Apparently there’s been a series against me over at the Daily Kos by a left-liberal lawyer. I no longer pay attention to left-wing attacks. It’s the same arguments every time. They pretend I haven’t answered them. I have. They idiotically call me a “neo-Confederate” (have they really not seen the zombie video, or are they trying to caricature themselves?).
The most recent one is only slightly different. For some reason, central to his argument is his claim that Thomas Jefferson was an Antifederalist. He was not. Jefferson was a supporter of the Constitution, though he wanted term limits for the president, as well as a Bill of Rights. This is all explained in a basic text like David N. Mayer’s The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson.
I am then accused of “mendacity” (because I stand to gain a lot by lying about nullification!) because I do not note that nine states spoke out against the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, which laid out the doctrine of state nullification. By my count, seven states issued statements against the Resolutions, and I have discussed them repeatedly, both in my book (which the author has not read, naturally) and online.
I am “mendacious” for leaving this out, even though I didn’t leave it out, but my critic is absolutely not mendacious for himself leaving out the reason that six of those seven states opposed Virginia and Kentucky: they favored the Sedition Act, and the principle that journalists should be thrown in jail for criticizing the president. Oops!
In fact, only one state actually spoke against the compact theory of the Union on which nullification is based. That was not controversial.
And as I also note in my book, within less than a decade, some of the very states that were lecturing Virginia and Kentucky in 1799 were suddenly all in favor of nullification when a Virginian president was in charge. Ever heard the expression “actions speak louder than words”?
And finally, my critic says I defend a “right to oppress.” This is preposterous, needless to say. I have repeatedly made clear that I hold no brief for the states. They are states, after all, and I am a libertarian (not a “neo-Confederate,” whatever that Marxoid neologism is supposed to mean). The point is that the federal government is far more likely to be a threat to our liberties, indeed to civilization itself, than the states — from which, in any case, exit is rather easier. There is absolutely nothing the states could do that would amount to a grain of sand on the beach compared to a new Middle Eastern war, but I am supposed to be super worried about what Montana might do next. Nice priorities.
And of course, nothing centralized regimes do ever, ever, ever discredits centralization.
As usual, I refer people to my Nullification FAQ.
Directed by Ron Maxwell (of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals fame) and based on the novel by Harold Frederic, Copperhead looks well worth seeing. A bunch of people have sent me the link, and I thank them for it, but I’ve known about the movie for a while. I tried to get the writer — who turns out to be my old friend Bill Kauffman — on the Peter Schiff Show the last time I hosted but the scheduling didn’t work. I’m hoping to be able to watch a pre-release version of the movie within the next few days and I’ll be able to comment then.
Unfortunately, this movie, starring Peter Fonda, won’t necessarily be coming to your local theater. Check the site for theaters showing it, or to demand it at your local theater.
Please reply in the comments. A reader writes with the following question:
I talked to my father about the NSA spying and asked him what he thought. He gave me a rational answer (and I consider libertarianism itself nothing if not rational). He said “who would want to listen to me? They’ll get bored if they do. This could save lives”. I went on an ideological spiel about slippery slopes and current socialist presidents. I also told him about how small of a chance it is that he will get blown up. Then I realized, he’s probably right in a way. What are the chances that we’ll see a REAL totalitarian president, or dictator in our lives? I mean we all love to hate Obama, but he’s not a dictator. I think for the vast majority of citizens to be listened to that’s what needs to happen. Then you have to think about the chances of a relative few listening in to 300 million people’s conversation. Seriously what are the chances of that? It also probably has to be every minute of every conversation. I can’t imagine going on anti-government spiels very often, so the government has to listen in at the exactly right time. I’m tempted to say that the chances of all of this happening are smaller (if not far smaller) than getting blown up in a bus in NY (where I live). Where I live also shouldn’t matter, because libertarianism should prevail in NY as much as Kansas for it to be an honest ideology.
However, say the odds of getting blown up and thrown into prison for speaking ill of the government are the same. Assume you don’t get the death penalty for saying the standard “Obama is an idiot” remark that one may make. Is liberty really more important than life? We all love Patrick Henry’s speech of “give me liberty or give me death”. Something tells me however, normal human instinct of self preservation will take over and the majority of us will take life. I know libertarians like to pretend they’d take liberty because of cognitive dissonance. Or maybe libertarians are outliers. Consider this though, from 2000-2002 the amount of death by suicide in prison (don’t know if this includes short term though) was less than a third. So the MOST restrictive lack of freedom resulted in less of a 3rd suicides. I don’t know how many were lifers and how many attempts failed. Even if you bump it up to 50%, this is prison. My family comes from a totalitarian state (Soviet Union). Most people made due. No one lived in a cell. No one had a limit for how long they can stay out. No one was forced to eat one type of food. No one was forced to go to the bathroom in front of someone else. No one had a good chance of getting killed or raped. Let’s face if, 50% of the people attempting suicide in prison probably translates to far less people in a totalitarian state choosing death over tyranny. That’s not even taking into account the fact that we probably won’t have a totalitarian state that will monitor every minute of every phone call. Is it possible that NSA spying is the only rational way?
I don’t have time to follow sports anymore, and frankly I’ve lost interest in it, but when I was growing up in Massachusetts I followed the Celtics closely. This video of Larry Bird brings back memories. Later in the video you see a few games in which he scores the winning points in the waning seconds. What makes this all the more impressive is that the opposing team knew full well that the ball would be passed to Bird in that situation, and they still couldn’t stop him.
Also, I like the reaction — utter disbelief — of the opposing bench between 3:16 and 3:20 of the video.
That’s what Michael Lind is saying now.
You see, we’re not “experimental” like he is. He’s willing to try out lots of things: freedom, semi-freedom, and full-on coercion. And we keep sticking to our whole freedom thing, and our view that the same moral code ought to govern all individuals, whether they belong to that mystical thing called “the state” or not.
Here’s a passage from Lind’s latest:
And what exactly does the libertarian movement contribute to contemporary American debate? Here are a few of the ideas that the rest of us, from center-left to center-right, are supposed to treat with respectful attention: calls for a return to the gold standard; the abolition of the Federal Reserve; the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service; and the replacement of all taxes by a single regressive flat tax that would fall on low-income workers while slashing taxation of the rich.
My critic in The Economist, Will Wilkinson, writes:
“The ideal of anti-theoretical experimentalism leads me to a preference for policies that promote the sort of cosmopolitan pluralism in which cultural synthesis and invention thrives. It leads me to favour decentralised authority over monumental central administration. It leads me to suspect that it would be better if America were twelve separate countries, or had 200 states. It leads me to think seasteads are a great idea.”
Ron Paul, who merely wants to abolish the Federal Reserve, looks like a boring centrist, compared to Will Wilkinson, who thinks it might be worthwhile to abolish the United States, subdividing it into a dozen separate countries. (My Southern ancestors who supported the Confederacy would have been satisfied with two).
(Will Wilkinson, in turn, looks like a boring centrist compared to me, but I’ll leave Wilkinson out of this.)
So let’s review the positions that are just too juvenile and unreasonable for us to ask others to entertain. According to Lind:
(1) We can’t return to the gold standard. It is vastly preferable for money creation to be untethered to anything but political will. There is no chance such a system will undermine money’s purchasing power, interfere with economic calculation, cause resource misallocation, be used to bail out influential firms, etc. Also, the creation of money can lift us out of recessions — which, in turn, are of course not caused by misallocations or entrepreneurial errors brought on by the fiat money itself.
(2) We can’t abolish the Federal Reserve. Why, we need the experts in charge of the money supply! Sure, they gave us the Great Depression, the stagflation of the 1970s, and the current disaster, but nobody’s perfect! We need monopoly provision of the medium of exchange, and we need government-granted privileges for the Fed as the supplier of that medium of exchange. The Fed has been super-awesome: it’s given us fewer and shallower recessions than we had before!
(3) We can’t abolish the Internal Revenue Service. That’s right: it’s unthinkable for us to live the way the vast majority of mankind lived for 99 percent of its history, and how Americans lived a mere 100 years ago. It is essential that the federal government be able to decide what percentage of the fruits of people’s labor they are allowed to keep, and what percentage will be seized by means of threats of violence. Libertarians are childish and moronic to think civilization could survive without institutionalized expropriation.
(4) We can’t substitute the current income tax with a flat tax. On this, libertarians agree. There’s little point in substituting one kind of institutionalized expropriation for another.
(5) The United States cannot be one square inch smaller than it is now. It is inconceivable to imagine the division of the United States into 12 or more political units. The United States as it exists today occupies the precise, heaven-sent amount of square mileage — namely, three million, seven hundred ninety-four thousand, one hundred — that God and destiny demand she hold.
The U.S. is not a practical arrangement to be evaluated according to objective criteria. It is a mystical, self-justifying entity. It is metaphysically impossible that it should ever grow so large as to be dysfunctional. Other countries may split into smaller units by mutual consent, but being the awesomest of the awesome, our political unit is not subject to such considerations. We are to treat it with reverence and devotion.
(By the way, there is absolutely nothing cultish about treating a political unit as sacred and inviolable. It’s only the libertarians who are cultish.)
Now sure, if the U.S. were 12 units, maybe all 12 wouldn’t be the basket cases that our giant fiefdom now is, and probably not all 12 would have engaged in the idiotic, impoverishing foreign policy of the past century, which has yielded the American public nothing but grief. But I have forgotten myself, citizen! I am speaking of the United States as if her dismemberment were conceivable! Those libertarians have driven me to the very edge of blasphemy.
OK, back to Woods again. I realize Michael Lind is a Serious Person whose time must be spent contemplating various ways in which he might experiment on the American public, but I think he is perhaps too dismissive of views that happen to fall outside the 3×5 card of approved opinion from which he insists we draw our views.
(1) A return to the gold standard is still a statist solution, but it’s better than nothing, and eminently defensible.
What about all those panics we had under the gold standard? See my resource page: Economic Cycles Before the Fed.
But there isn’t enough gold! Gold causes deflation! For replies to the standard objections, see my resource page: An Introduction to Sound Money.
(2) The abolition of the Fed would be a major economic step forward. For a reply to the customary pro-Fed claims, see my Can We Live Without the Fed?
(3) and (4). Yes, we can live without institutionalized expropriation. E.J. Dionne, in his effort to help out Lind, listed a whole bunch of things we need government intervention for: why, we’d have poverty, monopolies, no stimulus to help us through recessions, etc. I answered him here. And yes, there is a moral point as well:
(5) Why are decentralization and secession unthinkable? Lind’s religious reverence for the present size and makeup of the United States, which is a mere human contrivance, is a little creepy. The twentieth century showed us what nationalism and megastates can do, and it wasn’t all fun and games.
The media has released a photo of Edward Snowden with his pants down from 2002. Therefore, the NSA is fine.