“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
~ A famous troublemaker
I made you look with that title, didn’t I? Seriously, though, it’s time for liberty lovers to take a step back and re-think a few things about these 18th century aristocrats.
The reason why libertarians cling to folks like Washington, Madison and Jefferson is because of their views about liberty and how the government is the opposite of liberty. Hey, I share that view as well. My beef with them is not their theories so much as their actions. Let’s suppose that for a long and uncomfortable time a group of thugs called The Faraway Mafia controlled many aspects of our neighborhood. This persnickety group of busybodies had been imposing all kinds of taxes and a growing number of regulations. Having had enough, our local militia decides to take action and ends up kicking the Faraway Mafia out of our homes and lands. Liberty has arrived! Or has it?
Imagine that the very same “heroes” who opposed the Faraway Mafia had conspired all along to create the Domestic Mafia. They believed that evil (oh, just a little bit of evil, the kind you can chain down with ink on parchments) was necessary to keep each other from…being evil. And they did just that. A central state they did create, and with great alacrity. The founders, in their infinite wisdom, imported tyranny and planted the seed of totalitarianism. Forgive me if I am unable to understand how this is libertarian, much less worthy of praise or yearly pyrotechnic rituals.
Let’s take a brief look at the historical setting. The several states had banded together under a loose (and thus relatively free) union under the Articles of Confederation. When a convention was called in 1787, it was to propose amendments to the Articles. It turns out that the framers had other plans. Instead of changing the Articles, they conspired against them. In what really should be called a coup, the founders dumped the pretty libertarian AoC and wrote the Constitution, exceeding the mandate from the state legislatures. The founders should have left the old institutions of the monarchy wither away. But no! As Hoppe notes in Democracy, the God that Failed (p. 272), each of the independent states already had taxing and legislative powers. Why on Earth, then, would there be a need for another state, one to rule the rest heavy-handedly?
From there being a tiny, almost nonexistent compact between the colonies under the Articles of Confederation, the so-called defenders of liberty established a greater government. Why would anyone do such a thing? And further, why would we support them? Granted, the point can be made that if liberty-friendly theoreticians had not been involved in the inexorable creation of the new government, that other, perhaps more tyrannical thinkers would have taken their place. But so what? There is still no right to create a government, no matter what you think. Though I would prefer a state that taxes me 1% instead of 35%, the point is that taxation itself is theft. The amount and kind of taxation does not change its nature. Theft is theft. Thus, anyone, then and now, who supports the Declaration of Independence but also supported the Constitution (or, by Zeus, signed it), has blood on his hands.
It’s as if Henry David Thoreau, a hardcore anarchist, ran for Congress and called for higher taxes. Or if Lysander Spooner, another champion of freedom, had wanted to ban smoking. To earn respect one need not be perfect of course, for such a thing is not humanly possible. Yet if one is truly committed to liberty, it is completely inexcusable to then turn your back on it and become part of the state. That this was symptomatic of those we called the founding fathers is good enough a reason to believe that they were part of the problem.
The conclusion is simple: Georgy “This River Is Cold!” Washington, Tommy “Self-evident” Jefferson, Benny “Watch Me Fly Kites” Franklin, and the rest of the clan are not heroes of liberty. History has given them a free pass. Libertarians must stop revering these men immediately.
So, OK, fine — the founding fathers were not really commies after all. A republican form of government is what they aimed for.
But they were still pinkos.