What Kerouac, Kennedy, Lincoln, and Practicing Medicine Have Taught Me About Liberty

This essay is in the soon to be released book, Why Liberty, edited by Marc Guttman. It is a volume of essays from libertarian contributors from many corners of the world and from different walks of life, describing their personal experience.

Beacons on the path I took to becoming a libertarian, while practicing medicine, are Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation, the Kennedy assassination, and America’s Civil War. Studying these subjects helped me to understand and appreciate liberty better and heightened my distrust of government.

I was born in 1940 in Honolulu, Hawaii, 16 months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. My father was a Nebraska-born Navy surgeon, who viewed the airborne invasion of Corregidor and the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II from the bridge of a cruiser. My mother was born and raised in North Carolina. Her father was also a Navy surgeon.

I grew up in a post-war Hamiltonian world where Government, victorious in war, decided that it could promote economic and social justice by creating such laws as the Civil Rights Act (of 1964) and Affirmative Action. Educated K—12 in state-run public schools and then at "Ivy League" schools for college and medical school, teachers and the textbooks they chose taught we students that government is good. And big government that has an interventionist political philosophy with centralization of political and economic power is better than the limited, decentralized type of government that Thomas Jefferson and other founders espoused, where government’s primary purpose is to protect the natural rights to life, liberty, and property.

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The Beat Generation, the first one in American history to be subjected to peacetime military conscription, rejected post-war statism. Led by Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation launched a movement in the 1940s that has had a telling effect on our culture. Seeing the ovens of Auschwitz and what atomic bombs can do, this generation of young Americans sought escape and enlightenment through sex, drugs, modern jazz, and Eastern mysticism. Kerouac’s novel On the Road was published in 1957, when I was 17-years-old. In his list of the 50 most important and influential books of American literature published since the end of World War II, Robert Wilson notes, in Modern Book Collecting, that On the Road probably has had a greater impact on its readers than any other work of fiction in the 20th century. It certainly had an impact on me.

During high school and college I played the saxophone in a jazz quintet essaying the genre "hard bop." I also studied philosophy, in particular the philosophy of religion. My sympathies lay with the Beats, in their championing freedom and individuality and for being a voice against conformity to the established order. Nevertheless, I still wanted to go to medical school and be a surgeon.

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In my third year of medical school, I was having lunch in the large dining room at Harvard’s Vanderbilt Hall on a Friday afternoon in November when a fellow student ran in and yelled that President Kennedy had been shot. Everyone alive on November 22, 1963 (and old enough to understand what had happened) remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard this. And like everyone else I knew, I was stunned by his murder. It has spurred me over the years to study the Kennedy assassination, beginning with Josiah Thompson’s Six Seconds in Dallas. With the government’s continued defense of the lone-gunman theory it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the government is lying to the American public. (The mainstream media also continues to support and advance the lone-gunman theory, and it dismisses or ignores growing evidence that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy.)

Dr. Malcolm Perry performed the tracheostomy on President Kennedy at Parkland hospital after he was shot. Dr. Perry and I worked together for a time in the 1970s when he came to Seattle and joined the University of Washington surgical faculty. Knowing my interest in the Kennedy assassination, he reaffirmed to me that the bullet hole in Kennedy’s neck (through which he performed the tracheostomy) was a wound of entrance. This means that an assassin in front of the limousine shot the president, which contradicts the Warren Commission’s lone-assassin scenario, where Oswald is said to have fired all of the bullets from behind the limousine. Dr. Perry said it was a wound of entrance in an unambiguous fashion, three times, at a news conference on November 22, 1963 after Kennedy died. In his testimony before the Warren Commission, however, Dr. Perry equivocated, saying that the bullet wound in the neck might well have been a wound of exit.

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As revealed in Probe (Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 20—21), a Secret Service agent named Elmer Moore, functioning as a liaison for the Warren Commission, was placed in charge of the Dallas doctors’ testimony. One of his assignments seems to have been to "reason" with Dr. Perry and talk him out of his original statement (and thus not raise any questions about there being an assassin in front of Kennedy).

The Kennedy case has gripped me because it is a shocking example of government duplicity, something that unfortunately taints other government activities, including its doings in health care.

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As a boy and teenager I came to know a woman who was born in 1866, one year after the Civil War ended. She was Mary Lyde Hicks Williams, my great-grandmother. She lived in North Carolina in an antebellum plantation home that General Alfred Terry of General Sherman’s Army used as his headquarters during Sherman’s march through North Carolina. Her father, Louis Thomas Hicks, fought for the Confederacy under Stonewall Jackson at the Battles of Fredericksburg, Antietam, and Chancellorsville, and led the 20th North Carolina Regiment in the Battle at Gettysburg, where he was captured. He was forced to surrender (on the first day of the battle) after losing eighty percent of his men (238—300) in two-and-a-half hours of fighting. He spent the rest of the war in a Confederate officers’ prison at Johnson’s Island, Ohio. In his personal account of the battle, he wrote (while a prisoner), "I lied awake, thinking of my comrades and the great cause for which we were willing to shed our last drop of blood."

Mary Lyde lived in good estate well into her nineties and died when I was eighteen. She took a fancy to me, though she would remonstrate that I was ill-mannered and should be sent to military school. She had many books on the Civil War in her library.

Captivated as I was with my great-grandmother and her father’s exploits in the Civil War, I learned in public school that it was wrong for people like her to support secession and the Confederacy, and for her father and his compatriots to fight and die for it. In the schoolbook account of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln rose to the Presidency and took the steps needed to end slavery. He led the country in a great Civil War against the slaveholding states that seceded, restored these states to the Union, and ended slavery. Accordingly, historians rate Abraham Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents.

Like most Americans, I accepted this standard view of the Civil War for many years, until I read several books by authors who had reached startling conclusions that stand the conventional schoolbook account of the Civil War on its head (I list these books in my article "A Civil War Book Collection for 2002"). Their insights are vitally important in helping one to understand the true nature and significance of the war and its importance for the fate of liberty in America.

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These authors demonstrate that the Civil War was fought over money and politics, not slavery. (Emancipation was introduced as a “war measure,” as Lincoln put it, in 1863, after the Battle of Antietam in the third year of the war when the Union was losing.) Following in the footsteps of Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln entered office with a political agenda that sought to create a strong centralized national authority. This would enable him, as president, to implement protective tariffs to shield (Northern) American industries from foreign competition; centralized banking, which would give him control of the money supply; and “internal improvements” (government subsidies to politically favored industries, particularly the railroad and canal-building companies that bankrolled the Republican Party). In 1861 the government’s principal source of revenue was import tariffs; and the South, with the greater number of ports, paid 87 percent of the import taxes that the federal government collected to fund its operations and pay government salaries (there were no corporate, property, or income taxes then). Lincoln needed to keep the Southern states in the Union to pay this disproportionate percentage of taxes.

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The term Civil War is a misnomer. The South did not instigate a rebellion and try to throw out the federal government. Thirteen southern states in 1860—61 simply chose to secede from the Union and go their own way, like the thirteen colonies did when they seceded from Britain. A more accurate name for it is the War Against Southern Independence.

America did not need a war to end slavery, odious as it was. In the 19th century, every other Western country that held slaves freed them peacefully, and an independent South likewise also would have freed their slaves without bloodshed. The Constitution of the Confederate States of America prohibited the importation of slaves (Article I, Section 9). And without the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law that required escaped slaves to be returned to their owners (a law that Lincoln vowed to keep in force if the southern states rejoined the Union), the value of slaves as property would drop owing to the increased costs incurred to guard against their escape. With slaves having a place to escape to in the North and with the supply of new slaves restricted by its Constitution, slavery in the Confederate states would have ended without war owing to their decreasing property value alone, irrespective of more moral and humanitarian considerations.

Realizing the true nature of the War Against Southern Independence helped me understand what my great-great grandfather Louis Thomas Hicks was fighting for. As his daughter put it (in an address given at the unveiling of the North Carolina Memorial at Gettysburg), "They wrote a constitution in which each state should be free." In the Jeffersonian tradition, the Confederate States of America established a limited, decentralized, constitutional government constrained by state sovereignty. It sought to form a Republic that respects and protects individual liberty and property. And it advocated free trade. My southern forebears fought for liberty, and I finally in my 50s, once enlightened, joined them and became a libertarian.

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Unfortunately the Confederacy lost and Abraham Lincoln and the Union prevailed, which set the stage for the United States to become an American Empire. We in the 21st century are living with the results: with a fiat currency managed by the Federal Reserve that from 1913 (when this "central bank" was founded) to the present has lost 96 percent of its value; with a continuing diminution of individual liberty and freedom under the thumb of a federal government that regulates and controls every aspect of our lives; with suicidal attacks on our home soil by terrorists who hate the Empire that America has become; and now with an economic collapse brought on by unrestrained credit creation and subsequent malinvestment.

Ten years ago I became acquainted with Lew Rockwell and his Ludwig von Mises Institute, which is dedicated to advancing the scholarship of liberty in the tradition of the Austrian school of economics. My wife and I have made several trips there. In a personal effort to promote liberty, eight years ago I began writing articles for Lew Rockwell’s libertarian website, LewRockwell.com. My first article, posted on September 7, 2001, was "A Jeffersonian View of the Civil War." After 9/11, I wrote "A Fourteen Point Plan for a Post-Wilsonian America" (September 28, 2001), "Patriotism, Then and Now" (October 30, 2001), and "Viewing Twenty-First Century America From Ground Zero" (July 31, 2002).

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In recent years I have focused on health topics, writing articles on HIV/AIDS, Water Fluoridation, Vaccines, Iodine, Selenium, vitamin D, and mercury. My first one was on mercury, titled "Mercury on the Mind" (September 29, 2004), a subject I researched after hearing Dr. Boyd Haley, professor and chair of the chemistry department at the University of Kentucky, and Dr. Bernard Rimland, founder of the Autism Research Institute, present evidence at a Doctors for Disaster Preparedness meeting that connects mercury with Alzheimer’s disease and Autism. The government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assures the public that the preservative thimerosal in vaccines, which is half mercury, is perfectly safe; and the American Dental Association claims that dental amalgams are safe, and the mercury in them poses no problem (two-thirds of flu vaccines contain 25 micrograms of mercury; and an average-sized amalgam filling contains 750,000 micrograms of mercury and releases 10 micrograms a day, 80 percent of which is inhaled and retained in the body). My research shows that you cannot trust what the government (i.e., its CDC) and the American Dental Association say on this subject. After writing this article my wife and I went to a mercury-free dentist and had all of our dental amalgams removed; and we do not get flu shots, a subject I write about in "Avoid Flu Shots, Take Vitamin D Instead" (October 3, 2008).

Despite government-financed (via research grants) and supported conventional wisdom, there is good reason to believe that HIV does not cause AIDS. Dr. Peter Duesberg, a leading molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley published a paper in Science in 1988 titled "HIV is not the cause of AIDS." This "wunderkind" in retrovirology who had been nominated for the Nobel Prize was then subjected to the punishment now accorded modern-day heretics. The government ceased giving him grants and establishment colleagues labeled him "irresponsible and pernicious." This is a sad example how government’s funding framework breeds scientific conformity, subjects I discuss in "The Trouble with Government Grants" (May 16, 2007) and "A Modern-Day Copernicus: Peter H. Duesberg" (February 23, 2006).

Six paradigms in the biomedical and climate sciences have become established orthodoxies. Some of them, like HIV/AIDS and the lipid hypothesis (cholesterol and saturated fats cause coronary artery disease) have achieved the status of dogma. Four others are genetic mutations cause cancer, human activity is causing global warming through increase CO2 emissions, the damaging effects of toxins (radiation, cigarette smoke) are dose-dependent in a linear fashion down to zero — the linear no-threshold hypothesis, and the membrane-pump theory of cell physiology. All of them are open to question, as I discuss in "Questioning HIV/AIDS, Human-Caused Global Warming, and Other Orthodoxies in the Biomedical Sciences" (March 4, 2008).

Government-run health care is in an abysmal state. I graduated from medical school the year the federal government implemented Medicare, in 1965; and I continue, now for 34 years, to perform and teach cardiac surgery. If you suffer serious trauma in an automobile accident or need to have a stenotic aortic valve replaced, American medicine has no parallel and is the best place to be. But if you just want to stay healthy and not get sick, government "health care" is poor and often counterproductive. In many instances the advice given is wrong and can damage one’s health. "Health care" does not, as the term is currently used, focus on health. Health care providers treat illness. The government’s Medicare and Medicaid programs pay for treating the diseases its beneficiaries get. They won’t pay for vitamins and other nutraceuticals or a course on how to meditate that can help to keep you healthy. These programs (and private insurance plans) pay for "sickness care," not health care.

The government’s War on Cancer is a failure. The age-adjusted mortality rate for cancer is the same as it was in 1950 before the advent of chemotherapy and radiation. And metastatic cancer remains incurable, despite the 37-year "War on Cancer" that Richard Nixon began when he signed the National Cancer Act into law in 1971.

Advice the government does give on how to maintain good health is suspect, especially with regard to the doses of vitamin and minerals it recommends and the need for vaccines. The CDC appoints medical experts to the (15-member) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which makes recommendations on who should be vaccinated with the many vaccines now marketed by pharmaceutical companies. Almost all of the experts who make these recommendations have financial ties to the vaccine industry. (The CDC grants each member a conflict-of-interest waiver.)

I write articles to expose the duplicity of government and its co-conspiring mainstream medical journals in dismissing and ignoring evidence that show (unpatentable) nutritional supplements are good for maintaining optimal health and that vaccines are harmful. We need more individual freedom and less regulations and infringement by the state in making choices for our health.

Liberty is a two-sided coin, with a legal and an economic side. Free markets are the economic side (which the Confederate States of America sought to implement, without tariffs) and common law is its legal side. The British-American tradition of common law is best defined as the system of discovery and applying natural law in human affairs. Natural human law is a subset of the natural laws that govern the universe. They are the moral laws that govern humans. They confer the natural rights of life, liberty, and property; and they are based, as Richard Maybury puts it, on two fundamental laws: Do All You Have Agreed to Do and Do Not Encroach on Other Persons or Their Property.

With the state abrogating natural law and constricting liberty, we become slaves to the state. I will continue to work to help enlighten people on the importance of liberty in our lives and our health for as long as I am able.

September 3, 2010

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