I don’t want to mention names here. This transcends names. This is a phenomenon I’ve witnessed many times over the years. It’s the sweetie-pie libertarian syndrome.
The other day, an aide to a prominent American politician was the subject of an attack in the major media. Why, this person has said some things that all right-thinking people oppose! When he was a radio host, he was provocative! We’ve never observed this phenomenon before! And he thinks there might be some kind of objection to the Lincoln regime! Why, he must support slavery!
(Cue my interview with a zombie.)
Now there are perfectly good reasons one might have to oppose the Lincoln regime. Lysander Spooner opposed it, and Spooner supported John Brown. (I suppose Spooner supported slavery?)
A few thoughts off the top of my head:
(1) Lincoln was a man of his time, which means he viewed large, centralized states as self-justifying goals. This was the age of centralization in Italy, Germany, and Japan, after all. Yes, large, centralized states can abolish slavery. They can also wage horrifying wars, carry out genocides, and erect massive police states. As many people were killed in World War I, the first great war of the world’s centralized states, as there had been slaves in the South.
(2) The precedents set by Lincoln during the war have been exploited ever since by left-liberals and neoconservatives, who are all too glad to respond, when you object to some enormity of the War on Terror, “Why, even Lincoln did these things!”
(3) In every other country in our hemisphere in which slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century it was done peacefully, without 1.5 million people dead, wounded, or missing.
(4) The Lincoln legacy involves glorifying wars of nationalism and demonizing efforts at secession, wherever they may be and whatever the circumstances. To this day, Americans are taught to sympathize with central governments trying to keep territories from breaking away, and to look with disgust at smaller units seeking self-government.
(5) Lincoln is the creator of the centralized, imperial regime under which we live today, which is the real reason left-liberals and their neoconservative cousins will brook no criticism of the sixteenth president.
Now I am about to quote one of those Wicked Southerners, which will of course make me suspect of longing for slavery, but Robert E. Lee told the great libertarian Lord Acton in 1866 that “the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”
If you are wondering how we got to our present condition, ponder that statement. Then consider the possibility that the great fratricidal war of American history might in its ultimate significance have amounted to something other than the cartoonish struggle of saints and sinners we encounter in the New York Times, or from so-called libertarian institutes.
There is much, much more that can be said about all this, but I’ve now reached my destination: what I find so interesting is the reaction by what we might call “official libertarians,” or what Lew Rockwell calls “regime libertarians,” to the attacks on this person. Now this person has said nothing that Walter Williams, whom these very libertarians fawn over, hasn’t said at one time or another. This person is consistently antiwar, which is more than we can say for many of the people with whom official libertarians consort.
But with attacks like this flying around, official libertarians do not miss the opportunity to inform the world — a world awaiting their announcements with bated breath, of course — that they themselves hold all the approved opinions about events in American history. Moreover, the opinions they hold today, while different in many ways from those of the New York Times, are still within the range of allowable opinion. So please, please do not include me in your condemnations, oh Mr. Nice Media Person, sir.