Libertarian Scalawags Crave Establishment Respect

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The
recent anti-South writings of Virginia
Postrel
, former editor of Reason magazine, and David
Boaz
, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, point
to a larger problem within the fractious “libertarian movement,”
if such a deceptively cohesive term is still appropriate.

It
was once a given among libertarians that the South was in the right
during the so-called American Civil War. The evil of slavery isn't
arguable, but that issue has nothing to do with whether or not the
Confederacy had a right to exist as a nation apart from the United
States. It has nothing to do with the fact that the South, in many
ways, is occupied territory even today.

Abolitionist
libertarian Lysander Spooner agreed that the South had a right to
go its own way, as did libertarian journalist H.L. Mencken, who,
in other instances was no friend of the South.

Only
recently have some libertarians abandoned the South and its symbols,
the Confederate Battle Flag in particular, and embraced the centralized
state of Abraham Lincoln.

(I
wince when recalling a Reason cover story of some years back
that praised our most bloodthirsty chief executive.)

On
her Web site, Dynamist.com,
Postrel alludes to the anti-freedom policies of the Old South. She
writes, “Rockwell et al. are just against the government that ended
state-supported slavery and Jim Crow,” and thus, implicitly, not
against statism in general.

It
is an absurd assertion, but that is beside the point.

What
about the anti-freedom policies of the government Postrel so loves
– policies born directly of the Civil War? If not for the sainted
Lincoln's military buildup, there would have been no U.S. Army capable
of conducting a genocidal campaign against the American Indians.

The
facts have not changed, only the attitudes of Beltway libertarians
like Boaz and Postrel.

Yes,
I know Postrel doesn't live or work in Washington, D.C., but she
is there in spirit, which is exactly my point.

“Establishment”
libertarians like Postrel and Boaz, working in well-funded think
tanks, seem to care more about “respectability” than principle.

Unfortunately,
such respectability means being the token opposition, the darlings
of the neoconservative statists and Left-leaning media types infesting
the Washington-New York axis. It is the kind of respectability that
gets you column inches in the New York Times, invitations
to cocktail parties and guest spots on “Crossfire,” but that is
about all it does.

Both
Postrel and Boaz, in fact, are Southerners. Postrel hails from South
Carolina, the birthplace of secession, while Boaz is originally
from Kentucky and went to school at Vanderbilt University. I am
inclined to think that both know their Southern history better than
one would suspect just from reading their attacks on the South and
its symbols.

So,
I can only come to one conclusion: They are selling out.

Like
the scalawags of Reconstruction, Postrel and Boaz are betraying
their birthplaces in order to gain the favor of the Powers That
Be. That way they can “prove” that libertarians are “enlightened.”

The
object of the game is to make libertarianism seem respectable to
people who will never respect it, no matter what. Obviously, it
is a game destined to fail. No matter how “socially tolerant” Boaz
and Postrel may seem, they will never get the Establishment to go
for any shrink-the-government policies they may propose.

(And,
come to think of it, they are proposing fewer and fewer. So, all
this cozying up to the Beltway elites seems to have resulted in
osmosis in the wrong direction.)

Do
all libertarians have to love the South? Of course not. This is
not about loving or hating the South or the Confederacy. It is simply
about not denigrating people for loving the land of their birth.

May
7, 2001

Franklin
Harris [send him mail]
writes for The Decatur Daily in Decatur, Alabama. His Web site is
www.pulpculture.net.

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