Archive for the ‘Lincoln’ Category

This was originally a part of the Multiregionalism and Race essay.  Because there was a long discussion in the comments section, I’ve decided to keep the relevant part of the essay here under the above title:

6.  Who was Carleton Putnam?

In the 1950s, many States in the United States still required racial segregation in schools and in other facilities, such as restaurants.  In this way, white society tried to exclude blacks from social interaction with whites.  I’m a white guy―at least from what I have been able to discern by way of visual inspection―but I’m sure if I had been around at that time, I would have been excluded just on general principle.

There are pictures from that era and even later times of white versus colored water fountains, or white versus colored bathrooms, or white versus colored basketball players―though I think I may be on good grounds in questioning whether there ever were white basketball players.  Such pictures have probably been faked and are part of a conspiracy to put whites into basketball games, for which they have no aptitude, and for which they have no native traditions in their own homelands that encourage basketball among native white children.

It is my opinion that most of the white vs. colored pictures sort of look like morality tales about how benighted things were in the past compared with our supposedly more enlightened age.  I can’t help but think there is a certain amount of self-righteousness at work in those who like to point out the sins of our forefathers, as if we have always been pure from sin and historically enlightened.  Modern “progressive” historians in their discussion of past racism often do so with a level of social self-righteousness that reminds one of the Pharisee who prayed thus, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are. . . .” (Luke 18:11).

In 1954 the Supreme Court of the United States rendered the Brown v. Board of Education decision that ended any and all school segregation in the United States based on race.  Prior to that time, the Court had upheld laws requiring separate but equal facilities: schools, universities, law schools, etc.  For instance, under the separate but equal principle if a State was going to have a white only law school, it would have to provide a law school of equal caliber for blacks.  If a State chose not to set up a segregated institution, and blacks were allowed to attend a white institution, there could be no discrimination against blacks who attended such a school.

Now, the Supreme Court’s separate-but-equal decision was more or less in keeping with the 14th Amendment.  Many people might not want to admit that fact, but then again many people do not want to admit that they enjoy a Charlie Sheen meltdown, or that they like to make genitalia jokes about Congressman Anthony Weiner mainly because of his last name, or that a Richard Simmons’ exercise video causes them to smile in a sickly way.  The fact is, the 14th Amendment only protected a black man’s fundamental rights (life, liberty, and property) not other political rights.  It was very limited in its focus, which is why another amendment was required to recognize the black man’s right to vote.

Many blacks were not satisfied because the 14th Amendment still allowed segregation and discrimination, and blacks who were represented by the NAACP wanted the Court to rule against all school segregation.  The Court obliged the NAACP in the Brown decision, which from our perspective was a wonderful decision in terms of its concordance with the Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson had nicely encapsulated the American principle―that all men are created equal, but that was only in theory.  It took a dreadfully long time for the American principle to be realized in fact.

Nevertheless, the Declaration of Independence is not the law of the land.  Despite the Court’s high-mindedness and good intentions, its decision was based upon specious reasoning about the 14th Amendment, bogus psychological studies, and worst of all, a lack of any Constitutional authority.  Under the Constitution, Supreme Court judges cannot set domestic policy for States, for such would be a violation of the 10th Amendment.  I’m not saying Judges don’t do it (to their shame) but they still don’t have the right to do it whatever they might say or do otherwise.  I can certainly rule anyway I like, but that’s because Judges are respectable folk in the community, and I do not have a reputation of that kind to worry about.

Unfortunately, the Judges decided to settle the controversial issue in much the same way Justice Taney had settled the slavery issue in Dred Scott, getting the result that was wanted no matter if it was based on flimsy grounds, and a rewriting of American history.  Still, the Brown decision is with us and even if the Court were to overturn the decision in the future, there is simply no way that schools or society would ever go back to segregation.

I would have preferred that race relations could have improved voluntarily and peacefully over the years, but the Judges blocked off the peaceful route and imposed their will on a society that was not ready for it.  The results were catastrophic.  The Court was allowed to get away with an un-Constitutional usurpation of power, and as a result race relations went downhill, black educational quality and achievement in schools reached bottom, and white flight from urban areas guaranteed that inner-city schools would be all black, a return to segregation with lower standards than before.

The Brown decision did not just worry those who saw raw “judicial activism” in the Court’s behavior.  It also lit a fire under Carleton Putnam, a Yankee businessman, who felt the need to defend the South against what he saw as Northern aggression.  In Putnam we have the segregationist mindset in full blossom, and it was mixed with a poisonous racialism that helped to discredit legitimate opposition to the concept of rule by judicial decree.

Rush & War

Posted: August 12, 2010 in Libertarianism, Lincoln, Military

I have to take issue with Rush Limbaugh regarding the subject of war.  He said:  “It used to be back in the days when we fought wars to win them that civilian deaths were the object.  It was folks, as hard as that may be to hear.”

Now, I know he’s right in one thing.  Our current rules of engagement are making it harder for our troops in Afghanistan, putting them at greater risk.  So, it’s right to loosen these restrictions as Rush contends.

But he is wrong to say that civilian deaths were, or should be, the object of war.  That gives ammunition to purist libertarians and neo-confederates, who respectively use it to attack our military and Lincoln.

First of all, it may be true as a factual matter that wars go after civilians, but that’s not the same as saying that’s the way it ought to be.  Moralists squabble a lot, but most agree you can’t go from an “is” to an “ought.”

Rush defends his thesis by citing Lincoln, Sherman and the bombing of Atlanta.  He also mentions the bombing of Dresden and Berlin, and the atomic bombings of Japan.

Shame on Rush.  He ought to know better.

Sherman bombed Atlanta because Confederate troops were holed up there.  Most of the civilians had already left the city, or they stayed in bunkers, and the number of civilians killed amounted to about 20.

That’s hardly wholesale slaughter.

Sherman was a realist.  In a letter of June 6, 1862, he complained to his wife that the newspapers and editorialists were the real cause of the war.  (See Sherman’s Home Letters):,+home+letters&source=bl&ots=EklMH6VFky&sig=bEFxykLdcn4Z0k-vC7tGaTDocoM&hl=en&ei=eSxkTJ7-M8emnQfe1dRk&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

They kept fanning the flames of hatred between Southerners and Northerners.  In addition, they complained about General Grant for the defeat at Shiloh.  Sherman did not think Northern editorialists understood the grim cost of war.

This was all long before the terrible battles at Antietam, Chancellorsville, or Gettysburg, and Sherman’s words show just how accurate his realism would prove to be:

“The very object of war,” he said, “is to produce results by death and slaughter, but the moment a battle occurs the newspapers make the leader responsible for the death and misery, whether of victory or defeat.”

Sherman did not say that the death and slaughter of civilians was the object of war.  He is complaining that editorial writers did not understand the real, physical object of war, which is to kill the enemy.

In a letter of July 31, 1862, Sherman predicted that the war in the near future will be “very bloody,” and he complained that Northern merchants were doing business with Southerners.  His early critics, who believed the Civil War would be a cakewalk, thought him insane.

Because of their greed, the North was providing the South with the wherewithal to conduct the war, including ammunition.  “Of course our lives are nothing in the scales of profit with our commercial people.”

Sherman then goes on to describe his camp as pleasant, though he is surrounded by secessionists (“Secesh”) and that “they prefer the South to the North, and that they hope and pray that the Southern army will in due time destroy us.”

He ends up by saying, “We are in our enemy’s country and I act accordingly.  The North may fall into bankruptcy and anarchy first, but if they can hold on the war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”

This is the quotation Rush uses to prove that Sherman believed in killing civilians.

However, the context of the prior letter and the following letter of August 10, 1862 shows that Sherman was upset because the North was not taking the war seriously.  They were still trying to make peace.  They were selling out the Northern army by doing business with the South.   They were in fact prolonging the war.

He says, “Well, at last I hope the fact is clear to their minds that if the North design to conquer the South, we must begin at Kentucky and reconquer the country from there as we did from the Indians.”

In other words, the only way to win the war against the South was through hard war.  This was something the North had to learn as much as the South.

Hard war is another name for strategic warfare.  It means not only going after military targets, but also the infrastructure that supports a nation’s military.  This is what Sherman did in his march to Atlanta.  He had to clear out Confederate guerrilla fighters and snipers, so he began destroying their civilian support.

Sherman ruined the South’s ability to supply its army with staples or ammunition.  That only meant destroying civilian infrastructure.  It did not mean killing civilians.

In WW2, we (Americans) did not bomb civilians as a first objective.  We engaged in strategic warfare.  We bombed the infrastructure that fed the German war machine.

The bombing of Dresden is usually cited as “total war” and Rush implies that we deliberately attacked civilians to make them want to give up.  In fact the railway yards were the real target, for they aided German troop movement.

Both British and American air forces bombed the city.  The fires from the bombing turned the city into an inferno which killed about twenty thousand.  It wasn’t the worst ever seen in Germany during WWII, but the failure of the mayor to prepare his city, plus the wooden-frame structures, created a firestorm.

The bombing of Berlin was in order to target war industries, railroads, communications, and the Luftwaffe.

It’s obvious that many civilians are killed in such carpet bombing attacks, but they did not have smart bombs in those days.  Smart bombs have spoiled us, and we have a tendency to judge wars of the past by the technological standards of today.

The bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrible and killed many civilians.  The death and destruction was so great as to almost guarantee that nations would not use such devices again.

At the time, however, people were sick of war and tired of Japanese brutality and fanaticism.  In addition, the kamikazi runs on Pacific ships reinforced the idea that Japan would not surrender, and the Allies would suffer tremendously in an invasion of the Japanese homeland.

So the decision was made to go ahead with the atomic bombs.  Hiroshima was the headquarters of Japan’s Second Army, and both cities had industrial and military importance.  Also, it was presumed that no POWs were in those cities (though it turned out some were).

In any case, our (American) strategic warfare of the past did not deliberately target civilians, and even in the case of the atomic bombs, the cities were chosen for their military and industrial value.

Rush is obviously right that war cannot be fought without civilian losses.  An atomic bomb, of course, would make it a certainty.  “War is all hell,” Sherman said, and it’s hell for everybody, not just for soldiers.

But that’s different from saying we deliberately target civilians.  If that were the case, we’d be hardly different from terrorists or Islamo-fanatics.

We must fight hard against military and industrial targets, and in worst cases against residential infrastructure (where guerrillas hide out).  But, contrary to Rush, we should not deliberately kill or maim civilians.

Leave that to the fanatical hordes.


The man who flew his plane into an IRS building sounded to me like a purist libertarian, and right on schedule the purist libertarians have come out in defense of him.  Writing on the Lew Rockwell site, lawyer John Whitehead had this to say:

“Clearly, [Joseph] Stack is neither a hero nor a martyr. Nor is he technically a terrorist. Rather, he is the end product of a system that pays little heed to the disaffected, discontent and voiceless. And while Stack may have been alone in the cockpit of that Piper Cherokee plane, he is not alone in his discontent and frustration.”

Thus, Joe Stack, murderer and terrorist, was the end product of a system.  He apparently did not have libertarian free agency but was moved along by forces beyond his control.  This is, of course, the fundamental axiom of socialism (cf., Godwin, Fourier, Owen, et al.).  Continues Whitehead:

“Stack is representative of a burgeoning class of disaffected Americans who are waking up to the reality that the American governmental system no longer works as it was intended. . . .”

This reminds me of the moral equivalence crowd, who will not condemn acts of terrorism without somehow managing to blame the victims of it in the process.  Whitehead says Stack was “pushed to the breaking point.”  He finds a moral lesson in the incident, that it should be a “wake-up call to Americans.”

On the charge that Stack was spouting socialism or populism, Whitehead says, “But that’s the problem with people who can’t distinguish between politics and basic human decency. They have lost sight of their humanity.”

He does manage to say something critical of Stack: “The problem with the Joe Stacks of the world is that they keep relying on government to fix the problems, but government officials are not going to fix them because most of them don’t really seem to give a damn.”

So in Whitehead’s view, Stack was on the one hand forced by his libertarian desperation into flying his plane into an IRS building, but on the other hand was also forced by his anti-libertarian statism to fly his plane into an IRS building.

Whitehead’s solution for the “Joe Stacks of the world” — the “disaffected and alienated ones among us” — is (drum roll) “churches and synagogues and private institutions.”

Given that Stack hated organized religion, it’s difficult to see how churches, synagogues, or private institutions would have changed his behavior.

In his manifesto, Stack said that he grew up learning about American principles of justice, such as no taxation without representation.  However, “I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood.  These days anyone who really stands up for that principal [sic] is promptly labeled a ‘crackpot’, traitor and worse.”

Stack interprets the American Revolutionary principle as practically saying no taxation at all.  Nevertheless, the facts are that the British were attempting to tax Americans to raise revenue, sidestepping colonial governments in the process — i.e., it was a kind of inverted Old Sarum politics.

The town of Old Sarum had no voters, but two representatives in Parliament, and then in the 1800s eleven voters who did not even live in the town.  Inversely, Revolutionary Americans saw themselves as having plenty of voters, but no representation.  This sort of thing happened on a large scale.

Colonists granted that England had the right to tax Americans for the regulation of trade, but not to raise revenue (without their consent).  It was not a simple populist anti-tax reaction.

We’ve had representative government for more than 200 years now.  If anyone is to blame for the development of byzantine bureaucracies and tax codes, it’s the American people.  They vote every election for representatives who add to the miasma.  Agencies such as the IRS or local taxing authorities are simply following the law as written by elected representatives.  So it is patently false that America has taxation without representation.

Stack practically admits this when he says, “I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind.”

But it is one thing to complain about no representation (as the colonial Americans did), but quite another to complain about bad representation, as Stack did.  He confused the one with the other.

Stack then indulges in populist rants against corporations such as GM and against America’s health care system — with typical rich vs. poor rhetoric beloved of demagogues.

He then turns his attention to the tax code, and complains that it’s too complex even though it still holds taxpayers responsible to comply with all tax laws.

There’s no question that people are frustrated with complicated tax laws and they hate doing their taxes as much as they might hate (say) jury duty.  So what else is new?  Most who are overwhelmed will use tax software, or hand over their shoeboxes of tax information to CPAs or tax preparers.  And there are flat-tax proposals out there but if voters don’t elect the right people, nothing will change regarding our tax system.

Reading Stack’s autobiography, it appears he was a tax protestor with an irreligious bent:  He says:

“My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s. . . . Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions.  In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful ‘exemptions’ that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy.  We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the ‘best’, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the ‘big boys’ were doing (except that we weren’t steeling [sic] from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God).  We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.”

So he got together with some like-minded tax protestors to exempt his income in the same way 501c3 organizations are exempt.  He goes on:

“The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living.  However, this is where I learned that there are two ‘interpretations’ for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

“That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0.  It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie.”

It seems Stack’s tax avoidance scheme was caught by the IRS, and he had to pay back-taxes.  He said that once the 10 years were up, he had dreams of being an “independent engineer” but was thwarted by the tax code.

His specific gripe involved the difference between employees and independent contractors.  The law in question was an attempt to prevent tax avoidance by computer programmers, et al. who were setting themselves up as independent contractors when instead they were really doing employee-type work.  For an explanation of the arcane tax issue, see:

Since the law went into effect, software engineers and programmers who want to do piece-work for corporations, have to work for a third-party “broker” who then leases the programmer’s services for the jobs.  Companies want programmers to go through these third-parties.  If they just gave the programmer a 1099, the programmer could come back later and say they were really employees, thus exposing the company to FICA tax risk.

I happen to agree with Stack’s complaint, though not with his solution.  I see no reason why engineers or programmers should not be able to set up their own businesses as independent consultants and not have to pay third-party “pimps” or “headhunters” in the process.

But there are more than enough issues in the tax code to complain about.  The way problems are solved in this country  — including tax problems — is at the ballot box.

That was Abraham Lincoln’s point against the southern secessionists on the eve of the Civil War.  He said that “ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal except to ballots themselves, at succeeding elections.” (Lincoln, “Message to Congress,” July 4, 1861.)

It’s true that a heavily centralized, bloated government can make voters feel like little more than cogs in a machine and that they have no recourse against a vast, impersonal bureaucracy.  Nevertheless, the solution is decentralized government, not more government, and certainly not, as Lincoln said, a resort to violence.

Stack’s argument might be taken more seriously if there were some evidence he had actively supported efforts to decentralize government.  Instead, his populist ideas call for more government — stick it to the rich and to big corporations.  But that can only happen by making government larger and more centralized.

In addition, while Stack may have written letters, there is no indication he ever involved himself in local politics, joining local parties, or showing any concern for political process — which is the usual way things are done in America.

Despite the bad times, Stack was able to get work, but then he was laid off during the 1990s as a result of military base closings.  Later, he went through a divorce, struggled at business, then had to shut his business down because of the dot-com bust and post-911 security restrictions.  He then moved to Texas, and couldn’t find work, so he had to live on his retirement savings.  He says:

“I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need.  The sleazy government decided that they disagreed.  But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out.  Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.”

So, apparently Stack did not respond to IRS inquiries or notifications within the legally required time, and thus could not bring the issue to court.  And here we come to Stack’s most recent problem:

“So now,” he says, “we come to the present. . . . [H]ere I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle.  After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.”

So given all of his problems in the past with taxes, one would think Stack would give up his tax avoidance schemes.  But then he tells us he had a “boatload of undocumented income.”  And he also claims that a piano is a business asset, which would only be true if he were a professional piano player or music instructor.  He also mentions that his wife had unreported income.

The results were predictable: “This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented).  Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone.  The end result is… well, just look around.”

Like tax delinquents, tax cheats, tax protestors, or just sloppy taxpayers everywhere, Stack could not prove his income was exempt nor that his deductions were valid.  Not even a shoebox apparently as backup.  He says:

“I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. . . . Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. . . . Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”

He then concludes: “The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.  The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”

In actual fact, the communist creed is more like what George Orwell said: all are equal, but some are more equal than others.  Taxation is a fact of life, like death, and exists in any economic system, no matter how well-disguised or renamed.

It’s interesting to see that in Britain a Tea Party movement is beginning.  See:

However, as much as we might sympathize with those who oppose heavy taxation or complicated tax rules, we must remember that the original “Tea Party” philosophy was not about taxation per se.  It was about the nature of representation.  It is too bad that Joe Stack never learned this lesson.  For further discussion, see my essay on the American Revolution at:


Lincoln Haters

Posted: January 7, 2010 in Constitution, Lincoln, Politics

Harry Jaffa provides a rebuke to all the Lincoln haters out there:


Purist libertarians are constantly barking at Abraham Lincoln, who was so evil as to liberate millions of people from slavery.  Now, they’re after biblical Joseph, whose great crime was in saving Egypt and the rest of the world from starvation and miserable death.  See:

It’s true that Joseph oversaw the process that saw the Egyptians giving up most of their money, personal property, and real property, as well as their service, to the king of Egypt, plus paying an excise of one-fifth of the produce from all Egypt.

But surely if the purist libertarians weren’t so caught up in fantasies of stateless, taxless, libertarian utopias, they’d see that the Egyptians had only two choices, either pay up or starve — a good example of the importance of subjective-marginal utility in making economic decisions.

In our opinion, Joseph served under 5th dynasty king Unas.  The following is from our essay, “Egyptian Chronology 3”:


As noted before, if Courville is right that MB1 represents the Exodus & Conquest, and the end of MB2c represents the destruction of Shechem by Abimelech in the late Judges period, we should expect to see Deborah somewhere in the middle of these two periods.  Sure enough, we read in the Mari letters of the MB2b period mention of one Jabin, king of Hazor.  Therefore, on the other side of MB1, we should expect to see evidence of a famine a couple hundred years or so before MB1, a famine that took place in the late Old Kingdom of Egypt.  And of course, this is what we find.  A famine is recorded in the reign of the last 5th dynasty king, Unas. “[O]ne of the most curious, and at the same time, absolutely unique representations, is that of some wretched, famine-stricken men and women.  The curious scene, which was found in a trial sondage over the lower…part of the causeway [of Unas], is puzzling.  The persons represented seem to be foreigners, but nothing remains to afford us a clue as to their identity or the cause of their wretched plight.  Most of the figures are nude, but a few wear narrow girdles, and they are most arranged in groups; they are emaciated in the extreme.” (Nicholas Reeves, Ancient Egypt: The Great Discoveries, quoting Selim Hassan, p. 187; see also, Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, p. 87; Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, p. 63; and Cambridge Ancient History 1:2, p. 189; emphasis added.)

If then we take this as our starting point for unraveling the chronology of the pre-MB1 period, we should then correlate this to Joseph and work out who the pharaohs of the Oppression and Exodus could be.  Joseph was 30 when he obtained ruler-ship in Egypt, and he was 110 at the time of his death, and thus ruled in Egypt for 80 years.  Moses was born 64 years later, and led the Israelites out of Egypt 80 years after that, and died after about 40 years in the wilderness, at the beginning of the Conquest of Canaan.  If we match up Joseph as one of Unas’s viziers, or vizier-like official, it is likely that Joseph came to his position after Unas had been on the throne for about three or four years, and thus Unas would have died shortly after the death of Jacob.  The following is a chart to express the possible relations between the biblical patriarchs and the Egyptian kings:

King Manetho Bible Age Event
1.  Unas 33 yrs Joseph 30 famine of Joseph’s time
2.  Teti 30 yrs   59  
3.  Pepi 1 53 yrs   110 21st yr of Pepi 1
4.  Merenre 7 yrs      
5.  Pepi 2 99 Moses 1 Oppression begins; 42nd year of Pepi 2
6.  Pepi 2   Moses 40 flees Egypt, 82nd of Pepi 2
7.  Pepi 2       Pepi 2 dies 17 yrs later.
8.  Merenre-Anty. 1 yr Moses 57  
9.  Nitokerty (Nitocris) 12 Moses 69 foster-mother of Moses
10.  Neferka [1?] Moses 70  
11.  Nufe 2 yrs Moses 72  
12.  Ibi 4 yrs Moses 76  
13.  lost 2 yrs Moses 79  
14.  lost 1 yr Moses 80  
15.  Achthoes 1st yr Moses 81 The Exodus begins.


It is ironic that the Progressives appealed to Lincoln, as if their own political views were of a similar brand as his.  But in fact, Lincoln held to the natural rights philosophy of the founding fathers, the same natural rights philosophy despised by the Progressives.

Contrary to Progressive paternalism Lincoln would have offered the philosophy contained in the contemporary song, “Root Hog, or Die”—that is, take the risk of being free, overcome a paralyzing fear of the future, work hard to obtain one’s daily bread.

As against this view, Ronald Pestritto points out in his book Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, 2005, the American Progressives thought they were “presenting a rationale for moving beyond the political thought of the American founding.”

In the twentieth century, Fascism and Nazism were extreme versions of European Progressivism.  It would be wrong to say that all Progressives were in effect Fascists or Nazis, but all Fascists or Nazis were Progressives.  The essential thing that Progressivism has in common with Fascism or Nazism is statism.

The origins of statism go back at least to Aristotle, who defined man as a political animal, but the modern origins of statism can be found in the German philosopher Georg Hegel, who argued that the state has a “supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State” (Philosophy of Right).

The Progressives echoed this.  Mary Parker Follett redefined the traditional American concepts of natural rights, liberty, and equality in terms of statism:  “If my true self is the group-self,” she claimed, “then my only rights are those which membership in a group give me.  The old idea of natural rights postulated the particularist individual; we know now that no such person exists.”  (The New State, 1918.)

She further claimed that the state and the citizen are one, and that the “state is not the servant of the people.”  Moreover, the will of each individual should combine with wills of all others to produce what she called an “all-will.”

Follet justified her statism by saying it was a middle way between extremes: “Our old political dualism is now disappearing.  The state does not exist for the individual or the individual for the state.”

The Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini echoed these ideas:  “The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value.  Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State—a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values—interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people.”  (Doctrine of Fascism, 1932.)

Similarly, Nazi party member Carl Schmitt said: “The recognition of the plurality of autonomous life would, however, immediately lead back to a disastrous pluralism tearing the German people apart into discrete classes and religious, ethnic, social, and interest groups if it were not for a strong state which guarantees a totality of political unity transcending all diversity.  Every political unity needs a coherent inner logic underlying its institutions and norms.  It needs a unified concept which gives shape to every sphere of public life.  In this sense there is no normal State which is not a total State.”  (The Legal Basis of the Total State, 1935.)

Progressivism billed itself as a “third way” between the extremes of socialism and anarchy.  Later, Fascism and Nazism would also bill themselves as the middle way between Marxism and liberal democracy.

Lincoln would have recognized the real extremes as statism on the one hand and anarchism on the other.  The golden middle is individualism, the traditional American view of liberal democracy enunciated by Jefferson and Madison.

This is why Lincoln opposed both abolitionism and secessionism.  The abolitionists were disappointed with Lincoln for not using the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves in southern States that remained in the Union.  (In our day, Lincoln-bashers despise him for the same reason.)

However, Lincoln believed Federal dictation to the States without Constitutional authorization was a form of absolutism.  He thus would have rejected the modern “Leader” principle, the idea of rule by a strongman or charismatic dictator.

On the other hand, the secessionists believed that a minority could depart from the Union simply because they lost an election to the majority.  Lincoln, however, believed that majority rule, held in check by Constitutional limitations, was the only way to avoid anarchy and despotism.

In Lincoln’s view then, liberal democracy was the true middle way.  Far from being a proto-Progressive, Lincoln would have rejected its statist philosophy as forcefully as he rejected abolitionism and secessionism.


The Boundless Field of Absolutism

Posted: September 6, 2009 in Government, Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln explains why he could not extend the Emancipation Proclamation to all the southern states:

“The original Proclamation has no constitutional or legal justification except as a military measure. The exemptions were made because the military necessity did not apply to the exempted localities…If I take the step [as Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase had proposed] must I not do so, without the argument of military necessity, and so, with out any argument, except the one that I think the measure politically expedient and morally right? Would I thus not give up all footing upon constitution or law? Would I not thus be in the boundless field of absolutism? Could this pass unnoticed or unresisted? Could it fail to be perceived that without any further stretch, I might do the same in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri; and even change any law in any state?”

Lincoln could free the slaves in the Confederate states out of military necessity, but to free the slaves in Union states would have required a constitutional amendment and also would have alienated pro-Union southern states — a foolish thing to do during war.

Lincoln believed he could not interfere with the domestic matters of states without Constitutional authorization, for to do so would amount to absolutism.  If he could act unilaterally in the case of slavery, why couldn’t he do it with any other domestic issue in the states?

For Lincoln, that was the essence of absolutism — dictating to the states on matters that were not under the jurisdiction of the federal government, as per its enumerated and limited powers under the Constitution.

It would be nice if our modern judges understood the Constitution as well as Lincoln did.  But with the doctrine of “incorporation” and the resultant judicial activism, modern judges are as anti-Lincoln as any neo-Confederate ever was.  They have no problem at all in wandering into the boundless field of absolutism.