The Latest Update on the Costs of (Lincoln’s) War

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Since the turn of the 20th century historians have used the 620,000 number as the “official” death toll of the War to Prevent Southern Independence; 300,000 Southerners and 320,000 Northerners. In addition, at least 50,000 Southern civilians were murdered. The 620,000 figure is greater than the number of all Americans who died in all other wars combined, up to the present day. In addition, it is relevant that the population of the U.S. was about one tenth of what it is today. Thus, standardizing for today’s population, it would be the equivalent of 6.2 million American war deaths in four years. The number of combatants who were maimed for life was more than double the number of deaths. In a couple of years after the war the state of Mississippi spent almost its entire state government budget on artificial limbs.

The history profession is rapidly accepting an updated number of 750,000 war deaths, however. One way to look at this shocking number is to look at it as an economist should look at it: All other nations of the world, including most of the Northern states in the U.S., found a way to end slavery peacefully in the nineteenth century, as Jim Powell documents in his book, Greatest Emancipations: How the West Abolished Slavery. Why, then, was the Republican Party the only political party in the world that abandoned the tried and true tactic of peaceful emancipation? As Powell writes on page 240 of Greatest Emancipations: “Some people have objected that the United States couldn’t have bought the freedom of all the slaves, because this would have cost too much. But buying the freedom of slaves was not more expensive than war,” wrote the former student of F.A. Hayek. “Nothing is more costly than war! The costs include people killed or disabled, destroyed property, high taxes inflation, military expenditures, shortages, war-related famines and epidemics—plus long-term consequences that often include more wars. The billions of dollars of Union military expenditures during the Civil War would have been better spent reducing the number of slaveholders and slaves, accelerating progress toward total emancipation.”

The Official Spin by the Lincoln Cult will probably be something like this: We should revere King Lincoln even more than we do now since he must have suffered so much, knowing that all of those Americans perished during his regime.

2:26 pm on May 29, 2012
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