As most economists and political scientists agree, capitalism is “the private ownership of the means of production” and socialism is “the public/state ownership of the means of production.” Where they disagree is on which is preferable to achieving their ideal socio-economic outcomes, fair enough, but that aside, what cannot be denied is the fact that each and every person is themselves a means of production. Which begs the question, who owns you? Under capitalism, you own yourself (self-ownership). Under socialism (and it’s variants communism and fascism), you guessed it, the public/state. I don’t know about you, but I reject slavery in all its forms, including socialism. Do you? And that’s today’s two cents.Open This Content
I’ve been waiting to read the fifth volume of Murray Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty for over 30 years. Now my former student Patrick Newman, professor at Florida Southern College, has miraculously undeleted this “lost work.” Patrick’s quasi-archaeological efforts are nothing short of amazing, but how does the actual book hold up?
In the first four volumes of Conceived in Liberty, Rothbard tells the story of the American colonies’ rise, rebellion, and victory over the British. In this final volume, he tells the story of America’s brief time under the Articles of the Confederation – abruptly (and illegally!) ended by the revolution/coup/counterrevolution that we now know as the United States Constitution. Rothbard, a vociferous detractor of the Constitution, could easily have subtitled this last book in his series “The Revolution Betrayed.”
Under the Articles of the Confederation, government was much more decentralized – and therefore much better:
Overall, it should be evident that the Constitution was a counterrevolutionary reaction to the libertarianism and decentralization embodied in the American Revolution. The Antifederalists, supporting states’ rights and critical of a strong national government, were decisively beaten by the Federalists, who wanted such a polity under the guise of democracy in order to enhance their own interests and institute a British-style mercantilism over the country.
Rothbard’s main focus, however, is not in persuading the reader that the Articles were superior, but simply chronicling the details of their demise. As a result, the book is disappointing. I expected to watch Rothbard debunk the standard civics case for the Constitution – to insist that the Articles fostered rapid economic growth, high individual liberty, and peace both between the U.S. states and between the U.S. and the world. I expected him to enthusiastically defend the repudiation of war debt. And I expected him to at least consider reconsidering his earlier support for the American Revolution and its many slave-holding philosophers of freedom. Instead, Rothbard glosses over the Big Questions in favor of detailed multi-stage Constitutional vote analysis.
Admittedly, quantitatively comparing growth, freedom, and peace under the two colonial regimes would be difficult due to data limitations. But there’s no excuse for ignoring the implications for revolutionary change. In his engaging introduction, Newman depicts Rothbard as a dedicated supporter of the American Revolution:
Although the Revolution was enormously costly and resulted in the near destruction of the economy (through hyperinflation, military confiscation of goods, British pillaging of infrastructure and supplies, and the flight of British loyalists), the war was worth it since it led to the achievement of highly libertarian goals of inestimable value. Rothbard explains that the American Revolution was radical and led to the restriction of slavery in many areas, the end of feudalism, the emergence of religious freedom, democratic constitutions with increased suffrage, and revolutions in European nations.
Here’s the rub: How can the war (including the “near destruction of the economy”!) be “worth it” if the libertarian revolution gets cancelled a few short years later? This is an astronomical price to pay for such a transient gain. Sure, you could reply, “Well, the war would have been worth it if the Articles had endured.” But that immediately raises a deeper question: Was the American Revolution even a prudent gamble? The probability of victory aside, what is the probability of winning the war but losing the peace? If your answer isn’t, “Very high,” I question your knowledge of the history of violent revolution.
Perhaps Rothbard would insist, “The Constitution was only a partial counterrevolution. Many of the libertarian gains of the American Revolution endured.” Then he could point to all the items in the preceding list: “the restriction of slavery in many areas, the end of feudalism, the emergence of religious freedom, democratic constitutions with increased suffrage, and revolutions in European nations.” Given the hellish history of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, I’d say the latter “achievement” outweighs all the others. In any case, Rothbard barely grapples with the counterfactuals. How do we know slavery wouldn’t have been restricted anyway? What’s the probability that the British would have restricted slavery earlier and more peacefully? Inquiring minds want to know.
Rothbard also fails to grapple with the complex interaction between decentralization and mobility. As I’ve explained before:
[D]oes decentralization alone really promote liberty or prosperity? The mechanism is elusive at best. Imagine a world with a thousand sovereign countries of equal size. This is far more decentralized than the status quo, right? Suppose further, however, that there is zero mobility between these countries. Labor can’t move; capital can’t move. In this scenario, each country seems perfectly able to pursue its policies free of competitive pressure. Why should we expect such policies to promote liberty, prosperity, or anything else?
The story would change, of course, if you combine decentralization with resource mobility. In that case, each country’s government has to compete to retain labor and capital at home. If you don’t make the customer happy, somebody else proverbially will. But without this “universalist” mobility rule, decentralization leaves everyone under the rule of a preordained local monopolist.
Standard civics classes claim that under the Articles of the Confederation, interstate tariffs were a serious problem; they offered decentralized politics without free trade. Rothbard only response is to downplay the severity of the regulation:
While Connecticut taxed imports from Massachusetts, and New York in 1787 moved to tax foreign goods imported from neighboring states, the specter of disunity and disrupting interstate tariff s was more of a bogey to sell the idea of a powerful national government than a real factor in the economy of the day.
Perhaps Rothbard’s right, but remember: interstate tariffs only had a few years to get online. What would have happened to interstate tariffs in the long run if the Articles endured? And doesn’t the question illustrate the critical insight that decentralization without resource mobility is no recipe for liberty?
To be clear, I enjoyed reading the final volume of Conceived in Liberty. And to be fair, Rothbard probably would have greatly improved it before publication. As it stands, though, Rothbard’s lost book dodges the fundamental questions that Mr. Libertarian famously relished. If you want to read one of his posthumous works, you’d be better off with The Progressive Era – also beautifully edited and annotated by Patrick Newman.Open This Content
In the last Presidential election, Donald Trump was lauded for his performance among black voters – he scored 4 percent of female black voters and a whopping 13 percent of black male voters, the highest since Richard Nixon. This isn’t shocking. Black voters have voted en masse for the Democratic Party since the mid-60s and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the social welfare programs of the Great Society. This solidified black voters behind the Democratic Party, but they had been moving there since the New Deal.
However, it’s a historical anomaly in the United States. The traditional home of the black voter was the Republican Party, due to its historical role in ending slavery and introducing Reconstruction Acts and Amendments to the Constitution. It also did not help that the Democratic Party was the party of Jim Crow, a system of legally enforced segregation present throughout the American South in the aftermath of the Civil War.
What Do We Mean When We Say “Jim Crow?”
Before delving further into the topic, it is important to define precisely what we mean by Jim Crow and why it is a distinct form of legal codes in United States history. While Northern and Western cities were by no means integrated, this integration was de facto, not de jure. In many cases, the discrimination in the North was a discrimination of custom and preference, discrimination that could not be removed without a highly intrusive government action ensuring equality of outcome. Northerners and Westerners were not required to discriminate, but nor were they forbidden from doing so.
Compare this to the series of laws in the American South known for mandating segregation at everything from public schools to water fountains.
No one is entirely sure where the term “Jim Crow” came from, but it’s suspected that it comes from an old minstrel show song and dance routine called “Jump Jim Crow.” Curiously, the first political application of the term “Jim Crow” was applied to the white populist supporters of President Andrew Jackson. The history of the Jim Crow phenomenon we are discussing here goes back to the end of Reconstruction in the United States.
The Reconstruction Era
Briefly, Reconstruction was the means by which the federal government reasserted control over the Southern states that had previously seceded to form the Confederate States of America. This involved military occupation and the disenfranchisement of the bulk of the white population of the states. The results of the Reconstruction Era were mixed. Ultimately, Reconstruction ended as part of a bargain to put President Rutherford B. Hayes into the White House after the 1876 election. The lasting results of Reconstruction are best enumerated for our purposes as the Reconstruction Amendments:
- The 13th Amendment abolished involuntary servitude for anyone other than criminals. It was once voted down and passed only through the extensive political maneuvering on behalf of President Abraham Lincoln himself and the approval of dubious Reconstruction state governments in the South. It became law in December 1865.
- The 14th Amendment includes a number of provisions often thought to be part of the Bill of Rights, such as the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause, which are, in fact, later innovations. Birthright citizenship’s advocates claim that the Constitutional justification can be found in this sprawling Amendment, which also includes Amendments barring former Confederate officials from office and addresses Confederate war debts. This Amendment became law in July 1868.
- The 15th Amendment prevents discrimination against voters on the basis of race or skin color. This law was quickly circumvented by a number of laws discriminating against all voters on the basis of income (poll tax) or education (literacy tests). The Southern states eventually figured out how to prevent black citizens from voting while allowing white ones through grandfather clauses.
The Reconstruction Amendments were the first amendments to the Constitution passed in almost 60 years, and represented a significant expansion of federal power.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about the Reconstruction Amendments is that they were largely ineffective. Ranking public officials of the Confederacy were elected to federal government, blacks were disenfranchised as quickly as they were elected to the Senate, and Jim Crow, an entire system of legal discrimination, was erected to return black Americans to their subservient status. With the exception of citizenship for blacks and an end to involuntary servitude, the substance of the rest of the Amendments were largely discarded.Open This Content
The completely rational idea of abolishing the police scares some people.
They think “But who would I call if someone is breaking into my house in the middle of the night?”
Chances are, if that’s happening, it’s a wrong-address police raid and you’re about to be killed, and calling more police to the scene isn’t going to help you. I’m sorry if this news upsets you, but you need to face reality eventually.
On the off-chance it’s a freelance thug breaking in, you have better options than calling the police even now.
Take responsibility for your own defense— you ought to be doing this first anyway. Calling someone else should always be a last-ditch response. You are there now; they aren’t. What could happen before someone arrives to save you? Almost anything. You are the first responder, and you always have been. Act like it.
If you still feel the need to call back-up: Call your neighbors. If any of my neighbors called in the middle of the night, I’d respond.
If that doesn’t work for you, there are still options better than inviting the Blue Line Gang to your house and facing the very real possibility they’ll shoot you by “mistake”.
Or call a crackhead.
Or, use the money you should be saving by not being “taxed” to fund those badged tax junkies to hire private security– ones who will actually be contractually obligated to protect you, individually … unlike police.
Or think of another option that suits you better.
The thing is, to imagine that abolishing the police would leave you helpless is what the police would like you to believe, but it’s not even close to reality. The “reasons” to not abolish the police are as flimsy as the “reasons” people once used to say it wasn’t possible to abolish chattel slavery. In hindsight, those “reasons” look stupid, dishonest, or evil.
You have options; better options. You can create new options. Police must be off the table to free you to find better solutions.
Abolish the police!Open This Content
POTUS Thirteen Through Eighteen
I’ll say again, the Presidents of the United States are a motley crew. So far the scorecard reads 45 attempts, 45 shortfallen. I am not saying there were no honorable persons in the group (“honorable” itself is a very unwieldy word). But I have practically no regard for the intellects of any of the half-dozen listed below. With the exceptions of the monstrous pair, Lincoln and Grant, the other 4 are bound for the abyss of the forgotten. But, to me, there is no such thing as a great President. To have been a POTUS places a black mark on that career. Few (ie none) have risen above.
On some occasions, some wisdom has been dispensed independently of the downward slide to the oval office. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the third six (13-18):
- Millard Fillmore
It is not strange… to mistake change for progress.
- Franklin Pierce
The dangers of a concentration of all power in the general government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be disregarded.
- James Buchanan
Has the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce a State into submission which is attempting to withdraw or has actually withdrawn from the Confederacy?
- Abraham Lincoln
No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.
- Andrew Johnson
There are no good laws but such as repeal other laws.
- Ulysses S. Grant
… the most confident critics are generally those who know the least about the matter criticised.
But every person who has served in furtherance of this benighted office, in my view, has a great atrocity to their name. Again, the list:
- Millard Fillmore — Know-Nothing Party, Accidental President
- Franklin Pierce — pro-slavery, cirrhosis, not renominated
- James Buchanan — alcoholic
- Abraham Lincoln — Civil War, first president to be assassinated, suspension of habeas corpus, General McClellan, Mankato mass hanging, Sand Creek Massacre
- Andrew Johnson — Native American relocation, Reconstruction, Black Codes, Impeachment
- Ulysses S. Grant — Reconstruction, scandals, KKK
— Kilgore ForelleOpen This Content
Should chattel slavery have been reformed instead of abolished?
So it is with the police– legislation enforcement gangs. There is no acceptable way to reform that gang, they must be abolished, Totally. The institution is an abomination and can’t be made otherwise.
Yes, the legislative fiction of “qualified immunity” needs to be scrapped. It’s the Nuremberg “defense” as policy. I bet the Nuremberg defendants would have given anything to have been protected by that corrupt “legal” concept! And it’s just as unethical– as evil– no matter who it protects. But it’s still not the core problem. The existence of the “job” of police is that core, and it needs to be dug out and burned as a biohazard.
I don’t need or want police. If you use them against me you are my enemy and a bad guy (since I will not have archated against you) and I don’t want to have them used against you “on my behalf” [sic]. I’m not that much of a loser.
Abolish the police.Open This Content