Race

Up from Serfdom

How to restore lost liberties while building on the positive strides America has made since 1776

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Editor's Note: On April 6, Reason published David Boaz's "Up From Slavery: There's no such thing as a golden age of lost liberty," which argued that libertarians who omit or minimize slavery and other past depredations against individuals from their discussions of American history cannot fully appreciate increases in liberty and freedom we enjoy now. One of the writers he criticized was Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Reason invited Hornberger to comment and we're happy to continue the discussion by running his response.

In his article "Up from Slavery," David Boaz points out that in my article "Liberal Delusions about Freedom" I failed to except American slavery from my reference to the freedom enjoyed by early Americans.  

His point is valid and well taken. In the past, I have always made a point of mentioning that tragic exception when discussing the history of American freedom. (See, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

This time, however, I made a mistake and neglected to include the slavery exception in my article and then failed to catch the omission before the article went to press for The Future of Freedom Foundation's journal, Freedom Daily.  

Boaz raises another point that needs addressing: He attempts to diminish the significance of what our American forebears achieved.

It is true that the principles of liberty on which our ancestors founded the U.S. government were not applied to everyone, especially slaves; and there were, of course, other exceptions and infringements on freedom, such as tariffs and denying women the right to vote.

But should those exceptions and infringements prevent us from appreciating and honoring the fact that our ancestors brought into existence the freest, most prosperous, and most charitable society in history?

I don't think so. I believe that it is impossible to overstate the significance of what our American ancestors accomplished in terms of a free society.

Let's consider, say, the year 1880. Here was a society in which people were free to keep everything they earned, because there was no income tax. They were also free to decide what to do with their own money—spend it, save it, invest it, donate it, or whatever. People were generally free to engage in occupations and professions without a license or permit. There were few federal economic regulations and regulatory agencies. No Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, bailouts, or so-called stimulus plans. No IRS. No Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor. No EPA and OSHA. No Federal Reserve. No drug laws. Few systems of public schooling. No immigration controls. No federal minimum-wage laws or price controls. A monetary system based on gold and silver coins rather than paper money. No slavery. No CIA. No FBI. No torture or cruel or unusual punishments. No renditions. No overseas military empire. No military-industrial complex.

As a libertarian, as far as I'm concerned, that's a society that is pretty darned golden.

Boaz entitled his article "Up from Slavery," which raises the question: How do we libertarians living today free ourselves from the serfdom of the welfare/warfare/regulatory state under which we live? That is, how do we build on the magnificent, albeit far from perfect, achievement of our ancestors?

That, of course, raises the important issue of methodology.

I have long maintained that the key to our success lies in strict adherence to libertarian principles. Nothing worse can befall a good cause than for its supporters to compromise its principles.

Thus, ever since our inception some 20 years ago, The Future of Freedom Foundation has focused not on proposals designed to reform, modify, improve, or reduce the welfare state, regulatory state, and warfare state but instead on raising people's vision to a much higher level, one that focuses on the libertarian principles of a free society and a constitutional republic—e.g., the separation of economy and the state, of health care and the state, and of education and the state; the right to keep and bear arms; the protection of civil liberties; and the restoration of a noninterventionist foreign policy.

Notwithstanding slavery and other violations of liberty, our American ancestors brought into existence the freest society in history. The question is: How do we restore the lost liberties, especially economic liberty, that characterized their society while retaining and building upon the positive strides that have been made since then, such as in the area of civil rights, so that all aspects of liberty are enjoyed by everyone? By hewing to our principles, libertarians have the opportunity to use what our ancestors accomplished as a foundation for leading the world to the highest reaches of freedom ever seen by man.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

NEXT: Chaos in the Massachusetts Health Care Market

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  1. Sadly, I think Liberty is somethign that died a LONg time ago!

    Dee
    http://www.surfing-anonymity.br.tc

    1. Slavery applied only to blacks, and only until Emancipation, whereas all the economic freedoms lost since the end of the 19th century have been felt by every American. Who would argue that, taken as a whole, across all human endeavors, there hasn’t been a net loss of liberties in this nation?

      1. Crap. I replied to a bot.

        1. The spambot seemed to have a more valid point.

          If someone killed your whole family, and someone else TPed the houses of everyone in your neighborhood, I guess the TPer was the worse offender, because he harmed more people?

          1. False dichotomy ftl.

            The north had been holding the south in economic fiefdom for almost a century. The south seceded over the Morill Tariff.

            Slavery was a sideshow, even and especially to Lincoln. As he said himself he’d allow slavery if the South would not secede.

            But as regards slavery, the ethical thing would have been to invade the south, free the slaves, then gtfo.

            If you’re raping someone on your property I am obliged to stop it, but I am not obliged to take your house, and every house of the neighbors in the area, and start raping the woman myself.

            In using slavery as a reason to invade the south Lincoln did indeed back up his Proclamation and technically free the slaves, but by ending the legitimacy of government by consent he ultimately enslaved the south and the north.

            If you marry someone that does not give you to right to kill them if they want to leave you. You may threaten to do so, and she may stay, but you’re lying to yourself if you think that she’s staying voluntarily.

      2. Whites were conscripted into slave patrols to enforce slavery, abolitionists were forbidden to speak or publish anti-slavery messages in the South, and it was illegal to present anti-slavery petitions in Congress. These are just some of the ways that slavery curtailed the freedom of whites, too.

  2. Thank you.
    David Boaz’s article was just retarded. The false choice of Slavery or the USDA is the most insipid of fallacies.

    1. Reading comprehension fail. He wasn’t saying there’s a choice between the two, just that you can’t consider an era where 20% of the country is in chains as a libertarian era just because it had fewer federal programs.

      1. 20% x 4/5 = 16% of the poulation.

      2. Bullshit. He specifically asked us to choose between the two.

        1. He did not. He said that E. J. Dionne posed that question and then added, “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. And the rarity in the real world of dictatorships with secret police forces that have low taxes.” Please don’t deliberately distort Boaz’s views.

          1. He did, and I quote:

            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?

            This is Boaz, not quoting Dionne, first paragraph of page 2 of the article.

            1. Your implication was that he thought that that was a choice among items that implicated each other, i.e., that the existence of a government bureaucracy was necessary for the elimination of slavery. He did not suggest that. He was responding to Hornberger’s statement that we were all freer (or that there was more freedom) in the late 18th century or the early or mid 19th century than now. That was Hornberger’s statement of the issue, and Boaz took him up on it. Maybe Hornberger would have preferred 1850, but as a person of “mixed race”, I can assure I would not. And I cannot see how any libertarian could have preferred the time of the Fugitive Slave Acts as being, on balance, freer.

              1. I refuse to choose either choice. That is my point. Dont give me a false choice.

                1. Boaz should be better than to ask “Have you stopped beating your wife?” type questions.

                  1. I usually agree with you robc, but not this time. I don’t think by asking the question he meant that that is our only choice and we can’t towards something better. I think he was just trying to add some perspective.

                2. The comparison was first raised by Hornberger, who compared the past to the present.

                  1. Whoever doesn’t reply here within 20 minutes with a convincing apology for helping the catholics rape little boys is a paedophile. I’m counting…

                3. Check your libertarian hymnal. Everyone knows, “if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

              2. Since we’re getting all texty and such, Hornberger didn’t say either of that, he said “Why did early Americans consider themselves free?”. Which, although tone deaf to the fact that not all early Americans would have considered themselves free, is actually asking from their perspective, what was considered freedom(?). He did not say, “what can we do to make everything like it was”.

                Since there was a problem with rhetoric not matching results (“all men are created equal”), does that mean we can’t desire that goal, even fairly applied?

                1. Slaves WERE NOT Americans. They were African nationals with de facto green cards. That’s why so many returned to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, many others stayed in the US after the work disappeared.

              3. “Maybe Hornberger would have preferred 1850, but as a person of “mixed race”, I can assure I would not.”

                reading comprehension fail…I just read Hornerger’s article and it clearly indicate 1880 was better than 1850…nice racebaiting skills though…keep it up and you can work for the Washington Post one day.

                1. My dear Gabe, Hornberger’s original article — and I am NOT implying that he is a racist, just that he was not thinking — refers to “the economic system that existed in the United States from the inception of the nation to the latter part of the 19th century” That period includes 1850, does it not? It looks like you only read Hornberg’s response above, but not the quotation in Boaz’s response. If anyone needs to learn to read more carefully, it’s you.

                  1. You, Sandy, said that maybe he likes 1850 better. You did that in spite of knowing that he just wrote 1880 was better and in spite of the 30 different times that he wrote about slavery being horrible AND in spite of knowing that basic libertarian principles indicate he would be against slavery AND knowing that you probably do NOT know one single person who is longing for the return of slavery…if you want to ignore all that and keep being dishonest by saying ….”maybe he likes 1850 better”…then go ahead.

                    1. Even if he did like 1850 better, I doubt it was because slavery was legal.

          2. 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

            I doubt anyone has that view. However, the view that taxes generally do not limit freedom MUCH is perfectly defendable. So is the contention that what the government does with that tax money provides us with substantially more freedom than we lose via the taxes.

            And our 15% of GDP tax rate this last year hardly qualifies as “high”. Get over it. Don’t you feel far more “free” now that you aren’t burdened with the 20% of GDP tax rates of 2006?

            1. I guess what the government does with the tax money is the real question. By the way, where did you get those 15% and 20% GDP stats from? I’d really like to know.

              1. Apparently you don’t know Chadolph. He pulls every number out of his ass.

              2. Uhh, by reading the news. Isn’t it common knowledge that we typically tax 18-20% of the GDP at the federal level, and that revenues have plummeted well below this due to the recession? If you care for the details, just google it.

                1. Wikipedia said federal taxes are at 28%. Look at other sites(that site CBO stats) and its in the high teens to low 20’s. But I they don’t take into consideration State, local or inflation taxes.

                  1. I was only referring to the federal government. State and local taxes, as you noted, are around 10% of GPD.

                    1. The government spends over 6 trillion a year. That is above 40 percent of GDP, by the way. GDP is approximately 14 trillion. It’s not so much the size of the taxes either, but how they are raised.

                    2. That’s federal, state, and local combined btw.

                    3. The last two years have been an anomoly that will fall back to the usual pattern: government spending in the low-to-mid 30s, revenue generation in the high twenties.

                      http://www.usgovernmentspendin…..chart.html

                      It is that persistent gap we need to plug.

                    4. By less spending.

                    5. I am calling you on your bullshit. Gov’t spending isn’t usually “in the low-to-mid 30’s.”
                      That chart starts in the 1910’s and goes to 2010. It is very low in the first 50 years and then squeaks over for the next 40+ years. The average is less than 20% or so.
                      And by the way, just because it is 20%, doesn’t mean we are all paying 20%.

            2. One can never go wrong by taking the opposite view of Chad.

            3. So Chad if I make you work 100% of your life for someone you are 100% a slave. But somehow I make you work 50% you are not 50% a slave?

              1. The tax burden per household in the US is 24.7%. In Switzerland it is 21.7 %, In France 27.8% and in Mexico 5%. You get what you pay for.

                Source is the US statistical abstracts

      3. Ya, but nobody is freaking saying that Hobo Chang Ba. Boaz attacked CATO rival Jacob Hornberger and implied he was a fucking racist(which is a total douche bage thing to do in case you didn’t know).

        Reason, to their great credit, allowed Hornberger to reply and he pwned the CATO racebaiter. Hopefully Boaz will cut back on his Al Sharpton style tactics.

      4. I’m not certain that the US can be blamed for INSTITUTING the slavery in that era! Black Africans took other Black Africans as slaves & sold them to the “evil white slavetraders”. Were slavery not to have existed, these slaves would probably have been murdered by their African “brethren”. Therefore, even tho’ 20% of the US was still in chains (rather than having been instantly freed), I think it might be considered a “libertarian era”.

  3. While I liked Boaz’s article, I thought he was too rough on Bumper. I didn’t write that, but in retrospect I should’ve mentioned that. There were plenty of more deserving targets out there, particularly in the more conservative circles.

    I like both of these articles; modified versions would look great, back to back, in the magazine.

  4. I’m not terribly impressed.

    First, I don’t think the discourse about the inexorable growth of the state would be improved by ritually genuflecting to emancipation (five generations ago), suffrage (three generations ago), and even the civil rights struggle (50 years ago).

    Second, I don’t see the relevance of all this to the current discussion about the growing intrusion of the state into all aspects of our personal lives.

    So, what’s his point, again?

    1. To get people to stop ritually genuflecting to a libertopia that never existed?

    2. You don’t see a long term pattern in all those gains in liberty over generations? How about all the advances in legal gambling? How about the abolition of the draft in the USA (less than 40 years ago) or the fall of the Iron Curtain (20 YA)? How about the advances in shall-issue and med mj? Charter schools?

      And how about broadening the focus to the rest of the world? Look at all the privatizations. The free trade agreements, including the Common Market. A virtual end to the violence in No. Ireland.

      1. No I see just the opposite. A very stark bottom line of liberty is how much of my finite lifespan I am forced to labor for others. Yay, I can drink without going to jail but I can’t pop a pill.

        Hate speech law. Patriot Act. Eminent domain. Endless bankrupt entitlements. Institutionalized government racism.

        And Gambling is a very bad example. It’s crony corporatism at it’s worst. If you want to have a gambling business you have to pay off politicians by the scores.

        No I don’t feel more free today than I felt yesterday, not one bit.

  5. Right – in 1880 we had a libertarian president (Rutherford B. Hayes) who had ordered Federal troops to surpress striking railroad workers and got us entangled in Central and South American internal conflicts. To his credit, he was pretty decent for his era on racial integration and vetoed laws repealing federal civil rights protections. But the era was marked by a rising number of Jim Crow laws.

    1. Grover Cleveland’s terms are possibly the most libertarian in our histroy:
      -Vetoed everything
      -Opposed Tarrifs
      -Commited non-interventionist
      -Spoke in favor of Constitutional limited government

      not bad for a Democrat.

      1. Cleveland was also the ONLY President to
        end a drug war, by repealing the prohibitive taxes on smokable opium.
        He did speak out against the annexation of Hawaii and other interventions, but he caved in on the
        intervention in Venezuala, almost starting a war with England…

    2. It is not “libertarian” to come in on behalf of Vanderbilt or whoever, start doing violence as a form of corporate welfare to force people to work. Libertarans are for voluntary shit…not forcing people to do shit…I really don’t understand how you get this confused.

      1. I think he is looking for perfect, the enemy of good.

      2. thats what I was thinking.

  6. History is SOOOO easy:

    1) Conservative darkness

    2) Liberal (“libertarian”) enlightenment

    3) Reactionary (“progressive,” “leftist”) endarkenment

    Yup, it really is that simple.

    What we need now is stage 4: See stage 2.

    1. Considering, that even in your over simplification, numbers two and three have only been around for the past 800 or so years, conservatives dominated a spate of history. Depending on whether you’re a young-earther or old-earther, that’s either 5,200 years and just under 4.6 billion years; very impressive either way.

      1. Damn those single-celled Democrats.

  7. What a nice alternative to the crazy Rockwellian attacks that distorted Boaz’s quite reasonable point. That said, I think that Hornberger misstated Boaz’s point: “He attempts to diminish the significance of what our American forebears achieved.” I did not find that in his article and I challenge anyone else to find it. What I did find was a reminder that when we talk about “Americans” we have to be clear that we’re not just talking about white men. If you look around a libertarian meeting, you see a group that is not making strong inroads into non-white groups. If libertarians don’t wake up to that, and don’t realize that there are reasons that they aren’t appealing to those groups, liberty really will be doomed. Even Hornberger’s thoughtful response dates the great days of liberty to 1880, three years after the national compromise that began to strip black freedmen of their rights and after Jim Crow laws were restricting the rights of blacks to go into business, to travel freely, and so on. 1880 wasn’t all that golden for everyone.

    All in all, the backward looking approach seems historically naive and even self-defeating.

    1. liberty will be doomed because of libertarians? ya, that makes sense, but I think the statist democrats and republicans might have something to do with it.

      1. If libertarians are protectors of liberty, and allow the statests and theocrats (what you called republicans) to win, then it will be our fault.
        Now i have yet to meat a racist libertarian and am quite sure there really aren’t many of them out there, but as a white man,I don’t understand why it seems that others like myself are basically the only ones advancing our cause…(please don’t accuse me of ALsharptonian rhetoric or race baiting, i mean no such thing)I simply want to understand the gap, and both of these articles go a long way in helping to illuminate it…

        Any kind of affirmative action or racial quotas for libertarians will surely, and rightly be rejected off hand…But i see little reason why people of all races can’t willfully embrace our opinions, except for some of the issues raised in “Up from Slavery”
        By the way, if we keep up this libertarian vs. libertarian bullshit, then the statists and theocrats will just twittle their thumbs and wait for us to self-destruct. Debate is good and healthy. Personal attacks on people who disagree with .0002 percent of the things you say, is not.

        1. Great discussion on similar issues:

          http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=6567

        2. I don’t have a full answer for you, but a couple points.
          Most of the libertarians I have “met” have been solely online and I have no idea if they are a dog (that is to say I have little idea of what sex or race most of them are).

          I also don’t think that the libertarianism most ell’s agree with isn’t “paleo” in nature. Which is to say, it is not practical without a certain level of wealth(at least for humans). It is somewhat high in Maslow’s heirarchy of needs. So, if you are worried about lower level stuff, then libertarianism isn’t going to look attractive. If this is true, as other groups wealth increases and stabilizes, there would be more interest in libertarianism.

        3. so why did he attack Hornberger?

          1. Forgive me…
            Boaz’s attack is as inexcusable as any other. I didn’t mean to give him a pass. I meant my last statement to be directed at all of us. From the writers of the articles to the comments posted to them. By all means let us disagree (that proves we are thinking) but we should ALL refrain from verbally attacking each other…lets save that for the statists.

            1. Agree toasted. They will eat this shit up.

            2. i agree too… peace and End the Fed

        4. The problem is that the GOP has very successfully stolen enough libertarian language to convince people them and libertarians are the same. There are more than enough examples of outwardly racist high-profile Republicans who make us look bad. (Yes, there are obviously many outwardly racist Democrats, too, but their base is hopelessly lost to us, anyway. We just need to convince those capable of reasoning and then hope that in the future more such people exist.)

          The trick is to show people with any amount of pigment what it is we actually stand for. Of course when you read the responses here, that’s going to be a tall order.

          1. Lots of the Dem base is actualy anti-war if they can focus on the topic without getting distracted by shiny things.

            1. Hahaha. Shiny things.

    2. If you look around a libertarian meeting, you see a group that is not making strong inroads into non-white groups.

      Explain why that would be.

      1. because Libertarians don’t focus on race like other ideologies. race really means nothing. We choose to judge character, not color of skin.

        1. Just because you don’t focus on something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The author didn’t address the fact that women had few of the freedoms he is talking about, either. Not acknowledging an issue does not make it go away.

  8. I dont think libertarians need to mention opposition to slavery and Jim Crow laws – it is axiomatic.

    1. But Republicans are all racist. And you’re all Republicans. So everyone here is racist but me.

      1. Cosmotarian Overlord and I are also not racist, because we accuse everyone of being racist so that means we must be more pure than you guys.

      2. One thing is for sure Tony’s asshole is every bit as smart as the rest of him.

    2. Axiomatic and obvious to most people here. But we might need to mention those things to people not familiar with the axioms. A lot of people really don’t understand libertarianism at all and need these things explained to them.

  9. The point is that there is little value in falling back on false memories of the “golden days” when making rational arguments for libertarian principles. For every fond memory of freedom there is a parallel violation of individual liberty. Our best arguments are those based on values, principle, and logic.

    1. Very good point. Indeed, when simpletons wave homemade signs and talk about taking their country back, they fall into the trap of the leftists, who are quite prepared to answer: “Back to what? Jim Crow? Slavery?”

      Liberty isn’t a date in history. It’s an idea.

      1. +10 for:

        Liberty isn’t a date in history. Its an idea.

    2. Whoop-whoop, followed by golf-clap.

    3. I’m begging to agree more and more with this.

      1. i meant beginning, not begging. Oops…

  10. Equal rights for all (including gays, we ain’t there yet) and a smaller, less intrusive government are not contradictory.

    That’s all I’ve got.

    1. Equal rights for all (including gays, we ain’t there yet) and a smaller, less intrusive government are not contradictory.

      In fact, it takes a government to deny equal rights for all.

      1. It Takes a Pillage.

  11. For every fond memory of freedom there is a parallel violation of individual liberty.

    You seem to be arguing that the net level of freedom in America has been static.

    Since the Civil Rights era, at least, I see much more in the way of violations of individual liberty by the State than I do any kind of great emancipation of groups previously oppressed by the State.

    1. Even when you take into account the disappearance of fag bashing?

    2. Since the Civil Rights era, at least, I see much more in the way of violations of individual liberty by the State than I do any kind of great emancipation of groups previously oppressed by the State.

      I’m quite sure that there is less regulation now than there was then (airlines, telecom, broadcasting, etc.)

      You’d have to be crazy to say that there’s more “morality police” type stuff than there was back then.

      You could claim tax rates are drastically lower than they were, but I would disagree, because I view deficits and inflation as taxes. In the case of deficits, I find them much more abhorrent than higher current tax rates because it’s stealing from generations that certainly can’t vote against such measures.

      About the only major area of regression is the civil liberties, but that might be very subject to reporting bias. How many innocent people served life sentences due to power-mad prosecutors back then and we just never knew?

      1. I’m quite sure that there is less regulation now than there was then (airlines, telecom, broadcasting, etc.)

        True, and not only of the USA.

        You’d have to be crazy to say that there’s more “morality police” type stuff than there was back then.

        Not crazy, but missing the big picture. Look at where the margin has moved. There may be just as much legal wrangling, but the bad guys are just trying to recover some of the ground they’ve lost to us.

  12. Great article, and some good points.

    I would point out though, that the denisty of the current population does cause some problems that people in the 17 or 1800’s would not have experienced.

    I would also point out that it can make a lot of sense of citizens to come together and all agree to pay a portion of certain expenses to build things that benefit the common welfare (ie roads etc). They call this taxes.

    So overall agreed, but I wouldn’t say there isn’t any benefit to having some goverment services.

    1. I would also point out that it can make a lot of sense of citizens to come together and all agree to pay a portion of certain expenses to build things that benefit the common welfare (ie roads etc). They call this taxes.

      “all agree” does not mean what you think it does. What government does is provide things that * some * people want at the expense of other, non-consenting people. That is the reality of involuntary, non-consensual taxes.

      Oh, and when you say “a lot of sense”, it doesn’t mean what I mean when I say that phrase.

    2. I would also point out that it can make a lot of sense of citizens to come together and all agree to pay a portion of certain expenses to build things that benefit the common welfare (ie roads etc). They call this taxes.

      That happened back then. It was handled by cities (or the state). There werent federal funds involved (Madison vetoed it).

      1. That is because some pesky regions tended not to agree, so we had to make them for their own good…kinda like bombing those fucking Iraqi girls into their freedom for their own good.

      2. Federal or state it’s still government,

        What is the difference between federal and state highways again?

        1. The more you centralize these things the less ability people have to choose. The larger centralized governments are harder to investigate/stop or challenge. 10 people in my 10,000 person town can actually get together and stop some boondoggle….with the Feds it is harder.

        2. If government was always right and never made mistakes, which would take a major fool to believe, larger and more centralized government would make sense. However, *when* government makes mistakes, more localized (state) government contains the adverse impact. In the mean time, other state governments learn from the failure and (ideally) don’t repeat those mistakes. You need to think long term.

    3. That’s why I love Judge Napolitano on Stossel when he said : Who says we have to have an army and a navy, and who says the government has to pay for it?

      Not Hans Herman Hoppe.

    4. “I would also point out that it can make a lot of sense of citizens to come together and all agree to pay a portion of certain expenses to build things that benefit the common welfare (ie roads etc). They call this taxes.”

      It would make a lot more sense for a company to provide those services to the people that desire to pay for them. At the very least government is inefficient. You are arguing for government as a provider of bundled services discounted by economy of scale. I’m not sure why we need to collect money from everyone, create a bunch of pseudo-corporations and a political process and then provide those services to people. Companies can provided bundled services to people, including roads and defense services. And you can just pay them directly. And if you don’t like the service, you can just shop around for another bundler-of-services corporation. The whole vote and tax and lobby system just to provide bundles of services is archaic and stupid.

      You’ll note, also, that the whole vote, lobby and steal system is doomed to not provide for the common good. Unless me paying to kill people in other countries or paying for some strangers retirement counts as the common good. But both of those sound more like for the good of makers-of-blower-upper-things and union members than for everyone else.

      There might be other reasons why we want government. They’re really good at killing people and creating perverse incentives and market distortions and otherwise fucking everything up. And I suppose people might get together and decide that killing other groups of people or putting their noses into other peoples business or creating problems for no good reason is a legitimate reason to have a government. I think this can be privatized as well. If you want to get together with your neighbors and pay some mercs to kill people in Afghanistan, be my guest. I just don’t want to have to go through airline security because you guys pissed off some guy that lives 15,000 miles away. And if you and your neighbors want to get together and pay a company to provide for the retirement of other people, swell. Do what you want with your money. And if people want to pay a company to create problems for themselves, well, that’s kosher too. People should be free to pay companies to regulate their lives. It is sort of like paying a dominatrix, no? And if a whole bunch of people want to live under the rule of dominatrixes, that’s great. I don’t want to pay for it though. I’m not so much into having 6″ stilletos jammed into my crotch–but if that floats your boat, more power to you.

  13. Many never miss a chance to lay the guilt on about slavery. The Founders didn’t set the stage, they didn’t make the world what it was at the time of the American Revolution. Not enough, need more payment? Seems to me I recall one hell’va lot of mostly white dead bodies covered this nation’s battlefields during this nation’s bloodiest war which freed those slaves. Enough of the guilt tripping it’s worn out. Blacks weren’t the only ones taken slaves, plenty of whites were, they were the most highly prized of slaves. My ancestors were held slave for over 400 years by the very same people who took most blacks slaves and are still the biggest slave traders in this world even today. Enough already, I’m sick of it.I’ve never held a slave, my people never held slaves, I’m a Slav, guess what Slav means, yeah slave. It’s history, it’s over.

    1. Exactly, slave to an individual, serf to a state, little difference. A very similar history in my family. Worse yet being an ethnic minority (look up Holodomor).
      My generation is the 1st to be born free of either.

    2. I think Sherman helped rape and kill a few southern blacks too…

    3. Slav does not mean slave. Otherwise, good points.

      1. as a fello slav, I will agree that it is not the same as slave, But the Germans might disagree with that. That was hitlers plan for eastern europe, Also look up what the teunic Knights thought of the slavs they oppressed

      2. The word slave is derived from Slav. Look it up.

  14. (See, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

    Oooh, pwned Boaz. Some fine snark.

  15. Good grief, as J sub D said, they are not mutually exclusive.
    What Boaz conflated (very badly) was that a desire to bring about a state where the Constitution and DofI actually mean something again is NOT looking backwards necessarily. We can look at individual issues and say THIS in particular used to be better when…
    So Jefferson owned slaves and though women were intellectually inferior.
    Oddly enough simply tweak the words so that “All men” means “All people” and problem solved, no further discussion needed.
    By making unecessary apologies and giving any credence to the standard leftist meme of “It’s not 1776 anymore” immediately weakens our position.

    1. So Jefferson owned slaves and though women were intellectually inferior

      He was half-right.

  16. Also, I stand by my position that giving women the vote is what brought about the Welfare/nanny state, lol

    1. And spreading libertarianism to women is what will pare it back.

      1. Represent!

        A big problem with getting out the message of libertarianism is that many people never realized that you could have something aside right or left. It actually took me years (this is mostly pre-internet) to realize that there was actually a term for my philosophies — namely, that I didn’t have to be a Democrat or lib to support equal rights and I didn’t have to be a Republican or conservative to support small government.

        Now, I know that (holy crap!) there are really other options. And I actually love coming to this site, all mutual abuse with trolls aside — I learn more about free markets, and people are mostly more intelligent than your usual online forum group.

        I hope more people find that they can hold true to civil liberty and small government all at once.

  17. Sandy nailed this debate.

    IMHO, the golden era of libertarianism is yet to come.

    I will add that slavery was never abolished. If you read the amendment it clearly states “…except when found guilty by a jury of one’s peers”

    Nonetheless, the planet is a freer place for more folks that it may have ever been. While the US is losing ground, other countries are gaining.

  18. I will add that slavery was never abolished. If you read the amendment it clearly states “…except when found guilty by a jury of one’s peers”

    4 million slaves in the USA in 1860…only about 2 million now…good job Obama. I suppose that slaves today don’t have to work as much though…but they do get assraped more so I’d say that the conditions are about even…(not talking to you Espiarch).

  19. “Let’s consider, say, the year 1880. Here was a society in which people were free to keep everything they earned, because there was no income tax. They were also free to decide what to do with their own money?spend it, save it, invest it, donate it, or whatever. People were generally free to engage in occupations and professions without a license or permit.”

    If you replace “people” with “white men,” you’d be on to something. Women and black people were de facto limited in what they could achieve and with whom they could associate. And if you were gay? Ha, good luck! Yes, I would love to live in an era without the alphabet soup of government bureaucracies, taxes, drug laws, wars and all other fun government blunders of today, but 1880? Yeah, being a woman, not so much.

    I think the larger point from Boaz’s article was that comparing the freedoms and restrictions of the past to the freedoms and restrictions of today is like comparing apples and oranges. That, and those of us who’ve *gained* freedom over the course of the last century just shake our heads.

    Instead of the comparison, we should be working toward the best of both worlds, hence turning libertarianism into a forward-thinking movement.

    1. If you replace “people” with “white men,” you’d be on to something. Women and black people were de facto limited in what they could achieve and with whom they could associate.

      The first inquiry by a libertarian is into whether the State prohibits or controls something. To the degree that it prohibited or controlled free economic rights of women and blacks in 1880, libertarians are in principle opposed to it.

      The second-level inquiry is whether there was some kind of social/cultural barrier. Such barriers are pretty much voluntary, so libertarians generally don’t see government coercion as a good solution. Persuasion, education, shame, etc. – sure, why not, all still voluntary.

      See how this works? If you get rid of a social/cultural barrier by pounding people with the mailed fist of the State, libertarians aren’t going to be super thrilled.

      1. Well also in 1880, women and black people were de jure limited, too, and it was getting worse. Women didn’t decide not to vote solely because of cultural barriers, after all.

      2. It’s like you think the State is the only coercive institution, and it’s like this because it’s some malignant, immovable object that hovers over all of us. The KKK doesn’t have to consist of elected officials handing down legislation to be an effectively coercive and violent institution. The State, the KKK and religious groups who kill gay people and bomb abortion clinics are made of people who want to control other people.

        “The second-level inquiry is whether there was some kind of social/cultural barrier. Such barriers are pretty much voluntary, so libertarians generally don’t see government coercion as a good solution. Persuasion, education, shame, etc. – sure, why not, all still voluntary.”

        Voluntary? You have to be sh!tting me. The social/cultural barrier becomes a brand new State for the people who end up robbed of their autonomy. It’s really easy for any of us to, say, switch religions and wear some other kind of clothing or eat different foods, but people stuck within that culture don’t have a choice… Much like women or non-white people of 1880. Nice show of privilege there, though.

        “See how this works? If you get rid of a social/cultural barrier by pounding people with the mailed fist of the State, libertarians aren’t going to be super thrilled.”

        I don’t think I said I wanted the State to force anyone to adopt any kind of lifestyle or culture; I just want them to leave me and mine alone. Hm. How libertarian of me.

    2. Actually, blacks were upwardly mobile c 1880, if you read Sowell and Williams.
      Women were restricted by cultural norms, and could not vote. Not sure if the Comstock laws were in effect at that time, but if you want to find out about lib women, go to Wendy Mcelroys sight, she is the authority on late nineteenth century lib women.

      As for gays, definitely, not so much.

      BTW Rutherford B Hays was for his time more conservative than libertarian. He was a prohibitionist, whose wife was called “Lemonade Lucy” because she banned alcohol from the White House.

    3. Women and black people were de facto limited in what they could achieve and with whom they could associate. And if you were gay? Ha, good luck!

      Pfff, everyone knows gays were non-existent from Ancient Greece to the 1970s, when they invented AIDS.

  20. to view a partial list of crimes committed by FBI agents over 1500 pages long see forums.signonsandiego. com/showthread.php?t=59139

    to view a partial list of FBI agents arrested for pedophilia see
    campusactivism.org/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=29

    also see
    ctka.net/pr500-king.html
    Prober: FBI held back mob info on Kennedy assassination

    1. good work…I want to hear more denouncements of the crimes of the FBI and CIA.

      Boaz….CATO?

      crickets

      1. You truly are an idiot, Gabe. Go to Cato.org and use the search engine. Type in “Boaz” and “CIA” and you will find such articles by Boaz:
        “The CIA has intervened in the internal affairs of countries around the world, imposing the shah on the people of Iran, conspiring against Allende in Chile, and supporting socialists in a counterproductive attempt to “fight communism.” In the process, it has created anti-American sentiment throughout the Third World and given communist insurgents an opportunity to blame their countries’ problems on covert CIA activities and gain support they wouldn’t otherwise have. The CIA has also exceeded its charter by harassing and spying on American citizens domestically. Legitimate intelligence-gathering needs can be handled by the Defense Intelligence Agency; abolition of the CIA would be a major signal that the American government is renouncing its policy of harassing American “dissidents” and destabilizing foreign governments.”
        That’s from 1982, you moron.

        And Boaz opposed the Iraq war, not only as a raving blog commenter, but as a public figure. That and war with Iran, FBI spying, USA PATRIOT Act, and on and on.

        Full disclosure: I was an intern at Cato over a decade ago and I am proud to be a financial supporter today.

        1. that is good stuff. In 1982 I probably would have liked him…by 2002, not so much….

          National Review Oct-2002:

          This time, however, American libertarians have been surprisingly hawkish. Most of them supported the campaign in Afghanistan. David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, the leading libertarian think tank, notes that in the past, when he said that libertarians could support a war under some conditions, people would say that his conditions were so strict that he would never, in practice, find a war he could support. “Well, we finally found one.”

          The Libertarian party came out for the Afghan war, too, albeit with qualifications. The homeland had, after all, been attacked, and the perpetrators needed to be tracked down.

        2. Just in case Gabe says “Oh, that was a long time ago” he can do a search himself and find a lot more on lawlessness in government at Cato since then and up until today. It’s easy. You type in the words and click on “Search” and there it is. Not obscure comments in blogs, but studies, testimony, debates, books, television appearances, you name it.

          1. They do good libertarian criticism of lots of things and then they come out and support McCain-Palin or Bush-Cheney every election.

            They also prop up the idea that the Fed(central planning of interest rates) is “free-market”.

          2. While you are right that CATO had many good articles. I have found plenty like this one from:

            by Ted Galen Carpenter 2007

            ” A True Parallel between Vietnam, Iraq: Vitriol”

            Upon getting a cheesy campaign letter from RNC chairman Duncan…Carpenter states:
            “Duncan apparently cannot imagine that Democratic critics of the Iraq war might embrace that position because they honestly believe that the policy is misguided.”

            as much of a sleazeball as Duncan is …he was corect to assume that Democrats had no honest opposition to war …it seems Carpenter owes Duncan an apology here, but that is just the funny part.

            Later Carpenter states:

            “Duncan’s slur is not an aberration. Increasingly, both sides in the debate on the Iraq war slime the motives of their opponents, and that tactic is poisoning the political discourse…Looking at liberal outlets one finds a comparable number of allegations that Bush “lied” America into war, “…

            This is a bunch of whiny appeals to stop being so “vitriolic” and come up with more bipartisian solutions…According to CATO’s own articles Bush and his cronies did lie us into war…people should be vitriolic. This is the same type of attitude these guys took when they promoted Guiliani for president over Ron Paul.

        3. Alan,
          I will agree that CATO has done some good work. I used to refer people to CATO documents for years before 2001.

          They had a particularly good one in 1998 that still deserves praise fo it’s foresight: “DOES U.S. INTERVENTION OVERSEAS BREED TERRORISM?”.

          it basically says that our “defense budget” was more accurately described as a terrorist incubation program.

          Ivan Eland did much good work as I’m sure others did.

          However, in the spirit of David Boaz…I would like to see more denouncements of the racist things our government participates in domestically….like kill/coverup MLK, distribute crack, support numerous professional KKK “assets” and infilitrate and radicalize the Black Panthers. Until I see these disclaimers it will be hard to take him seriously.

  21. Let’s all just agree to move forward and not think or talk about history any more.

    Lets vote for Straussian conservatives from now on, they probably won’t screw us again and at least they are not rhetorically racist.

  22. “Maybe Hornberger would have preferred 1850, but as a person of “mixed race”, I can assure I would not. And I cannot see how any libertarian could have preferred the time of the Fugitive Slave Acts as being, on balance, freer.”

    As another person of mixed race, I must say I think there is no plausible case to be made that Jacob Hornberger would rather live in 1850 than today, or that he’s not particularly sensitive to the travails of non-whites. Here’s a man who has consistently defended the rights of immigrants and of foreigners being murdered by the U.S. government. He is a humanitarian through and through.

    1. Please, Gregory,do not misread. I don’t see anyone calling Bumper a bad person. Boaz referred to him as a libertarian and said no bad things about him. He said he was making a mistake. He did not say he is antihumanitarian. Hornberger wrote that “why did early americans consider themselvs free” and that means he was not thinking of blacks and women and indians as americans. I agree that they should be included as americans and the question should be asked whether they were considering themselves free or not.

      1. But the irony here is that Jacob Hornberger has been one of the greatest libertarians when it comes to identifying actual oppression today. The warfare state is the slavery of our day — no one wants to take it head on. Even libertarians talk about war as though it is “not in our interests” rather than in terms of justice. The US has outright murdered millions of people. Jacob Hornberger has been a leader in condemning it. So this article did seem strange to many of us who believe that if it were 1840 right now, Hornberger would be a lead critic of slavery, the Fugitive Slave Laws, the massacres of Indians, while many other libertarians would rather focus on tax reforms and streamlining the state.

      2. Hell, he was not even referring to the majority of white male wage slaves. You have, perhaps heard of company towns, where people were enslaved by their debt to the company store?

        Hornberger is one of the large majority of libertarians who think their folks came over in first class.

  23. It was nice to read Boaz’ caution about slavery. It’s good to be against slavery.

    Not so satisfactory Hornberger’s response. There were, in those days, freedoms that even Boaz’ property-owning white men did not enjoy.

    Religious freedom in the Land of Steady Habits, for example.

  24. Every libertarian is of course against slavery. It not be repeated every time one talks about the antebellum US of the founding. Failure to trot it out does not imply one is strongly against slavery. I agree w/ Mr. Gregory above that Mr. Hornberger is ” a man who has consistently defended the rights of immigrants and of foreigners being murdered by the U.S. government. He is a humanitarian through and through.”

    Still, I am not as optimistic about America’s founding as Hornberger is. (I’m also not sure denying women the right to vote is an infringement on freedom–no one has a libertarian right to vote.) The US was never some quasi-libertarian paradise, and not only because there was slavery. The Constitution was the result of a coup, and was nothing but a centralizing document meant to give power to a new central state–and it has succeeded (see here and links here).

    Hornberger writes, “I believe that it is impossible to overstate the significance of what our American ancestors accomplished in terms of a free society. … Let’s consider, say, the year 1880. Here was a society in which people were free to keep everything they earned, because there was no income tax. They were also free to … As a libertarian, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a society that is pretty darned golden.” Hornberger is right that the substantive economic freedoms faced by most Americans in 1880 were far greater than now; but this is 1880, in the aftermath of an illegal and immoral war that killed half a million people, that revealed the Constitution to be little more than a paper cover for the state’s crimes, a war that centralized power and resulted in the current leviathan we have now.

    “Notwithstanding slavery and other violations of liberty, our American ancestors brought into existence the freest society in history.”

    This is true in many ways, but I’m not sure it was any freer after 1789 than before it, or even after 1776 than before it. 1775 America would be far freer than 2010 America, would it not–lower taxes, lower regulations, etc. (yes yes, “slavery was wrong”). As would 1788 America. Did the Declaration or Constitution make us freer then than we are now, or was it just that the American society was freer back then in general (again, “except for slaves”) than we are now? If the latter, then why are the Founders to be so commended? It seems possible that all they did was screw things up–it was pretty free (“except for slaves”), and then they enacted a centralizing document that ended up giving rise to a central state that rode roughshod over the supposed freedoms “guaranteed” by the Constitution.

    The State is evil and the Constitution was not libertarian. Nor were the Founders. That said, I’d take a Jefferson or Madison over Mr. Obama.

    1. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here, but you’re acting like the U.S. was governed under the Articles of Confederation before 1789, but it wasn’t (because, as your links say, the Articles were basically anarchy). It was governed by the states, and they were oppressive as hell during this period, levying all sorts of taxes and restrictions on people. Shay’s Rebellion was sparked in large part by the actions of bad state governments, and the Constitution put checks on them by creating a power that could stop them. Is the Constitution a perfect, divinely-inspired document? No. The Commerce clause and the Elastic clause in particular sabotage it greatly. But the limited rule by the federal government seen in the early years of the U.S. was better than the tyranny of the states.

      State tyranny = Federal tyranny

    2. Most of what happened to the US since 1913 should be blamed on institution of the Federal Reserve System. Central Banking gave the federal govt the ability to EXPAND, INFINITELY…

  25. Commenters have focused too much on slavery, and on the USA, in the article. What about the rest of the world? Hasn’t it had great advances in liberty too? And even if you limit it to the USA, hasn’t liberty continued to advance long after the abolition of slavery?

    1. That is a good point. The world is much freer overall now than in most of the past.

  26. Let’s consider, say, the year 1880.

    Yes, let’s.

    I think you should listen to some lectures my Murray Rothbard about the 1880s. They have mp3s at mises.org.

    Basically, this was the time when “big” corporations started really taking over the reigns of the federal government. Railroads, steel, leather (?) companies were all using the federal government to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayer.

    Of course, that’s all better now…

  27. It’s also not fair to compare the amount of regulation (by any national or sub-national jurisdiction in the world) in 1880 with 2010, because so many of the subjects of regulation in 2010 didn’t exist, or just barely existed, in 1880.

    For example, no country regulated what you could say in a wireless broadcast in 1880, because there was no wireless broadcasting then (although radio had been demonstrated over 15 years earlier by Mahlon Loomis). But if there were, don’t you think it would’ve been censored as much as print was? Meanwhile, freedom to say stuff in print is greater now than it was then.

    Similarly, if people’s incomes today were like they were in 1880, how many of them would owe income tax? Most of them wouldn’t even owe the USA’s Social Security tax! You could have all the marijuana you wanted to smoke then, because hardly anybody wanted to or even knew of smoking it.

    If you limited the comparison to those things that anyone more than an obscure handful of people engaged in over that time, there’d be no question that people are freer now than then.

  28. We also have Ipods now and we did not have those in 1860..so do you really want to go back to not having a Federal Reserve where we will all have to turn in all of our Ipods AND stereo equipment?

  29. “As a libertarian, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a society that is pretty darned golden.”

    As a female libertarian, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a society that I’m pretty darned glad not to live in. I’d rather deal with the IRS and OSHA than with coverture laws.

    1. Exactly. Why is it so hard for people to understand this point? No one is asking that libertarians *every single moment* say how bad slavery is. What Boaz was arguing is that to NOT talk about it when making sweeping historical generalizations about “Americans” or “us” and “freedom” IS to be blind to who the “us” is and what the freedoms are.

      1. But on the other hand, some libertarians talk about the great progress made for minorities while neglecting the prison system, the police state, and the millions murdered by US warmaking. Income tax, as evil as it is, is not as bad as slavery. But the rape rooms known as US prisons, and American foreign policy, would seem to be in the same league of evil.

        1. That’s a good point, but I haven’t seen many libertarians talk about the progress of minorities *without* bringing up those issues, as many of them are current hindrances to minority (and, well, everyone’s) advancement.

          1. Well, the Boaz piece kind of lumps in drug laws with the existence of the Dept. of Labor. I hate the Dept. of Labor, but drug laws lead to mass imprisonment, mass torture, mass rape. If we’re going to talk about social progress since any period — whether 1850 or 1950 — we have to keep in mind that the US now has more prisoners than any other nation, and far more than the US used to have.

      2. Lovely summary of this debate.

      3. Another problem with Boaz’s article is the conflating of time periods. Among other modern triumphs for liberty, he mentions lower taxes and no conscription. But high taxes and conscription were themselves products of the Civil War era and beyond.

        1. True. But try and pick some 50 year period wherein the world wound up less free than it started. Or even 25 years.

          You trade slavery for conscription. Later you get rid of conscription. I see progress.

      4. Except, we are not saying that we want to recreate that time period, but want to give everyone the same amount of freedom that the most free had at that time. I will continue to believe this unless it can be proven that difference in freedom between then and now was only possible by denying others their freedom. (Note: I do not consider “freedom to deny others freedom” to be freedom; fist, nose, etc..)

        1. D’oh a bit of begging the question in search of brevity.
          2nd try: I will continue to believe this unless it can be proven that difference in freedom between then and now (comparing best case scenarios) was only possible by denying others their freedom.

  30. “all agree” does not mean what you think it does. What government does is provide things that * some * people want at the expense of other, non-consenting people. That is the reality of involuntary, non-consensual taxes.

    Oh, and when you say “a lot of sense”, it doesn’t mean what I mean when I say that phrase.

    Why have liberals put up so many roadblocks to the development of personal and commercially produced hovercrafts? It would kill their favorite fucking argument for taxes. Roads! Roads! Roads! Roads!

    ROOOAAAADSSS!

  31. “Here was a society in which people were free to keep everything they earned.”

    Unless you were a married woman. But perhaps that’s not what was meant by “people.”

    I long for an imaginary lost age of lexical precision.

    1. +1 for Howley. Again, why this point is so hard to understand continues to mystify me.

      1. Those are fine points. I got mad for him picking on Hornberger.

        1. 2 million in bondage today. Is that a problem?

        2. What do you mean “picking on Hornberger”? He criticized a number of people, Hornberger (and himself!) among them. A criticism is not “picking on someone,” nor is it an “attack” or a “savage attack.” He said that Hornberger, to whom he was very civil, was in error and he called on him and others to think more carefully about who counts when we talk about whether there is more or less freedom now than at some time in the past. I hate the group-think mentality that considers a civil criticism out-of-bounds because we mustn’t criticize each other. When done in a civil manner (and Boaz’s was certainly that), it is healthy.

  32. I think Bumper makes an excellent point about 1880, as well as Stephen making the point about it being the fallout after the Civil War, which essentially nullified the Declaration of Independence. “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…” The founding fathers are those who wrote the DOI. Like Stephen said, the Constitution was a coup by the mercantilists and federalists. Albert J. Nock explains this nicely in “Our Enemy, The State.” For anyone interested, I blogged this briefly here: http://blog.capitalist.me/96560.html

    1. It’s worth noting that in his essay Boaz was criticizing Hornberger’s discussion of the late eighteenth century to the mid nineteenth century as being more free, not just 1880, which Hornberger singles out in his response. That covers a lot of territory and suggests that he wasn’t thinking very clearly. No crime, but worthy of being pointed out, along with a suggestion that one think more carefully about who counts when making the comparison.

  33. Personally, if you gave me a false choice of having to live with hard core personal oppression or within a parody of the human condition, I would have to choose the later.

    Though it is a good thing that is a false choice, or else I would hate to have to defend slavery, fascism, communism, nationalism or any of those things, but should it not be a given that when you talk about lost liberties you are talking about, say, being able to sip coke spiked with real coke in Atlanta in 1880, and you are not necessarily a horrible person because women did not have the right to vote, but you mention lost liberties anyway. Should leftist have to preface every argument they make for single payer health care with an apology for communism? I just assume, except for the hard core left, they would prefer not to live in a totalitarian nation state. Silly me for thinking there is a equal standing for fair minded assumptions for those in opposing political camps.

    You have to wonder what we are developing into when you look at the absurdities that are covered on Reason every day. Think of that school in England where a six year old kid was stuck in a tree and the bureaucrats at the school did not know what to do, so they left the kid there, a random woman happened by thirty minutes later, saw the kid, climbed the tree and got him out. The school officials called the cops on the woman for trespassing on school grounds.

    Could that story even be remotely possible twenty years ago, thirty years ago, or forty? What the hell is happening within the human condition that that is possible?

    What elements in modern society make such events possible? Would it help to take a magnifying glass to modern history and see if a pattern emerges and a path diverges that we can point to and say, cut that shit out?

    1. we are fucked

      1. I admire and envy your brevity. It took me hundreds of words to say what you said in three.

    2. Silly me for thinking there is a equal standing for fair minded assumptions for those in opposing political camps.

      Better late than never.

    3. I liked this a lot alan. Great points.

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  35. Boaz is just another beltway hack who is more concerned with receiving the approval of the D.C. crowd. Compared to today there most certanly was a “golden age” of liberty. I would argue that while blacks were freed from the evils of slavery they along with everyine else would be enslaved to another lesser form of political slavery. As Hummel has said “Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men”. We have had enough of the milquetoast “libertarianism” that Boaz offers. The Hornbergers and Rockwells are the only real leaders of liberty. libertarianism.

    1. Compared to today there most certanly was a “golden age” of liberty.

      When did it start & end? And do you mean worldwide, or was there a different golden age of liberty in each location?

  36. As I mentionned in a comment on the original article it focused to much on slavery and hence weakend the main point. Namely that your claim that 1776 America was the freest society ever is … not true for the commoner such as you and me.
    Wealthy men enjoyed then a freedom and liberty few will ever enjoy, at the expense of women, the poor (and their children), slaves and Indians.
    To make a true comparison you shouldn’t compare your destiny to that of Rockfeller or Vanderbilt, but rather to that of countless immigrants living and dying in squalid poverty in the service of the aforementioned aristocracy.
    In other words, democracy today is so much more real than in 1776, that a majority of ordinary citizens can impose rules that limit the power of the affluent.
    This nostalgia of a past which never existed is what keeps Libertarianism in the margins. In effect, anyone with half a brain knows he is most probably much better of today than he would have been 200 years ago.

    1. ” so many immigrants living and dying in squalid poverty in the service of aristocrats?”

      Come on. Like, they were better off where they came from?

  37. Ahh, libertarians: fools who believe that a lone man starving on a desert island is far, far more free than the tycoons of Wall Street.

    Once you understand that freedom is as much about what you CAN do as what you are ALLOWED to do, you will feel a lot better. Trust me.

    1. Mmmm, these Ramen noodles sure are savory! I can just close my eyes and imagine I’m in Asia. Mmmm, that’s the taste of freedom!

      1. LoL. I am cooking ramen for dinner right now (real stuff), and was in Asia last week. You know me too well.

        So, who was more free? Myself, or my grandfather? Back when he was young, taxes were low, so he was really really free, right? Which is why I probably travelled further in the last month than he did on every out-of-state trip he took his entire life.

        1. So the government prohibited your grandfather from leaving the country? Or do you merely me he was as free as you are to go to Asia but not the ability? Maybe you’ll understand libertatians better when you understand the words we use.

          1. I was a libertarian and know exactly what you mean, and why you are wrong. My grandfather was “free” to go to Asia, just as I am. What is different is that I actually CAN go, and there was no way in cold hell that he could have.

            1. I don’t think you learned too much when Libertarianism when you were one.

              1. No, I just grew up and learned something beyond it.

                Positive freedoms not only matter, but are often significant enough to be worth sacrificing trivial negative freedoms.

                That’s why you morons would choose to live only on a desert island, starving, while I would choose to be a fat, rich, happy member of civilization.

                Almost no one agrees with you guys.

                1. Here comes Chad’s mixing up abundance vs. freedom again. This is pure idiocy. The Soviet Union was freer than Native Americans on the plains because they had more things. Rich men are freer than poor men. And, using your own ridiculously simplistic logic, a rich man who pays no taxes is freer than a rich men who pays 50% taxes. So, thanks, you have proved libertarians right with your own lacking reason.

                  In any case, it’s not even worth talking to those who justify stealing from others just because of their social class. We should all be against classism and social antagonisms.

                  1. Sooner, you are childishly stuck in dichotomies. Rather, there are simply trade-offs that can be weighed against one another. You are right, Native Americans were very “free” in your sense of the word, and citizens of the USSR were not. It is hard to say who was actually better off. But these are extremes and there are lots of points in the middle.

                    The ultimate end-game of libertarianism is anarchy, which in practice devolves into some sort of feudal dictatorship.

                    You can keep living in your fantasy world where there are no trade-offs…but please leave the grownups out here in reality alone.

            2. I don’t think you learned too much when Libertarianism when you were one.

              1. Chad: Libertarians are anarchists.

                Tony: Libertarians are fascists.

                Average person: Which one of these fuckers is crazier?

                1. Tony is worse than Chad.

  38. one could in fact propose that the lack of freedom of american slavery can in fact be minimized when taken into the context of alternative options for the people.

    that doesnt excuse the lack of options but it does minimize the demonizing effect. and it can also be further minimized by the addition of comparative quality of living standards enjoyed by american slavery descendants compared with the native countries.

    of course the abolitionists can be slightly neglected in their awesomeness as slavery would have been an unsustainable economic system with the advent of mechanized processes.

    and further restrictions on gender fall into the same not such a big deal category as most labor at the time was manual labor and men are genetically predisposed to have better upper body strength, inevitably the mechanization would have liberated them from their diminuitive role (ya it did that)

    it should be noted my family came here as slaves and due to the liberties originally available they were over time able to advance themselves to positions of economic prosperity.

  39. Yes, 1880 was terrific if you were a white, heterosexual male.

    If the claim is: we want everyone to enjoy the level of liberty that white heterosexual males had in 1880, fine. But to talk about 1880 as a golden age of liberty when well over half the adult population had all sorts of drastic legal impediments is just silly (at best).

    1. If your background was hispanic, Asian, African you were not free.

      If you were a women, you were even less free, especially if you were unmarried, or widowed.

      I’d estimate 60% of the population would not meet the basic freedoms that a Libertarian would say must exist in order to be a “free society” … therefore our society was not free.

      THis is not a problem … I think it is better for the Libertarians to look to the future and realize they want to build something we have not experienced before, rather than waxing nostaligic about a past that never existed. (Was anyone here ALIVE in 1880 to make a comment about how free things felt?)


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  41. I’ve known and admired Jacob Hornsberger for decades; never once has he advocated slavery, and nor do I. The hypothetical offered by David Boaz of “freedom for whites, but slavery for blacks” versus “evreybody is enslaved by the Great Welfare State” is a false dichotomy; only socialists seem to believe that these are the only two options. I often hear socialists claim that America became wealthy “only because of slavery”; it is a shame to hear a so-called libertarian come even close to that bizarre idea. Jacob and I believe in an America where no one, white or black, is ever enslaved to pay for another’s benefit; where taxation and regulations are lifted from the backs of all. That’s what libertarianism means to most of us. Today may be more free in some slight respects – and in one great respect, the end of slavery – but it is very backwards in many other significant areas, notably the total cost of government is now about 45% of GDP. That’s tax slavery, no doubt about it.

    1. …America became wealthy “only because of slavery”;

      That’s why the South was more economically advanced than the North.

    2. Did Boaz say that Hornberger advocated slavery? No. He specifically made it clear that he knew that Hornberger hates such evils. IT’S IN BOAZ’S ARTICLE. You should read it before offering faux quotes from it. Boaz did not write what you imply. He also did not offer us a “false dichotomy.” He asked Hornberger’s OWN question and suggested that Hornberger’s answer was not correct. You rest your comment on a misunderstanding of articles that you evidently did not read.

  42. “Ahh, libertarians: fools who believe that a lone man starving on a desert island is far, far more free than the tycoons of Wall Street.”

    Real libertarians view most tycoons on Wall Street as part of the parasitic class, due to distortions by the Fed and U.S. regulatory apparatus.

  43. Of course. Life was free, fair and prosperous for black people in 1880.

    Oh, wait.

  44. Blacks didn’t have income tax in 1880. Their money was not debased. They knew who their fathers were.

  45. The story of women and racial minorities in the US is of increasing, not decreasing economic and social freedoms. What attracts me to the Libertarian philosophy is the ideal of a truly egalitarian and free society – one where there are few concentrations of power (and therefore few abuses such power brings), and therefore the individual is free to make choices and experience the results of those choices (good bad or indifferent).

    Up until the 1960’s for racial minorities, this was impossible, and given the emotional reaction at the election of Barak Obama, many certainly did not feel free or his race would not have made the election such a watershed. For women, I believe they didn’t begin to have the economic freedom until the late 1970’s – and with the rise of a number of strong women in business and politics, the feeling of freedom will begin to permeate the consciousness I am sure.

    It sure as heck did not exist for either group in 1880.

    If the Libertarian movement would truly, and with complete intellectual honesty examine the past (and not a nostalgic reactionary one), it MUST recognize that basic, salient fact, and realize it is a philosophy striving for a yet-unachieved ideal rather than a yearning for a past that simply did not exist for over 60% of the population (50% women, 10% minority male).

  46. My father did not travel much, despite the lower taxes of the 1950’s, largely because the airlines were heavily regulated and expensive. It was deregulation that enabled many average folks to be jet setters.
    Every generation will be better off in some ways because of the many contributions of the individuals who create wealth. The question is will the state confiscate or impede that wealth creation…

  47. No torture or cruel or unusual punishments. No renditions.

    Surely you jest.

  48. I will grant you that the abolition of involuntary servitude is a pretty great advance in terms of liberty, but the truth is that we are constrained in our everyday lives on all sides by hundreds of thousands of laws, regulations and restrictions that our forefathers would have been astonished completely by. There is hardly a single aspect of our lives and our interactions with each other that is not regulated in some fashion from every possible side and the push is continually for even more control. The idea that we are free in this country is patently absurd by any reasonable definition of the word.

    1. You have hit the nail on the head!

      Many people just dont get it…..even here some people think Government intrusion into our everyday lives is ok…unbelievable!

  49. If blacks are so much better off now, then how come the poverty rate has stopped diminishing and the illegitimacy rate has skyrocketed since the Civil Rights Act was passed?
    Walter Williams has discussed this many, many times. Violating people’s right to free association has consequences.

    1. Yes, the increasing poverty rate among blacks is SO MUCH worse than slavery. There’s a word for people like Williams in African-American culture: house negro. Not because he’s conservative, but because he acts as if the appalling history of race relations in this country isn’t nearly as bad as raising tax rates on millionaires.

      The fact that you could even imagine blacks are worse off now than they were in 1880 shows you to be ignorant of history. Pathetic.

  50. I hope there are freedom physicists out there working on defining and measuring freedom. It sure would add verisimilitude to your discussions of more vs less freedom.

  51. You guys are certainly being obtuse about the role of government and law in preventing a backslide into slavery and de facto apartheid state; as a couple people have stated before, at the most granular level, people are “free” to abuse and rob each other in the manner of the KKK or any other latter-day ethnic purists. You guys are going to have a hard time finding a government that’s powerful enough to stop Jim Crow, but still small enough to drown in a bath tub.

    1. Isn’t it kinda weird that you guys simultaneously pine for “freedom” AND “country”? You do acknowledge that membership in the latter necessarily means you give up some of the former, right?

      1. That’s not true for those of us who want a stateless society. “Country” is no the same thing as “Government.”

        1. Egad. You really want a “stateless society”? Are you not aware of how much more freedom you have because of “state intervention”? Just to name a few: your streets, your right to vote, your ability to trust the quality of food in the supermarket (frankly, that one needs a lot more regulating), and the various standards imposed by the government to make sure your electronics don’t kill you, your baby’s toys don’t choke him, and the quantity of a product is what the label says it is. These are all the result of “state intervention in the marketplace,” and they all make you more free, by allowing you to go about your daily life/routine with confidence that most of the unseen dangers to your life, or at least the controllable ones, are pretty much taken care of.

          Have fun shopping for perishables in your stateless society, cowboy.

          1. You’re right. We should get rid of the last vestiges of the private sector, and let government run everything.

            1. The alternatives are not “everything is done by government” and “nothing is done by government.” False dichotomy, just like the entire individualism vs. collectivism framework.

          2. And everything you mentioned doesn’t take a Federal Government even close to as big as the one we have. Get real.

            1. Yes, but everything I mentioned does take a neutral, empowered arbiter, for which government does very nicely. Unless you prefer toll roads, or the executives at Perdue enforcing food quality standards.

          3. Do you really think we wouldn’t have roads if the government didn’t build them? If food quality regulation is inadequate, then doesn’t it give a false sense of security that might be worse than no regulation at all?

            1. Of course we would have roads. Just not to places that couldn’t turn a profit, like small towns. And many more of them would be toll roads.

              “Food quality regulation is inadequate” does not equate to “food quality regulation is a bad idea.” False sense of security? Despite the flaws in our system, it does work pretty well, by historical standards, I just think it ought to work better. This has nothing to do with profits and everything to do with a firm, independent hand making sure food industries don’t cut corners, in the interest of preventing large-scale epidemics. If that’s not a suitable role for government to take, I don’t know what is.

              I’ll take my (nominally) “false sense of security” over the routine terror of eating food purchased in an unregulated environment. I’ve lived in Egypt, where regulations are much more lax than here, and go largely unheeded for lack of enforcement. Food poisoning is routine, and not just for tourists.

              My theory is that this is due in large part to the fact that it is in the economic interest of a restaurateur/grocer to sell as much of his product before it goes “bad” as he can, and that over time this will cause his definition of “bad” to shift in the direction of greater profits for him and greater danger for the consumer. I submit that this is the likeliest outcome of an unregulated environment, and far, far worse than any “false sense of security” that we might feel in this generally well-regulated society.

              Or, to put it another way: I’ll gladly trade a little bit of freedom for the thousands of hours I would have to spend over the course of my life figuring out who the trustworthy grocers are.

  52. “Nothing worse can befall a good cause than for its supporters to compromise its principles.” – Exactly. The Founders were forced to compromise their Enlightenment principles when they allowed slavery to persist in our Republic. The nation pays the price for that compromise to this day.

  53. Wasn’t there massive corruption in the 1800’s?
    Just because it wasn’t written down as law doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a huge amount of state repression and theft of income.

    1. I don’t see how its different than nowadays. People regularly get favors from local politicians to damage their competitors.

  54. What about the plight of Native Americans who did not receive citizenship until 1924 and who were systematically abused and deprived of their property, familial, and individual rights? Blacks and slavery are always mentioned in reference to a bygone era of liberty, but this country’s record of liberty and justice for all is a more recent phenomena.

  55. So, was the true real American of the late 19th century really living in a libertarian utopia, or even one better than they live today? Were their property rights sacrosanct?

    Take for example Goyahkla, or Goyaa??: “one who yawns”, known by most today by the name his enemies gave him, Geronimo. Which libertarian today would like to be one of the best known men of the 1880s, Goyahkla, or one of his followers, seeking to exercise their rights to liberty and property?

    And how was it that the true Americans like Goyahkla had lost nearly all their liberty and property in the 19th century if government was such a force for the things libertarians consider great about the 19th century?

    Ah, but the liberty libertarians so love was built on the expropriation of the lands and liberty of the true Americans who lived in what we now so arrogantly call the USA. Ah, the liberty of the 19th century was primarily that of theft and murder hailed as virtue.

    1. Um, that is kind of the point. It was supposed to be Libertarian, but didn’t end up that way. what we are saying is that if the same rights white men had were given to everybody(like now), then we would have something resembling Liberty. But to use the fact that the Native Americans and Blacks and women didn’t have the same rights as a case against Libertarians doesn’t make any sense. Tell me, where in any Libertarian writing have you seen it suggested that slavery, war, the taking of somebody else’s land or property or suppressing womens rights is part of freedom? We want the exact opposite.

      1. Libertarians don’t pine for slavery, and I’ve never met one who endorses it. I have, however, met scores who do not understand that a society in which only some are free is emphatically NOT a free society; it is a repressive one. When such a large portion of a society is completely disenfranchised (women and blacks, not to mention the poor immigrants of all nationalities, for whom “land of the free” in the late-19th century meant the land where you paid local thugs to protect you from the police… that’s well over half the population right there) it is only the elite who can be said to be “free” in any substantive sense, but there is no question, on a purely factual basis, that a great portion of that “freedom” was secured on the backs of their own unfree countrymen.

        So no, I don’t think any libertarian wants “slavery, war, the taking of somebody else’s land or property or suppressing womens rights,” but that would be more believable if libertarians spent more time acknowledging that on balance, the mere existence of slavery in a society is far more tyrannical than a small tax increase to ensure that poor people don’t starve to death.

  56. Just in case people didn’t know the stakes: a Federal Judge had to order the desegregation of a Mississippi school district. Today. In 2010.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..id=topnews

  57. Forced desegregation is a violation of the right to free association. Of course it wouldn?t even be an issue if government schools hadn?t forced us to pool our education resources, creating winners, losers and conflict.

  58. 1880? Are you serious? Only a white male with property and no sense of history would ever say such a thing. Like a white male German protestant talking about the good old days of 1938.

    The “achievements of our ancestors” were built almost entirely on slave labor, indentured servitude, and wage slavery where your only freedom was to die on the job. The idea that 1880 was a free market society is also undermined by the extensive role of the state in the economy, whether its giving 1/6th of the total land mass of the U.S. to railroads FOR FREE, or sending in troops to put down unions or murder indigenous americans. You also had a federal and state court system staffed almost entirely with corporate lawyers who invented out of whole cloth a constitutional requirement for state-capitalism run entirely in the interests of business owners.

    1880 was a golden age for Blacks, Latinos, and Chinese, right? A golden age for independent women? A golden age for wage earners? A golden age for gays and lesbians?

    My God, what an astonishingly ignorant perspective. This is such a typical example of the privilege that comes from being a member of the establishment class – you can wax poetic about the golden days of yore without once considering 80% of the population, because they didn’t matter then, and obviously they don’t matter now.

    If I were the author, I would follow quickly with a piece about how all this was just a bad joke…

  59. I also would not have minded being rich and white in 1880. Coming as I do from a family of coal miners, however, I would not have lived in that version of 1880. So sadly, I will have to make a suggestion as to where you can put your fairy-tale version of 1880.

  60. You’re right back to exemplifying the uncomfortable truth that Boaz points out: when your definition of “people” excludes entire groups of actual people, you can’t credibly expressed surprised when those entire groups have zero interest in joining your club.

  61. Jacob,

    Sorry you got dragged into things over at Torc. Shiftenter (also known as sauronsfinger) hates me personally since I have consistently refuted his statist arguments for seven years now, and is trying desperately to prove that libertarians are racists who want to actively bring back all the worst aspects of the 1880s.

    If he can find a quote to take out of context, he will build an entire Gish Gallop out of it in order to prove that we are the epitome of evil.

  62. Having discovered the Elliott Wave principle as it relates to social mood and how it is expressed in the markets, about how it goes through patterns of progress and correction, and how we now see the stock market in a large-degree correction, correcting the excesses of the equally large-degree advance, it also occurred to me that there have arisen many excesses during that advance that can be identified from the author’s description of America in 1880 which have appeared since then. And as social mood, and therefore the markets are undergoing a large-degree correction, perhaps we will see an equally large-degree correction that wipes out the excesses that constitute the welfare/warfare state, which will then clear the way ultimately for the next phase of progress in human affairs. If so, what a great time it will be for our descendants to live in when all the excesses have been abolished and the next phase in human progress begins! The only thing is, the corrective process is likely to take the better part of a century to complete, so it’s unlikely that any of us will live long enough to see it ourselves.

  63. it’s worth noting that not all the founding fathers were in favor of slavery; only the ones from southern states. slavery was outlawed in the north, and many of the founders were abolitionists.

  64. For all of you who espouse the philosophy of “getting the government” out of our lives, just ask yourself if you would be espousing those views right now if you were living along the Gulf Coast, or in central Tennessee and Kentucky. The romanticism attached to the “good old days” viewpoints expressed by many on this site isn’t attached to the history, or reality of our nations’ development. Mr. Boaz is the one who is being intellectually honest by acknowledging the real history of our country, not one that exists in an incomplete form for purposes of philosophical simplicity.

  65. Very good post. Made me realize I was totally wrong about this issue. I figure that one learns something new everyday. Mrs Right learned her lesson! Nice, informative website by the way.

  66. For all of you who espouse the philosophy of “getting the government” out of our lives, just ask yourself if you would be espousing those views right now if you were living along the Gulf Coast

  67. I dont think there is any doubt that the key to our success lies in strict adherence to libertarian principles! Great article enjoyable read 🙂
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  68. The romanticism attached to the “good old days” viewpoints expressed by many on this site isn’t attached to the history. | ran ??? |

  69. great article, we need to keep our country great even with all the problems of our economy and goverment

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  76. There are still some fairly ignorant statements made in this piece. The notion that there was no torture or cruel and unusual punishment in 1880 is absurd. Former slaves in the south, hello? The very people the previous article talked about your rhetoric castrating? How about native Americans? Were they being treated fairly, and not forced into things against their will? How about indentured servants, who still existed? How about child laborers, who were forced to work long hours without any kind of access to these “few systems of public education” you seem to think we have too many of today?

    You also fail to point out that some of our founding fathers supported public education, and public health services.

    http://www.cityofboston.gov/fr…..public.asp

    Weird, Ben Franklin attended a public school, as did Sam Adams and John Hancock? Hmm, I guess we can just ignore that.

    http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/paha…..ation.html

    Oh, odd, looks like Ben Franklin also helped found the first public hospital in Philadelphia. I guess we can ignore that, too.

    This quote says it all, “Notwithstanding slavery and other violations of liberty, our American ancestors brought into existence the freest society in history.” Slavery and the other violations amount to a little more than what you are crying about today for a lot of people.

  77. IN 1880, we were in the era of Jim Crow Laws which legally barred people of African ancestry from enjoying the same goods and services of white people. Women did not have the full rights of property ownership, and in most of the US were not able to hold a trade license, which limited employment opportunities.

    “Pretty Darn Golden” for a freedom point of view, was still really a white, male, thing. Women of all races, and men of non-white races had many legal impediments to practicing a trade, having property protected by law, or any of the things we take for granted.

    I feel you are wrong in this regard, and Boaz is correct.

    Let’s build a society that’s truly free. We haven’t seen one before, it’s likely a nice place!

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