Leviathan in One Lesson

A transcript of the Lew Rockwell Show episode 137 with Tom DiLorenzo.

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ANNOUNCER:  This is the Lew Rockwell Show.

ROCKWELL:  Well, it’s great to have with us this morning, Dr. Tom DiLorenzo.  Tom is professor of economics at Loyola College in Baltimore, senior fellow at the Mises Institute.  He’s teaching at Mises University this week.  Author, of course, of the two great books on Abraham Lincoln, a new one on Alexander Hamilton.  Look at his wonderful archive at LewRockwell.com.  And scroll down to the bottom; you’ll see little covers of his books.  You can order them.  And needless to say, they are very highly recommended.  But Tom has to be one of the more prolific scholars in the freedom movement.

And, Tom, I want to talk to you about a couple of new projects you’re working on.  Tell us, first, about Leviathan in One Lesson.

DILORENZO:  Well, I thought that since government is exploding and has been for quite some time, the time is right, in my opinion, for a book I’m thinking of, called Leviathan in One Lesson.  It’s a takeoff of the famous book by Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson, where Henry Hazlitt decided that one of the reasons why people were going along with so many bad economic policies in his day, 50 or 60 years ago, was just no understanding of really basic elementary economics.  And what my book is going to be about is how people really don’t have much of an understanding, it seems, of how government works, that is to make everything worse all the time.  And there really is a huge literature in economics and political science on the behavior of government.  The great Ludwig von Mises wrote his famous book Bureaucracy in the 1940s.  And I’m trying to write this all up in a way that anybody can understand it, from junior high school kids to reasonably educated adults, and understand that whether we have socialized health care or socialized banks or whatever, which we are going to get, that this is always bound to make things worse.  And there are some very good reasons why that is true.  And that’s what I’m working on now.  And I foresee maybe, like, 30 or so chapters of illustrations to make my point.

ROCKWELL:  Tom, isn’t this sort of taking the red pill?  I mean, aren’t we all taught in the government schools, through the government-connected media, through government-connected academia that, of course, we have our own interests in the private sector but the government is actually not — doesn’t have its own self interest?  You mentioned when we were talking before the podcast about public choice –

DILORENZO:  Yeah.

ROCKWELL:  — but this goes way back before Buchanan –

DILORENZO:  Oh, sure.

ROCKWELL:  — the idea that a government has its own interests.  Of course, it’s a parasitical entity on society.  And so they have this vast propaganda campaign to make you think that they’re not self interested.

(LAUGHTER)

That they’re just concerned with your interests.

DILORENZO:  Right, the public interest.  Well, I co-authored a book back in 1992 with James Bennett entitled Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us to make that argument that the government has this huge propaganda apparatus to lie to us about all sorts of things.  And that really is the basic point that there’s a huge propaganda apparatus that the government runs, which includes the universities, that demonize markets in a civil society while, at the same time, making itself out to be heroic and savior-like.  That’s why I’ve written books on Lincoln and Hamilton, for example.  The Lincoln myth, as I call it, is really the cornerstone of this whole enterprise of making government out to be a saintly enterprise of some kind.  And most of the public seems to have fallen for it.

ROCKWELL:  But, you know, Tom, you are responsible for the fact that, so far as I can tell, there’s no professor, no high school teacher in this country who could be giving the normal Lincoln religion to a student who is not in danger of somebody saying, hey, wait a minute, that’s not actually true, because they’ve read one or both of your books.

DILORENZO:  Yeah, that’s true.  I get e-mails all the time from students who have said that they’ve done this –

(LAUGHTER)

– that they’ve confronted their professor with something.  And the professor is usually — or their high school teacher even — and they usually don’t like it very much.

And I guess a good example, in my latest article on Lincoln on LewRockwell.com, is by Newt Gingrich and a man named William Fortune.  They praise Lincoln for being the first president to invite African-Americans into the White House.  And that’s the end of the sentence.  But I know the meeting that they’re talking about.

(LAUGHTER)

I’ve read about it.  And it’s in Lincoln’s collected papers.  And it was a meeting of a number of free black men in the White House where Lincoln told them that — to paraphrase him — that you and I are of different races that are inherently incompatible, and he pleaded with these men to leave the country and go to Liberia and to lead by example.  And — (laughing) — so this was Lincoln’s plea for colonization, as it was called.  But Newt Gingrich and William Fortune don’t tell their readers that, in this article that was on Newsmax.com a while back.  And so that’s the kind of thing that students will read and understand that a lot of what they read on this topic is baloney or just not true.

ROCKWELL:  But he really is the founder of the current regime, isn’t he?  I mean, he’s actually — it’s not Jefferson and those guys.  It’s actually Lincoln who is –

DILORENZO:  Yeah.

ROCKWELL:  – the modern America.

DILORENZO:  Yeah, it’s in the same article I’m referring to.  In the article, I made the point that I thought it was telling that Gingrich and his co-author said that the Lincoln Memorial was Lincoln’s throne.  They use the word “throne.”  And they said it was modeled after Grecian temples.  But they said it was America’s tribute to democracy.  But, of course, the founding fathers, if you believe what they wrote, feared democracy.  James Madison said, in the Federalist Papers, Number 10, that the whole purpose of the Constitution was to control the violence of factions, and that’s another word for democracy.  And so I think they inadvertently admitted that Lincoln turned the country — the government into some sort of a democracy.  And so we started worshipping the god of democracy and, of course, that was our downfall.  My definition of democracy is just organized theft writ large.

ROCKWELL:  Of course, the state would always like to displace God.  I mean, I think they all look back on –

DILORENZO:  Yes.

ROCKWELL:  — the pharaohnic era as actually the idea, when, in effect, you’d worship the president.  So if you look at these buildings in Washington, whether the Washington Memorial, which is an Egyptian religious obelisk, or you look at — even poor Jefferson is a miniature of the Pantheon, a Roman temple.  And, of course, Lincoln, worst of all.  It is the model of a Grecian temple but through the Romans.  It’s actually a model of the temple on the Capitoline, the hill in Rome, to Jupiter Best and Greatest –

DILORENZO:  Yes.

ROCKWELL:  — the chief god of the Roman state.  But instead of having Jupiter on his throne in there, you’ve got Lincoln.

(LAUGHTER)

DILORENZO:  That’s right.

ROCKWELL:  And, of course, what’s on the front of the throne?  I mean, the fasces, right?  So.

DILORENZO:  Right, the fasces.  Yeah, our old friend, Clyde Wilson, wrote in the Mises Institute book Reassessing the Presidency that Lincoln himself was deified after his death by the Republican Party, which pretty much ran the government until Woodrow Wilson came along.  But then that led to the deification of the presidency in general, and then, in turn, to the government in general.

In fact, I just read in today’s USA Today newspaper that the government is about to spend a small fortune with some sort of laser-beam technology to take pictures from all angles of Mount Rushmore, the heads of all the presidents –

(LAUGHTER)

– so that in case there’s ever an earthquake or a terrorist attack, they’ll be able to rebuild Mount Rushmore.  And, of course, that’s the biggest temple to the state that we’ve built.  When people ask me if Lincoln should be on Mount Rushmore, my answer is always that I don’t think anybody should be on Mount Rushmore; they should dynamite the whole thing because the deification of politicians is only the kind of thing that a tyrannical society would do.

ROCKWELL:  Well, it definitely — speaking of ancient Egypt, I mean, Mount Rushmore does look like something out of ancient Egypt, the statues of Rameses, II, or whatever –

(LAUGHTER)

DILORENZO:  That’s right.

ROCKWELL:  — and his predecessors.

DILORENZO:  It’s much bigger than that statue of Saddam Hussein that they knocked down –

(LAUGHTER)

– in Baghdad a couple of years ago.

ROCKWELL:  So, Tom, we’re talking about Lincoln and all the things he did, but his evil marched on after the war.  And I know you’re now working on another book — typical of you, working on a couple of books at once — about what happened after the Civil War.

DILORENZO:  Right.  It’s been said that after the War to Prevent Southern Independence, the U.S. government had a “treasury of virtue.”  So I’m researching –

(LAUGHTER)

– for a book that I’ve — the tentative title would be A Treasury of Virtue?, with a big, giant question mark at the end of it.  And I’m asking the question, well, what did the U.S. government do that was so darned virtuous after the war.  And, of course, there was the campaign of genocide against the Plains Indians that was essentially a way of making room for the government-subsidized railroads.  You know, there was a privately built transcontinental railroad by James J. Hill.  It was called the Great Northern.  And he paid for the right-of-way across Indian land with livestock or grain or money, whatever they could trade for.  But the government-subsidized railroads would just call in the U.S. Army and they would murder everyone; women and children included.  And I quote — and General Sherman himself was in charge of this for decades after the war was over.  And then there’s Reconstruction.  How virtuous was Reconstruction?  It was basically one big 10-year looting spree by the Republican Party.  And then, of course, there was all the massive corruption of the railroad subsidies, the Credit Mobilier scandal during the Grant administrations, and then, eventually, the Spanish-American War.  How virtuous was that?  And I think it calls into question this whole idea that the Republican Party, which was the government, had some sort of special virtue because of what they did during the War Between the States.

ROCKWELL:  Tom, which one of the union generals was it that talked about the final solution to the Indian problem?

DILORENZO:  Oh, that was Sherman.  I actually quoted Sherman from his own writings as using the phrase “final solution” to describe what he wanted to do with the Indians.  And in a letter to his son one year before he died — this was 1889 — he said he regretted that they did not kill every last Indian in the United States and that some of them ended up on reservations.

ROCKWELL:  Of course, he regretted not killing every last Southerner, too.

DILORENZO:  Yes, he did.  In “The Real Lincoln,” I quote an exchange between him and his wife, a letter to his wife during the middle of the war where he essentially said that, that it was going to be necessary to kill as many Southerners as possible.  His charming wife wrote back something to the effect that they should all be either killed or driven into the sea like hogs.

(LAUGHTER)

And she must have been just as charming as General Sherman.

ROCKWELL:  Tom DiLorenzo, thanks so much for coming on the podcast this morning.

I want to urge everybody, if you’re going to be a literate Libertarian, you’ve got to read Tom DiLorenzo’s two books on Lincoln, The Real Lincoln and Lincoln Unmasked.  Take a look at his Alexander Hamilton book.  These are on Mises.org.  Again, you can look at any of Tom’s articles on LewRockwell.com, all of which pay re-reading or reading for the first time.

And, Tom, we look forward to these two new books and all the many books in the future.  And thanks so much for being here at Mises University and for all you do for the cause of freedom.

DILORENZO:  Thanks, Lew.  It’s my pleasure.  And thanks for having me.

ANNOUNCER:  You’ve been listening to the Lew Rockwell Show, produced by LewRockwell.com, the best-read Libertarian website in the world.  Thanks for listening.

ROCKWELL:  Well, thanks so much for listening to the Lew Rockwell Show today. Take a look at all the podcasts. There have been hundreds of them. There’s a link on the upper right-hand corner of the LRC front page. Thank you.

Podcast date, September 4, 2009

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