus male racial minorities) were not free and equal under the eyes of the law in the supposed "golden age" of liberty, so harking back to that era simply does not connect with enough people to make libertarianism an appealing argument. Too many libertarians hold the Founding Fathers up to be like gods on earth - the role models all politicians should emulate. His point is growing the movement requires reaching out to more minorities and women, not in a tokenistic manner but with a clear eyed vision of the government oppressions of the past and present and rational alternative solutions, not via government but via individual empowerment and liberation. It's kind of hard to say we oppose government oppression yet our heroes were slave owners.

  • alan||

    My point is if you want to advance the cause of liberty you have to stop embracing a liberaltarian progressivism as it is two years too late to make a case for it that doesn't ignore the historical reality of the democratic implosion in all areas of public policy. It would be counter productive for us to embrace Frumian compromise and Pelosian policies that stand in the way of achieving libertarian goals. Especially in light of the implosion, the momentum is one not to be wasted infighting because some historians disagree about events that occurred that are remote to us. It would be like the Ron Paul Russert interview where he took several minutes answering an irrelevant question to his agenda about the civil war all over again except with thousands of distracted players instead of one.

    The sort of tit for tat between historians is not relevant and distracts from policy debate. I really don't care what anyone thinks about 1861, as it is a matter of personal disposition and the little relevant to policy has been hijacked by those with ideological axes to grind.

    Also, I'm not going to bow my head to a progressive who credits himself and his cause for the freedoms that I as a decedent of quadroon, octoroons and mulattoes enjoy. Not the dominant strain in my bloodline, but they are there. A census from the 1840's list a fifteen year old mulatto girl and a forty year old Latin as the direct great grand parents of my dad. I know the family history well and truth be told the only thing anyone in my family ever gained is what they were willing to take. The only social program any one of them enjoyed (excepting my retired cop uncle, another story, another time) was the army, which my dad joined to escape from the poverty of being the son of a singer in a Spanish folk band. They obliged him and sent him down to fight in Panama back during threats of insurrection in the 60's.

    So if Boaz wants to take one side, and Woods the other and box it out over events that have already been overwhelmed by other events with gloves built from ideological points that ignore the individuals involved, it really isn't my cup of tea as a libertarian. I ask what would Lysander Spooner do and it would not be taking part (though Rothbard, fuck yeah, he would be in the middle of it) in a cold blooded retcon that is a disservice to our greater humanity. One that can only be divisive to those who have much in common to which they have arrived for the futile sake of where they parted from.

    Also, you underestimate the ability of the American public in their capacity to differentiate between the founding fathers being slave owners and the political genius that they were able to meld into a nation state unlike any that came before it. One built on anti-collectivist principles. Most Americans revere that history, even those of us who are strong anti-imperialist and you are not doing the libertarian movement any favors by playing into the leftist belief system founded on viewing America as a uniquely evil singularity.

    I know that is not your intention as I don't doubt your sincere motives; it is never my intention, either when I criticize, say Hiroshima for one when I let myself become unfocused on the task at hand, but leftist will twist what you say as a point of religious proof for the unique singularity. They are truly that vile.

    Denouncing Jefferson as America's Stalin plays in academia, but not in Peoria. So if you are trying to build a more publicly viable Libertarianism, that is a really funny way to do it.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    I don't think anyone ever said Jefferson was America's Stalin. But the simple fact is that embracing a slaveowner as a libertarian hero is completely contradictory. Likewise, embracing an era in which 1/5th of the public were literally enslaved and over half the public were not seen as people deserving of rights as some sort of libertarian paradise is a gigantic contradiction.

    If libertarians care about their messaging, we must be at least consistent. That doesn't mean we have to write off the many good things Jefferson did by any means, but we must make a clear distinction between the man and his greater accomplishments only because otherwise we open ourselves to easy accusations of hypocrisy (regardless of what we actually believe).

    You might say it's political correctness, but I think it's more about clarity and consistency so our end goals and not be easily misconstrued by our political rivals. You may think most Americans can make the distinction (as if most Americans can even name more than one or two founding fathers), but the Left can prove that some of the founding fathers were racist slaveholders who agreed to a compromise that blacks only count as 3/5ths human - and easily distort what we believe through that lens.

    If we ever wish to progress politically as a movement, we should not give them a single tool with which the Establishment can criticize us or turn us into straw men. They're very good at that, if you haven't noticed.

  • robc||

    we must be at least consistent

    Gödel disagrees.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    "the Left can prove that some of the founding fathers were racist slaveholders who agreed to a compromise that blacks only count as 3/5ths human"

    And when they do this, we should introduce them to someone who actually knows American history -- and can thus point out that the 3/5th compromise was designed to frustrate the attempts of the South to pretend to represent non-citizens and thus entirely violate the idea of actual representation, therefore the compromise actually weakened the position of the slaveholders -- instead of caving into their critique.

    Do you want to fight for the narrative, or do you want to be well thought of by statists?

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Neither - I'm perfectly aware that the 3/5ths compromise was pushed by the Northern FFs who thought it repulsive to reward Southern slave states with stronger representation in the Federal Government. It wasn't a great compromise, but neither were the other two options. But the perception either way, whoever is responsible, is that blacks were subhumans, and the Founding Fathers did not have the courage to end slavery regardless of political consequences and thus holding the original Constitution up as the ultimate document of libertarian governance and the era as the period of pure libertarian governance is ridiculously contradictory.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    "But the perception either way, whoever is responsible, is that blacks were subhumans, and the Founding Fathers did not have the courage to end slavery regardless of political consequences"

    This is an unjust perception. It should be fought against, not surrendered to. You cannot convince people of things by uniformly bowing to their point of view. You can only do so by appealing to it on some things, and challenging it on others. I don't understand why that's hard for libertarians to accept. It's not like it's going to cost them seats in the legislature.

    "thus holding the original Constitution up as the ultimate document of libertarian governance and the era as the period of pure libertarian governance is ridiculously contradictory."

    I agree about the era, but not the document. The document is fine. The era was not fine, for a variety of reasons. I'm afraid you're playing with the Left's straw man. No one actually wants to turn the clock back to the 1770's. What we want is for the principles of government the Founders gave us to be again enshrined as our governing principles. We can do these things without the oppression of minorities or women. That's the message.

    If I point out say, "Back in the 1790's, roads were built by private companies", I'm not saying "everything in the 1790's was awesome," I'm saying "why can't we have that today?" Someone else says "Yeah, and slavery was legal, too!" is not understanding what I'm talking about, perhaps willfully. It's also not a fresh argument. How long must we atone for the sins of the father?

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    As I have said here several times, the Left are very, very talented at the straw man fallacy, and for libertarian views to both penetrate the Left, which is required if we wish to advance as a philosophy of governance, and avoid their attacks it is our own responsibility to be unimpeachably ethical and consistent in our messaging and associations. Otherwise we will remain a fringe movement forever. Why is self-righteousness in the defense of liberty and opposition to government a virtue (in fact a requirement), but self-righteousness in the opposition to racism and inequalities often resulting from evil government policies of the past is a flaw?

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    So you're of the opinion that the Lefties will stop using strawmen against us...if we police ourselves better?

    Look, I'm all for denouncing racists. Racism is bad, and should be smacked down when it arises. But we could be the cleanest, least racist movement in American history, and the proggies would still call us racist. It's what they do. And as long as we're granting credence to their bullshit instead of calling them on it, we're helping them and not ourselves.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    No, they will continue using straw men, but such arguments would be obvious straw men instead of being backed with substantial evidence they they can use to paint over the movement with a broad brush. Moreover, if we turn the racism argument back on them and their own policies, we put them on the defensive - instead of being the ones on the defensive. There is plenty of justified grounds to do so without need to evoke fallacies at all.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    That sounds great. But I submit to you that the way to take the offensive is to take the offensive. We don't need to make apologies before we call Lefties on their racism. If there's plenty of justified grounds to do so, let's just do that.

    Once again, how long must we atone for the sins of the father?

  • ||

    Give me a BREAK!!!
    Bumper is pro-slavery???
    Geeez, smear - fest here we come!!

    Gee, since slavery was in existence since, I don't know, your call.... 1865? Everything before 1865 was B.S. regarding liberty....
    Oh Wait!!! I just discovered..... there is STILL slavery in some parts of Africa!!! So..... All knowledge and wisdom prior to today, 4.5/2010 is non-existent....
    Welcome to the year ZERO!!!
    That's better....

  • Tony||

    Actually there are more people in slavery today than there have ever been. Think children being sold for sex and such.

    I fail to comprehend how libertarians spreading magical freedom dust or whatever you do will solve that problem.

  • Mary Ruwart||

    To be fair, they are voluntarily exchanging their sexual labor for candy-flavored meth.

  • Soonerliberty||

    Probably a result of anti-child labor laws and minimum wage. Where else were they supposed to go?

  • Tony||

    So anti child labor laws are at fault for children being sold into involuntary labor?

    Actually, in many places even with laws preventing it, the reason child sex slavery is allowed is because government agents can be bribed into ignoring it. It's a highly profitable business. Free labor couple with a desirable commodity typically is.

    See where unregulated capitalism--or capitalism that is immune to regulations because the enforcement agency is too weak--gets us?

  • Mary Ruwart||

    The little hooers just want their candy flavored meth. How else are they going to pay for it?

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Once again, Tony, you fail to understand that most libertarians believe there is absolutely a role for government protecting the liberty of individuals from other private actors who would enslave them. That IS the point of government.

  • ||

    "Has there ever been a golden age of liberty? No, and there never will be. There will always be people who want to live their lives in peace, and there will always be people who want to exploit them or impose their own ideas on others."

    I'm with you here, except that it seems more than a little silly to run an organization ostensibly devoted to human liberty and simultaneously believe that goal to be unachievable because some people will always be foolish and power hungry.

    As for the rest of this piece, it is a petty criticism and, frankly, funny that you admit you didn't even realize it until Clarence Thomas pointed it out. The well of ideas for this column must have really been running dry...

  • Some Guy||

    The world can never be perfect, but it can get way better.

  • ||

    Yeah, that's my point. There CAN be a "golden age of liberty" in the future, in spite of some people not respecting the rights of others. To make some sort of Heavenly Utopia the litmus test is ridiculous.

  • robc||

    Golden ages are always judged from the future, looking back at the past, so there cant be a golden age of liberty in the future.

  • ||

    The comments to this article may be the definitive litmus test to separate the mensches from the douche bags for our usual commenters.

  • Thomas||

    Amen. Boaz is a reasonable person and it's really unpleasant to see his words twisted by the douche bags to come to conclusions he didn't imply or suggest.

    How can people go on and on about how free people were in year X (and maybe in some ways they were more free), but ignore the fact that blacks could be arrested for walking in the wrong neighborhood, dating the wrong person, or sitting in the wrong bus seat, that gays could be arrested and beaten up by the police for dancing together in private clubs, and that the press was censored (Comstock laws and more)?

  • Joshua||

    I think Boaz could have done a better job with the article. It did not seem focused enough to me. In my mind the strongest use of this article is to guide Libertarian "marketing". KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER! Our customers are the minorities & women & gays etc who think the government is their liberator & who don't have the sense of history to realize that the government was also their oppressor.

    If we go to these potential "customers" and say we are for limited government, there is the potential that they will misunderstand our intent.

    If we spread the message of libertarianism, it should be within the context of statist oppression throughout history, not just the most recent examples of taxation, regulation, etc.

  • Joshua||

    So what are your mensches & douches positions?

    In my mind
    Douche - Boaz is saying that free men had to give up some freedom in order to liberate the oppressed minorities & women. Also: The "good ol' days" sucked major donkey dick.

    Mensch - Boaz is saying that there has been a coincidental lessening of freedom for some while others have seen huge strides in freedom. Also: The "good old days" weren't quite as good as some are making them out to be.

  • Smiles||

    Joshua, Please quote where Boaz affirmed your first position. It ain't in his article. Not even a hint of it. Maybe in your mind, but not in his article.

  • Joshua||

    Sorry - I wasn't very clear - The first position was supposed to reflect what I thought douches (dummies, idiots, etc.) were getting out of the article. My own perception is more closely aligned with the second position.

  • ||

    I would advocate extending freedom to all people. Including 18th and 19th century slaves. People now should have the kinds of freedoms that existed during that time for those who had it.

    What this article seems to be saying is: "There never was freedom. There never will be freedom. You'll never get freedom. Accept government imposed bondage." I reject this.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    That's not the point of the article. Try again.

  • will||

    There were 8 generations between Jamestown and 1787, more than enough time for slavery to become established as the world the founders were handed. To unhypocritically judge their hypocrisy for talking liberty while walking slavery from our perspective demands courage to stand up to current injustices perpetuated by power structures I think few of us have.
    They handed the next few generations constitutionally sanctioned institutionalized slavery. After the 13th amendment, state governments handed a few more generations Jim Crow. The national government's civil rights acts has given 2 generations forced association to replace forced separation.
    Wholesale violence has been done to blacks by the government directly or with its sanction. It's hard to imagine it being worse in a voluntary society, that is without the state's power and blessing. I can't speak for a black person, much less black people. But I think that if I were black and looked hard at the history of how oppression thrived, I think I'd rather take my chances with a state with little power, or no state at all, than to depend on one with the power to do harm we've given ours. But it seems none of us are taught to look hard at history without looking through the state's lens.
    Hornberger is a man of courage who has done much for the cause of liberty. His omissions in his article hardly seem worthy of such as this article. Should all "libertarian" writing begin with a politically correct disclaimer?

  • Tony||

    Slavery was an entirely economic institution. It wasn't government twirling its mustache looking for a people to oppress one day. It was free labor and it helped create the world's most powerful economy.

    Not only did government have to pass laws to end this massive oppression, it had to fight a war. Because people with an economic incentive to keep their free labor weren't gonna give it up out of the kindness of their hearts.

    Unrestricted capitalism can lead to all kinds of oppression.

  • Jeff ||

    Tony, you are quite mistaken. First off, the Civil War was not about slavery and there are plenty of books and evidence to back up that claim including Lincoln's own speeches.

    Plus, all of Europe from Britain, France, Denmark, Spain, Germany, and many South American countries ended slavery peacefully and in the same amount of time that the Civil War took.

    America could have easily done the same thing. In fact, several states were already passing peaceful resolutions to end slavery for many decades before the war.

    "Unrestricted capitalism can lead to all kinds of oppression." How? Capitalism is voluntary. I CHOOSE to pay or work or hire someone. Slavery is not voluntary. Therefore, there's no connection between the two.

  • ||

    Tony, government also had to pass laws to allow and facilitate slavery. Absent laws that excempt certain classes of people from protection of the rule of law the slaveholder has violated any number of laws, viz, kidnapping, assault etc. Specific laws against slavery would not be required if all laws were applied fairly and equally (the one equality to which people are actually entitled).

    As for Jeff, you can go on about your tarriffs and other arguments, we've all heard them all, the plain and simple fact is, no matter what other grievances southerners might have had, without slavery, there would have been no war.

    And no, the possibility that slavery would have ended peacefully in the US is pracically nil. The intransigence and power, not to mention their devotion to the institution, of the slaveowning class all but guaranteed there was not going to be an end to slavery in America without bloodshed.

    You either got the bloodshed as the result of the North trying to preserve the Union (1861-5) or you see it later as an emboldenedonfederacy presses its imperialistic ambitions in the West or in Mexico or Central America.

    Even absent the imperialist ambitions the CSA would face the real prospect of a slave uprising and absent the Fugitive Slave Act would have seen a bigger and bigger problem with slaves escaping to the Northern States and Canada.

  • ||

    "emboldenedonfederacy" should be: "emboldened Confederacy"

  • nonPaulogist||

    Slavery is only a viable institution because of the State. Boaz even mentions the Fugitive Slave Act, etc. The state was evil, but because it was smaller, it was less evil. Now it is much larger and much more evil.
    We don't have slaves in the states, but our interventionists, neomercantilist (as opposed to REAL free market) policies allow us to export our slavery to other countries. It WAS better back then, Slavery was always evil, but we have more involuntary servitude now than then.

  • nonPaulogist||

    We are all slaves for the first months of each year, involuntarily working to pay taxes. That means less total slaves (unless you count the 3 million in prison), but much more slavery than in the 19th century.
    Don't get me wrong: It wasn't anywhere close to perfect. Murdering indians then was no more moral than murdering Arabs now, but the scale has been magnified. The State consumes our wealth, our lives, and our freedom. At least back then, you me, anyone black white brown or purple could go live in the wilderness. You can't even do that now.

  • Tony||

    Are you saying there weren't taxes in the 19th century? Taxes aren't slavery. They are the fee you pay voluntarily for the privilege of living in a civilization.

    As someone said above, you don't actually want to live in the wilderness and experience that kind of "freedom." You want your cushy life and you don't want to have to pay for it. You want a free lunch.

  • ||

    Okay, I'll bite. If someone refuses to pay their taxes, would you propose exile as a means of dealing with them? If taxes are the fee for living in civilization, and someone refuses to pay their taxes, wouldn't one consider the contract null and void? Say some rich dude refused to pay taxes; could a possible response be to deny him any of the benefits of society?

    Further, as we both agree, taxes are paid for modern conveniences. Assume I decide to go into competition directly with the government. Assume I'm able to outdo the local authorities in, say, putting out fires. I'm thinking that it would be a nonprofit service, but paid exclusively through private donations. Am I a menace or not?

  • Tony||

    The penalty for not paying taxes is whatever it is, and it's part of the contract we have with our government.

    If you think you are entitled not to pay taxes, you are free to do so sans penalty as long as you renounce your citizenship and leave, which you are more or less free to do.

    You may very well be able to outdo the government system for putting out fires. FedEx is superior to the post office in a lot of ways. But the entire reason these exist as government services is that they are universal. You get your house extinguished whether you paid enough in to cover it or not. Because fire is a community problem. It does no one any good to ignore the fires that people can't pay to have put out. Similarly, the post office guarantees mail delivery anywhere. Try getting FedEx to get out to your homestead 100 miles from civilization. They won't, especially not if it doesn't make economic sense. Government programs exist because universality is sometimes necessary or just.

  • Soonerliberty||

    Sure, tell me again where this mythical contract is in which I agreed to have my wealth confiscated and if I broke that pledge, I would be put in prison. This social contract theory is the biggest bunch of BS ever pulled by man. It's almost as bad as the Christians claiming we are a Christian nation and the founders were all Christian and, therefore, they say sodomy should be illegal. Who the hell would agree to such a document and never be allowed to leave it? This is pure idiocy.

    The fruits of civilization have nothing to do with government. Shakespeare wasn't writing plays on orders from gov't bureaucrats. Bulgakov and the Russian writers certainly weren't. We have civilization despite gov't.

  • Tony||

    Social contract theory is better than all the other justifications for government. Like "God said I get to be your ruler" or "I have a bigger stick than you, so why don't you suck on it while I rape your wife and steal your stuff?"

    You act like it's possible not to be governed. It's not. There will always be a power greater than you. There is no magical limited government land where everyone is free. And there never will be. Your best bet is to have a government that's accountable to you as a member of the collective it governs.

  • NonPaulogist||

    "Taxes aren't slavery. They are the fee you pay voluntarily for the privilege of living in a civilization."

    Voluntarily? really?
    WHEN did I agree to this contract? WHERE is this uncivilized tax-free wilderness where I can live if I don't want to be taxed?

  • Tony||

    First of all, it's voluntary because you can renounce your citizenship. You agree to the terms by remaining one and enjoying the benefits that come with it. Did you expect to get civilization for free?

    I don't know that there is a "tax-free wilderness" but nobody gets their preferred perfect society. There's billions of us who have to live together in a finite space. Learn to be a grown up and compromise.

  • Zeb||

    Tony, there are other ways to contribute to civilization than paying taxes. And the federal government did manage to exist before there were income taxes. While all taxes can be in some sense considered theft, the income tax is certainly the most obviously so.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    ..so the segregationists said to the blacks.

  • NonPaulogist||

    We do not implicitly agree to the social contract by merely remaining in our native country. The only alternative is to move somewhere else that also has a social contract. It's as if we lived in an archipelago with each island having it's own Tyrant king. Move and you change nothing. Swim away and you drown.

  • Zeb||

    I didn't sign any contract. And I reject entirely the notion that my ancestors could have entered into a contract which is automatically binding on me. That said, the tax=slavery bit doesn't really fit. Theft is a more appropriate description. The government doesn't force you to work, which is the essence of slavery.

  • NonPaulogist||

    If the government doesn't force people to work, then why was I required to fill out a selective service card?

  • ||

    The social contract theory is interesting, one that not all libertarians reject. See Jan Narverson or Hospers.

    When I was talking about my hypothetical fire company, it would put out everyone's fires; a nonprofit paid for by rich, outside donors. I wouldn't charge anyone to put out their fires. So, I would be able to compete on equal footing.

    Okay, I agree that one should be free to renounce their citizenship and leave. The way laws are in America, however, renouncing citizenship is too difficult. The system needs to be reformed, so that people can opt out more easily.

    I'm not under the delusion that I don't have to pay taxes. More than likely, when I strike out on my own, I will. However, I have often considered being a war tax resister; protesting American foreign policy by refusing to pay for it. It would be an act of protest, civil disobedience if you will. Out of principle, not a sense of entitlement. Is this immoral?

  • Tony||

    I don't think it would be immoral. But I also think you should be prepared to pay the penalty. Resist taxes because you don't like the architecture of your local library for all care. But the system simply wouldn't work if everyone could opt out of all the programs they don't like. Compulsion is inherent in functioning government. You would be making a statement--and better men than I have gone to prison for their principles.

    I was certainly abhorred by the thought that the Bush administration was acting in my name, so I actually can empathize with libertarians who pox both houses and thus think most or all of their tax dollars fund great wrongs. It's just that I believe the anarcho-capitalism that many here advocate is probably the worst of all worlds.

  • NonPaulogist||

    We do not implicitly agree to the social contract by merely remaining in our native country. The only alternative is to move somewhere else that also has a social contract. It's as if we lived in an archipelago with each island having it's own Tyrant king. Move and you change nothing. Swim away and you drown.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Taxes aren't slavery. They are the fee you pay voluntarily for the privilege of living in a civilization."

    No taxes are supposed to be the user fee paid by the individual for the value of services received directly by him from the particular government entitity he paid them to.

    If the government charges him any more than that amount, it's theft.

    Just as it would be if Home Depot forced Customer A to pay for a lawn mover given to Customer B.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Precisely. Taxation is the government's allowance.

  • Realist||

    You must be joking, nonPaulogist. I hate paying taxes, but I'd really hate being whipped, or castrated, or having my foot chopped off for not working hard enough, or being raped and having my children sold off to another plantation. Or being subject to Jim Crow laws, or sodomy laws, or laws limiting property rights for women, or the military draft, or rationing, or any of the other awful things from the "good old days." Measuring freedom is not an easy thing to do, but Boaz makes a compelling case that the "oh, for the old days" approach is woefully inadequate. It's not an attack on anyone, but a very sober reminder.

  • NonPaulogist||

    Try not paying your taxes and see if you are not chained, raped, caged, and have your children taken away. Try resisting or escaping from the prison they put you in for non payment of taxes without getting murdered.

  • Zeb||

    True, but it is still more theft than slavery. Try telling the armed robber confronting you "no". You'll probably get shot then too. They just do it in fewer steps than the government.
    You also have the option of not making enough money to be taxed.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    "Embrace poverty, or pay up sucker."

    Another blow for freedom!

  • ||

    Barack Hussein Obama.....the Long Legged Mack Daddy:

    http://atlah.org/atlahworldwide/?p=7063 - http://therealrevo.com/blog/?p=23796

    and "Power to the People":

    http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/20192

  • smartass sob||

    You also have the option of not making enough money to be taxed.

    Uh, no - not since the health care bill has been passed. You will pay a "fine" or "penalty" - a tax - of up to a certain percentage of your income or (something like) $95, whichever is greater. And that applies even if your income is zero.

  • ||

    (Headdesk) Way to miss the point and make us look like shortsighted racist sexist bastards, fellow commenters. Paying taxes is the same thing as legally being able to be sold, raped or murdered as someone else's property? REALLY? Fail.

    (Why yes, I am a card carrying Libertarian, why do you ask?)

  • NonPaulogist||

    Both are violations of the Non-Aggression Principle. The only difference is one of degree.
    Is it more moral to chop off one finger each from ten people or to chop off all ten of one person's fingers? That is the principle we are discussing. Most would agree that one finger each is evil, but less evil.

    Now for the analogy of taxation vs. slavery: Is it more moral to chop off one finger each of a thousand people or ten fingers from a single individual. I would argue that, because of the scale, a thousand fingers lost is more evil, no matter who loses them (although it would certainly suck for the fingerless guy or the slave much worse personally.)

    Again (and I find it painful that I even have to mention this) I am not endorsing slavery in any way, shape, or form. It was evil. We are better off without it, just as we would be better off without a Federal Government. Just as we would be better off without taxes, even if government services would go away also.

  • ManikMonkee||

    As the article points out in terms of social issues that era wasn't very free, but in terms of economic issues was it that free either?

    I'm lead to believe that the early US was very protectionist

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_System_(economic_plan)

  • ||

    Were it not for slavery, a significant number of Americans would not exist. They'd still be in Africa, scrambling to stay one step ahead of a hungry lion. That's a foot race many of them would lose.

  • ||

    Yes, I really love the "the slave trade was really a philanthropic forward thinking immigration policy" theory too.

    [/sarcasm] - in case it was necessary.

  • Texas OB/GYN Newsletter Writer||

    They'd still be in Africa, scrambling to stay one step ahead of a hungry lion. That's a foot race many of them would lose.

    Not the fleet-of-foot. Those lion-evading skills keep them one step ahead of the "Five-O" when they are running away with some old ladies purse

  • ||

    This makes me appreciate again how much I appreciate the freedom I have, how precious it is, how we have to fight for our rights, how much I want to see everyone's rights respected, and how little I want to be associated with the likes of Dan Burgner, Tom Woods, and their ilk. I cringe every time such people talk about the good old days. They really weren't so good. Kudos to Cato for bringing some balance to the discussion.

  • ||

    Really, Boaz? Really? Slavery is your trump card? I know you, Pilon and the others favor the 14th Amendment is our friend reading of the Constitution but please - give me a break. Read Government by Judiciary, understand the true meaning and intent of the Amendment, put down the Kool-Aid and join the rest of the libertarian movement in the reality based world. D.C. is not a friend of liberty in either the U.S. or the world - centralization will not enhance liberty in our society. I know, you and Palmer want the D.C. mafia to force gay marriage down our throats rather than letting the states work out solutions amenable to their populations and so you can't recognize the reality of our diverse society. Let me say, for the record, I support gay marriage done the right way - state by state and not through some centralized top-down approach. Cato just keeps getting weirder and more statist by the day - very disappointing as someone who became a libertarian by attending the Hill lectures during the summer of 1992 when you guys were back in the town house. Sad indeed.

  • Tony||

    letting the states work out solutions amenable to their populations

    You do realize that gay people exist in every state?

    Should we deny equal rights to those who happen to live in states with more bigots?

  • NonPaulogist||

    Why not? Anarchists live in every state also. You seem to be perfectly comfortable denying anarchists the right to live without the government.

  • Soonerliberty||

    But that's different, you see, because anarchists don't agree with Tony. This guy has the logic of a toadstool. It's not worth trying to reason with him. He only moves if a bureaucrat hops on him and causes a ripple in the water. He is only worthy of scorn and loathing for touting a primitive Paleolithic philosophy of zero-sum fallacies and no growth.

  • NonPaulogist||

    I don't think it is different. It's easier to escape a tyrannical state government than a tyrannical National government. The more local the government, the better. The ideal government rules just one person.
    You can't give the government the power to do good without simultaneously giving it the power to do more harm.

  • Tony||

    Anarchists have exactly the same rights as everyone else with regard to the expression of their political philosophy. But you don't have a right to get everything you dream up in your head.

    What I objected to in the post above was the phrase "amenable to their populations." Equal civil rights shouldn't be doled out by popular vote.

  • ||

    I agree. Civil rights shouldn't be up for a vote.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Ah, so whatever anyone decides is a civil right, automatically becomes one? With no possibility of public debate or consideration of legal ramifications?

    Another blow for freedom!

  • ||

    Don't exaggerate; I wasn't saying that. I'm just saying the mob has no right to decide the rights individuals ought to have.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    The "mob"? Oh noes! Run!

    Pray tell, who does decide what rights people ought to have?

  • ||

    Read a little Mencken, and then you'll realize why Boobus in the Tea Parties are dangerous to liberty.

    Second, I don't know. All I know is that I don't want the goddamn mob to decide.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Well, I also don't want mobs deciding things. They're very bad at that.

    I'm thinking that Mencken was reacting to a political landscape rather different from our own. I understand that you want to distance yourself from the unwashed rabble, but I don't understand how they're a greater threat to liberty than the Leviathan they fight against.

  • NonPaulogist||

    You don;'t seem to understand the difference between positive and negative rights. Civil Rights in an American historical perspective are actually not rights at all, but obligations. Example: you right to be treated equally is my obligation to ignore your race, sex, orientation, handicap, etc. This is actually a VIOLATION of a real right, the right to free association. So the question "Who decides?" is actually asking "who rules?" The answer should be nobody. Positive rights are not rights and no freedom comes from them.

  • ||

    The point knox is making is that Cato is embracing non-libertarian solutions. It's embracing a liberal solution that is no better than a conservative one. I too attend Cato events, working within minutes of their HQ in DC, and they're getting tiresome. It used to be Mises would start things with Cato, now it's always Cato attacking Mises, FFF and Ron Paul. Cato is the one destroying cohesion in the movement. Perhaps it's because Mises is surpassing Cato on all fronts, FFF is gaining in popularity (particularly because of their excellent foreign policy articles) and Ron Paul libertarians with Campaign for Liberty are actually winning elections? Cato is just leaving floaters in the pool, eventually it will just be some weird think tank that blends establishment liberal and establishment conservative views and calls it libertarian... oh wait.

  • Danny||

    Get a grip, Brendon. Boaz doesn't even mention the Mises cabal and he doesn't "attack" Hornberger or FFF. He "criticized" something that Hornberger wrote. It's a bad sign when someone calls a disagreement or a critical remark, offered in a very civil manner, an "attack." He disagreed with Hornberger's description of "the economic system that existed in the United States from the inception of the nation to the latter part of the 19th century". And you know what, if you think about it, Boaz is right.

    And he doesn't embrace any "non-libertarian solutions." They're sure not in the essay above, which I took the time to read. (It looks like you did not.) He's just pointing out that it's hardly obvious that everyone today is less free than before the latter part of the 19th century. For one thing, it depends on who you would have been. If you don't get that, go back and read it again. Because it's important for you to understand what Boaz is very patiently trying to tell you.

  • ||

    I guess pulling the race card is all the rage for beltway types these days. A supposedly libertarian organization justifying creeping socialism, central planning and the egalitarian standard of "fairness" with such tactics is certainly revealing. Labeling a superior competitor in the arena of libertarian "think-tanks" trolling for cash contributions a racist is a low blow. The number of posters here that believe voting equals freedom is disappointing.

    How about a debate between Boaz and Hornberger on the subject? Neutral site, slit the proceeds.

  • ||

    They aren't doing any such thing.

    Even so, part of making liberty work is understanding the current situation.

  • ||

    David Boaz, you really lit a fire under the Rockwell crowd. They are hopping mad. Good. They're a bunch of racist nitwits who shouldn't be allowed to claim the mantle of libertarianism. And, as usual, they mis-state your position, twist it, try to smear you. If anyone is in doubt, they should read what you wrote. It's an exercise in reason and careful statement of facts.

    Thanks to nj for the link to this -
    http://www.cato-at-liberty.org.....oting-for/

  • Banjos Kick Ass!||

    Seriously, the racist card? Man, there really is no difference between you beltway libertarians and the statists.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Who wrote Ron Paul's newsletters again?

  • Banjos Kick Ass!||

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    RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!
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    RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!
    RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!
    RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!
    RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!
    RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!
    RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!
    RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!RACISTS!

    See how annoying that is? Come back when you something of substance to say. If I wanted a bunch of idiots foaming at the mouth to scream racist at me, I would go to Huffpo. Do I really need to get it from a supposed “libertarian” website as well?

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Absolutely. I'm 100% for political correctness when it comes to our message. All tolerating, ignoring or embracing racism or borderline racism ever does is cut off a large potential audience for a libertarian message. many liberals are of the misconception that libertarians are racist, mainly because they don't know any better beyond the media stories reporting that Ron Paul took money from racists and neo-Nazis. The major parties have enough racism as it is - we libertarians should be better than they are about controlling and fighting internal racism - especially in our extreme minority status on the political spectrum, niche marketing to people with archaic social, racial and gender views does nothing but limit the appeal of our message to the people who actually decide the winner of elections.

  • ||

    *claps* I said it once, I'll say it again; Rothbard and Rockwell fucked up with that paleolibertarian bullshit.

  • Banjos Kick Ass!||

    What supposed racism? I have never seen it. Believing that the Civil War was not just about slavery does not equate to racism. It's pure strawman. This is just as equally bad as the liberals declaring that any mention of State's Rights or the 10th Amendment equates to secret racist beliefs. You don't want a discussion or a debate, you just want to use the same tired out bullshit political tactics being used by the left and right all designed to make one feel self-righteous and virtuous without having the laborious task of actually having to think, debate, learn, and grow. The right screams "unpatriotic" the left screams "racist" and all the while no substantive debate occurs and the state grows. Fuck your political correctness and your misplaced self righteousness. I know I am not racist and unlike you I do not have some strange desire to prove to people that I am not one by playing Witch Hunt. Like I said before, come back with substance. Oh, and really? You are afraid of liberals having the wrong perception of you because they are the ones that are closed minded? Grow a pair of balls.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    No, as long as you do not publicly express racism and claim to be a libertarian, I won't assume you are a racist. In my years of involvement with the LP, I honestly haven't met many racists at all. The problem is that the vocal closedminded are the ones that make whole movements look bad and thus the only pragmatic reaction is for movements desiring to progress to completely reject racists and racism.

    The Left and the mainstream media have been able to exploit the actions of a few fringe racists and nuts to make the whole Tea Party look bad. Regardless of the fallacy that a few on the fringe = the whole movement, if the GOP and tea party organizers didn't come back with a politically correct response to the criticisms, they would obviously look complicit in the fringe beliefs. Since the GOP actually cares about winning elections, it was thus the only pragmatic response. Ron Paul looked complicit likewise by taking money from explicit racists (combined with the newsletter, those two things were what really damaged his candidacy's appeal to those in the mainstream and on the Left).

    The fact is that the Left are a large audience that we need to penetrate in order to bring libertarianism into the mainstream. Anything sniffing of racism would turn many of those on Left off for life and permanently keep many people who genuinely want to improve the lives of the poor and minorities in the clutch of statist politicians whose policies accomplish the complete opposite.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    I don't suppose it's crossed your mind that Lefties have other reasons than racism for not embracing libertarianism?

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Of course, for example, not understanding or caring enough about market economics. But racism for many Leftists causes instant recoiling action (after all the whole basis for idealism is wanting to feel good about themselves). When we aren't politically correct in our messaging, we allow the statist Left to control the dialogue and win an easy upper hand and accuse us of guilt by association. I deeply care about the perception of libertarianism by the Left because I genuinely would like to reach them with the fact that all their government policies are self-defeating and end up hurting the poor more. Any (even if mostly false) perception of racism is a barrier to accomplishing this goal.

  • Banjos Kick Ass!||

    What is so refreshing about Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul, and all the paleo-libertarians/anarcho-capitalists is how principled they are. They never gets involved in party politics and at the same time are never afraid to remain principled out of fear that their political opponents are going to manipulate their arguments, such as labeling them racists. The reason we have the political atmosphere that we have is that so many people are willing to sacrifice their principles out of fear of being called names. Paul’s following has gained without playing bullshit politics. His refreshing honestly and principled message is all he needed to gain supporters. So why are you running from this? Paul has proven that it works. Both the left and the right want the politics to persist, because when it boils down to it neither side has principles. So stop playing the political games. When a leftist screams racists, call them on their bullshit and remain principled. From my own personal experience, it works.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Several questions for you and your friends:

    - Had Ron Paul never published the racist newsletters under his name and not accepted money from unabashed racists, do you not think he would have done significantly better in 2008? Would it have mattered?

    - Is it principled if the result of purism is to remain a perpetual fringe movement while the major parties grow government without any checks?

    - Is it more refreshing to talk about how principled you are than to actually accomplish incremental change, even if that requires compromise?

    - Is it better to be a perpetual fringe movement that never compromises, or a movement that actually influences policy in a libertarian direction?

    - Can a moderate or left libertarian be principled and consistent?

    - Is it principled or intellectually lazy to always default to "government = bad"?

    - Is the point of libertarianism to minimize the government or to maximize liberty? They are often but not always the same.

  • Banjos Kick Ass!||

    Lew Rockwell, Paul might be considered radical compared to the mainstream, but why are convinced that they are the fringe? According to Alexa, LewRockwell.com is higher ranked than Reason:

    http://www.alexa.com/topsites/category/Top/Society/Politics

    I Think Paul and his 2008 run did far more for the Libertarian message than Cato has ever done. You believe that the Rothbardians are some how alienating people from libertarianism, I think they are accomplishing the opposite. By staying principled, by not being contradictory and staying to the message many, many people are aware of the freedom message more than ever before. Rothbardians brought me into libertarianism back in 2002. I was a conservative until I ran into LewRockwell.com. After years of reading it off and on, my beliefs changed, not because of rhetoric or dogma, but because it really made me take a step back and question my core beliefs.

    Since Paul’s run, he has been interviewed regularly by the MSM. A lot of people are now aware of the Federal Reserve System and the American people are increasingly becoming sickened by our foreign policy. I now even see people questioning why we need entitlements; I remember growing up being taught how important these systems were.

    The problem with working within the political system is that you have to concede that it is legitimate. How do you expect to limit the size and scope of government by conceding this? As you can see from the world around us, this tactic has failed. How do you expect to convince people that government is not the answer if you have already conceded that government is necessary?

  • Banjos Kick Ass!||

    Lew Rockwell, Paul might be considered radical compared to the mainstream, but why are convinced that they are the fringe? According to Alexa, LewRockwell.com is higher ranked than Reason:

    http://www.alexa.com/topsites/category/Top/Society/Politics

    I Think Paul and his 2008 run did far more for the Libertarian message than Cato has ever done. You believe that the Rothbardians are some how alienating people from libertarianism, I think they are accomplishing the opposite. By staying principled, by not being contradictory and staying to the message many, many people are aware of the freedom message more than ever before. Rothbardians brought me into libertarianism back in 2002. I was a conservative until I ran into LewRockwell.com. After years of reading it off and on, my beliefs changed, not because of rhetoric or dogma, but because it really made me take a step back and question my core beliefs.

    Since Paul’s run, he has been interviewed regularly by the MSM. A lot of people are now aware of the Federal Reserve System and the American people are increasingly becoming sickened by our foreign policy. I now even see people questioning why we need entitlements; I remember growing up being taught how important these systems were.

    The problem with working within the political system is that you have to concede that it is legitimate. How do you expect to limit the size and scope of government by conceding this? As you can see from the world around us, this tactic has failed. How do you expect to convince people that government is not the answer if you have already conceded that government is necessary?

  • ||

    Hopefully FFF and/or Mises comes out with a magazine soon. Even the discussions at Cato in Washington are getting lame, which is a shame because it's right near my work. Wish Mises were here. Can Boaz just call himself a "centrist Republican" and get it over with?

  • ||

    Brendon, what "centrist Republican" would write this?
    http://www.cato-at-liberty.org.....oting-for/
    Who I’m Not Voting For

    Posted by David Boaz

    It’s that time of year again, when friends start telling me about this or that candidate I should support because he or she is a dedicated defender of liberty and limited government. I’m a political junkie, so I love getting these recommendations. But I don’t end up supporting or contributing to many candidates. In my view, it’s not enough for a candidate to say that he’s ”committed to slashing wasteful spending, providing tax relief, and eliminating red tape.” What’s your actual tax plan? What spending do you propose to cut or eliminate? Not many of them offer clear answers to that.

    And liberty involves more than just economics. Often I’m told, “Congressman X is a libertarian.” I always check, and then I say, “He voted for the war, the Patriot Act, and the Federal Marriage Amendment. Sounds like a conservative.” Now a conservative who opposed President George W. Bush’s trillion-dollar spending increase, his Medicare expansion, and his stepped-up federal involvement in education is a lot better than your average member of Congress. But those votes do not a libertarian make.

    This year I’m looking for candidates who stand for freedom across the board, who want government constrained by the Constitution, who believe in the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace.

    And that means I don’t want to back candidates who support

    the war in Iraq
    the war in Afghanistan
    war with Iran
    the war on drugs
    the constitutional amendment to override state marriage laws and make gay people second-class citizens
    the president’s power to snatch American citizens off the street and hold them without access to a lawyer or a judge
    new restrictions on immigration
    So don’t everybody write at once. But I’ll be looking out for political candidates who support liberty and limited government across a wide range of issues.

  • ||

    If he had to suck up to real libertarians in order to head one of their think-tanks, yes.

    I've read his website many times. He can be good for weeks, then he just writes an article like this that lets you down big time. Jacob and the FFF are great libertarians and there's no good reason to attack them with the frickin' slavery card of all things.

  • ||

    You're right - Boaz doesn't vote for those types of people.

    He just donates money to their campaigns instead.

    http://catounhinged.blogspot.c.....t-ron.html

  • ||

    LOL Pierre - Awesome link! Boaz donated to budget-enlarging, tax hiking William Weld, ex-gov of my home state of Mass.! Both Republicans and Libertarians in MA look back on the days Weld called himself a libertarian with laughter. He was a "centrist Republican," in the vein of Olympia Snowe. THATS the kind of person Boaz supports.

  • ||

    Better a centrist Republican than a wingnut.

  • ||

    Spoken like a true beltway "libertarian"

  • ||

    You know, I think both those in the beltway and those outside it are talking past each other. Both sides have had major fuck-ups. Both have their heads up their asses.

  • Patriot Henry||

    Can blacks, women, and gays carry weapons to defend themselves? In some places, times, and circumstances, yes. In many others, no. Can they acquire possess and use drugs? Sometimes yes, but again mostly no. Can they engage in voluntary contracts? Sometimes yes, often no.

    If you examine any of these groups and any of these rights - they are only able to exercise them if, when, how, and why the government says they may, and they usually have to pay a fee and file paperwork to get permission to exercise their rights.

    This is not freedom. This is not liberty. It might be a less dreadful form of tyranny and oppression favorable to some individuals based upon their own subjective valuing of that which was and that which is - but it is by no means approaching any meaningful standard of liberty that should be the goal for all individuals and groups of individuals.

    "Has there ever been a golden age of liberty? No, and there never will be."

    Apparently Mr. Boaz is either a psychic or a pessimist. There has been a "golden age" of tyranny lasting now the whole of recorded human history - according to this "expert" it will never get any brighter or better than the fluctuations within this apparently eternal dark age.

    The District of Columbia might yet swallow up the rest of Mr. Boaz's mind and soul, and that of Cato, and Reason too, but surely it won't get to consume the whole of the world. Or will it?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    David Boaz's points are well taken - it's a mistake to equate the size of a government with the power it actually wields, and it's a mistake to over glorify the past.

    On the other hand, the fact remains that the bigger a government is, the more potential power it has to wield, if it chooses to do so. You can see this illustrated in his example of the small town hiring two new police. While in the example no new abuse of power happens, and even the opposite occurs, the local government's potential power over its citizens has still increased. If the Mayor orders the Sheriff to use his new deputies to increase enforcement of blue laws rather than more serious crimes, the Sheriff's ability to do so is substantially increased.

    I think that this is why libertarians, rather instinctively, prefer small governments to larger ones, even outside of economic concerns.

  • will||

    Libertarianism is about as imprecise a word as conservative and liberal, but "liberty" can be useful when it is meant to mean freedom from state coercion. There is room for debate over the role, if any, of the state, but to engage in invective within the "liberty" ranks seems awfully counterproductive and ego-stroking, and to my ears childish.
    As a reader of Reason as well as Mises and LRC, I appreciate their dedication to liberty. If there are "weirdos" or "racist nitwits" at either place I haven't seen it. If those accusers have specific examples of racism or nitwitism, it might be helpful to expose it with real evidence. Otherwise, while we engage in blogging about our dislikes of one another, a third war in the ME is imminent, the deficit grows exponentially, more draconian sections of the health care bill are discovered, etc.

  • ||

    Boaz started it.

  • Cville||

    Right...because we once had slavery we are now condemned to live under the equalizing control of an ever growing federal government. Regardless of how intrusive or oppressive it might become.

    Any chance it could be instructive to look at how freedoms (admittedly for the portion of the population that was free) has faired in the last 200 years?

  • Patriot Henry||

    "And in particular, if we want to attract people who are not straight white men to the libertarian cause, we'd better stop talking as if we think the straight white male perspective is the only one that matters. For the past 70 years or so conservatives have opposed the demands for equal respect and equal rights by Jews, blacks, women, and gay people. Libertarians have not opposed those appeals for freedom, but too often we (or our forebears) paid too little attention to them."

    I agree - we should pay more attention to these appeals, for they are appealing for slavery and not freedom. Egalitarianism is a means of collectivism which is the enemy of liberty. The Jews, gays, blacks, women, etc who have been fighting for "equal rights" and "freedom" are really trying to make us all slaves with their own group the special and most favored class of slaves. The "straight white male" perspective, which apparently refers to the libertarian perspective, isn't the only one that matters but it should be the only goal for blacks, women, gays, etc. Otherwise their goal shall be that of the "gay black woman" perspective, which of course will be some permutation of "big government and no liberty". I wonder why Mr. Boaz, the "expert" "libertarian" wants to pay less attention to the libertarian perspective and more to the statist one, using race and gender and other group affiliations as a basis for legitimizing the philosophy of crime?

    "Has there ever been a golden age of liberty? No, and there never will be. "

    Mr. Boaz should have included some more dramatic examples of why there wasn't a relative golden age of liberty in America's past. Proof includes: how hard we had to struggle to cajole, bribe, entice, and force immigrants to move here, the volumes of many authors lamenting the lack of liberty, and the incredibly slow development of land and businesses and science etc all held back by the Church and State. Oh wait, all of the evidence indicates that compared to the rest of the world and the rest of human history America was much more free. To a statist mind, those horrible violations of liberty are plenty reason enough to forget the instances of liberty in order to advocate horrible violations of liberty for all!

    This is the same insane illogical immoral bullplop I hear from my "liberal" Masshole father. Can't consider anything Jefferson ever did or said because he had slaves don't you know?

    I'd expect this sort of garbage thinking from a union member and public school graduate and self professed "little guy". It is somewhat unexpected coming from a "libertarian leader". Boaz should be ashamed of himself - denying past examples of liberty due to the fact that they were contemporaneous with past examples of tyranny is a stupid statists game.

  • ||

    It is convenient to have Cato writing at Reason -- one stop shopping for bashing libertarians. Hornberger, of course, won't stoop to parsing comments by Crane, Boaz, Lindsey, Pilon, etc. to insinuate they are closet Nazis.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Oh come on. Give me a break. Lew Rockwell never shuts up about how Reason and Cato are statist sympathizer organizations.

  • ||

    Agreed. Sorry for the double post, but my full thought is in the 2nd one. Why pick on FFF, though? Hornberger isn't a basher and his original comments were spot on. Seems like Boaz would like any libertarian appeal to the founders to include a slavery disclaimer.

  • Not a Bumper Thumper||

    Boaz did not "pick on" Bumper or FFF, nor did he attack them. He CRITICIZED what Bumper wrote as incomplete and historically naive. What's wrong with being critical of someone when you think he made a mistake? And he did not question Bumper's motives, or attack him, or say anything bad about him.

  • ||

    And he's 100% correct. The Hersyani piece on Paul about a month back proved it to me.

  • ABC||

    That's because Reason are. They're too afraid of people making fun of them for having 'kooky ideas' to actually come out and say they're fully against the state.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Maybe we're not *fully* against the state. This certainly isn't an anarchocapitalist site if that's your point.

  • ABC||

    You got a purdy mouth.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Why not? Anarchists live in every state also. You seem to be perfectly comfortable denying anarchists the right to live without the government.
    reply to this

    And thus we see the main problem in discussions like this...words like "rights" are used to mean "thing I want to do" without thought to how meaningless the assertion is.

    Way up thread someone commented that "freedom" is probably not quantifiable. Probably the most on-point comment in the thread. Comparisons need to be targeted to specific topics to allow meaningful comparisons between the now and the past.

    Depending upon which topic you target, you can, of course, make an argument that the now is more/less free than the past. But the vast differences in our society in the now make global comparisons pretty darn meaningless.

    Libertarianism is an essential element in American political thought, but it is not a coherent political system - it is a principle of governance that needs to be considered alongside many other parameters when shaping public policy. But in the end public policy is dynamically pragmatic...a series of constant adjustments that attempts to get the balance between equity and liberty correct...attempts to find the sweet spot.

    On the whole, over time, the trend is toward improvement, but there will be many many missteps along the way.

    But I am an optimist. I see our world improving overtime. The half empty crowd may see it differently.

  • NonPaulogist||

    According to the Magna Carta and especially the Declaration of Independence, Government derives it's just power from the consent of the governed. That does not mean consent of the majority of the governed. We have a right to live without any government interference. The majority has no more right to rule us than the king did.

  • Edwin||

    no - it does mean the majority of the governed. If they all really meant "consent" unanimously, then why didn't they follow through with that? Do you really think that's even do-able? Do you think murderers, rapists, burglars, etc. "consent" to our government when we lock them up? Of course not, but that's NOT a bad thing. You're NEVER going to have unanimous consent. And a government you could "opt out" from wouldn't really work - again, because of murderers and the like - and the problem of what to do when two mini-governments disagree on whether someone broke a law.

  • ||

    It is convenient to have Cato writing at Reason -- one stop shopping for bashing libertarians. Hornberger, of course, won't stoop to parsing comments by Crane, Boaz, Lindsey, Pilon, etc. to insinuate they are secret Nazis. Folks seem to delight in trashing one another. Unfortunately the big goal is changing others' hearts and minds, not using libertarian macho flash to bring everyone under their own doctrinaire banner first.

  • ||

    Except for all those folks illed and enslaved by say the Hausa Fulani, Mali, etc. empires.

    There is no such thing as the "noble savage."

  • ||

    Mr. David Boaz writes:

    'I am particularly struck by libertarians and conservatives who celebrate the freedom of early America, and deplore our decline from those halcyon days, without bothering to mention the existence of slavery.'

    and then

    'Did "early Americans consider themselves free"? White Americans probably did.'

    Which is the point you blithering moron; everyone should be that free.

    It was a high water mark to be exceeded only in the broader application of the freedom, not in the character of that freedom.

    You're saying nothing's that bad now, and that things were never much better, because now everyone has a half shitty sandwich, when the problem is we all have shitty sandwiches, courtesy gov't.

    What's to love?

  • ||

    All libertarians have always opposed slavery but there's nothing we can ever do about it. Why beat a 150 year old dead horse ? Boaz sounds like a Communist. They always focus on the horrors for blacks and I certainly wish that no blacks had ever been brought here for slavery. But is Boaz seriously arguing that blacks would be better off in bloody Africa ? They have killed each other by the tens of millions since colonialism ended. And of course libertarians oppose forced integration in 'public accomodations,"
    "fair housing," "fair employment," as well as state mandated affirmative action in state hiring. If you want to tally the collective record of black criminality and sociopathology just since WW2 in urban America, whites would be the ones getting reparations.
    As far the homosexual business goes they have taken the same statist tactics as the feminists and the blacks. I'm tired of the PC nonsense coming from CATO and Reason. The American Conservative linked to this which is why I saw it. After the disgraceful way CATO and Reason tried to smear Ron Paul, you people have zero credibility. By the way, the Civil War was an unjust war, see The Real Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo. And most libertarians do not advocate mass foreign intervention and mass murder, the Objectionabalists at ARI have long done so and with support from Reason going back to the late 70s, Wheeler, Machan, Efron, etc.
    Final point, how were Boaz's ancestors in the USA persecuted ? Should they have stayed in eastern Europe ?

  • Adam||

    I can't believe this article is stirring up so much controversy. The man's point is that libertarians are prone to hearkening back to a golden age of lost liberties that never really existed, except for property-owning WASPs. It's not exactly a crackpot thesis. And when you talk about the 18th century as though it was an era of unadulterated freedom with nary a mention of slavery, you come across as a Southern revivalist.

    If you want a very timely example of this kind of thinking and how silly it makes us look, go watch Samantha Bee's clip on the Daily Show from last Thursday. She's mocking people who say the census is too intrusive. A tea partier says that the original census showed how concerned the founders were with freedom... immediately after explaining that the original census had only three questions, the third of which was, "How many slaves do you own?" So she finally gets him to say, yeah, unfortunately, slavery was bad. Then she points out that you weren't free if you were a woman and he says, "I'm not going to get into this with you." Of course, the audience has a hoot and the guy (and his argument) look ridiculous.

    Better to acknowledge these facts head-on than have statists do it for us, so that we come across as a bunch of racists.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    You're right. Far better to trip ourselves up with a fallacy of irrelevance than have someone else take the trouble to do it.

  • Adam||

    Huh? I don't get your point.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    See my comment below. Bringing up slavery to argue against limited government is a logical fallacy. They have nothing to do with one another.

    American society in the 18th century had slavery in it. This was bad. It was not created by limited government.

    Women did not vote until the 20th century. This was bad. It was not caused by limited government.

    An apple is not an orange.

  • Adam||

    The problem here, I think, is that we're talking past each other. I agree with everything that you just said. In fact, you left out that the reason we had slavery WAS because the government enforced it. There seems to be no daylight between us on this issue.

    But can't you see that going around talking about the old days (whether it's a matter of centuries or decades) when we were free is just setting the argument up for rejection? Talk about 1776 and people will dismiss you because of slavery. Talk about the 1950s and they'll do the same because of Jim Crow. Lynchings, the non-personhood of women (the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in *1927* that women were not eligible to become senators because they were not persons!), capital punishment for sodomy, virulent anti-Semitism, the eradication of Native American culture, Japanese internment, etc. These were all real, and of course they were due to (or exacerbated by) state action. But in the public mind (or much of it), this is what the "old days" were like and when you say that we used to be free or that we've lost our liberties, huge swaths of people will respond, people like me sure weren't!

    It's a terrible trap to fall into, to say that "this used to be a free country" while ignoring how we've actually become more free in some very important ways. That's all Boaz is saying, that we're progressed in some ways and regressed in others. I think it's an entirely reasonable point.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    I get what you're saying. I can even agree, up to a point. But there's a time and a place to critique America's history, and this is not the time. Especially considering that this critique has largely been absorbed by the public. Everyone knows that Jefferson was a slaveholder.

    It's time to talk about the vision of liberty that they did have, and why it was good, and the extent to which those rotten old white guys were free in the past, and why everyone should have that level of freedom today. That's a critique the public has not fully absorbed, and needs to if we're going to make any headway.

    Saying "please don't call us racist" is diving for the mat before the ref even sends us to our corners.

  • Adam||

    OK, but I'm telling you, go around talking about how great the Founding Fathers were and how much they loved liberty and how badly we need to recapture their spirit all you want. If you don't preemptively acknowledge the fact that many of them had a very hypocritical view of "all men are created equal" then you're not going to convince many people. It's not about begging people not to call us racist, it's about making people understand that what we want is to take the best from the past and apply it to the present - not to recreate the past as it existed, as a whole. And that we're as grateful as they are that certain aspects of the past are long gone.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    I'm fine with dealing with our history. But there's a hell of a lot more to Thomas Jefferson than the fact that he was a slave-owner. There's his numerous attempts at anti-slavery legislation. There's his leadership in closing down the slave trade during his presidency. Surely if we're going to deal with American history, we can deal with the whole thing, rather than the narrow understanding the proggies hold.

    One of Jefferson's friends had a saying: "Facts are stubborn things." What say we bring them to the table?

  • Adam||

    Yes, exactly. Let's deal with the whole thing, meaning the good and the bad, so that we can promote the good without having the bad stick to us like a bad smell.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Yes. Hence, I will not apologize for promoting the good.

  • ||

    "The man's point is that libertarians are prone to hearkening back to a golden age of lost liberties that never really existed, except for property-owning WASPs."

    Except he doesn't have a point. The problem with today is not that only some WASPs enjoyed full negative liberty then, it's that we don't all have it now--in fact, no one does. It was a high water mark for quality of freedom that can only be improved on by it's recreation and full application.

  • ||

    Hi D. Boaz,

    Slavery is Bad (from aRothbardian Libertarian). Is that enough?

  • B. Kalafut||

    "Rothbardian Libertarian"
    That's a euphemism for paleocon.

    But speaking of Rothbard, doesn't his house-of-cards natural rights theory of everything depend on parents somehow manumitting their totally owned children? I seem to recall an essay by the man himself...

  • NonPaulogist||

    You are not going to derail the discussion by dredging up your faulty understanding and poor recollection of an unrelated essay.

  • ||

    Well, this whole discussion provides an incentive to start my own blog. I would touch upon issues like this, with the intention of helping to end the feuds between libertarians. I would spend time analyzing different positions with libertarianism, showing strength and weaknesses; synthesizing different historical analyses; trying to understand other points of view; and trying to dispel groupthink in all camps.

    Right now, I think both the LRC crowd and the Beltway crowd have their heads up their asses. Hopefully I can help get both to smell the coffee. There is more to freedom than economics; decentralization doesn't equal liberty, though sometimes it can; the freedom if the individual must be a prime focus, even at the expense of popular prejudices. Libertarianism is about embracing economic, personal, political, and civil rights.

  • ||

    Don't do it, it's a waste of Internet space.

  • ||

    *Rolls eyes*

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Go ahead, man. Take your shot. I'd be pleased to check it out.

  • ||

    Dear Mr. Boaz,

    Your observations about Mr. Hornburger and the issue of abolitionism, the Federal Government, and slavery fails even on its own terms!

    There still exist slavery in the United States today. The XIII amendment to the Constitution states that slavery is forbidden EXCEPT IN CASES OF A CRIME WHERE THE PERSON HAS BEEN DULY CONVICTED!

    The United States, along with the several States have more people enslaved in their prison system than any other country in the world! Most of the prisoners have been convicted of "crimes" having nothing to do with the safety of life, liberty, or property, and have been enslaved for nonviolent offenses from drug use, default on alimony and child support payments, driving offenses, even when no motorist or pedestrian was injured or killed, "resisting arrest", even when the police were maniacally attacking a nonresisting and helpless suspect, etc. The fact is also that a disproportionate number--and percentage--of victims of this CONTEMPORARY slavery are persons of color!

    It should be apparant to any reasonably informed person, even a 'beltway libertarian" such as yourself, that most of the laws giving rise to the current abominable state of affairs in what may have once been the "land of the free" did not exist in the nineteenth century. Those laws certainly exist today, and their brutal and capricious enforcement is enslaving Americans of all races and nationalities right now!

    Every chance that he has, Jacob Hornburger and his wonderful Future of Freedom Foundation have spoken out against this unspeakable state of affairs! Every issue of their Freedom Daily denounces the laws (and law enforcement) and calls for their prompt and complete repeal, laws which so viciously deprive MILLIONS of Americans of all human rights and liberty. Every chance he gets, he denounces chattel slavery, not as it was more than a century ago, but as it is TODAY, in a Gulag which spans the world, which has enslaved more people than the courts, prosecution system and prisons of any other nation-state on Earth, even monstrosities like North Korea, Cuba, or Pakistan!

    In addition, I NEVER read anywhere in FFF or in Freedom Daily an excuse that such slavery in the USA might be necessary for purposes of Homeland Security or the so-called "war-on-terror". CATO Institute and Reason have a much less honorable record!

    You really stepped into it up to your eyeballs with this one. I await a public retraction with an abject apology to Jacob Hornburger!

    PEACE AND FREEDOM!!
    David K. Meller

    PS--the denial of Parental authority on grounds that the government "owns" the children, along with contravention of the Parents' wishes may not be chattel slavery in the traditional sense, but it is certainly a contemporary phenomenon which is just as odious, and for the same reasons! When was the last time that you wrote, and Reason (or CATO) published a case against the horrid laws requiring vaccination or 'publik skool" attendence? Mr. Hornburger consistantly stands up for the rights of families against the irresponsible and often murderous leviathan State.--DKM

  • Paul Rako||

    This is a thought-provoking comment. How America gave the black man freedom and the vote, until blacks actually insisted on using them both, at which time we tossed them in prison and took their vote away. It is also thought-provoking in the sense that any disagreement with Mr. Hornberger is considered an attack or assault that deserves an apology. We can observe how calls to ideological purity can be as dangerous as Hitler's call to racial purity. No, please, I am not saying anyone anywhere is a racist, I am commenting on intolerance. I like Hornberger and support his work. But when I was at the California Libertarian convention 10 years ago, I saw Marshall Fritz give a speech. He was criticizing the enactment of vouchers, I think it was for Cleveland or Washington DC. I could not believe he opposed this victory, if only because libertarians seem to have so little to feel successful about. I asked him if he really felt that we should not be a tiny bit happy that vouchers were at least closer to freedom than further from it. He stated that anything that had anything to do with government education was evil and that a "pure" libertarian should be against it. Then I saw what was going on with this whole libertarian purity thing. It is simple narcissism. Marchall needed to feel superior to the rest of us more than he needed to celebrate 20 or 30 cute little inner-city kids getting a decent education. Now I am not saying Hornberger's stance is based on narcissism. But I think that this purity business is a way to ignore the complexity and subtlety of the real world in order to have a pat little ideology with no room for questions or gray areas. Sorry, Boaz is right on this one. We have to celebrate the huge libertarian victory that was woman's suffrage and black civil rights. Gay rights will be next along with marijuana rights.

    The same people that want simplistic pat ideologies that they can pull from page 647 of Atlas Shrugged also want to believe that the founding and early period of this country were some kind of Utopian libertarian paradise. Boaz is right on this too. You could spin the Revolutionary war as free men overthrowing tyranny, but there is another view. England just spent a huge sum fighting off the Indians and the French to keep the American colonies safe. All the taxes they imposed were just trying to get payment for services rendered. So where are all these folks who talk about individual responsibility and paying your own way? Shouldn't we have cheered the Stamp Act the Tea Tax since it was the means to reimburse our saviors? The truth is tricky, it lies somewhere in between. There was no constitutional paradise in the 1800s. We had stupid wars and crooked politicians. There will always be the Hamiltonians, who just wanted America to be England 2.0 with a new aristocracy. Hamilton went a long way to insuring that when he packed the supreme court on his way out of the presidency. Freedom of speech was pretty much ignored until the 1960s and lately the Supreme Court has been truly strengthening it every year.

    Pining for the good old days is like crusty obstreperous old coots sitting around griping about "young people today." Well, news flash, the kids are 100 times smarter cooler and freer than we ever where and thank heaven for that.

    Also, before you bash Progressivism, realize that it was the social engineers' experiment promoted by the technical and scientific communities, the exact parallel to today's libertarians. They had all the answers in 1913, just like we do today, and we see how well that worked out. This is why guys like Cato's Tom Palmer are priceless to our movement. He brings historical context to our philosophy. You can swell up and and say that we don't need welfare since "you will not be stopped from helping them," but societies have been going for 100,000 years and the problem of widows and orphans do not get solved by voluntary donations, see London's orphanages in the 1800s.

    Sorry, a big complicated technological society needs a big complicated technological government. I too used to crow about how we should just eliminate the Commerce department. But then I got off my lazy rhetoric-spouting extremist digital-thinking ass and looked up the budget for the Commerce department. Huh, NIST, the old bureau of standards-- we gonna do away with that? How about the patent and trademark office? The census, mandated by your precious Constitution? Office of the Inspector General? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? Sure there is plenty of fat, but saying we could eliminate the Commerce department is the ravings of idiots that are being manipulated by people that want to share a phony feeling of moral superiority. Boaz makes many practical points in this commentary, and the subtleties and shades of gray in true thought and judgment will always be beyond the strident knee-jerk libertarians we all know or have been once in our lives.

  • Edwin||

    it's not a thought-provoking comment. Equating prisons with slavery is fucking ridiculous. Slaves were slaves whether or not they commited heinous acts like murder or rape - and the slavery was for their whole lives.

    And I know what you anarchists are going to do - you're going to bitch and moan about drug prohibition putting people in jail. OK, so some people aren't free when they should be - we can work on that, that's the point of representative government - but my argument still stands.

  • ABC||

    "If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?"

    How about none of the above? No one actually thinks that the days when slavery existed where ones of milk and honey. But a) The slavery issue could have been settled without resorting to war and the subsequent push towards centralization of power that has characterized American history since Lincoln. b) the massive increase in the size and role of the US government, both federal and state, has nothing to do with the expansion of the notion of liberty. On the contrary it's resulted in liberty being divided up along economic, cultural, gender, and racial lines. It's created special interest groups demanding its own particular brand of rights. Boaz's attacks rely upon the reader believing that without the Civil War that slavery would have never ended, and that in general an intrusive government engaging in social engineering can lead to greater government. Social engineering to foster segregation is bad, and so is social engineering to foster peace and harmony. Both are based on coercion.

    Re: decentralization and liberty. Nobody is saying that a smaller state will be inherently better than a larger one, but it's easier for the citizenry to vote with its feet. If you compare microstates in Europe you'll see they tend to do quite well in comparison with their neighbors.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Let's try to parse this.

    1. Kooky wingnut says: "In the past there was more freedom, because the government was less intrusive"

    2. Barking moonbat says: "Not if you were black, or a woman."

    3. ???

    4. Profit!

    I weary of the conflation of these two irrelevant things. Slavery is not the subject. The role of women in society is not the subject. Both of these things have changed, and for the better. That has not one thing to do with the levels of government control and intrusion in our lives.

    Don't play the proggies' game.

  • Adam||

    In other words, don't speak to people in a way that might actually convince them? Speak to them in a way that's liable to confirm their prejudice that you're a nutcase and a bigot? Is the goal to persuade, or to just get things off your chest? Because if it's the former, you're going to have to tailor the message to the audience. If it's the latter, well, knock yourself out.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Someone who has a prejudice doesn't need someone to confirm it for them. They do that all by themselves. Someone with a prejudice needs to be called on the fact that they have a prejudice, as was done to the segretationists. You can try to persuade people, but if they won't hear what you're telling them, then you just need to push by them. Call it a Freedom March.

  • Steven Horwitz||

    The abolition of slavery and the end of coverture and the toleration of domestic violence and marital rape "have not one thing to do with the levels of government control and intrusion in our live?" Just who the f**k do you think wrote and enforced those laws? I suggest you ask some black folks and those with a uterus whether they agree.

    That's right up there "with keep the goverment out of my Medicare."

    Ich bein ein Boazian.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Right. Because only black folks and those with uteruses are qualified to comment on such things.

    But let me quote a black gentleman " If the so-called Negro in America was truly an American citizen, we wouldn't have a racial problem. If the Emancipation Proclamation was authentic, we wouldn't have a racial problem. If the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the Constitution were authentic, we wouldn't have a racial problem. If the Supreme Court desegregation decision were authentic, we would not have a race problem." Forget the guy's name, Malcolm something...

    You can have all the laws and all the enforcers in the world, and if the people are insistent on hating black folk, then that's what's going to happen, as U.S. Grant learned during his presidency. If a man really thinks that he can give his wife one in the chops if she opens her yap, then that's what's going to happen. See also, the Drug War for further elucidation.

    Now I'm not saying that there's no place for laws to protect people against the violation of their rights. Such things are what a government is for.

    What I am saying is, and stay with me here, is that When I Am Talking About Ancestral Principles of Liberty, I Am Not Favoring Things in The Past That Violated Those Principles. I Am Talking About What's Happening Now That Violates Those Principles.

    Now, do you understand that, or do I need to explain it again?

  • SIV||

    Steven, you are on record as a self-proclaimedutilitarian socialist.Need I bother with the usual link to your admission?

  • Edwin||

    Andrew, you're not getting it. It's not a strawman when LIBERTARIANS THEMSELVES BRING THE SUBJECT UP IN THE FIRST PLACE by harkening back to "freer" days.

    And on a more general note it's annoying to hear anarchists constantly refer to modern America as a "police state". When you say that, you sound like a nut and are getting people to IGNORE you. When people think about whether they're free, they often think about the recent civil rights victories of the 60's, and then come up with the conclusion that this is NOT a police state, AND that you're being an ass. And you're shitting all over all the people who have actually suffered under actual police states.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    You're wrong. It's still a strawman. Here's why:

    1) Person A says "In the Past, People were freer, because of X"

    2) Person B says "You're advocating Y!"

    X is not Y. Limited government is not racism. Any attempt to get me to embrace a line of argument that conflates limited government and racism is a non-starter. It's ridiculous on its face, and it's not going to have the persuasive effect you're expecting.

  • ||

    When someone in a democracy is moaning about his oppressive government, I only hear the sound of someone complaining about what morons most of his fellow citizens are. I guess it's a hearing defect.

  • Matthew Dessem||

    A serious question from a non-libertarian: I'll accept the premise that slavery (and segregation) were enabled by the state as much as anything else. In a libertarian paradise, in which the government has very, very little power, and anyone can opt-out of the social contract at will, how does slavery end? How does segregation? How do women get property rights? ABC implies that slavery would have ended without the Civil War -- how would that have happened, exactly?

    By the way, the Confederacy apologists upthread make Boaz's point about messaging better than he could.

  • ||

    In a libertarian paradise, women would have property rights, there would be no segregation and there would be no slavery, by default. Or else it wouldn't be a libertarian paradise.

    The Confederacy had many legitimate points, and the Union was tyrannical, but that doesn't mean we're apologists for slavery. If you read Tom Woods book A Politically Incorrect Guide to History, you'll learn that slavery could've been abolished without all the bloodshed and destruction of state's rights.

  • Matthew Dessem||

    But given that we weren't living in a libertarian paradise in 1860 or 1920 or 1954, what concrete steps should have been taken, and by whom? Because it sounds like libertarians would have shrugged, said, "Wow, that really is a shame, wish I could help," and walked on by. Which is, I suppose, principled, but from where I'm standing, not very appealing.

    I've read (unfavorable) reviews of Woods' book, but none of them outline how or when he thinks slavery would have come to an end without government intervention.

  • Matthew Dessem||

    Actually, I just read Cathy Young's review of the book here: http://www.boston.com/news/glo.....federates/ -- I really don't think a co-founder of the "League of the South" has any credibility at all on the subject of slavery. Or, for that matter, libertarianism. But go ahead: how (and when) does Wood think slavery in America ends without the intervention of a strong central government?

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    And it would have been, if at any point between 1789 and 1861, the South had shown any sign of actually desiring an end to slavery. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. What did happen was a series of hysterical overreactions by Southern leaders culminating in an unprovoked secession, which led in rapid order to bloodshed.

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, impressed with the "We were just GONNA" defense.

  • Tony||

    Nobody should read that book. Jesus Christ.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    I didn't know Jesus said that.

  • ||

    The Confederacy had not one valid excuse for it's existence, it improved on nothing which was wrong with the Union and took the wrong of slavery to a whole new level. The rebels did treason to allegiances they did owe, fighting for no cause worth minute's care.

    What it was about was that the Southern oligarchy which had been given pride of place at the time of the Founding in return for their bringing their states into the Union, wanted to remain the biggest fish in their pond by making their pond smaller. It's not any grander or prettier than that.

  • Edwin||

    ["you'll learn that slavery could've been abolished without all the bloodshed and destruction of state's rights."]

    BULLSHIT.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Also, most of us are not anarchocapitalists and believe the government has a legitimate role in protecting our life, liberty and property from the tyranny of other private actors.

  • Edward||

    Your objection is circular. What is the causation? You can't say that the political will to end slavery or give women rights just poofed into existence, or that people suddenly had a rational break.

    The reality is that capitalism made slavery unprofitable and women economically relevant. It was the industrial revolution that made slavery style farms die out, and it was productivity gains in housework that gave women the free time to be involved in the work force.

  • Matthew Dessem||

    I don't say that at all: I say that people who benefited from (or just plain liked) slavery, subjugation of women, and Jim Crow had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age, and that dragging could not have been done by a weak government. What year does slavery become so economically unprofitable that Southern farmers free their slaves? What year do husbands decide their wives should own their own property? What year do Southern racists decide they don't mind if blacks have the same educational opportunities? And if they don't make those decisions, and those liberties are secured by slaves, women, and non-whites themselves, by what means do they do this? Is your advice to a slave in 1860 (or 1800), "Just wait until factory farming!"

    If Hobo Chang Ba is saying he approves of a government that is just strong enough to protect life, liberty, and property from other private actors, well, all right then--but that government must be strong enough to fight the Civil War and integrate the schools.

  • Edward||

    You asked what ended slavery and what gained women their rights, and I told you. If you don't like the brutal reality of it, that's your problem.

    As for the exact date it happens, that depends on the trigger mechanism that shifts cultural perceptions to match economic reality. For the slaves in America there was no abrupt change in culture, for women is was world war 1.

    In fact for the slaves the government prolonged their problems far longer, first by dumping the cost of keeping slaves on the rest of society with things like the Fugitive Slave Act, and then enforcing 100 years of segregation and second class citizen treatment.

  • Matthew Dessem||

    So the proper way for slaves to secure their rights was to support a decentralized, weak government (without voting, naturally, just by changing cultural perceptions, without being taught to read or allowed to speak freely), and wait for slavery to become unprofitable? And then wait for the profit motive to trickle down to all the people who supported slavery without having any economic stake in it, and change their cultural perceptions?

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    The only way for slaves to secure their rights is open revolt. This has been successful in the West precisely once, in Haiti, a country no one desires to emulate.

    What should have happened was the leaders of the South putting together a plan of gradual manumission, with a definitive endpoint for the peculiar institution. Instead, they chose to spend 80 years saying "Fuck you" to anyone who brought the subject up. After which they attempted secession.

    The results of these events have been far worse than a gradual plan, even if this had delayed, for a time, the granting of rights to slaves.

  • Edwin||

    ["The results of these events have been far worse than a gradual plan, even if this had delayed, for a time, the granting of rights to slaves."]

    I don't know if I agree with that. There's a lot more than just slavery that kept blacks down. There was what the Southern states tried to do right after the war, which was stopped by the 14th amendment. And then there was the Jim Crow South. It seems to me, even if I'm not a big fan of the federal government, that the broad power of the federal government is what was needed to end the oppression of blacks.

    And you're ignoring the mentality of people. If you hate blacks, you probably don't care much about coming up with "a gradual plan". Things don't happen in a void. They wanted to keep their slaves and their system of oppression - all the way up into the 1960's.

  • Edward||

    Yes, you would get freedom faster with a weaker government, as evidenced by history.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Is this a sarcastic comment? I really can't tell.

  • Matthew Dessem||

    I don't think history bears that out in the slightest. Integration doesn't happen faster in the South if you dissolve the federal government; it doesn't happen at all. Dissolve the state government and it still doesn't happen: the southern whites set up private schools (like they did, anyway), blacks have to fund their own private schools, and basically you're back in the same boat: cruddy schools for blacks, great ones for whites, and no meritocracy.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    Why do you assume that privately-funded black schools would be cruddy? Is that your assessment of, say, Howard University, or any of the other Historically Black Colleges in America?

    Starting in 1866, New England Missionaries founded about 2,000 private schools for black students in the South. Among their alumns was Booker T. Washington. W.E.B. DuBois called this movement "the finest thing in American history."

    Now, do you suppose that this movement failed to have a dramatic effect on the history of blacks in the South because they didn't have the Department of Education rubber-stamping their efforts? Or might it have been because of Jim Crow laws?

  • Edward||

    Andrew, not be sarcastic, I'm on your side here.

  • Edward||

    I was going to wonder why you call yourself a libertarian, but then I noticed your first sentence at the beginning of the thread.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    To some degree. Ending slavery is a cause worth fighting for if necessary, and let's also note that the South attacked a U.S. military fort, thus initiating the war. There were alternatives, obviously, as all the other countries ended slavery without a war.

    School integration (and other usages of public utilities - regardless of whether we support the utilities or not) is a matter of equal protection in the eyes of the law, which is a responsibility of the government to uphold and prevents the future violation of liberties resulting from a non-meritocratic society.

    Are you trying to make a point that libertarians believe the country does not have the right to defend itself from an attack, or that a miniarchist government should not provide its citizens equal protection under the law?

  • Matthew Dessem||

    Well, clearly *you* don't believe that, but just as clearly some of the commenters do believe that, at least the equal protection part. I'd just never encountered people who believed that slavery and segregation would have been better addressed by less government (or decentralized government, at least) and wondered how on earth that was supposed to have happened.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    You're right and wrong - although slavery was perpetuated by private actors, government was the enforcement mechanism that prevented slaves from running away and from defending themselves and their liberty. There is no private contract in slavery, thus the government has to enact laws that enable slave owners to maintain their control. The government made the determination that slaves were property and not people deserving of rights, equal protection and liberty. So less government would have prevented the institution in the first place. However, if correcting the government-supported institution requires more government, so be it if it is in the defense of liberty. That's still a consistent libertarian position, which believes in the maximization of liberty. My problem with many libertarians (especially anarchocapitalists) is that, like the inverse of Leftists, they automatically default to the less government = more freedom mindset, which does have its exceptions, especially in cases like this one. An anarchist society would just as likely be controlled by a powerful mafia, so would anarchy actually maximize liberty? That's the eternal libertarian debate...

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    And an academic one, as we aren't talking about slavery. We're talking about having less government than we now have.

  • Edwin||

    +1

    And anarcho-capitalism would not maximize liberty. It wouldn't even barely work out to start with.

  • Hobo Chang Ba||

    Also, most private businesses adamantly opposed segregation. It did not benefit them or their bottom line. Jim Crow was a law, not a result of private actors engaging in voluntary markets free from government intervention. Thomas Sowell has written extensively on this topic.

  • NonPaulogist||

    "people who benefited from (or just plain liked) slavery, subjugation of women, and Jim Crow had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age, and that dragging could not have been done by a weak government."

    it didn't have to be done by government at all. It could be done by applying social pressure. Without the government subsidizing the cost of owning slaves, social pressure and lack of economic viability for the slave-owning business model would have caused it to die out without killing off 600,000 Americans.
    Slavery was bad. it was evil. It would not have survived as long as it did without government. That government may have ended chattel slavery, but it also replaced it with more and bigger evils. My money is being forcibly taken from me in order to turn Muslim women and children into widows, orphans and corpses. That is not an improvement.

  • NonPaulogist||

    "In a libertarian paradise, in which the government has very, very little power, and anyone can opt-out of the social contract at will, how does slavery end?"
    Answer: slavery would not start because it is economically not viable without state subsidy and because slave owners would be pariahs.

    "How does segregation?" answer: You can't have involuntary segregation without state interference, so there wouldn't be any involuntary segragation. Voluntary segregation is called "freedom of association" and it's a good thing.

    "How do women get property rights?"
    As with men, women are endowed by their creator with rights. They already have them.

  • Edward||

    I suggest that Libertarians boycott this website/magazine until they sort themselves out. This ridiculously simplistic analysis of American history and trends does not belong associated with modern libertarians, but rather the oppression studies and victim culture obsessed mainstream idiocy.

  • Adam||

    Edward, that kind of attitude is exactly why Boaz's point matters.

    As long as you dismiss such monumentally unjust aspects of American (and world) history as being merely the province of "oppression studies and victim culture" you are helping to perpetuate the impression that small government is wicked and heartless, and that big government is compassionate and caring.

    Like it or not, people associate all the things Boaz mentions with the growth of the state. It doesn't make sense, but that's how I see it. There's a reason that libertarians get called fascists in casual conversation - because this is what people associate it with. You can address reality or choose to ignore it, but if you do the latter then don't be surprised if you don't get the result you want.

  • Edward||

    I explicitly said that this article belongs with the retarded masses, not libertarians who actually use their brain.

    There is no virtue to having to debunk garbage like this amongst libertarians as well as dealing with everyone else.

  • Adam||

    The point wasn't debunking, the point was to illustrate how blind we are to historical reality and how we consequently come across to others. If you doubt my point, watch the Daily Show clip I mention above. April 1, second segment, Samantha Bee on the census. The tea party guy's stubbornness makes us look like we're a bunch of Klan members.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    So one clip on the Daily Show is indicitave of the entire movement? Come on.

    The guy was stubborn? To me it sounds like he caved because she willfully misrepresented his position. Crying "racism" at the evocation of liberty is Not An Argument, and we shouldn't be shy about saying so.

    Or, if you prefer, he should have shot back with "Pardon me, but what's inherently racist about a census?"

  • Adam||

    No, he's not representative of anyone - he's just an example of what I'm talking about. I'm telling you, watch the clip. My point isn't that he's representative, it's that this is the kind of discussion that happens in real life and you need a better retort than "who cares?" Or better yet, head it off at the pass and preempt it.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    I prefer to challenge the assumptions, i.e. "What's inherently racist about a census?" Give the other one something to think about. That sounds more like dialogue to me. Spirited dialogue, but dialogue.

  • Edwin||

    No,

    he is indeed representative of a lot of libertarians.

  • Edward||

    Wow, you mean a guy with a camera can wonder into a crowd of people and find a moron if they want to? Shocking.

  • Adam||

    Edward, forget it. You don't sound like you're willing to concede that anyone else might have a scintilla of a point.

  • Edward||

    Well if you are asking me to associate with every last person in the "Tea Party" movement, you can frankly get lost. No, I will never concede that.

  • ||

    Why is it so important to you that libertarianism be "something that once was" - an historically established thing for this country?

    You fall for the Conservative lie that only a "return to the old" can be a good thing. Your patriotism clouds your judgement.

    Libertarianism was new and radical when it was put into the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Our forebears rebelled against their own great history which included Magna Carta, and the Glorious Revolution, not to mention common law and many other freedoms that the monarchies of other far more oppressive European states did not allow.

    Why such hostility to that radicalism now?

    Freedom works that way. Get a little, demand even more. Worked for Jefferson, works for me.

  • ||

    Gosh, it's swell that I'm not subject to the things my ancestors were, but that doesn't mean I'm happy that the Constitution has been shredded and forgotten along the way. Part of gaining equality is a desire to enjoy the benefits of that document.

    Consider also that a lot of stuff done in spite of the Constitution in the name of granting equality where it was lacking ended up doing more harm than good. Recall the brain damaged Great Society programs and forced busing of schoolchildren.

    Maybe I'm just greedy but I want my equality and the Constitution. I don't believe they cannot both be had simultaneously.

  • Edwin||

    ["Maybe I'm just greedy but I want my equality and the Constitution. I don't believe they cannot both be had simultaneously."]

    well it never would have happened before the 60's, when most of this country was still deeply racist.

    The current ignoring of the constitution is pretty shitty, but that doesn't mean that that same ignoring of the constitution to pass anti-discrimination laws didn't help to advance the cause of freedom vis-a-vis equality-under-the-law.

  • ||

    While I agree that slavery was "bad"--as should all Americans today--and it was definitely a boil that needed to be lanced--I find referring to Dionne's false choice disturbing. Small government doesn't necessarily lead to dictatorship or secret police. That's the canard the left WANTS us to believe. Sorry that David fell for it.

  • ||

    this is by another advocate of slavery(like Mr. Hornberger) Ron Pauls fmr CoS and head of the fascist Ludwig Mises Institute:

    The Greatness of Jacob Hornberger
    Posted by Lew Rockwell on April 7, 2010 08:39 AM
    Tom, to be ankle-bitten by a pro-war “libertarian” opining in a pro-war “libertarian” magazine, by a man who praised state military and security power, and called for more of both right after 9/11/01, is another medal on Jacob Hornberger’s chest. Or would be if the critic were significant. Bumper, as his friends call him, is one of the important libertarians of our time. He worked and studied under the storied Leonard Read—also one of my mentors—and has sought to carry on his work ever since. The Future of Freedom Foundation is just one of the results. But I want to mention his personal example. A lawyer, graduate of VMI, and ex-soldier, Bumper has dedicated his life to peace and freedom, with heroism. If you have ever heard him speak, you know he is a great orator. He’s a wonderful writer, as LRC readers know. And in loyalty to Leonard, he does not “leak” ideologically. There is no trimming to accord with the latest shifts in the regime-Republican line. That is, he is a stand-up leader for liberty. But here is what I especially remember: in the fear and hysteria after 9/11/01, unlike the Beltway boys, he never wavered. He spoke out against the warfare state, the police state, the “war on terror” and the rest of the imperial expansions, foreign and domestic, while others cowered or collaborated. To great effect, he continues to do so. While others were truckling, Bumper sets an example for every libertarian of how one ought to live one’s life. As long as America can produce men like Bumper Hornberger, the flame of freedom will never be extinguished.

  • Max||

    Who said Hornberg was an advocate of slavery? Don't read into an essay what isn't there. He failed to deal with it in an evaluation of the period of American history during which it existed. Hornberger didn't advocate it; he just didn't notice it.

    Boaz's article pointed out some blind spots, and we're better off for his gentle admonition to be aware of them and to correct them.

  • ED||

    Years ago, an awful lot of people would have described themselves as "Jeffersonians." It's harder now to make that kind of self-identification, because of what we know about Jefferson's record.

    Whatever the merits of Boaz's argument theoretically, he has captured what is or was going on in libertarian circles. Twenty years from now things will have moved still further in the same direction.

    But will the passion for liberty be diminished if you don't have accessible symbols? Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner don't exactly resonate with a larger audience, and a libertarianism that can't find popular mainstream heroes will lose much of the (current White) mainstream.

    Maybe the problem is analogous to the Republicans' "Southern strategy," which wrongly gets blamed for encouraging racism. Actually it looks like the Republican party of the 1970s and 1980s did a lot to ween Southerners from segregationism and bring them into mainstream America.

    What's needed now are symbols that can appeal both to alienated Whites and to the rest of the country.

  • ||

    So you're saying that blacks don't deserve to have the same level of rights that the slave era whites had?

    Who's the racist here Boaz? Your logic is completely flawed. It's a cop out. Why can't blacks and everyone else have the same rights that whites have enjoyed throughout the years?

    You are using what's called a strawman argument.

  • ||

    Blacks and women should never be able to enjoy the right to own another person as property, or to violate someone else's body with impunity, or to dispose of another person's possessions without their permission.

    So, no, minorities and women will never be to fully experience the same level of rights that white men enjoyed in America prior to the civil war.

    Not a straw man argument.

  • NonPaulogist||

    and yet, when some of those same minorities cash their welfare checks, they are causing me to work involuntarily for them. Hmmm. What is it called when you involuntarily work for someone? Enslaving one person 100% of the time or two people for 50% of the time is still slavery either way. And if you think we're not chained, cages, raped, bought and sold, then you should pay more attention to the prisons they send tax evaders to.

  • ||

    Exactly, the dead elephant in the middle of the room that everybody walks around holding their noses. Check out: http://www.strike-the-root.com.....avis4.html

    "The essence of all slavery consists in taking the produce of another's labor by force. It is immaterial whether this force be founded upon ownership of the slave or ownership of the money that he must get to live." ~ Leo Tolstoy

    Slaves, serfs and taxpayers all refer to conditions of bondage. These conditions all restrict the use of your person and labor. The pre-historic slave's person was controlled so that his labor could be exploited. Today the modern taxpayer's labor is controlled in order to exploit his person. That's progress to some, but it is not freedom.

    The obvious physical differences between iron chains and psychological conditioning tend to obfuscate the degree of control. These evolving forms of bondage appear on the surface to have led to increased personal freedoms. But they have come at the real cost of diminished economic freedom. Chattel, land and political forms of slavery reflect the increasing sophistication of forced labor institutions.

  • Edwin||

    tax money going to welfare, however crummy it is, ISN'T EVEN NEARLY LIKE SLAVERY. And saying it is MAKES YOU AN ASSHOLE.

    STFU.

  • ||

    Metaphorical rape and bondage vs. actual rape and bondage? I'd say being metaphorically enslaved beats being actually enslaved. On account of, you know, being metaphorically enslaved means you're NOT ACTUALLY ENSLAVED.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    "Blacks and women should never be able to enjoy the right to own another person as property,"

    That's because it is, in fact, not a right. It is a wrong. Ergo, the statement...

    "minorities and women will never be to fully experience the same level of rights that white men enjoyed in America prior to the civil war."

    ...is ridiculous.

    It's also not what we're talking about. We're talking about limited government.

  • hlm||

    An excellent piece which is being grotesquely distorted by the Rockwellians. I have concluded that their first response to anything is to lie about it. And they appear to be the last people to actually know who wrote those racist diatribes. If they could find some way to pretend that those "beltway" libertarians did it, I"m sure they would. Shame on them.

  • DeMan||

    Congratulations to Mr. Boaz for a fine and thought provoking article. I'm glad I read it before I read the wild comments, a lot of which grossly mischaracterize it. They provided me insight into the dark and ugly underside of the populist self-styled "anti-state" movement. If Boaz knew he would provoke such a lot of distortion and character assassination, he deserves even more praise. It would have been easier to just avoid it. Because the issues he raises are important, I'm glad he wrote this article and maintained a thoughtful approach throughout.

  • ||

    No just an example of an intellectual class apparatchik who is creating subversion through "fine writing". Its fantasy, and he is another reason the intellectual class in this country needs to be punished.

  • Matthew Dessem||

    How would you propose the intellectual class be "punished?" Who would do it?

  • ||

    How courageous of Boaz to so bravely come out against slavery. Next up, Dr. Palmer allows for women drivers.

  • ||

    If you want to play this mendacious game, why not claim that the Africans enslaved and brought here had much more "freedom" than they did in Africa, where they were regularly eaten by others? And sold into slavery by their countrymen? I have no sympathy for those who wore their chains rather than died trying to free themselves. As Jack Nicholson's character says in The Departed, nobody gives you anything. You have to take it.

    The missing perspective here is the level of libertarianism or authoritarianism in a society, which may or may not be reflected into its political institutions. The test of a society is whether it tolerates non-participation in the causes it espouses.

  • ||

    Leftist articles: they always redirect history through the prism of the racism narrative. So predictable. Slavery, slavery, slavery. Give that man some anafranil.

  • ||

    Mr. Boaz is the example of the intellectual/progressive class who officially tows the dem party line. He is true to the socilaist regime in Washington who would seek to rewrite the past to undermine the present reality of the revolution in the offing (Teaparty). Libs are so boring, they always create a counter narrative - even if its total fantasy.

  • Lorenzo from Oz||

    I doubt that Amerindians remember the past as a libertarian paradise either.

    There is a lot of taking current liberties for granted in the above comments. And obsessing over government size. It is well to remember how much wealthier we all are after all that extra tax than our predecessors were.

  • ||

    The overuse of the slavery example in this piece somewhat weakens a very valid point. Namely that those Libertarians who describe our epoch in terms such as "return to serfdom" are living in a fantasy world.

  • ||

    Well said Mr. Boaz. Too many libertarians have been suckered in by a fundamentally Conservative (and wrong) notion that we should "return to..." something better, measuring freedom and the size of Government at the FEDERAL level only.

    In fact, the country has by any measure become more and more libertarian with every generation. The only problem with this article is that it only speaks to the obvious (slavery) with regard to economic regulation. (The expansion of social freedoms is too big a gain even for conservatives to ignore.)

    While the Federal power has grown in many areas, the economic tyranny of the local sheriff or the State government has been dramatically reduced relative to where it was in the 18th century.

    There's a reason American entrepreneurs drove West constantly - overbearing state and local officials that made starting a business nearly impossible for anyone without the right connections in any of the more settled areas. There was no oppressive federal control, the but state, city, town, imposed local control that is unheard of today. The remnants of that today are in the local zoning boards and county or state planning commissions abusing eminent domain or over aggressive law enforcement.

    The only thing an appeal to history shows is that the FEDERAL government was smaller. The power and scope of government in general was massively more oppressive at any time in our history than it is today.

    There is a HUGE difference between being for a small Federal Government, and being for a small Government period.

  • ||

    Black men are now nearly half the prison population; young black men have double the unemployment rate (doesn't count the ones in jail). I would argue our entitlement society has enslaved many other black people. You can always pick the population you want to make your point. Growth of government brings growth of governmental power and erosion of both economic (through statism and crony capitalism) liberty and civil liberty (Homeland security).

  • ||

    It also needs to be said that the "Founders" were themselves radicals to many of their countrymen. If the country was such a libertarian golden age, those ideas would not have had such a tough time getting passed (and an even tougher time being followed).

    Jefferson, Paine, and the rest of the classical liberals lost many a political fight to the authoritarian founders like Hamilton, and to wafflers like Adams (Alien and Sedition acts anyone?)

    The Bill of Rights itself had to be an amendment to the Constitution. Yes, the classical liberals won the ideological war, but only just so, and the implementation of their ideals took decades to actualize, and goes on today.

  • emmigrant pass||

    The most free Americans were probably the pioneers of the Oregon Trail, leaving Independence, MO. and scratching names and phrases on Chimney Rock NB along the way.

    They considered themselves 'emmigrants;' they were 'exiting' the states and leaving behind the collectivism of the Eastern cities. Rather than being forced to 'contribute to the community,' they chose to risk starving or freezing over South Pass WY - for a chance to do whatever they wished, chip in to the extent that *they* wished, or move along, or move away.

    There was no "No Pioneer Left Behind" policy; the word 'stumped' entered the English language in that period for what happened to an unfortunate traveller when a wagon axle failed to clear a stump. The other travellers were free to decide for themselves whether to stop and help, and how much and for how long. And yes, they were absolutely free to discriminate who they helped and who they would not.

    The ground still shows the marks of hundreds of thousands of walking feet, all for a *chance* - not a government guarantee - to do what *you* wanted.

    I believe the next opportunity for a truly profound birth of freedom will occur with space travel - when a new band of pioneers will transmit back to governments on Earth that they have had enough, will *not* be wiring back tax money or sending produce or raw materials; they will have ripped up whatever 'charter' got them there and declare they are starting anew.

  • ||

    Well your arguement is that because libertarians have not come out and denounced slavery that they must be in favor of it? if that is the case you have not come out in opposition to child molesters and therefore by proxy have condoned such heinous acts. you should trade in the 4th grader logic, it doesn't work.

  • ||

    If the standard whereby liberty is to be measured is relative, then Mr. Boaz is right: We are now as free as we'll ever be, even with socialized medicine and government owned or operated banking, finance, industry and energy. All of history's tyrannies are carried in the positive column, so when a faceless bureaucrat in D.C. denies you a medical procedure or a drug, you can say, "Hey, at least they didn't send me to a Nazi concentration camp!" Unless a nation of hardy individualists like, say, America breaks with this sick mentality, it eventually invites tyranny. So stop moaning about slavery.

    If the standard whereby liberty is to be measured is what's possible, then let's keep working to roll back the federal and state governments' power, control, economic resources and legal authority. We can't know what's possible in this regard unless we try, and trying requires organization and hard work. If, on the other hand, we sit around in our soiled panties wringing our hands about slavery as Mr. Boaz would have us do, then we can give our liberty a slow, comfortable kiss goodbye. This is the canoodling variety of the sick mentality described above, but it leads to the same place.

    Finally, let's stop worrying about each other's skin color. In the realm of political ideology, skin is useless because it can't think. Conservatism's (and to a lesser extent) libertarianism's appeal is in their ideas and not the pigmentation of the people attracted to them. If these political ideologies aren't attracting enough dusky adherents, then it makes more sense to examine what the competition is offering and beat that on its own terms rather than launching a new product line bearing little resemblance to the original one.

    Dubya gave us the conservative, porkbarrel welfare state, and we all know how well that one went down with the voters. So let's get back to basics and turn out the bedwetters and the nannies while we're at it.

  • ||

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet, but you left out one group that was effectively shut out of our "free society" until the '90s - the disabled. For the vast majority of our history if you were born with a disability or injured through accident or even war you were relegated to second-class citizen at best. Hell, the mentally ill have it as bad or worse than ever and no market-based solution is going to help them.

  • ||

    I'm astonished that this article overlooks the impact of state power on the American Indian, not just in the early days of the Republic but well into the 20th century. I doubt this is a sector of the American populace that would be overly impressed with the notion of the "golden age" of liberty, as represented by the United States.

  • JTinTX||

    I won't even address the specious argument implied in the first 2/3rds of the article, that those who want to restore freer days somehow would condone reinstituting slavery. It's a strawman of deluxe proportions.

    Instead, I want to take issue with the latter metaphor of the small regime vs. the large republic. I would argue that both societies lack liberty to similar degrees. You know the saying, "size matters". The size of government doesn't just point towards the number of facets of our lives that get government intrusion. It's also an issue of complexity as a barrier to popular control. Complexity matters. That government can no longer be beholden to a citizenry which is incapable of tracking its every move.

    My biggest issues with the "size" of government is the incapabilty of keeping tabs on what my government is up to. It's simply too big, too complex a machine for any one citizen to comprehend. Even those we elect to serve us cannot comprehend it; they barely grasp the implications of their own legislative language anymore. There's so many zeroes in the budget, none of it is even real anymore. There's no way to know how much we really have, or don't have. Laws are not written in plain English, and are passed through back-channel parliamentary procedures so obscure the average citizen cannot comprehend what any of their representatives have truly voted for, or against. (Heck, just last month Harry Ried himself lost track of how he was voting, twice in one day.) Agencies too abundant to list not only circumscribe liberty through the scope of regulation, but through the sheer complexity of so many agencies with overlapping responsibilities and too many budgetary line items: money flying hither, thither and yon with no way for Joe Citizen to ever keep track of what's going on.

    Simplicity brings transparency, and transparency facilitates citizen control. And citizen control of government is the foundation of our Republic.

  • Robert Hahn||

    Time to START one......

  • Josh Fulton||

    So, early America had the police state like we have it? Where you can't get on an airplane without being frisked and having a quasi-nude photo taken of you? It had an intrusive tax system like we have now? It had rampant inflation like we've had for the past 100 years? (I'll give you a hint on that one, the answer's no. The worth of a dollar stayed roughly the same from 1665 until after 1913.)

    Yes, we had slavery, but if you look at just the NUMBER of ways (not necessarily magnitude, because of course slavery is terrible) the state now is bigger than its ever been.

  • ||

    Barack Hussein Obama.....the Long Legged Mack Daddy:

    http://atlah.org/atlahworldwide/?p=7063 - http://therealrevo.com/blog/?p=23796

    and "Power to the People":

    http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/20192

  • ||

    "I take it Mr. Tyrrell dreams of being a slave-owner."

    This line is where the author of this article ejects his credibility.

  • ||

    I usually don't return to blogs after offering my comment, but I thought that I overlooked something that is very important when talking about contemporary slavery.

    I was remiss in failing to mention the existence of Armed Forces generally, and such freedom-killing institutions in the US government in particular.

    The instant a formerly free person enrolls in the Armed forces, he becomes the property of the Government, in full and in total. His labor belongs altogether to his new master, his time similarly is not his own. He may not contract out in any way from complete and unconditional service to the Military, he must go where he is sent, and if he even complains, much less reasserts his self-ownership he is charged with serious crimes, from "mutiny" and disobeying orders from a "superior"-how about that--all the way to AWOL and desertion, which sometimes carry a death penalty!

    He is in the military for the purpose either of commiting murder on command, or of providing aid and assitance to those who do. At best, he will be maiming and killing other slaves like himself, at worst he will be commiting atrocities and murdering against innocent people (civilians) who never did him any harm, and who are only his "enemy" by being at the wrong place in the wrong time. I think that even Boaz would admit that whatever its horrors, even southern slavery spared its slaves the barbarity of murdering other slaves for no other reason than their master's greed, craving for glory, or sadism.

    The abuse of slaves in the military was rendered even worse in the USA by the use of the military for imperialistic and genocidal ends, almost from the begining of the Republic. From Washington's calling up Federal troops to murder Americans resisting the tyranny of taxation during Shay's rebellion (thought I would forget about that didn't you?) to the "trail of tears" disposessing the Native American Indians in the 1820s (a foretaste of what would happen in the American West after the War for Southern Independence) to the deliberate barbarities inflicted upon Southern Confederates and their families (the vast majority of whom were NOT slaveholders), the military sieges and threats against the Mormons, a peaceful and productive people who settled in Utah to get away from their oppressors in Washington DC and on down through the twentieth century, the armed forces were a horrid and barbarous device for dehumanization and enslavement certainly dwarfing the injustice and oppression imposed by even the most savage southern masters.

    It would almost be superfluous to mention after all this that at least Southern slavery didn't inflict the additional indignity by claiming its victims were "free" or "fighting for freedom"! The endlessly repeated and nauseating refrain of how the military 'defends freedom'--freedom that the victims certainly don't have--deserves a separate remark all its own.

    How about it, David Boaz?

    Jacob Hornburger and his FFF have denounced the barbarity and enslavement endemic to the military far more consistantly than you and your colleagues in CATO or Reason!

    PEACE AND FREEDOM!!
    David K. Meller

  • ||

    I think the libertarian lesson here is "Don't ever write an article or give a speech without first apologizing for slavery."
    It will feed your vain self-righteousness, as Boaz does here.
    It will also make you a coward.

  • St. V||

    Not the point of the article, even remotely. Ho-hum...

  • Arpad||

    Emerson --
    I don't read it that way at all. I read it to mean "Don't write a sentence saying how free 'Americans' were in 1850 without asking yourself, 'Am I counting the majority who were not free?'" That's a very reasonable suggestion and Boaz did an admirable job of reminding us that it's not all doom-and-gloom and that there have been very important victories for libertarian values. I think he should be commended for this article, which was written in such a thoughtful and non-belligerent way.

    If you go back and re-read it (or, more likely, read it for the first time), that's what you will find, too.

  • NonPaulogist||

    We do not implicitly agree to the social contract by merely remaining in our native country. The only alternative is to move somewhere else that also has a social contract. It's as if we lived in an archipelago with each island having it's own Tyrant king. Move and you change nothing. Swim away and you drown.

  • ||

    This is a moronic article. The question of what types of people enjoy full rights of citizenship is unrelated to the question of the degree of freedom enjoyed by full citizens (i.e., the most-free class). Clearly, more people are included in the most-free class now than in the 19th century, and that's a good thing. Just as clearly, the most-free class is much less free now than it was in the 19th century. Pace Nick Gillespie, David Boaz, and Brink Lindsay, the right to legal sodomy doesn't quite make up for 50% taxation and micromanagement of every segment of the economy.

  • johnny||

    Freedom is not free. Taxes are the bill.

  • ||

    Great - so you've successfully pulled the classic liberal guilt trip over slavery. But can we have a third choice - i.e. no slavery or Jim Crow, AND ALSO no EPA, OSHA, FCC, FAA, etc. I don't agree that the enforcement of legal equality necessarily entailed government intrusion into every other aspect of American existence.

  • ||

    When this newsletter has to resort to political theater it no longer is supplying the subscribers the form of business related articles it was originally built upon. This guy needs to write for the Washington Post or New York Times rather then Smartbrief.

  • ||

    Interesting commentary. I get your point. I think you concluded your article with a reasonable perspective. At times, while reading, I too thought you were basically playing the race card. However the government seeks to enslave us, whether it is by race, sex, religion, or financially, it is evil and has overstepted its boundaries and should be pushed back. You are correct, many of us are now more free than our forebears who were restricted by their race, gender, or religious beliefs. We should celebrate those victories and use them as examples of how we are simply being enslaved in a different way in the present.

  • C. Wolfe||

    Thank you for writing this. Although your focus was on slavery, and I'm unaware of any indentured servitude in my family, I've taken this moment to remember that my grandmother was born without the right to vote — in effect, without the rights of a free citizen, many decades after the formal abolition of slavery.

  • Billy Beck||

    Here's what, Boaz: you tell me how long I have to apologize for something with which I never in my life had anything to do. Okay? Tell me how long, and I'll do it.

    And then I will still point out how the American state now waxes and the citizen wanes, whether you fucking like it or not.

  • Leo||

    The abolition of slavery doesn't have much to do with society becoming more "libertarian." Today slavery has been abolished all over the world, even in countries with the most oppressive, dictatorial governments. Slavery was and always will be indefensible and unjust, so it was bound to die out eventually. The fact that the abolition of slavery in America cost 600,000 lives is a black mark in our history. Slavery was ended peacefully in every other Western society. The Civil War was really a war over the right to secede, and had much to do with oppressive tariffs imposed on the southern states by the federal government. Even after Lincoln "freed" the slaves, they were basically still slaves until a peaceful revolution brought about real change. The fact remains that our system of government was less oppressive and more libertarian from the founding until the late 1800s that it today. Obviously slavery is a huge exception, as it was in every society, even among blacks in Africa, until recently in history.

  • Leo||

    And I would like to add that if there ever was a golden age for liberty, it was during the American Revolution and the founding of this country. For the American Revolution was the only successful libertarian revolution in the history of man, and it brought about more freedom in one flash than the whole of human civilization before it. Yes, even with the institution of slavery. It is sad that slavery was so entrenched that the newly establish American government would not heed the libertarian voices calling for immediate abolition. But even so, look at all the prosperity and opportunity America brought to so many people because of the libertarian ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Today, our government finally recognizes the equality of women, blacks, and gays, but our government no longer recognizes the concepts of Individualism and natural rights conceived by our Founders. We no longer have slavery, but a tyranny of Collectivism now holds ALL people, not matter what color, in its grip.

  • ||

    Some years ago, Edmund Morgan's *American Slavery, American Freedom* argued that colonial (and US) civil liberties did NOT contradict slavery. Instead - an ugly irony - American slavery CAUSED American freedom. Morgan's argument cites, for instance, the 1676 uprising of marginal white farmers known as Bacon's Rebellion. To prevent a recurrence, Virginia's planters struck an implicit deal with non-slave owning farmers: you support our property-in-African-slaves, and we'll grant you (limited) political rights as White Men.

    No accident, 200 years later, that the mid-19th c. Democratic Party sometimes called itself the "White Man's Party" and advocated (unlike many 19th c. Republicans) maximum liberty to white men regardless of language, culture, or class.

    I have not followed the debate over Morgan's argument since I read it in the 1970s. I'm sure that anti-Morgan revisionists have emerged. (In fact, enough time has passed for counter-COUNTER-revisionists to strut their stuff!)

    Even so, Morgan strongly suggests that - as in Rome or Athens - the liberties of the few may well have grown exactly out of the slavery of many. That many of those liberties ultimately were extended beyond the minority which originally enjoyed them is our good fortune.

  • ||

    “If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?”

    If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with involuntary servitude for everyone or slavery only for some?

    Why should I have to make that choice?

  • .||

    There is always a third option - refusing to live in either, ie. refusing to live.

  • ||

    Everything must be viewed in the context of the time in which it occured. More government intervention means less individual freedom. This has nothing to do with slavery which of course is most reprehensible

  • RWW||

    Ah, Cato folks. As unprincipled as always.

  • ||

    "More government intervention means less individual freedom."

    So, forcibly integrating public schools in the South (and elsewhere) meant less individual freedom?

    Your premise is simplistic and easily refuted by many, many historical examples.

  • ||

    Interesting take, but it leans too heavily on the "black" oppression of the 17th & 18th centuries. (Women, too.) As it turns out, there were laws (usually local) which dictated whether you could open a business or not; the town elders decided based on whether there was already one in town. Common, actually.

    People in many areas were required to tithe to a church, whether they believed or not. Indeed, in some places they were required to attend services as well. They were assessed for the 'poor' (yes, welfare existed even back then.) They were required to be in the militia, the draft was universal (at least for young men.)

    There are a hundred other examples which Libertarians, trying to manufacture a paradise which never existed, fail to mention when harkening back to those "free" days.

    Baloney. You take the good with the bad, or the bad with the good. There never has been such a Libertarian utopia, except perhaps for pioneers living in a cabin in remote areas, and all they had to worry about was feeding themselves and the occasional robber who thought to stop by and help himself to things. No point in paying taxes to build a protective legal service, I guess. Oh wait! They did that, didn't they?

  • .||

    No point in paying taxes to build a protective legal service, I guess. Oh wait! They did that, didn't they?

    Well not until the robbers became so numerous that they just had to be bought off with taxes.

  • ||

    The point of this article is quite simple and really doesn't merit all this controversy.

    Basically, if you're a white dude, and you start talking about how you'd like to be free, like you were "back in the day," you should anticipate that some people of color, and some women, are going to ask you exactly what you mean. Because "back in the day," people who looked like you were free to rape and enslave and murder people who looked different from you, and those other "different" folks didn't have the freedom to manage their own property in a lot of cases.

    You should have a response for that. If you don't then you're going to come off as a racist and a sexist, whether or not that was your intent.

  • Andrew the Noisy||

    I am prepared to tell them exactly what I mean. I think the question is, are they prepared to listen to my answer, or ignore it?

  • ||

    If I'm a "white dude" and when I say "I'd like to be free like we were back in the day," and you interpret that to mean, "like white people were back in the day," then you have the problem -- not me.

  • .||

    ...people who looked like you...

    That perspective itself is pretty racist - it's the epitomy of racism.

  • ||

    Juxtaposing racial equality of today versus the "golden age" of yesterday would seem problematic though. Notwithstanding that one disproportionate issue and a handfull of other social you assume, overall the golden age represented a less intrusive government and therefore a more freer people.

  • Todd Krainin||

    Mr. Boaz: Amen. Your views on American history ought to be foundational to libertarian thought in the 21st century - as they were sadly lacking during the 20th.

    The benefits, as you've mentioned, could be profound.

    (1) As the perspectives of blacks, women, and others are brought into the conversation, libertarian thought could expand to a much wider group of people.

    (2) A mythical libertarian 17th century utopia would be replaced by a balanced, realistic view of American history.

    (3) The mantra of oppression that's implied by the oft-heard libertarian slogans listed in the first paragraph of your article would be replaced by more optimistic, inviting rhetoric.

    (4) No longer would libertarians be viewed as the bastard child of Republicans. Extending the language of freedom to minorities demonstrates the universality of libertarian thought. (Think, for example, of how successfully Jagdish Bhagwati has promoted free trade by showing how it benefits the poor).

    All of these benefits are possible without a whit of compromise on principle. But for this to happen, it's not enough simply to make a passing acknowledgement of slavery, women's rights, and other strides of progress over the centuries. These issues must join with economic and foreign policy at the center of our discussions.

  • ||

    This is NOT a defense of slavery but you must put history in perspective. Life for "free" immigrants in the north was no walk in the park. Yes, they got wages (meager) and out of that had to provide their own food, shelter and clothing. If they got sick or too old to work - too bad for them. Slaves had housing, food and clothing provided and were cared for sick or well, old or young. Many slaves were taught trades and were allowed to keep part of their wages to buy their freedom. Here's something to think about - the generational devotion to government entitlements and the paucity of massacres of plantation owners when they were so grossly outnumbered causes one to wonder if a slave's life was as bad as we are now told - especially when compared to the Irish immigrant of the mid 19th century.

  • Hcat||

    The Claremont Institute, not strictly libertarian, is a conservative think tank which claims to uphold the principles of the American Founding, and they are, unlike most older conservative institutions, Lincoln lovers. You should give them some credit.

  • ||

    Why don't we seem to understand 30% tax = 30% slave.

  • ||

    Let's not forget the Irish in America. In too many cases, the working immigrant didn't own enough property to vote, or was so poor that his vote was easily purchased with a few rounds of beer or a dollar. In addition, there are records of what happened when a working man lost his job because of illness in the 1800s: his wife in too many cases had to resort to prostitution to have enough money to feed the children and pay the rent. And working conditions were poor in the extreme. Some have argued that black slaves in too many cases had it better than the "free" immigrant worker. Also, it was the Republican Party that went to war to free the slaves: not the Democratic Party. And it was white workers and farmers who paid the ultimate price to free the slaves. So the idea that there was a golden age for "white men" is ridiculous: a few only. What people think about is a time when a man could take his family West and get some land to farm and live in peace as long as he knew how to use, and did use, his rifle, etc. What we want to do as Libertarians is usher in an even better world learning from, and improving upon, the changes made by liberals, which were subsequently dismantled by conservatives, putting us in the mess we are in now.

  • Cal Godot||

    The Golden Age of Liberty is in the future. We are more free than we once were, but then again so is a man on the first day of his parole from prison.

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  • RAN||

    So the idea that there was a golden age for "white men" is ridiculous: a few only. | ran แรน |

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  • ||

    "Now there are several problems with this comparison, not least Dionne’s apparent view that high taxes don’t limit the freedom of those forced to pay them." This is what is the REAL problem with you faux Libertarians. NO ONE FORCES YOU TO PAY TAXES, YOU CHOOSE TO PAY TAXES. YES, YOU CHOOSE TO LIVE IN A PLACE THAT INCLUDES TAXATION, YOU CHOOSE. You have no right whatsoever to live wherever you please on whatever terms you dictate. Sorry, but most of you people belong in a tax paid prison!

  • ||

    Well, someone is off of her meds...:)

    Very articulate and well-reasoned (pun intended!) article! Here's another example of over-reaching government power : Gibson Guitars. The way they're going after this company is in itself criminal.

    http://www.techdirt.com/articl.....ated.shtml

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