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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10218/happy-we-should-restore-the-monarchy-and-rejoin-britain-day/

Happy We-Should-Restore-The-Monarchy-And-Rejoin-Britain Day!

July 2, 2009 by

The celebration of the 4th of July as if it’s a libertarian holiday is a bit much to bear. Secession from Britain was a mistake. It’s easy enough to realize that the Constitution was not some libertarian achievement as conservatives and libertarians delude themselves into thinking. The Declaration of Independence in 1776 led to all the standard evils of war and raising an army–in the words of Jeff Hummel, “unfunded government debt, paper money, skyrocketing inflation, price controls, legal tender laws, direct impressment of supplies and wide-spread conscription.” Hmm, doesn’t sound very libertarian to me. (See also below on the language of the Declaration.) Stealing, conscripting, enslaving, murdering. The glorification of democracy. The expansion of empire. The entrenching of corporatist interests with the state. The substitution of traditional order with worship of the democratic state.

Monarchy isn’t perfect, as Hoppe argues, but the move from monarchy to democracy was not “progress” as even some libertarians have mistakenly believed (as Hoppe notes, “although aware of the economic and ethical deficiencies of democracy, both Mises and Rothbard had a soft spot for democracy and tended to view the transition from monarchy to democracy as progress”). When I suggest it was a mistake to secede from Britain, libertarians–brainwashed by both Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock propaganda (No More Kings; Fireworks; Three-Ring Government; The Preamble; Let Freedom Ring) and Randian pro-America mythology–freak out. “You want us to have a king? How terrible?!” or “But Britain is more socialist than we are!” Well, first, I don’t want us to have a king. I’d prefer we have no state: no kings or congresscritters or revenuers. But we have a king now, under another name; he can tax and murder us, just like the dreaded monarchian boogey-man; the state is overlord of all our property, as in feudalism. And rejoining socialist Britain now would be terrible–but would the European monarchies have become democratic socialist states if America had never left Britain? Our secession led to a constructivist new utopian order based on a “rational, scientific” paper document and the rejection of traditional, unwritten, limits on state power, thus setting the world on the path of democracy and democratic tyranny, and all the evils of the 20th Century–WWI, WWII, the Holocaust, the Cold War, Communism, Naziism, Fascism, Great Depressions I and II (see Goodbye 1776, 1789, Tom for links). America’s reckless utopianism corrupted its mother state, rendering it unfit to rejoin. But had we never left? One percent tax paid to a distant King over the ocean sound appealing, anyone? (See Would YOU sign the Declaration of Independence?)

If I didn’t hate states and flags so much I might just fly the ole Union Jack this Saturday!

What about the Declaration itself? How libertarian is it? Well, let’s just take a few choice parts:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,

–Well, yes, except for Africans and women, and young men who don’t want to be drafted or executed for desertion, and probably atheists and witches.

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men,

This is not the reason governments form–to secure our rights. This is just a sales job for the criminal state.

deriving their just powers

This falsely implies the state can have just powers. It cannot.

from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends,

This implies government does not necessarily become destructive–that good goverment is possible. It’s not.

it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government,

But not to have no government, right? Why does it deny us the right to get rid of the state altogether?

laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

In other words, they should be free to try one utopian experiment after another.

Update: Some friends sent me some other useful links debunking the “libertarian” aspects of the American Revolution: First, regarding US independence, see A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 2), by Mencius Moldbug (“So: let’s put it as bluntly as possible. At present you believe that, in the American Revolution, good triumphed over evil. This is the aforementioned aggregate. We’re going to just scoop that right out with the #6 brain spoon. As we operate, we’ll replace it with the actual story of the American Rebellion – in which evil triumphed over good”). According to Moldbug everything people know about the American Revolution is BS. He recommends this wonderful piece: Strictures upon the Declaration of the Congress at Philadelphia, a devastating attack on the Declaration of Independence and American Revolution written by one of its contemporaries, Thomas Hutchinson, the former Governor of Massachusetts.

And let’s not forget Mencken’s classic The Declaration of Independence in American — an excerpt:

That any goverment that don’t give a man these rights ain’t worth a damn; also, people ought to choose the kind of goverment they want themselves, and nobody else ought to have no say in the matter. That whenever any goverment don’t do this, then the people have got a right to can it and put in one that will take care of their interests. Of course, that don’t mean having a revolution every day like them South American coons and yellow-bellies and Bolsheviki, or every time some job-holder does something he ain’t got no business to do. It is better to stand a little graft, etc., than to have revolutions all the time, like them coons and Bolsheviki, and any man that wasn’t a anarchist or one of them I. W. W.’s would say the same. But when things get so bad that a man ain’t hardly got no rights at all no more, but you might almost call him a slave, then everybody ought to get together and throw the grafters out, and put in new ones who won’t carry on so high and steal so much, and then watch them. This is the proposition the people of these Colonies is up against, and they have got tired of it, and won’t stand it no more. The administration of the present King, George III, has been rotten from the start, and when anybody kicked about it he always tried to get away with it by strong-arm work. Here is some of the rough stuff he has pulled: …

Update: Hurrah for King George!, by John Attarian.

{ 137 comments }

P.M.Lawrence July 4, 2009 at 8:40 am

DS wrote “But to argue that the secession from England [sic - England wasn't independent and running things by then, which is why the last Governor of Virginia was a Scot] was a mistake, that the Declaration of Independece [sic] was a fraudulent document and that the Americans would have been better off and had more liberty under the monarchical rule of a mercantilist empire is absurd in the extreme. I try to only use the word Stupid once a year. I’m using it now.”

But, but, but… there’s absolutely nothing to buttress that position beyond the self serving claims of the rebels (face it, with its gross distortions and outright untruths that’s all the Declaration of Independence was), and a lot pointing the other way, like the actual experiences of everybody else who stayed in the British Empire willingly (not the unwilling ones like the Irish, of course – but their situation was different, a result of conquest, and wouldn’t have been matched by the American colonies’ non-rebellion). As for the mercantilism, on net while that lasted that actually favoured the colonies’ export trade at British expense, e.g. banning tobacco production in Gloucestershire helped the southern colonies, and the northern colonies were helped by providing a market for their staples in the British sugar producing islands that the French and Dutch weren’t allowed in (most complaints about the mercantilism amount to complaining that there was no protection of northern manufacture). Also, the British government spent additional hard money in the colonies without taking any out (it was committed not to spend taxes raised there anywhere else). So even if the counterfactual turns out to be wrong it is neither absurd nor stupid.

DS July 4, 2009 at 9:57 am

“As for the mercantilism, on net while that lasted that actually favoured the colonies’ export trade at British expense, e.g. banning tobacco production in Gloucestershire helped the southern colonies, and the northern colonies were helped by providing a market for their staples in the British sugar producing islands that the French and Dutch weren’t allowed in (most complaints about the mercantilism amount to complaining that there was no protection of northern manufacture).”

Mercantilism certainly spins a tangled web of winners and losers. Every government interference has people who benefit more than others, and at the expense of others. The colonists were no different – those that benefitted from the perculiarities of the colonial arrangement were called Loyalists and they faught aginst the colonial rebels on the side of the government. How noble.

“….and a lot pointing the other way, like the actual experiences of everybody else who stayed in the British Empire willingly….”

Define “willingly”. The absense of risking your life in rebellion against the most powerful military on the planet? If that’s the definition then yes, every British colony willingly stayed in the British empire.

wes October 11, 2011 at 3:43 am

our ancestors were called ‘loyalists’. look them up.

Daniel J. Fallon July 4, 2009 at 10:46 am

The Founding Fathers (forgive the aggregation) did not satisfactorily resolve the question of “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who will guard the guards themselves?).

Hoppe points to the FF’s general acceptance of Hobbesian thought as the origin of this major weakness. Hobbes believed that society needed for its existence and sustainability an absolutely privileged power that could crush all threats.

True, the FF’s, to their credit, recognized the flaw in unchecked power and recommended competition as a way of creating balance without mitigating freedom. However, they did not go far enough in this reasoning. The FF’s created a massive contradiction by exempting government itself from competition (except for that phrase about abolishment in the DOI) . Call it the Hobbesian Exemption.

Madison’s Fed #10 is a great example. Madison realizes that competing factions stunt the possibility of tyranny. But then he envisions interests competing, ironically, for the control of a non-competitive institution that 1) has more power than any faction and 2) holds this power by self-proclamation.

That said, the FF’s should still be recognized for the radical social scientists they were. Who now is prepared to make that one last logical leap of courage and dispense with Hobbes forever?

Richard Garner July 4, 2009 at 12:56 pm

I’m kind of sympathetic to Stephan’s position here. Many of the revolutionaries, like John Adams, were concerned about the violation of colonists’ “rights as Englishmen,” and I read another suggestion that Britain may not even have gone to war with America hadn’t it been that a better statesman was sick in bed and couldn’t attend parliament when the decision was to have been made (forgive me, I can’t recal the details, so I don’t know who this would have been, but I suspect William Pitt) – it is likely that, instead, more powers would have devolved to the colonies, and the colonists would have accepted instead of war. Britain criminalised slavery much earlier than the US, and so slavery would have ended earlier in the US much earlier and probably with much less loss of life. On the mercantilist thing, mercantile capitalism was collapsing in the UK already, starting with the rise of the classical economists, Smith’s explicit assault on mercantilism, Ricardo’s defense of free trade. The US engaged in protectionism at the time that the British had their Anti-Corn Law league and ended tariffs. Further, people here are concerned about what British influence on American politics would have been, would the US have been as socialist as the UK and Canada (i.e., slightly more than it is now), but why presume that the influence goes one way: The UK could have been less socialist and more receptive to the classical liberal ideas circulating in the colonies if the US hadn’t seceded.

N. Joseph Potts July 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Mather Byles said it all in 1770: Which is better—to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away, or by three thousand tyrants not a mile away?

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Yossarian July 4, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Richard Garner: “…but why presume that the influence goes one way: The UK could have been less socialist and more receptive to the classical liberal ideas circulating in the colonies if the US hadn’t seceded.”

Good point and I tend to agree with you.

P.M.Lawrence July 4, 2009 at 11:02 pm

DS wrote “Mercantilism certainly spins a tangled web of winners and losers. Every government interference has people who benefit more than others, and at the expense of others. The colonists were no different – those that benefitted from the perculiarities of the colonial arrangement were called Loyalists and they faught aginst the colonial rebels on the side of the government. How noble.”

That’s plain wrong. The beneficiaries were more in the coastal towns or near them and still revolted, and the Loyalists were more common in the back country, like up “state” New York and the former Jacobites in the Carolinas.

Of my “….and a lot pointing the other way, like the actual experiences of everybody else who stayed in the British Empire willingly….”, he asks ‘Define “willingly”. The absense of risking your life in rebellion against the most powerful military on the planet?’

That’s a straw man, and what’s more a faulty characterisation of what happened. The rebels were allied with the most powerful military on the planet, and with others too!

Just about all British possessions fell in one of two groups:-

- settled by the British, and willingly keeping the connection; or

- conquered by the British, and unwillingly or passively keeping the connection.

South Africa and Canada were mixed cases, being unions of parts of each sort. Only in America were there areas that were settled by the British and unwillingly keeping the connection.

Notice how, when force was not an issue, as in many places in 1939, it was really only Ireland that didn’t throw in with Britain.

Stephan Kinsella July 5, 2009 at 1:05 pm

See some of the great comments to my post The Murdering, Thieving, Enslaving, Unlibertarian Continental Army, including this one by Bob Kaercher:

“I understand that you are an anarcho-libertarian, and therefore you view the very existence of the state to be a criminal act. But there are a great many libertarians who do not come to the same conclusion you do about that.”

Well that’s a given, and largely beside the point. Most libertarians who identify themselves as anarchist are well aware that they are a (albeit growing and progressively more vocal) minority in the movement. But whether or not a “great many libertarians” reach the same conclusions about a given claim has no bearing on the correctness or incorrectness of the claim itself.

I’ve also come across some minarchists who think a “limited” amount of taxation is permissible to maintain the minimal “night watchman” state, and I’ve also come across other minarchists who are adamantly opposed to taxation. But there is a burden on both of these “limited government” camps to reconcile the self-contradiction of their respective positions.

First we need to ask ourselves, what is taxation? Well, taxation is theft. Even if only a few people in society don’t want the so-called “services” provided by a government and therefore don’t want to pay the taxes that fund them, those few people are being robbed and that is morally wrong. Even those who say they don’t mind paying taxes are being robbed because they’ve never been given a choice in the first place and so their “consent” is meaningless considering that they’ve never been in the position of being free to reject government “services” and taxation. (On this, see Rad Geek’s excellent blog post, “Can Anybody Ever Consent to the State?” http://radgeek.com/gt/2009/01/08/can_anybody/)

So the minarchist who defends limited taxation to maintain their ideally minimal state is in the morally awkward position of defending “limited” theft and bullying. Sort of like proposing that a mugger be allowed to regularly steal only a few bucks out of your wallet each time they put their gun to your head instead of simply denouncing mugging.

The minarchists who defend the concept of a “limited” state and at the same time denounce taxation and instead propose strictly voluntary donations put themselves in the awkward position of defending something that simply does not comport with reality: If a government is run solely on donations, then people are free not to donate and instead seek similar services from other agencies competing in the market, which makes the minimal “government” no government at all but a market competitor. This is, in effect, market anarchy. If an agency initiates force against individuals in order to maintain itself as the only “provider” of certain protective services and establish itself as a “limited” government (in other words, a “limited” monopoly), then this calls into question the minarchist’s commitment to a gov’t being “limited” if he defends this. (On this, see the late Roy Childs’ open letter to Ayn Rand: http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig4/childs1.html)

As for the Tea Parties, I don’t think it’s necessarily contradictory for an anarchist to support and attend these rallies, though that may depend upon the overall character of each rally. Based on what I’ve read, most of those things devolve into being more “Support The Troops” rallies than rallying cries against taxation (mass slaughter by government is funded by taxes–Surprise!!!), but there may be genuine opportunities for anarchists to make some progress in persuading sincerely anti-tax people to take their principles to their logical conclusion and adopt the anarchist view. Of course, some of these rallies may be less fertile grounds for such anarcho-conversion than others seeing as how they are organized and funded by the pro-Big Government GOP.

The fact of the matter is that probably 98% of people today would be utterly shocked by proposals for a government-less society. We anarchists shouldn’t let that restrict ourselves, especially when we see the opportunity to connect with some people who are genuinely outraged by at least some government policies to at least some degree. What’s the sense of singing only to the choir?

Gil July 6, 2009 at 1:29 am

Why can’t a State form voluntarily, S. Kinsella? Why can’t a group of people start off in a land where they decide they want a government, a constitution and (hopefully) some sort of representative democracy that allow a change in politicians to (hopefully) stop abuse of the system? From then on immigrants can hardly complain since they chose to move. Children can’t complain (because you don’t get to choose your birthplace let alone your parents) but they can emigrate if they like. How would such a State be wrong? How would it be different from a migrant traversing a land filled with private property owners to which he must follow rules and pay rent to the private owners if he wants to stay anywhere?

“If a government is run solely on donations, then people are free not to donate and instead seek similar services from other agencies competing in the market, which makes the minimal ‘government’ no government at all but a market competitor.”

You might be surprised (or maybe not) at Libertarians who actually argue this and I too have given the same response yet they think a ‘voluntary government’ is somehow different.

At the end of the day, doesn’t Mel Gibson ask the hard question to freedom seekers in movies such as The Patriot and Braveheart? Could you really want freedom that bad that you’d actually physically do something about it? Would you really be to literally fight in the vein that the 2nd Amendment supposedly means? After all, it’s clear in the movie The Patriot, the ‘patriot’ was obviously Heath Ledger’s character not Mel Gibson’s. Gabriel (Ledger) was for the cause from the start whilst Benjamin (Gibson) only cared when the fight got personal. There’s nothing stop people from ganging up and marching to the White House and dragging out the occupants and start real change other than lack of will.

nate-m July 4, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Why can’t a State form voluntarily, S. Kinsella?

Well, generally, they simply do not. To avoid any confusion: We are talking about ‘The State’, as in ‘state government’, which describes the individuals that make up the machinery of the state. Military, police, politicians, judges, bureaucrats, etc.

From then on immigrants can hardly complain since they chose to move. Children can’t complain (because you don’t get to choose your birthplace let alone your parents) but they can emigrate if they like.

That sort of stuff is the exact opposite of ‘voluntary’, right? I mean except for the small group of people at the beginning, which were a minority themselves, it’s completely involuntary.

How would such a State be wrong? How would it be different from a migrant traversing a land filled with private property owners to which he must follow rules and pay rent to the private owners if he wants to stay anywhere?

Because instead of dealing with individuals and voluntary exchanges regarding their private property your dealing with a state government that violates all those people’s private property and will restrict your movement and do everything to extract taxes from you, involuntary.

There are potentially other forms of ‘government’ besides ‘state government’.

Ball July 6, 2009 at 1:53 am

Wait…so we would have been better off had we not declared independence?

Had we not declared independence from the British Empire, we would have suffered their paternalistic BS laws much like many other British colonies. (not to mention, now, the U.K. itself) You may not appreciate the modest measure of freedoms we have enjoyed here, but compare that to the chaos of lawless gun-restricted British colonies in the Caribbean, the ruthless gunboat diplomacy in SE Asia, and not least of all the economic calamities of African colonies, now nations.

B-b-but it isn’t a libertarian utopia blah blah…well no shit! You’re never going to see that DECLARED any more than anyone has declared a market in anything which isn’t cartelized. The politics of the day was a compromise between selfish, distrustful fiefdoms as it ALWAYS WILL BE because it is necessarily so! Nature abhors a vacuum and no sooner would there be anarchy than there would be some douche taking advantage of it. Only a self-interested fief has the interest and specialization to defend itself against another. What, you think we’re going to take up arms out of civic duty every time some douche forms a gang (which would be always)?

I am anti-state, but no student of history can write such tripe. To be anti-state is to be anti-cartel. Independence, alone, helps in this effort by breaking up the Empire (until we were reigned back in via debt instruments). However, the Founders, the self-interested untrusting fiefdoms, accomplished far more in creating a federated power-devolved system. It was a good solution for the times and kept the major empire-building douchebags off our back for more than a century.

You have a lot to learn from the authors of the passages you deride.

Ball July 6, 2009 at 2:15 am

>So everyone seems to assume. England’s “tyranny” was trivial compared to Washington’s.

Bullsh*t!

That’s news to Ireland, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, “India”, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Borneo, China, South Africa…the sun never set on Pax Britannica and they had gunboats to make sure large corporate interests were served. To make a tiny example, they promised the Philippines independence then promptly massacred 200,000 of them. They didn’t drop bombs like in Iraq, but it wasn’t any less brutal.

This reminds me of Rothbard’s analysis of the cold war where he laid more blame on the Russians. Why? Because he was more familiar with American policy! People always demonize the devil they know.

That doesn’t make any of it good by any stretch of the imagination, but your blanket statement is just flat out false. We may have invented modern total war during our civil war, and many methods of efficient killing and destruction, but our largest total was 3mil in Vietnam which the British empire can easily match. Hell, the 7 years war alone cost 1.4mil.

Finally, until the world can better defend themselves from imperialists, we will have empire.

P.M.Lawrence July 6, 2009 at 2:55 am

Ball wrote “Wait…so we would have been better off had we not declared independence? Had we not declared independence from the British Empire, we would have suffered their paternalistic BS laws much like many other British colonies. (not to mention, now, the U.K. itself) You may not appreciate the modest measure of freedoms we have enjoyed here, but compare that to the chaos of lawless gun-restricted British colonies in the Caribbean, the ruthless gunboat diplomacy in SE Asia, and not least of all the economic calamities of African colonies, now nations.”

This completely omits that all these things stem from the accelerated end of empire after two world wars under duress from… the USA. Where that didn’t supervene, the historical record is clear that things were better under British rule than in the USA. That’s why, for example, Canada paid close attention to the US example when working out what to go for in (independent) Dominion status: not as a model, but as an awful warning of mistakes to avoid.

Then Ball wrote of ‘So everyone seems to assume. England’s [sic] “tyranny” was trivial compared to Washington’s', ‘Bullsh*t! That’s news to Ireland, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, “India”, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Borneo, China, South Africa…the sun never set on Pax Britannica and they had gunboats to make sure large corporate interests were served. To make a tiny example, they promised the Philippines independence then promptly massacred 200,000 of them.’

Over and above what I just mentioned about the US role in this, Britain never ruled Rwanda, Ethiopia, Borneo or China (apart from Hong Kong and – briefly – similar exclaves, and a brief period in part of Borneo after the Second World War, setting up for independence), let alone the Philippines. And, as for the rest, it would indeed be news to them – because Britain was always as hands off as practical, while the USA was always all about making others over in its own image (like the French). Ireland is a possible exception, but in that case Britain was caught up by outside forces and an inheritor rather than a driver of the situation (I write this as a descendant of active Irish nationalists; my great-uncle Leopold Kerney was the diplomat who conducted discussions with the Germans about the possible recovery of Ulster). It’s also worth noticing that “corporate”, here, can only refer to the specialised chartered companies that were specifically set up to get at the areas concerned instead of having British involvement (e.g. the North Borneo Company), and does not mean the same as today; Britain generally did not have corporations then.

As for “We may have invented modern total war during our civil war, and many methods of efficient killing and destruction, but our largest total was 3mil in Vietnam which the British empire can easily match. Hell, the 7 years war alone cost 1.4mil.”

Even if that were true, the blame sheets home to Austria and Prussia, not Britain.

KP July 6, 2009 at 7:54 am

Kinsella, you are assuming that the US(colonies) would not try to succeed when the abolition of slavery was implemented in Britain and British colonies in 1833. 30 or so odd years before the civil war.

Also you are assuming that the US would look how it is currently, but the expansion of US territories included much land that was not Englands, but were from Spain and France. So the purchase of the Louisiana, or Alaska, may not have been accomplished by Britain.

Finally, the constitution in its final form was a compromise, it has both limited government and a strong central government within its writing. Our founding fathers were not all anarchist or tyrants but people who ideals were all incorporated within the declaration of independence and the constitution. And for those who would argue about slavery and the status in the declaration of independence(written by Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner), should read the first draft where close to 80 lines were removed by many founding fathers who were slave owners before the final draft.

DS July 6, 2009 at 8:01 am

“I’ve also come across some minarchists who think a “limited” amount of taxation is permissible to maintain the minimal “night watchman” state, and I’ve also come across other minarchists who are adamantly opposed to taxation. But there is a burden on both of these “limited government” camps to reconcile the self-contradiction of their respective positions. ”

“One percent tax paid to a distant King over the ocean sound appealing, anyone? ”

Apparently self-contradiction is in the eye of the beholder.

So, a little taxation is OK, as long as its done from a distance by a monarch, but all taxation is theft and wrong? Your line of reasoning seems to be that the King only charged a little tax but the taxation was much higher in America 130 years later once the Constitution was amended to allow it.

A self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist (of course, a true anarcho-capitalist would find the British Empire an appalling abomination) touting the benefits of one government over another is kind of like a vegetarian arguing that steak is better than chicken. I think what is really going on here is that you hate chicken so much that you would gladly eat steak just to spite chicken, claims of vegetarianism be damned.

darjen July 6, 2009 at 8:23 am

DS,
yes, of course the British empire was apalling. that doesn’t change, though, that the burden of government on the people is less under a king. you really should read hoppe’s book, which thoroughly explains why. and that goes for everyone else who has criticized kinsella.

Bob Kaercher July 6, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I would never propose rejoining the Brits nor would I ever favor a monarchy, but I think I can appreciate what’s illustrated by the comparison being made here, which is that the vote-for-your-favorite-dictator democracy celebrated every 4th of July was hardly an improvement. As much as that may rankle the feathers of some American libertarians who have still not quite totally detoxed from the years of brainwashing by the media, popular culture, hearing family and neighbors spouting widely held assumptions with no or little basis in fact, and/or government schooling, the founding of the United States is hardly an historical event to be cheered by libertarians. Something good may be said for the secession from the British Empire, sure, but we should ask ourselves: To what did we secede?

“The revolution was betrayed!” This seems to be the view of the American War for Independence held by a lot of American libertarians. But on closer examination I think it’s more accurate to conclude that the rotten fruits we’re choking on today—endless war on bureaucratically defined vices at home and whatever country Uncle Sam feels like targeting abroad, increasing debt and taxation, the trampling of individual freedom, etc., etc., etc.—are what any libertarian should fully expect to have evolved out of the political arrangement established by the sacrosanct and hallowed founders.

The whole thing was corrupt from the get-go. As Stephan mentioned, really think about what’s written in the Declaration of Independence. Okay, there’s some great language about equality, which I take to mean equality of individual rights, not material or physical “equality,” i.e., no person may treat any other as their own personal property. Ah, but this did not apply to the slaves–no, no, no, no! A horrible compromise was made with southern slaveholding interests to strike Jefferson’s original language that was critical of slavery for the sake of unity. Remember, these new States with a capital S must be United with a capital U. Unity trumps principle! And we know what happened to a lot of Indians who weren’t exactly thrilled with going along with Uncle Sam’s Program.

So, okay, then as you proceed through the document there’s some great stuff about King George’s abuses of power. But then you get to the founders’ answer to this tyranny: A different brand of tyranny, one that’s homegrown! Those passages smack of collectivism through and through! There’s all this “We” being the “Representatives” of “the People” of the Colonies, and acting on the “Authority” of “the People” these purported “Representatives” declare that these Colonies are now independent of the King, sure, but as STATES that are UNITED. Lysander Spooner was right about the BS of such language. It’s the language of power.

Why not declare secession from the King as free and sovereign individuals with each person being free to secede (or maybe even not to secede for those colonists who didn’t mind staying under the King’s rule) by their own lights, entering into various associations by purely voluntary choice? Why did they have to secede as “United States”? Because that was the only way that the political elites who spearheaded that “American Revolution” could maintain any power.

So considering that this political unit called the “United States of America” was founded on the ideas of unity trumping principle and freedom, on the ideas of collectivism, we probably should conclude that it wasn’t that the founders’ principles were admirable but imperfectly implemented, or just a little flawed here and there, or were simply misinterpreted or misunderstood by succeeding generations, but that their principles were far less than libertarian to begin with and we are now tragically stuck with the bitter consequences of such principles.

Ball July 6, 2009 at 1:32 pm

P.M.Lawrence wrote “This completely omits that all these things stem from the accelerated end of empire after two world wars under duress from… the USA. Where that didn’t supervene, the historical record is clear that things were better under British rule than in the USA. That’s why, for example, Canada paid close attention to the US example when working out what to go for in (independent) Dominion status: not as a model, but as an awful warning of mistakes to avoid.”

I fail to see how the USA is responsible for either world war. We didn’t have a single thing to do with WW1 prior to 1917 except supplying munitions. We did PROLONG the war and help set the stage for the raping of Germany, but you seem to imply that we started it or somehow dragged the UK into it. As for WW2, again, we weren’t in Europe enforcing the Versailles treaty, were we? The most you can claim is some banks in the US were funding the Nazis and the Allies, but how does being a British colony prevent that? Would we be too poor to lend money?

You mention Canada, and yet I have to wonder how you can claim they’ve made fewer “mistakes.” You mention both world wars, but Canada participated in both and bled heavily. They also followed the US lock-step in the Cold War. As for civil rights, the Canadian government didn’t even recognize any area of Canadian life which they did not have dominion until 1960 (100 years since it existed). Perhaps you think this would have been wholly unnecessary had they not confederated in the first place.

I have to scratch my head as to what measure you deem Canadians better off. Sure, they’ve invaded fewer nations, but mostly because they’ve been too poor to do so and have had to deal with internal conflicts and regulatory policy. Had they been as rich, they would have caused as much evil—treating the world like they did aboriginals.

Sure, things look better for Canada now that they’re paying down debts and have oil to sell, but they were hardest hit by the Great Depression and outdid the New Deal by leaps and bounds. Things were so bad Newfoundland wanted out. Things didn’t improve until the 1960s, thanks mainly due to trade with the industrialized USA and its insatiable hunger for natural resources.

What mistake did they avoid again?

Bob Kaercher July 6, 2009 at 2:35 pm

I find some of the references here to British paternalism and their BS laws rather amusing, considering the abysmal state of the paternalistic BS laws that have been enacted here in the US since 1776. We’re constanyly taxed for this, that and the other thing all “for our own good” because we’re just not as smart as all those gubmint boys and gals in Washington who know what’s best for the rest of us.

The very best that can probably be said for the secession from the British Empire as United States vis a vis liberty is that it’s turned out be a wash. Which is no improvement at all.

Brendan Trainor July 6, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Mr Kinsella’s pov is well worth considering. I think he takes too broad brush to paint all the founders as “racists” when some were not, but indeed they compromised on the issue for the sake of unity.

I too rebel against the myths that surround the Constitution. If the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, why are there no punishments for passing laws in violation of it? If Congress passes unconstitutional laws, shouldn’t those who sponsored it or voted for it have to suffer some punishment?

The English Constitution (unwritten, traditional common law) does not specify the taxing powers of Parliament. Our Constitution does. It talks about direct taxes, excises, imposts, duties, all fully enshrined as Constitutional and therefore always “on the table”.

The Sixteenth Amendment only imposed income taxes as excise taxes, but no one in government wants to enforce that. Libertarians all too often throw up their hands and refuse to admit that truth. So even the Constitutional taxation distinctions are lost because a piece of paper backed up by the guns of the state cannot hold the greed back.

People go to prison defending the old rag, but politicians get reelected for trashing it.

Technology, not constitutions, are the hope for libertarians

fundamentalist July 6, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Brendan: “…why are there no punishments for passing laws in violation of it?”

When Congress, the President and the Supreme Court all agree to rape the Constitution, that leaves just the American people to defend it, and they have abdicated. They abdicated because the state bribed them with promises of taking from the rich and giving to them. Envy triumphed over morality and law. But then, that’s the history of mankind.

Yossarian July 6, 2009 at 4:11 pm

A hint of what the founding fathers had in mind was that right after declaring that all men are created equal, the term “the governed” is used. You can be governed without your consent or you can be governed with your consent, but by God you WILL be governed.

Jeros July 6, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Dammit to hell Steven,

I don’t agree with every point you make, but after giving them honest consideration and accepting the implications for those I cannot refute, the futility of the situation sure has me depressed.

How does one offset the feeling of helplessness that is the side affect of knowing every block used to construct one’s world view is made of sugar cubes?

How do you people cope?!?! Shouldn’t this website display some sort of disclaimer warning of possible mental damages associated with the collapse of ones reality?

Lucie July 6, 2009 at 8:04 pm

um….forgive me, but did you expect perfection from imperfect Founders? Most would agree that the world is not perfect, and America is not perfect, but in my experience, our system of government seems to produce LESS tyranny and bloodshed. Not NONE by any means. Anyone can criticize, but realisic, compassionate suggestions for improvement take guts. I didn’t see a whole lot of that in your article.

Nuke Gray July 6, 2009 at 9:37 pm

The trouble with many people is that they seem to expect one answer will satisfy all people, and then nothing will need to be done, ever again! In “Atlas Shrugged”, Galt’s Strike is supposed to permanently reform the statist society, and future ages will never revert to statism or lootism. As If!!!
What we need is a permanent resistance movement, resisting all intrusions by any state beyond the rights that we might grant to the state. I am working on a novel, but the central ‘villain’ is a group of libertarians who call themselves Underdogs United, with the motto ‘Liberating Victimless Underdogs’. They act as an insurance firm for black marketeers. I.E., drug-dealers can take out insurance against getting caught, and they’ll be rescued by trained professionals if the cops do catch them- or get money deposited into their accounts for every day ‘inside’.
Whether it is feasible, or not, the idea of an in-place libertarian resistance movement is one we can all use.

P.M.Lawrence July 6, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Ball wrote of my “This completely omits that all these things stem from the accelerated end of empire after two world wars under duress from… the USA. Where that didn’t supervene, the historical record is clear that things were better under British rule than in the USA. That’s why, for example, Canada paid close attention to the US example when working out what to go for in (independent) Dominion status: not as a model, but as an awful warning of mistakes to avoid.”, “I fail to see how the USA is responsible for either world war. We didn’t have a single thing to do with WW1 prior to 1917 except supplying munitions. We did PROLONG the war and help set the stage for the raping of Germany, but you seem to imply that we started it or somehow dragged the UK into it…”

That’s a straw man. I was not commenting the World Wars, but on his “Had we not declared independence from the British Empire, we would have suffered their paternalistic BS laws much like many other British colonies. (not to mention, now, the U.K. itself) You may not appreciate the modest measure of freedoms we have enjoyed here, but compare that to the chaos of lawless gun-restricted British colonies in the Caribbean, the ruthless gunboat diplomacy in SE Asia, and not least of all the economic calamities of African colonies, now nations” – which he omitted from my quotation above.

His ‘You mention Canada, and yet I have to wonder how you can claim they’ve made fewer “mistakes.”‘ is also a straw man.

I made no such claim. I claimed that Canada drew on US experience not as a model but as an awful warning of particular mistakes to avoid. Canada managed to avoid the structures that fed regional civil war – even though there was even more regional difference.

“Sure, things look better for Canada now that they’re paying down debts and have oil to sell, but they were hardest hit by the Great Depression and outdid the New Deal by leaps and bounds. Things were so bad Newfoundland wanted out.”

That’s plain wrong. Newfoundland wasn’t even in Canada. What Newfoundland sought then was a closer connection to the UK. It actually joined Canada after the Second World War.

“What mistake did they avoid again?” is a nonsense. Go and look, since you are uninformed and won’t be told.

nuke gray July 7, 2009 at 2:40 am

Could you fix the flag? You left off some diagonal red lines on the white diagonals.
Take a blue flag, put a white diagonal cross on it, and a red diagonal cross within that cross, then put a white non-diagonal cross on top of those, and add a red cross on top of that, over all the others. What is so hard?

J.K. Baltzersen July 7, 2009 at 3:45 am

“nike gray”:

Could you fix the flag?

I’m afraid the flag is the right one. It was introduced in 1707, and it contains the crosses of St. George (England) and St. Andrew (Scotland). The cross of St. Patrick (Ireland) was added later (1801).

Tatiana Covington September 17, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Headline from a future alternate history:

CANADA, UNITED STATES MERGE!
Parliament Expands for 51 New Provinces
King Henry IX Says: “Welcome Back!”

J. Patrick March 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm

And this is what happens when non-historians try to analyze history. Using the Declaration of Independence as the lynch pin that plunged the world into all the evils of statism and war that has ravaged civilization since the 18th c. is purely counterfactual, which any historian will tell you is basically a mental circle jerk. You have no evidence to say that things would have been better had America stayed in the British Empire, that’s pure speculation. It fails to consider the myriad factors that have influenced every single event of history since the Revolution. You do a poor job of setting up a direct correlation between the Declaration and the evils you decry. Merely saying that there’s a connection does not make it so.

You also seem to know very little about what the crown and Parliament were actually doing towards the colonies. Taxation was the last straw that broke the colonists’ back, but it certainly wasn’t the only one. Fears of an Anglican bishopric being installed in New England, Parliament’s vetoes of certain northern colonies (Connecticut, for example) trying to ban the importation of slaves prior to 1776, the loss of due process (taking colonists to Canada or England for trials instead of having the trial in the location of the crime), writs of assistance that were written on the spot that gave royal authorities permission to search your house, raising a standing army among the people –all these non-economic issues also pressed upon the colonists to break from the realm.

As for economics, I’m not sure where your 1% figure comes from. But for someone who supposedly supports free trade, how can you endorse the mercantilist policy of the crown?

Have you ever heard of any of these Parliamentary acts?

Navigation Act of 1651
Enumerated Commodities Act of 1660
Act of Frauds 1662
Staple Act of 1663
Plantation Duty Act of 1673
Navigation Act of 1696
Act for Suppressing Piracy, 1699
Woolens Act of 1699
Amendments and additional regulations added to the Enumerated Commodities Act in 1704
Naval Stores Act 1705
Coinage Act of 1708
Post Office Act of 1710
Broad Arrow Act of 1711
Artificers Act of 1718
Amendments and additional regulations added to the Enumerated Commodities Act in 1721
Broad Arrow Act of 1722
Six-penny Duty Act of 1729
Debt Act of 1732
Hat Act of 1732
Molasses Act of 1733
Iron Act of 1750

Of course, this is followed by:

Stamp Act of 1765
Declaratory Act of 1766 (more on this)
Townshend Acts of 1767
Broad Arrow Act of 1772
Coercive Acts of 1774 (you gotta love the name of this one)

These laws required that all ships entering American ports be built in England, manned by English crews, goods from foreign countries coming into the colonies had to go through England first to pay a duty, the colonists could not buy sugar, rum and molasses from non-English colonies in the Caribbean, and when they did buy from other English colonies they still paid a duty to the crown. Certain acts, like the Hat Act, restricted how many apprentices a hat maker could have (limiting the size of his business) and banned the export of any hats made in the colonies to England. The colonies were not allowed to entice artisans to leave England to emigrate to America, the tallest trees in New England were marked and reserved to be sent to England for the ship building business there; the New England shipbuilding business had to use the trees that the royal authorities did not pick for themselves. Raw wool produced in the colonies was banned from export and intercolonial trade.

Even some of the Acts, like the Iron Act, that seems like it benefits the colonies (the iron act dropped duties on exports of raw pig and bar iron from the colonies to England) really works against them. Raw iron could be produced in the colonies, but finished iron goods were banned. When the colonists purchased finished iron goods, they had to buy them from England and pay the duty, even though the raw iron had originally come from the colonies. How anyone can argue in support of these policies is ridiculous.

The act that was most foreboding to the colonists was the Declaratory Act of 1766, which affirmed that Parliament “had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America … in all cases whatsoever.” This act was almost identical to the Dependency of Ireland Act of 1719, upon which the Penal Laws were based, and which effectively enslaved the Irish people in their own land. There was no reason to believe that two laws, which had identical wording, would lead to a different result if the American colonies acquiesced to Parliament’s power. England had long viewed the colonies as others in the realm, and not as equal English citizens.

In 1776, independence was fully justified. What happened after that independence was achieved is another story, one that is worthy of criticism. But blaming the state of things today on that one event is like blaming someone who dies in a car accident for leaving the house in the morning. It’s casually related, in the sense that each event happens chronologically before the next, but that’s the furthest the connection can be made. Leaving the house is no more the blame for a car accident victim’s death than declaring independence in 1776 can be held responsible for the wrongs that have come through the US govt.

I find it interesting, and telling, that you decided to wade into 18th c. history and make a claim, yet you have very little primary evidence from the period you are criticizing to support that criticism.

Let’s not even get started on the motto of the British monarchy, “Dieu et mon droit” (God and my right), which was the basis that the monarchy used for its power over the realm.

There are very specific methodological approaches to analyzing history and having an arguable interpretation. This blog article is a good example of what happens when you don’t follow that methodology.

Xavier Méra July 4, 2011 at 10:28 pm

I do not understand. What happened to the case for libertarian decentralism? Why does it not apply anymore, suddenly, without explanation except for all the bad things that followed independence (assuming they are necessarily related to the independence, which is not necessarily obvious)? Plus you link to one of your post where “libertarian centralism” is supposed to be wrongheaded, as usual. That’s confusing to say the least. Certainly, if one can say independence was a mistake given what happened after or could happen after, this test can be applied to any past example or prospect for secession. It becomes a case by case empirical question if secession was or is to be encouraged. And “libertarian centralism” is no more suspect than “libertarian decentralism” a priori. Or did I miss something?

Stephan Kinsella July 4, 2011 at 11:21 pm

It is all ceteris paribus.

Xavier Méra July 6, 2011 at 1:46 am

Ok. But then it all depends on these things which happen not to be ceteris paribus in reality. So what is supposed to differentiate the libertarian centralist from the decentralist except a different assessment in some particular case of what was better or worse between a more or less centralized power structure?

And how all of this is compatible with the apparently systematic decentralist position you had before, such as when you were writing among other things that “I also think shifting power up, more centrally, in the hopes that the central decision-maker will be “better” than the lower levesl of government is unlibertarian and naive.” http://blog.mises.org/3683/libertarian-centralists/ If one does not hold things ceteris paribus, it is conceivable that some central decision makers will be less oppressive than local ones. Certainly, if one thinks that things would have been better under British rule, one must certainly hold this view. But then one cannot say that expecting a less oppressive regime from centralization is typically unlibertarian and naive as a general rule. It would depend on the specific actors and circumstances involved. Otherwise, expecting nicer things from the British empire than a separated US government would be unlibertarian and naive. So what am I missing here?

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