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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15939/ten-reasons-not-to-abolish-slavery/

Ten Reasons Not to Abolish Slavery

March 8, 2011 by

Slavery existed for thousands of years, in all sorts of societies and all parts of the world. To imagine human social life without it required an extraordinary effort. FULL ARTICLE by Robert Higgs

{ 239 comments }

joe March 8, 2011 at 9:38 am

The same reasons seem to be recycled over and over when any disfavored minority is looking for equality under the law.

Whitney Smith March 10, 2011 at 9:56 pm

duh! its wrong period. Unless your kids wnat to be enslaved

Whitney Smith March 10, 2011 at 9:58 pm

duh! its wrong period. Unless you want your kids to be enslaved… enjoy that same answer “its wrong”

J. Murray March 8, 2011 at 9:51 am

I just about had a stroke when I saw the title of the article. Then I read it and was relieved.

Dave Albin March 8, 2011 at 10:09 am

I, too, wondered about the title. I thought the angle could be about VOLUNTARY servitude, too, which I guess is technically legal? You can sleep on someone’s couch and mooch food off them in exchange for cleaning their house and walking their dog.

J. Murray March 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

That really isn’t slavery. Slavery involves force to keep you from breaking the labor agreement. Also, modern Americans tend to confuse the term slavery with not being paid a wage denominated in Dollars. Your example isn’t slavery because he is trading his labor for sleeping arrangements and food.

Dave Albin March 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I guess what I was thinking was that my example may very well be illegal. Doing work in exchange for food and shelter, without paying taxes – isn’t that illegal even though everything is voluntary? I thought the article may go in this direction when I saw the title. So, choosing to engage in what others would call slavery is outlawed in the name of abolishing slavery.

J. Murray March 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm

That’s true. It would be illegal in that sense because the individual on the couch isn’t paying income taxes nor is the person who is letting him stay there paying employment taxes. Slavery, in this case, is outlawed because the taxing authority isn’t able to easily collect on the arrangement.

Ken March 8, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Barter would be a more precise term here, I think.

J. Murray March 9, 2011 at 7:08 am

That’s what we call it, but the IRS has a different opinion on the matter. I can’t hire someone on pure barter, Uncle Sam won’t allow it.

Thomas Talionis March 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I held my breath until I got about half way down the article.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 10:55 am

So I tired to find out when and where exactly Lincoln said what he did. It was not easy. Robert Higgs does not quote source. It was in a debate with Senator Stephen Douglas on August 21, 1858. And unlike what Mr. Higgs claims in the article, Lincoln was not arguing to support slavery but against it. Here is the full quote.

There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence-the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects-certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man.

My claim is open for verification. Robert Higgs, I am ashamed of you. I think you owe an apology to the good readers that you have misled.

J. Murray March 8, 2011 at 10:59 am

Actions speak louder than words. No apologies are necessary.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

And what do the actions speak off?

J. Murray March 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

A murderer. No one in the history of the world ever waged war to free people. War is waged to gain resources and power or to avoid the loss of resources and power. You don’t kill roughly 700,000 people to free 3.9 million. Despots do kill 700,000 people to maintain a power and tax base.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm

No one in the history of the world ever waged war to free people.

A statement with no basis in fact. And if you believe that you must remember events that did not happen, or remember events that happened differently.

I have caught you making factually incorrect statement in another thread already.

http://blog.mises.org/15781/dilorenzo-and-woods-discussing-the-lincoln-myth-on-freedom-watch/

I have good reason to believe that your claims have their basis in dogma. The evidence is overwhelming. I think in Lincoln I have found the Achilles’ heel of the Mises Institute. It is a pity coming from an organization that gets so much right.

J. Murray March 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Since I’m stating a negative and negatives are proven by the lack of evidence, it’s up to you to show me the positive. Show me an instance where a nation or people went to war, freed a disadvantaged group, and then immediately left without expecting anything in return, including political favor, resources, taxes, repayment for war effort, etc.

AG March 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Bosnia/Serbia?

What did the US get out of that?

Let me take this a step further, what is wrong with hoping for (if not expecting) political favor in exchange for using one’s forces to free people? The fact of the matter is that people can go to war to free people and gain other benefits and the gaining of other benefits does not somehow negate the fact that they went to war to free/help people.

Oh, and the above has little to with Lincoln. Lincoln was a complicated guy who did believe in the natural rights of blacks, but would not have gone to war over them. That said, the fact that the Civil War did not start as being about slavery does not change the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation is one of the truly great moments in US history and that Lincoln deserves credit for that.

Sione March 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Abhilash

Do your friends know you as Lil’ Abe? Just wondering.

You boast, “I think in Lincoln I have found the Achilles’ heel of the Mises Institute”

Come now! In reality what you have found is a topic you are very passionate about and enjoy arguing to the point of exhaustion. That’s well and good. Still, you tend not to pay much attention to relevant (and key) points raised by other contributors, especially when they moderate or rebut aspects of your interpretations or position. The thread to which you link demonstrates all of this clearly enough.

To another contributor you claim, “I have caught you making factually incorrect statement in another thread already.”

Did you really? I’ve read the thread to which you linked. It is far from certain that your claim has the merit you’d like it to have.

Re “No one in the history of the world ever waged war to free people.”

This is a statement of the negative and hence can’t be proven. Nevertheless were even one item of real evidence produced that contradicted it, then the statement would be falsified. Can you accept that challenge? Are you up to it? Is there basis of fact to the statement or can you show otherwise?

For you the task would be to do as requested, “Show me an instance where a nation or people went to war, freed a disadvantaged group, and then immediately left without expecting anything in return, including political favor, resources, taxes, repayment for war effort, etc.”

Rather than critiquing your opponent, you can educate to clarify matters by provision of key evidence (assuming you are in possession of it). This would place you advantageously in regards to validating your analysis of the history of the causes of the US Civil War.

BTW you may care to review the World Wide War Project.

I’m intrigued about the Lincoln quote provided by Robert Higgs and how when placed in a more complete context its import differs from how it was presented in the essay. Perhaps he might comment and explain the position some. It would be a good were he to comment on this. Still, I note that the main point of the article- its message- has been lost in the debate on this page, by and large.

The vacuous arguments promoted to defend and prolong the existence of the institution of slavery seem to be similar to those presented to defend and prolong certain other institutions. That is what it is important to consider (and discuss).

Sione

AG March 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Sione, you did not address my point about Bosnia/Serbia and the rest of that point. Why does an act have to be wholly altruistic anyway?

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Sione, I do not agree with Abhilash’s interpretation of the War Between the States, but he’s entirely correct that Higgs attempts to portray Lincoln as offering a defense (or at least rationalization) of slavery, and this is simply false. It is false that Lincoln meant this in his quoted words here, and it is very obvious that Higgs tries to portray Lincoln falsely. I mean, I don’t even know why we’re debating this latter point, simply read the article.

Please tell me how false arguments further the casue of liberty? There are plenty of reasons to be anti-Lincoln. Claiming he rationalized slavery in some way isn’t one of them.

J. Murray March 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm

An act has to be totally altruistic because any action of personal benefit completely negates the concept that an individual wages war for the benefit of the other. The altriusm just happened to be a side-benefit of the arrangement. There certainly wasn’t some altriustic end for Serbia, considering that the United States has since utilized their land for military expansion. This base is strategically located near the Middle East and can be used for future military activity in the region. This base will be “temporary” in the sense that the US military presence in Okinawa and S. Korea will be temporary. The game plan is to create a new trading partner with the US in addition to having a convenient place to engage in regional warfare.

http://www.tfeagle.army.mil/default2.asp

Also consider that foreign aid is frequently used in re-election platforms here in this country. Sending our military all over the globe is regularly used as both a system to generate campaign contributors from major defense contractors and drum up support in military-friendly districts.

There was nothing altruistic about the situation in the Balkans.

AG March 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm

First, who is claiming that individuals wage war to benefit others? A better question is are there wars in which a benefit to others is the primary goal and a benefit to one’s self is only a secondary goal. I would argue that Bosnia/Serbia certainly qualifies in that regard. The “proof” of the US having a military base does not negate this, the military base is a rather small benefit considering the costs of executing the war. Either the US was very stupid to get into a war that was not a net benefit to the US or the benefit to the US was only a secondary goal.

Second, the US was asked to stay in Bosnia. Similarly, the South Koreans want the US to stay there (Japan is more of a mixed bag). In fact, it is rather easy to argue that the South Koreans gain a lot more from us having a base there than the US does.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 4:29 pm

@Sione

Come now! In reality what you have found is a topic you are very passionate about and enjoy arguing to the point of exhaustion. That’s well and good.

I must admit Lincoln is a topic I and many other here are very passionate about and enjoy debating to the point of exhaustion. Look at the responses.

Still, you tend not to pay much attention to relevant (and key) points raised by other contributors, especially when they moderate or rebut aspects of your interpretations or position.

It is by addressing the much relevant points that people raise that I am able to debate this issue to the point of exhaustion.

You can’t have it both ways buddy.

newson March 8, 2011 at 7:38 pm

to ag:
sniegoski gives a good explanation of the less-than-altruistic motives behind the balkan intervention. (serbian interlude and the 2000 election).
http://bit.ly/cCIC2z

Old Mexican March 8, 2011 at 11:01 am

Re: Abhilash Nambiar,
You’re expecting too much from a tongue-in-cheek piece. The point was not to argue that Lincoln favored slavery, but to argue that the rationalizations used by pro-government are very similar to pro-slavery arguments.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 11:54 am

So let us take the whole quote form the article in context

When people bothered to give reasons for opposing the proposed abolition, they advanced various ideas. Here are ten such ideas I have encountered in my reading.

1. Slavery is natural. People differ, and we must expect that those who are superior in a certain way — for example, in intelligence, morality, knowledge, technological prowess, or capacity for fighting — will make themselves the masters of those who are inferior in this regard. Abraham Lincoln expressed this idea in one of his famous 1858 debates with Senator Stephen Douglas:

There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

And yet you say

The point was not to argue that Lincoln favored slavery

Sorry that is exactly the point. Closing your eyes and pretending to be blind?

Charlie Virgo March 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Simply acknowledging the existence of a perspective does not automatically attribute it to that individual. Thus, when Higgs quotes Lincoln as explaining this perspective in his debate, he isn’t necessarily saying that Lincoln believes it. Lincoln delivered the argument, and that’s what Higgs is reporting.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Lincoln delivered a different argument from what Higgs is reporting.

AG March 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm

What is being missed is the fact that despite Lincoln not believing in slavery (and he did not, which makes Higgs use of the quote wholly inappropriate), he did believe in a separation of the races, which by modern standards is not very pro-black at all.

Gil March 8, 2011 at 11:03 pm

So, AG? Thomas Jefferson felt the same way about black people?

Matthew Swaringen March 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I partly agree, but I think the argument that it wasn’t the best quote to use in light of Lincoln’s overall statement is legitimate. One could get the wrong idea about Lincoln’s statements as a whole from there, and if you have someone who thinks Lincoln is a hero and they go back to the source they may think the same as Abhilash. Finding a quote from an actual slavery advocate would have been better here.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Maybe Higgs deliberately sabotaged his position because he secretly admires Lincoln. :-)

Michael A. Clem March 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Read the very quote you quoted. Lincoln “expressed the idea”. It doesn’t say Lincoln favored the idea.
Many people express ideas that others have put forward only to turn around and argue against them. A statement of an argument isn’t necessarily the argument itself.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm

What a crock. Is Higgs paying you to say crap like this?

Michael A. Clem March 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I read the article just as you did. While I can see how it could be misinterpreted, or implied to show that Lincoln favored slavery, it does not, in fact, say that. Besides, would Lincoln have signed the Emancipation Proclamation if he truly favored slavery?

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm

We’re obviously not reading the same article.

Michael A. Clem March 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm

We are, indeed, reading the same article, the very same words, but are interpreting them differently. Higgs might well be blamed for allowing this ambiguity to remain in the article, but it is indeed a matter of interpretation.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Well, in the article I’m reading, Higgs states:

“When people bothered to give reasons for opposing the proposed abolition, they advanced various ideas. Here are ten such ideas I have encountered in my reading.

1.Slavery is natural. People differ, and we must expect that those who are superior in a certain way — for example, in intelligence, morality, knowledge, technological prowess, or capacity for fighting — will make themselves the masters of those who are inferior in this regard. Abraham Lincoln expressed this idea in one of his famous 1858 debates with Senator Stephen Douglas:”

and then goes on to provide *a portion of* the well-known quote where Lincoln opposes *political* equality for blacks, but (as Abhilash has established) also opposes enslavement of blacks. Perhaps it is difficult for modern liberals to comprehend that one can oppose slavery yet also reject the notion of any kind of sociological equality between sufficiently different peoples, but this was presumably Lincoln’s position (and most Western thinkers of this time).

Disagree with this perspective (that political structures must recognize gradations of morality) if you like, but this is a different issue than the one under consideration. I am simply mystified that anyone can read this article and not recognize that Higgs is trying to attribute to Lincoln one of the defenses of slavery on Higg’s list.

Michael A. Clem March 8, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Abraham Lincoln expressed this idea in one of his famous 1858 debates with Senator Stephen Douglas:
It says Lincoln expressed the idea, not that he favored it. In his books, Ludwig von MIses often expresses ideas or arguments not his own before he addressed them with his own arguments.
Again, I can see how it could be misinterpreted to mean that Lincoln favored slavery, but it literally does not say that Lincoln favored slavery. You have to interpret that conclusion, or read it as an alleged implication.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 7:06 pm

That is beyond specious. This is not an example of say, “expressing” Marxist doctrine beyond proceeding to refute it. Higgs is clearly identifying Lincoln as putting forth a view of defending slavery based on naturalist reasons. Again, we must not be reading the same thing here.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I never made any point about what argument Lincoln favored. That is for some other time. Lincoln expressed an argument and he was presented here to hold a contradictory view. It is plain and simple distortion of facts. Deliberate or otherwise I do not know.

Michael A. Clem March 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I can see how one can misinterpret what was written. You think Higgs took Lincoln’s words out of context to indicate or imply that Lincoln favored slavery. But even within your fuller quote of Lincoln, it doesn’t contradict the part that Higgs quoted. The very next sentence that Higgs didn’t quote starts out as “I have never said anything to the contrary,” even though the rest of the statement appears to be an argument against slavery. Subtle and nuanced positions that are not simple black and white, for or against, seem to be difficult for some people to understand. Especially if we forget who Lincoln’s audience was at the time of the debate.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 11:33 pm

I can easily see how Michael A. Clem is bending over backwards to defend Higgs’s position. To use The Fresh Prince of Darkness’s beautiful words, ‘Higgs is clearly identifying Lincoln as putting forth a view of defending slavery based on naturalist reasons.’ You see, you have to look into subtle (pretty much non-exist) and nuanced positions to defend Higgs. I on the other hand have to just read what Higgs wrote Lincoln to be saying and compare it to what Lincoln actually said.

So I say it again, ‘You are bending over backwards for Higgs.’

Andrew March 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I do agree that the quote should not have been used in this instance. Lincoln was arguing against slavery, not for it, and the quote excerpted from his argument in this way could leave the reader believing the opposite to be true. This is irresponsible.

However, from reading the excerpted quote, and the full one that you have provided, I would say that Lincoln generally agreed with this entire statement:

“People differ, and we must expect that those who are superior in a certain way — for example, in intelligence, morality, knowledge, technological prowess, or capacity for fighting — will make themselves the masters of those who are inferior in this regard.”

I think that the Lincoln quote could have been used in this article had the author introduced it something like: While Lincoln was not in favor of slavery, and in fact campaigned against it, he did express this idea of racial superiority in his famous 1858 debates…

My point here is that Lincoln was not some saint, some giant of liberty who fought to “free the slaves” at all costs. Generally, he was racist, and the motives behind the Civil war can be questioned, and have, on this site and elsewhere. This can be seen by the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation only freed the slaves in the south. This left the 800,000+ slaves in the border states under the control of the “superior” race, as Lincoln would have put it.

Wildberry March 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm

@Andrew March 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I am not a Lincoln historian, so I don’t want to get too far out on a limb here, but let me ask you;

Couldn’t the quote you highlight be interpreted as calling attention to the simple fact of life that in one way or another, the market rewards those with superiority in some area. I don’t think, at least in these words, it implies an innate superiority from birth for a certain race and not others. If fact, he seems to be making the opposite point.

i.e., Things being as they are, smarter guys make themselves “masters” of the dummies. Isn’t that a truism? He doesn’t say we should keep it that way. In this interpretation, is is simply restating the operation of the free market.

You would have to read ” perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment.” to mean on racial grounds, they would never be capable of equality. I don’t think that would be a fair reading. In fact is appears to be saying that inequality does not equate to a right to enslave. Right to eat bread won from his own hands, etc.

Andrew March 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm

@ Wildberry –

I agree – After reading the full quote it is clear he is saying that inequality does not mean the right to enslave. But he was definitely of the belief that whites are superior to blacks. How else could this be interpreted:

“There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position.”

I also agree with you that the quote that I excerpted in my previous post is not, standing on its own, a racist, backwards thinking statement. But much like the quote that Higgs uses in the article, when you get the full context, you see that it is in fact an ignorant comment.

Wildberry March 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm

@Andrew March 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm

All good points. One more round?

How else could this be interpreted:

“There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality;”

Well, for one, he was white and they were black, and that was not likely to change. Aso, they for the most part were uneducated and inarticulate in the sense of the kind of eloquence and education of those he was probably speaking to. If that ever chaged, it would take quite awhile. So in light of this, and the fact that he probably was seeking support from those who might be anti-slavery but still biggoted, it is a politically safe way to try to straddle the fence; by stating the obvious.

” and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position.”

He is careful not to advocate for a difference, or to be happy about it, he simply says if it is “necessary”, which at the time, it appeared to be.

given all that, he was certainly not advocating, as a platform for his political postion, that we welcome the slaves into our homes as equals. But he does seem to indicate he favors some form of Lockean right to the fruit of one’s labor.

” it is in fact an ignorant comment.”

By today’s standards, it would never fly, for sure. But at the time it was pretty astute and shows that he was well schooled in the issues. I’m sure there were plenty of folks in the North that wanted to abolish slavery, but didn’t want their daughters to marry one. Giventhat cultural backdrop, it would be hard to remain in the popular mainstream and say much more than this.

Having said all of that, I count him as one of the big Four as far as opening the gates of Federal growth and executive power; Lincoln, FDR, Johnson, and now Obama.
Not a big fan, but I think he was pretty smart and tried not to say stupid things. Got himself shot anyway, though, didn’t he?

Old Mexican March 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Re: Abhilash Nambiar,

Sorry that is exactly the point.

No, and I don’t understand why you insist so much on it. Higgs simply indicates that Lincoln EXPRESSED this idea (“to express” means “TO SAY”), not that he agreed with it. The reason for including the quote was to create an appeal to authority, which is (oh surprise) used often by proponents of government. Again, this is a tongue in cheek piece, not an analysis of Lincoln’s views on race or slavery.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm

So like The Fresh Prince of Darkness asked Michael A. Clem, it is now time for me to ask you?

Is Higgs paying you to say crap like this?

But if I leave it there you will later say that I did so because I lacked a proper argument. Lincoln was misquoted in the very first of 10 reasons given not to abolish slavery. Lincoln expressed an idea all right and Higgs did not express it properly.

Old Mexican March 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Re: Abhilash Nambiar,

Is Higgs paying you to say crap like this?

I don’t answer loaded questions.

But if I leave it there you will later say that I did so because I lacked a proper argument.

But you DO lack a proper argument.

Lincoln was misquoted in the very first of 10 reasons given not to abolish slavery.

He wasn’t misquoted, and you’re ignoring (again) the point of the article – you just want to pick a fight.

David B March 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I think we’ve already established that
1. Lincoln’s full quote does not paint a better picture. It merely highlights his double talk.
2. Lincoln was not misquoted by Higgs.
3. Abhilash resorts to character attacks when his argument is in jeopardy.
4. Libertarians spend way too much time worrying about what other people think (especially odd since they are LIBERTARIANS!)

Abhilash Nambiar March 9, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I think it is safe to presume that David wants to play the role of judge in this discussion. Or perhaps chief arbitrator. It is the same thing. Since he does not have monopoly over such a role here, this comment has no substance. You and Old Mexican have only exposed to me your conviction to your dogma. I have explained myself throughly enough that I do not feel the need to explain myself again. Quiet the contrary, you and Old Mexican are the ones who need to substantiate your claims.

I can expect you to throw it back at me. Chances are you both will. Never the less I recognize that interaction with you is devoid of quality. So why this response? Just for the record.

These type of responses from the likes of you is very reassuring for me. It shows me I am on the right track.

Sione March 9, 2011 at 4:26 am

Abhilash

You’re playing with words mate and you’re not successful at it.

You write, “It is by addressing the much relevant points that people raise that I am able to debate this issue to the point of exhaustion.”

Actually it isn’t. You tend not to seriously consider, let alone address, the relevant points raised by other contributors. You’re more than likey to ignore them, as you’re very busy restating your position over, and over, again. As indicated previously, your tendency is to discount or ignore that which moderates or rebuts you, merely continuing to repeat variations of your position statement again and again and again and again- exhaustively. Not much is achieved, other that to exhaust and frustrate sensible contributors (who eventually give up on you). In this regard, the response to Old Mexican is illustrative. In haste to dismiss his interpretation and conclusion you missed the insight he had offered you and so you did not learn. That’s a shame. Think on it.

Sione

Abhilash Nambiar March 9, 2011 at 7:33 am

It is the case that one has to repeat oneself over and over again when confronting people with deeply entrenched habits. Take even the Mises blog. There are not too many ideas here. It is the same idea expressed in several ways. It has to be done when people very confidently assert a position that cannot be substantiated. That is the case with Krugman vs Murphy too. But to be fair I have made several other points here. If you take the trouble to read, you can see.

You gave the example of Old Mexican without telling exactly what his relevant point was. In fact you never talk about the relevant points itself. Only make the claim that I ignore them. That makes your accusation without substance.

Here is my challenge to you. List the relevant points that different people in this forum has made that I have not addresses. Put it all in bullet points. Write it towards the end of the forum. Don’t post it as a reply. Post it as a fresh comment. Explicitly state why you consider them to be relevant.

Remember two things while you are at it. You have no monopoly in judging what is relevant, you will also be judged based on what you consider relevant. But that is true for everyone here.

Sione March 9, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Abhilash

And there you go again… Your response is exactly an example of what I was pointing out to you. Don’t wriggle around evading that point. Stop and consider it.

Please think on this matter.

Ta

Sione

Abhilash Nambiar March 9, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Your response is very reassuring for me.

Wildberry March 9, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I’m with Abhilash on this one.

This is a very difficult form of communication. It is not like we are all sitting in a room together and having a conversation.

I object to having to try to decode cryptic messages and then listen to complaints that I missed the point without clarifying, then accuse me of deception or worse because I didn’t use the right decoder ring.

* State your issue
* State the facts
* Reason to your conclusion.

Let’s assume that everyone is trying until they prove they are not. Abhilash has been very reasonable here.

André March 8, 2011 at 11:32 am

The author in fact does not speak of Lincoln as a supporter of slavery. He just mentions he had a famous debate with the other senator, in which Lincoln expressed CLEARLY the concept that certain people are inferior by race, but – in spite of their natural inferiority – should access to the same constitutional rights as white people. I read once more the passage of the article – and, nowhere is said that the quoted passage represents the pro-slavery views of Lincoln. So, no apology is needed.

This said, when I read the title I feared some super-paleo-libertarian “hoppeish” piece. I was already about to get upset, but in the end is a really stimulating piece. Very interesting.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm

The author in fact does not speak of Lincoln as a supporter of slavery.

Sorry he does. He really does. He gave ten reasons people opposed the abolition of slavery and Lincoln comes up in number one 1. Slavery is natural. He claimed Lincoln expressed an argument that assumed slavery to be a natural state of affairs, when in fact Lincoln claimed exactly the opposite in the same quote.

Jkillz March 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm

You are reading too much into this article. It is not an in-depth analysis. In such a piece, it would be prudent to make the distinction between the first idea Higgs mentioned — “Slavery is natural” — and the second, which was an elaboration on racial superiority that began with “People differ”.

Taken this way, I think the quote from Lincoln is meant as an example of the 2nd idea, not the 1st. Higgs wrote: “Abraham Lincoln expressed this idea” in the debate, meaning Lincoln expressed an idea about racial superiority, not that slavery was natural. Call it sloppy, and I agree — but, again, this is a simple article, not a blow-by-blow critique.

That said, I see your point and would generally agree that the passage misleads the reader as to the nature of what Lincoln was saying in that debate.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Abhilash Nambiar is generally wrong, but he’s quite correct here. Higgs is plainly trying to attribute this position to Lincoln. Just read the article, it’s pretty obvious.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I am usually wrong eh?

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm

You are the one who is reading too much. That is how you get these creative interpretations. I just saw a quote being misused and pointed it out. Now if the article was entitled ‘Ten Reasons in defense of Racial Supremacism’ Lincoln could be rightfully quoted by a creative writer, not as a defender of Race Supremacism but as a believer in it. But as Lincoln’s own case indicate, that does not necessarily make one a defender of slaver. So the question remains why was he misquoted?

Jkillz March 8, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Like I said, I agree with you. I was just pointing out that I could see a different interpretation of the passage in question. When I said you were reading too much, I meant that you were taking the article too seriously, not that your criticism was incorrect.

As to why, it’s possible Higgs is ignorant of the full context of Lincoln’s comment. The part he quoted is pretty famous — I’ve seen it several times, and by a variety of different writers. Even if Higgs has read the full text of the debates, one doesn’t always remember everything. And this article has no citations, adding to its informal nature. It’s sloppy, but I don’t know that there’s any malicious intent on Higgs’s part.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Jkillz, you are clutching to straws. This is not the first time that a libertarian has found himself defending an untenable position with me and given the ‘You are taking things too seriously’ “argument”. Which is not much of an argument at all. No person less that Stephan Kinsella himself has tried that on me. But I digress. That can be for some other time.

As for Higgs having any malicious intent, I do not know. But there is an element of intellectual dishonesty here. The proper way to do it, is verify facts from primary sources, develop your interpretation and then draw a conclusion. But there is more.

You suggest that he just pasted a popular quote that he himself obtained without context. He sites the year of the debate and who where involved in the debate. He is not ignorant. He presented details, but not in a form that can be very easily cross checked. Not with a simple google search anyway. Some digging was needed.

Who knows? Maybe it was delivered to him that way by someone he trusted. Otherwise he would have verified right?

Jkillz March 8, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Again, I agree with your criticism of the article. Perhaps it’s not a good defense to say one is “taking things too seriously”; but that doesn’t change the reality of whether, from Higgs’s point of view, this was a serious critique of the defenses of slavery or a casual blog-style article making broad generalizations and associations. Anyway, if it was a serious critique, I think he could have found more than 10 reasons not to abolish slavery.

Of course, I have had similar problems with others of Higgs’s articles. He makes this kind of mistake too often, either by resorting to hyperbole that conflates two ideas or by relying on imperfect metaphors to convey deeper meaning. In this case, he did both.

When I write something I want to see published, I go all out to make sure it’s accurate. But, then again, I have rarely ever been published. When I write casually, however, I am less careful. I rely mostly on my memory. Higgs, on the other hand, has been published too many times to count; even his non-scholarly writings are read widely.

Having made a few citation errors myself in the past, I know it can happen even when you feel certain you’ve gotten it right. So he got a few details correct (1858, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, etc.), and he got one detail wrong. The detail is important, of course, and if not corrected could be construed as dishonest. But I would sooner believe it’s simply a mistake or ignorance than to believe he is deliberately misleading readers.

In any case, you’re right to point it out and criticize it. Let’s hope this is ameliorated in some way.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Ameliorate? That is what is happening in this blog.

Jkillz March 8, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Exactly. That’s what I meant, though hopefully an edit or clarification from Higgs will be forthcoming, too.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Sadly, this is not the first time Higgs (whose work is usually fantastic) has engaged in such counterproductive hyperbole. E.g., he has referred to the internment centers set up in the US during WW2 as “concentration camps,” which is patently absurd. This event in US history is nothing to be proud of, certainly, but it is very far from the most shameful thing the US did during WW2 and to call them “concentration camps” with “prisoners” goes beyond partisanship.

See Higgs (and typical dishonest, asinine comments from Horwitz) at

http://www.coordinationproblem.org/2011/02/archival-evidence-for-higgs-on-ww-ii.html#comments

and the counterpoint at

http://www.amren.com/ar/2003/01/index.html

J. Murray March 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm

So, the people in those camps could leave at any time, weren’t forced into them by their own government, their property was untouched when they were released, lives were not disrupted or otherwise destroyed, etc, etc? They were concentration camps by every definition of the word. A group of people were imprisoned indefinitely based on ethnicity alone. How nice it may have been in comparison to Auchwitz or Kolyma is irrelevant. Their purpose was to remove an entire ethnic group from the general population because the national government said so.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Just as you did not read the Higgs article under debate (otherwise you wouldn’t be offering specious defenses of Higgs here), you didn’t read the link I posted above. Really, how is it possible to have rational debate with someone who does not acknowledge the differences beween these camps and the ones run by the Nazis and Soviets?

J. Murray March 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm

As I noted above, it doesn’t matter. People were arbitrarily rounded up and imprisoned. That alone is evil. Just because the Nazis and Soviets were more evil doesn’t justify the activity.

There’s something seriously wrong with you if you attempt to justify imprisoning 120,000 people for 3 years for no good reason other than they look different.

Bobby Brager March 8, 2011 at 6:02 pm

“Really, how is it possible to have rational debate with someone who does not acknowledge the differences beween these camps and the ones run by the Nazis and Soviets?”

Your point, however, wasn’t to contrast the differences between these respective concentration camps. Your point was that the example set forth by the internment camps is not one of reconcentration, and the argument against you – an argument I agree with – is that it most certainly was.

The very idea behind the reconcentration model – the modern variant of which was perfected by the Spanish in Cuba, the Americans in the Philippines, and the English in South Africa – was to depopulate from the general population a disparate, specific population group and concentrate them forcibly in centers for purposes of applying direct control or, in the Philippines especially, clearing the way for “free-fire zones” where every living person found could be declared a combatant. Any difference in administration does not subtract from the fact that such forcibly constructed population centers are reconcentration (or “concentration”, such as the word evolved) centers, or “camps”, if one so prefers.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm

I have to disagree with you on this point about ‘concentration camps’. A concentration camp means just that. A camp where large number of people for whatever reason are ‘concentrated’. Mass killing not necessary. As far as I can understand the first time this term came into use was when the British where fighting the Boers in South Africa. The Boers highly trained and lightly armed managed to launch successful guerilla attacks against the heavily armed and largely numbered British army after which they blended into the civilian population. The British solution was to crowd the Boer families into ‘concentration camps’ where they could be disarmed and incapacitated. Disease, poor sanitation and shortage of food became common. Relatively speaking, the US government treated the Japanese well.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Re. terminology, fair enough. Note that the Spanish had similar camps in Cuba around the time of the Boer War, and like the British (and of course the Nazis and Soviets), the primary purpose was terror. The essence of the US camps was to house ethnic Japanese who were excluded from the West Coast (which was declared a military area); ethnic Japanese living elsewhere in the US were not affected by the policy. Ethnic Japanese forced to evacuate from the West Coast were free to go anywhere else in the US, but of course the reality of the situation was they had no where else to go, hence the establishment of these relocation centers (camps, if you like). The camps were effectively under internee supervision (again, with the restriction that internees could not return to the West Coast until after the war). Again, this is not something Americans should look back on with great pride, but to pretend these were anything remotely like the other camps that existed in that baleful time is to be either stupid or dishonest (and probably both).

I know J Murray is far too hysterical to read the account of these camps I posted above, but perhaps others will be interested to learn the history behind them and not repeat Higgs’ continued mistake of propagandizing falsely in the cause of liberty.

Joe March 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm

@Abhilash,
“Relatively speaking, the US government treated the Japanese well.”
You have got to be kidding? You truly believe what you say?
First of all the US government didn’t treat the Japanese well. The people you are referring to were AMERICAN CITIZENS. Japanese was their nationality. What if the US government took all German and Italians and put them in camps?
How well would you be treated if they took your property away from you? Put you in a camp for a few years. You get out and your neighbors now own your property and you have to start all over again. Family members have died and suffered because of the forced relocation.
If you ever want anyone to believe that you are sane and have something to say that has value you might want to walk in the same shoes as they walked. Give up your property right now and go live in Tulelake, California for a few years.
I get so sick and tired of certain people on this blog that just to make a point and try to sound intelligent they make such stupid comments.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm

“I get so sick and tired of certain people on this blog that just to make a point and try to sound intelligent they make such stupid comments.”

What’s that old saying about the pot and the kettle?

Joe March 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Actually that’s the most rational thing you have said, even though it doesn’t apply in the current sense.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Not all internees where American citizens but many where. Many Jewish internees in Nazi Germany where German citizens. I can say very comfortably “Relatively speaking, the US government treated the Japanese well.” It sounds appropriate outside of context and very appropriate within context.

Joe March 8, 2011 at 3:23 pm

The point being made was we have a higher standard in the US than Nazi Germany. Well, at least we thought until FDR.
Without property rights you are a slave. So I agree with J. Murray that these were concentration camps. And yes not all were citizens but over 70,000 were. So what is the point?
You still haven’t responded to the Italian and Germans not affected? You still haven’t said whether you will let the government, within 48 hours take you and your family and put you in a concentration camp for a few years. Just taking what you can carry on your back.
So to compare Stalin with Hitler with Mussolini with Pol Pot and with Mao and say one was better than the other is an exercise in determining how many more people were murdered by each.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm

@Joe
I am not going to creep into a topic that is not relevant to the current discussion. Some other time and place maybe.

Thomas Talionis March 8, 2011 at 6:27 pm

“What if the US government took all German and Italians and put them in camps?”

We didn’t take all of them, but my Italian grandfather (born in the US) was held at an internment camp during WW2. He traveled a lot, particularly to Germany so they thought they should keep an eye on him. No reparations for him.

Wildberry March 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm

@The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I am impressed here by your reasonable and fair support of Abhilash Nambiar. This is from someone who is otherwise predisposed to ad hominem.

My question is how can you be so clear about what Higgs does here, and fail to see the same behavior the same way in other contexts?

All anyone is asking is for the argument to procede from a fair reading of the facts. Instead, we often here argue strawmen and then resort to personal attacks.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm

“My question is how can you be so clear about what Higgs does here, and fail to see the same behavior the same way in other contexts? ”

If you’re referring to Kinsella and the IP debates, then it’s simply because I regard his arguments there as correct, and I am unimpressed with the efforts offered in opposition. He’s never done something shady like I’m seeing here from Higgs.

Wildberry March 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm

@The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Are you kidding?

I have called him out numerous times about making claims about IP laws and how they operate which are flat out misstatements, which is polite.

How about taking another look?

http://blog.mises.org/15867/the-fight-against-intellectual-property/comment-page-1/#comment-763220

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 8:40 pm

If there’s supposed to be a smoking gun there, I’m not seeing it.

newson March 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm

i thought that was a good article by amren. i can’t see that one has to like someone or share their weltanshauung to concede they might be speaking the truth.

Matthew Swaringen March 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm

While I am no fan of Lincoln and take the same opinion that he was a murderer/etc. that others do, I do agree with you that this was probably not the best quote to use in advancing the slavery as natural viewpoint.

In the context of the whole speech it wasn’t what he was saying. That said, there is plenty of evidence against him, and no one can reasonably say he wasn’t for the promotion of political slavery given that he forced his will on the entire south for the sole purpose of keeping the union intact (that war was for him not about slavery, he made this clear on other occasions that he would permit that practice to continue, even to the point of amending the constitution to ensure it would).

J. Murray makes the argument well that you are just being naive if you think that the whole of the war was fought for such an altruistic thing as freeing the slaves. You have to neglect all evidence to the contrary to arrive at such a position.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I think you’re missing the point. It’s not that the quote in question wasn’t well-chosen, it’s that it gives a deliberately misleading impression of what Lincoln thought on the matter (and I’m a Lincoln hater, FWIW). Higgs comes off as more of a propagandist than a sloppy essayist, and that’s the problem. (Claiming the war was not fought for altruistic purposes is completely correct, but just as completely irrelevant.)

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm

There war was about slavery. No slavery meant no irreconcilable difference meant nothing to kill and die for. It is that simple. Is killing an armed slave master who is willing to defend his ‘right’ to keep slaves by threatening you with a gun murder?

Is it murder to kill those who threaten you with a gun on his behalf. Now this last point is an oversimplification. A considerable number of Southern soldiers did not in fact believe that they where fighting to defend slavery although in fact that is exactly what they where doing. In fact, it became obvious when Jefferson Davis called a draft and large slave owners where exempt. Many Southern soldiers defected. For it became obvious that it was the slave owner’s war.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Many Southern soldiers defected.

Oops. I meant to say Many Southern soldiers deserted.

As an FYI there where significant desertion in the Union army when the Emancipation Proclamation came into force. Even they had issues fighting a war just for slaves. Everybody had reservations to call it a war about slavery (looks like some people still do), but that is what was. There where forces in play that no single person had control over.

Michael A. Clem March 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm

There war was about slavery
I argued against this in a previous thread, but don’t recall seeing a response to it. Previously, you had said that the Civil War only made sense if it was about slavery. I argued that it was about power, that the slavery issue was merely used to garner support for the war. In other words, slavery was the excuse, not the real reason.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Well I don’t recall you making any good arguments either. And since you did not show the thread, the whole point is moot. In any case, I can say this much.

During any major political change, power balance shifts. It does not automatically mean that the purpose of the change was to cause the shift in power balance. In fact it cannot happen that way. A politician may be able to force some people against their will, but not all. Usually they tap into the aspirations of the majority. They can never make the majority act against their will.

That war was an expression of the aspirations of the people at that time. The shift in power balance was one of its consequence.

Michael A. Clem March 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Usually they tap into the aspirations of the majority. They can never make the majority act against their will.
Debatable, but I would tend to agree. But that doesn’t dismiss my argument. The leaders of the North and South both had their reasons for going to war, but they had to come up with a reason or reasons for the majority of people to be willing to fight and support the war. So which reasons are the real cause of the war? The reasons of the people who declared war and ran the military forces, or the reasons of the people who were “willingly” led into war?

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 4:25 pm

To reduce social phenomena to simple cause and effect is usually problematic primarily because in social phenomena unlike controlled experiments, there is a cascade of cause and effect rather than a single cause and effect. But still if you ask me what is the single aspect in the whole conflict absent which war would not have taken place, my answer would be slavery. That is not to say there is a direct cause and effect relationship between slavery and war. But it is the reason behind all the reasons. Once that piece fall in place, most everything starts to make sense.

Eric March 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Lincoln may have been arguing against African slavery in this statement, but did you read the last two paragraphs of the article? The point was to demonstrate that there are several kinds of slavery. Taxation and being forced into an army are the two that Lincoln definitely supported.

One statement made by a dishonest politician to get elected doesn’t defend a lifetime of murder and theft, in the name of the Union.

But it is true Lincoln did treat all those inferior to himself as equals. He killed or stole from them equally.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm

LOL. I am sure he was referring to African slavery since he spoke about the Declaration of Independence in that statement. I am surprised at your selective sensitivity. You are pissed at Lincoln, but silent on slave owners. You call him dishonest, but miss the dishonesty embedded in this essay. The idea of ‘Southern Rights’ was a muddle like this. Taxation bad, Tariffs very bad, Slavery very good. It is beyond me how anyone could make such an argument without feeling embarrassed.

Eric March 8, 2011 at 10:51 pm

What other slavery could he have been talking about???

I see. You can’t separate the two issues. You can’t see that both Lincoln and slavery were bad for this country. You obviously haven’t researched all of what Lincoln did. You think that someone who dislikes Lincoln MUST be in favor of slavery.

If Lincoln had let the South go, then slavery would have ended peaceably since then the North would no longer have had to return runaway slaves and the cost to keep slaves in the South would have caused slavery to end.

But you love Lincoln, even though he cared very little for the slaves – nothing compared to the taxes he demanded from the South.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 11:01 pm

You are putting words in my mouth. Then you speculate on an alternate course of events of which we can know nothing about. But there are no controlled experiments in social sciences. We know what happened and we can find out why, the knowledge feeds into the present and impacts the future. That is all.

And by the way, I actually did some research. Look at the discussion that it is spinning.

BP Dunn April 7, 2011 at 2:03 am

Sir, Lincoln is quoted not because of his supposed support of slavery but to demonstrate the idea that “1. Slavery is natural” which is what Lincoln seems to imply when he says

“There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence-the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man.”

Lincoln says the negro “is entitled” to all the rights but then goes on to say that “he is not my equal in many respects-certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment.”
In other words, Lincoln says that the negro is entitled but “perhaps” inferior to the task of actually attaining his entitlement. And that the white race will probably forever assume a superior position above him. Thus, in Higgs’ view Lincoln gives an example of the idea that “1.Slavery is natural. People differ, and we must expect that those who are superior in a certain way — for example, in intelligence, morality, knowledge, technological prowess, or capacity for fighting — will make themselves the masters of those who are inferior in this regard.”

I think you misunderstood the premise. Higgs’ point is not to show that Lincoln supported slavery, it is to historically demonstrate the old belief that slavery is somehow natural and that this belief has historically been presented in support of the institution of slavery. I think I’ve reiterated the point enough to clarify any confusion.

Lincoln DID support slavery until it became politically necessary to oppose it. In his Inaugural Address he said “I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution – which amendment, however, I have not seen – has passed Congress, to the effect that THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHALL NEVER INTERFERE WITH THE DOMESTIC INSTITUTIONS OF THE STATES, INCLUDING THAT OF PERSONS HELD TO SERVICE… HOLDING SUCH A PROVISION TO NOW BE IMPLIED CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, I HAVE NO OBJECTION TO ITS BEING MADE EXPRESS AND IRREVOCABLE.”

Hardly, the sentiment of one opposed to slavery. Lincoln was a Tyrant who turned the standing army, “that grand engine of oppression” onto his fellow Americans.

Abhilash Nambiar April 7, 2011 at 6:55 am

When intellectually dishonest people rewrite history for the sake of political expediency, they end up tying themselves in knots which Higgs did and you are doing. Lincoln had a very consistent stand against slavery. Slavery was a wrong to be tolerated where it already existed because if it was left contained, it would die a natural death. The situation that lead to war was a situation in which people where seeking to expand slavery. Senator Stephen Douglas lead this group. The Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scot Decision where steps in that direction. You will not know any of that from here.

Now you can cut and paste his quotes to to imply that he said things he did not say. It is called quote mining and if Higgs can do it, you most certainly can. But please do not reveal the full truth. If you do, you will no longer be able to question Lincoln’s legacy without embarrassing yourself.

Blessed is this land where a man rose to put down the tyranny of slavery with a mighty hand just as it was about to spread its wings far and wide. This bird will never fly again.

BP Dunn April 8, 2011 at 1:06 am

Sir, no intellectual dishonesty here.
You said:
“Slavery was a wrong to be tolerated where it already existed because if it was left contained, it would die a natural death. The situation that lead to war was a situation in which people where seeking to expand slavery. Senator Stephen Douglas lead this group. The Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scot Decision where steps in that direction. You will not know any of that from here.”

The truth or factuality of your statement is irrelevant to Higgs’ article wherein Lincoln’s quote is cited for the purpose of demonstrating the idea that “Slavery is natural.”

It seems like you believe that because someone speaks disapprovingly of Lincoln, that they therefore must approve of Douglas. If so, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Now you can cut and paste his quotes”
I’ll have you know that I actually took my ‘A Documentary History of the United States’ (Heffner) off my bookshelf, found the speech and typed in the quote by hand, thank you.

“It is called quote mining and if Higgs can do it, you most certainly can. But please do not reveal the full truth.”
My source “Lincoln’s Inaugural Address” is cited and pretty cut & dry so if you really want to believe that my quote is mined for the purpose of obscuring the truth, knock yourself out. I doubt any reasonable person could continue to worship Lincoln’s legacy after reading and comprehending the man’s own words.

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 6:32 am

The truth or factuality of your statement is irrelevant to Higgs’ article wherein Lincoln’s quote is cited for the purpose of demonstrating the idea that “Slavery is natural.”

I know Lincoln is quoted to demonstrate the idea that slavery is natural when in fact the very lines he was quoted for when taken completely shows that Lincoln was arguing for exactly the opposite. This is fun. I make a point and then someone comes along and pretends it was never made.

It seems like you believe that because someone speaks disapprovingly of Lincoln, that they therefore must approve of Douglas. If so, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

That your strawman and you trashed it pretty well.

I doubt any reasonable person could continue to worship Lincoln’s legacy after reading and comprehending the man’s own words.

I suppose you will have to reduce reasonable to some sort of synonym for people who agree with what you say. I have reasons, do you know what they are? I have investigated the reasons of the present day anti-Lincoln faction. So I know it is dubious. The more popular these ideas become, the more obvious this fact will be and consequently more likely that certain people will taste embarrassment. And for once I am not talking about Ben Bernanke or Paul Krugman.

The legacy of Lincoln is the legacy of a man who tried to prevent the expansion of slavery and succeeded in it. Being insightful he knew that this economically and morally untenable institution cannot self-perpetuate. The fact that he ended up abolishing it altogether is as far as he is concerned, a bonus. Given that your quote in CAPS is fully consistent with that stand, I must say I see no smoking gun here. Just a couple of whiners.

BP Dunn April 8, 2011 at 10:33 am

“I know Lincoln is quoted to demonstrate the idea that slavery is natural when in fact the very lines he was quoted for when taken completely shows that Lincoln was arguing for exactly the opposite.”

Sir, he was not arguing for the exact opposite. This has already been demonstrated.

“That your strawman and you trashed it pretty well.”

Not a strawman, just openly hypothesizing why you would appear to remain wilfully ignorant of historical truths.

“I have investigated the reasons of the present day anti-Lincoln faction. So I know it is dubious.”

Back to the beginning… This article is not about “anti-Lincoln”, it’s about demonstrating the idea that people have historically believed that “slavery is natural.”

BP Dunn April 8, 2011 at 10:52 am

“I have reasons, do you know what they are?”

No sir, I do not know your reasons for worshiping a dead Tyrant. And I don’t want to know either.

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

BP Dunn,

This will be my last response to you on this matter. I made my voice heard for the record. I have managed to raise consciousness here. And I fail to see what more I can achieve by repeating myself for your pleasure.

You will have to find someone else to talk to.

BP Dunn April 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I fail to see what more I can achieve by repeating myself for your pleasure.

Sir, I do not claim to get any pleasure from keeping you on point. But that is interesting, because earlier you said:
This is fun..

If what you want to achieve here is to have me follow you off on a tangent creating and defending fallacious arguments for you then yes, it is a losing effort, I will not do it and I commend you for recognizing that. I appreciate your civility as well.
Goodbye

MB March 8, 2011 at 11:02 am
Greshams-law March 8, 2011 at 11:15 am

Hilarious!!

scineram March 8, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Not really. What slaves is it talking about?

DayOwl March 8, 2011 at 11:37 am

Well it’s not like they were going to tell the truth:

“Slavery is just so darn convenient for those of us who reap the benefits. We wanna keep it.”

Instead they offered flimsy diversions from the heart of the matter.

Lee March 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Great article, although if it gets any mainstream attention at all, it will only be the title and it will be used as a bludgeon against us. Few if any of their audience will bother to read it.

Lee The First March 8, 2011 at 1:46 pm

The comment above is not mine, nor do I appreciate the use of the name I’ve been using.

Sione March 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Which is the “Lee” I corresponded with on previous threads?

Sione

Lee The First March 8, 2011 at 2:49 pm

It is I, Sione.

Lee March 8, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I don’t comment often, but I have for years with this name on these dailies. I’m sorry for using my name, the one you’ve also been using. Lol

Lee March 8, 2011 at 6:06 pm

In that case apology accepted and I offer my own. When I first came here a few months ago I didn’t find any threads with the name and so assumed it open. I actually thought someone was playing nasty games. Hence in the future I’ll be “R Lee”.

Lee March 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm

*cue twilight zone music*

I go by my middle name. My first name has initial R. I would also be R Lee. Are you my Doppleganger?

Go ahead and use R Lee here. We’ll keep it straight ;)

Lee March 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Named after the Gen’rl?

The Anti-Gnostic March 8, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Thank heaven for Robert Higgs’ timely article. You just never know when the Saracens are going to try and get slavery put on the ballot.

I realize I’m supposed to fall out of my chair and rend my flesh whenever I see the word ‘slavery,’ but there are substantial numbers of people who are incapable of independent existence. I think in anarchy you’d see a lot of them offer the only thing they have in exchange for lifetime room and board: their labor and any offspring they generate.

Depending on the circumstances, a slaveowner may be more invested in the long-term health and satisfaction of his slaves than an employer his employees’.

Dave Albin March 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm

That’s what I was trying to get at above – JMurray and I came to the conclusion that this voluntary servitude would be deemed illegal by our “leaders”.

The other thing that would be possible in anarchy would be homesteading. Areas of land, which the government now “owns”, would not have an economically-important use (at least not to most people). Rather than have to voluntarily serve someone, they could try to set up their own society somewhere else.

newson March 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm
Dave Albin March 9, 2011 at 12:03 am

The gimp was essentially a slave, though, was he not? Nothing voluntary about that…..

Anthony March 9, 2011 at 12:30 am

You don’t own your offspring…

The Anti-Gnostic March 9, 2011 at 12:20 pm

You may even be right. And you can expound at length on that theme to peasants desperately bartering their way out of a famine area or war zone.

Anthony March 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Mises wrote a section about slavery in Human Action in which he discusses the economics behind slavery. His position was that slave labor was for the most part economically inferior to paid labor, and thus slavery would naturally be extinguished by the market in most circumstances.

Since the value of the work done by a slave would be fully captured in the price of the slave(due to competition between slave buyers), the only net beneficiaries of the slave trade would have been the ones who did the initial enslaving. Various government actions including socializing the costs of returning escaped slaves and government protection for industries utilizing slave labour (preventing competition from rival companies not using slaves) were the only things that kept slavery going.

This does not necessarily apply in every circumstance, but it definitely applies to the slavery that occurred in the southern US.

Ohhh Henry March 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Bosnia/Serbia? What did the US get out of that?

It was not “the USA” (the entire people) who went to war against Serbia, only a tiny but powerful minority who controlled the US armed forces and NATO. What they got out of the war is obvious – billions of dollars in military contracts, a military foothold in the Balkans, and an excuse to build up forces in places like Germany. They breathed some political life into the clapped-out and pointless NATO alliance whose purpose is to dominate Europe and to provide a large base with which to threaten and bully Russia and the Middle East. There are also allegations of a lot of skullduggery going on in Kosovo since the US elites’ “just war” against Serbia such as connections to terrorism, arms and drug smuggling, human smuggling, etc. If the elites of the US and Europe are involved (presumably through their spy agencies) then obviously this kind of lawless situation would be a tremendous boon financially and would help establish tentacles extending their coercive power to many other countries.

None of this is to defend or praise the Serbian leadership in any way. They were/are a bunch of rat bast_ards just as bad as the US elites, the only difference being that they are militarily weaker.

If you seek altruism, do not look to politicians. They are the last ones to be motivated by any shred of charity or simply human decency. Altruism exists among poor, weak, modest and peaceful people. It is not found anywhere in the ranks of greedy, violent, power-hungry office holders.

Sione March 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm

AG

I didn’t respond to your comment about Serbia & Bosnia because I was writing to another person and responding to something HE wrote (which wasn’t about Serbia & Bosnia strangely enough). Anyway, I think you’ll find that Mr Murry has contributed a rebuttal to you.

Sione

Sione March 8, 2011 at 3:25 pm

AG

And Ohhh Henry has contributed another rebuttal.

Sione

Thomas Talionis March 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm

People like to quote Lincoln as saying “If I could preserve the union without freeing a single slave I’d do it.” But they don’t like to continue the quote, “If I could preserve the union by freeing all the slaves I’d do it.”

Sione March 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Thomas

Which means that for Lincoln the preservation of the Union was primary. Slavery was secondary, a side issue which he could live with or live without. It was tolerable either way. What he could not tolerate under any circumstances was dissolution of the Union- a compulsory Union. Hence a war to preserve it (also rendering to it supreme sovereignty).

Sione

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I think you have got it.

Here is Lincoln from Cooper Union, February 27, 1860. I have put all of the ending.

Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored – contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man – such as a policy of “don’t care” on a question about which all true men do care – such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance – such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.

And then everyone got up and clapped and cheered him.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

BTW, your statement about the Cooper Union speech:

“And then everyone got up and clapped and cheered him.”

is a good example that Americans have been blindly applauding inanities long before the era of W and Obama.

Abhilash Nambiar March 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Please compare any speech by Obama with this one before you make that comment.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 10, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Why? Obama is stupid, of course, and his followers are even stupider (the same holds true for W and his supporters), but this speech by Lincoln (granted, that of a skilled politician manipulating the sheep) is truly crazed. Few preachers would speak like this.

Abhilash Nambiar March 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I would not call either of them stupid. And they do not belong to the same cateogry except in the sense that they where both US presidents.

Why the comparison? For too many reasons to go into detail here. Try to think of it as a consciousness raising exercise.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Actually you are close, but not quiet there yet. There was something even more important that preserving the Union – arresting the spread of slavery within the Union. It was a direct threat to the very fundamentals liberty and even to the concept of states rights. I urge you to try reading the Cooper Union address completely. States rights, which Tom Woods cherishes is covered.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 8:39 pm

“It was a direct threat to the very fundamentals liberty and even to the concept of states rights.”

By “fundamentals liberty” I assume you mean Northern political and economic domination of the union?

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 9:57 pm

No. I meant, if slavery spread into Federal territories and the free states, then the whole experiment of a society based on the concept of liberty would have ended right there. There was a movement in that direction at that time.

That is what ‘very fundamentals liberty’ refer to. Like Tom Woods like to fondly point out, in the free Northern states, nullification was used to safeguard this precious liberty.

J. Murray March 9, 2011 at 7:25 am

Nothing would have collapsed. You continue to confuse the United States as a singular nations with individual States as convenient administrative subdivisions. There was no nation called The United States prior to the Civil War. It was a military and economic pact identical to what the European Union is today. Lincoln going to war with the Southern States for no longer wanting to be part of the pact would be the same as Brussels waging war against France for pulling out of the EU.

Virginia was a sovreign nation. North Carolina was a sovreign nation. New York was a sovreign nation. All Washington D.C. functioned for was a regional precursor to the UN. That’s why the Northern states were capable of using nullification of fugitive slave laws. The Federal level had zero authority over the internal operations of the individual states much like how the EU or UN have basically zero authority over their member states.

Mauritania had legal, broad slavery until 2007. Slavery, despite being officially banned at the national level, is still openly practiced with an estimated 600,000 people in chattrel slavery, or 20% of the entire population. Why don’t we go to war to free those helpless people? It’s because Mauritania didn’t have anything worth ruling over. No political influence, no strategic military importance, no readily available resources to use, so no one cares that slavery is practiced openly there. No nation is going to expend resources ending slavery in that country, there is nothing to gain in return.

That’s the reality. Lincoln would not have cared about slavery or about Souther secession if the South was nothing more than a giant economic drain on the Northern states. He would have let them go without hesitation in that scenario. But that wasn’t the case. The North would have collapsed economically without the South’s strong economy providing the necessary resources to build Northern industry, infastructure, and fund the national government. That’s what the war was over. It had nothing to do with “free states” or territories. Those were just pretty words to justify themselves.

Abhilash Nambiar March 9, 2011 at 8:32 am

You gave the example of the EU. Member states of the EU had to give up some of their sovereignty to be part of the EU. Likewise member states in the Union had to give some of their sovereignty to be part of the Union. So to say Virginia was a sovreign nation. North Carolina was a sovreign nation. New York was a sovreign nation, etc., is not fully right. Because being part of a Union makes one less sovereign than otherwise. Which is why your comparison of Mauritania to New York is incorrect.

But it is correct to say that the States administration within the Union did enjoy a high degree of autonomy owing to the fact that only some of their sovereignty was compromised by being part of the Union. That’s why the Northern states were capable of using nullification of fugitive slave laws.

Why would people from these free states agree to fight a war under a Federal government? Because they believed that their state sovereignty was being threatened. Southern legislators where pushing to have slavery legalized in the new Federal territories and the new States that where joining the Union. And if that happened, the Union would end up with more slave-states than free states.

So why not just leave the Union to preserve their sovereignty? Because they managed to elect to the Union, someone who supported them. Someone who promised to preserve the Union in their image.

So in conclusion there was three ways this experiment could have ended:
1. The Northern states secede from the Union.
2. The Souther states secede from the Union.
3. Slavery over-runs the free states.

You said there was no danger of collapse. I just noted three.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 9, 2011 at 9:28 am

Abhilash,

Note that you seem to be changing your tune here, from “the war was about slavery” to “the war was about union.” And never mind the strange position that an “experiment” based on liberty required a political union held together by force.

It would be reasonable to say that slavery played an *indirect* role in the war, as although there was NO serious political movement in the North to abolish slavery in the South, there was most definitely serious opposition to its extension into the Western territories. As such, the South definitely perceived a threat to their long-term interests (economic, social, etc) under a union dominated by the North. They of course had already gotten a taste of this from the tariff issues of the time. I think it is naive to believe there was some kind of altruism at play here (and Lincoln’s crazed revivalist speech to a receptive audience [he was clearly a skilled politican] that you post here cannot in any way be characterized as altruistic; deranged deification of the Union, yes, but surely not humanitarian). The war ultimately concerned who was going to be the dominant partner and who was going to be the submissive partner. Perhaps diLorenzo et al. should emphasize this political aspect more than the economic, but they are clearly related. (Also let’s note here the repellant habit they often show, like left-liberals, of demonizing Lincoln’s racial views in light of modern PC strictures. These views were held by virtually all whites at the time, and at any rate saying they offend modern sensibilities does not prove they are incorrect views.)

BTW, I think newson has posted elsewhere here a fascinating link on seccession that covers some of these issues:

http://www.toqonline.com/blog/secession-is-a-bad-idea/

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 9, 2011 at 10:10 am

BTW, diLorenzo notes that by seceding, the South gave up any hope of extending slavery into the territories:

http://mises.org/journals/jls/18_4/18_4_3.pdf

Abhilash Nambiar March 9, 2011 at 11:13 am

Note that you seem to be changing your tune here, from “the war was about slavery” to “the war was about union.”

I re-read my comments. Can you quote me the line where such a notion was expressed either explicitly or by implication?

And never mind the strange position that an “experiment” based on liberty required a political union held together by force.

A new form of society is an experiment, though not a controlled experiment. And if the use of force has a rightful place to preserve private property rights, then some of that legitimacy gets imputed to the political entity that organizes such a force too – state, federal and local entities.

I have claimed here several times that slavery was the reason for the war, not in a cause and effect manner, but the single factor absent which all conflicts could be resolved without bloodshed.

However I haven’t called the desire to end it, an act of ‘altruism’. I find that concept highly problematic, because even interest in the well-being of others is also a form of self-interest. So I have no use for that word.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 9, 2011 at 11:56 am

“Can you quote me the line where such a notion was expressed either explicitly or by implication?”

It was indeed by implication (comments you made to Sione, the significance you attach to the Cooper Union speech), so I can’t quote you a single line. However, I appreciate that you’ve clarified your position here, and I’ll try not to misunderstand it in the future.

“I have claimed here several times that slavery was the reason for the war, not in a cause and effect manner, but the single factor absent which all conflicts could be resolved without bloodshed.”

OK, but this doesn’t really shed much light on what those conflicts were all about. In fact, it’s rather less useful than the mainstream narrative that DiLorenzo et al. oppose, which at least gives the impression that abolition was at the heart of the conflict.

Abhilash Nambiar March 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm

The significance I attach to the Cooper Union Speech ties in with the significance that many people here attach to the concept of ‘states rights’. It is from that point of view that Lincoln was arguing against slavery. Which does dent the view of Lincoln that Tom Wood and DiLorenzo is trying to promote.

My view on this issue does overlap with mainstream. But I do not think abolition was at the heart of the issue, I think slavery was.

Try this link.

http://www.civil-war.net/pages/ordinances_secession.asp

It has the Declaration of Secession. The word slave is sprinkled all over the place, but the smoking gun is from Mississippi.

http://www.civil-war.net/pages/mississippi_declaration.asp

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.

On the issue of nullification too, there is lot of whining.

It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.

I have only quoted Mississippi, but you can look at all of them.

I mean, these documents could have provided more than enough raw material for Higgs and splendidly improved this article, but Robert Higgs “quoted” Lincoln instead. What kind of historian reads the emancipation proclamation, but misses these documents?

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 10, 2011 at 9:20 am

“But I do not think abolition was at the heart of the issue, I think slavery was.”

Again, this position as such is empty, as it is consistent with mainstream (abolitionist) views, as well as the DiLorenzo-Woods view (since slavery was indeed central to the *economic* issues that they identify as critical), as well as the political issues I referred to above (and note again that by seceding the South lost any chance of expansion into the Territories, hence it cannot be the case that the South seeked domination of the Union, it was the North that did so). Indeed, the Mississippi declaration you link to above makes very clear the connection of their cause to the economic and political depradations visited upon the South by the North:

“The feeling increased, until, in 1819-20, it deprived the South of more than half the vast territory acquired from France.

The same hostility dismembered Texas and seized upon all the territory acquired from Mexico. ”

“It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.

It tramples the original equality of the South under foot. ”

“It has broken every compact into which it has entered for our security.

It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system. ”

Although there is a statement regarding emancipation in the document, this clearly conflicts with the above-quoted accusation that the North intended to *confine* slavery to the South, which of course is thoroughly consistent with Lincoln’s views on the matter (ie, to leave slavery untouched where it already existed). At any rate, it should be clear that to simply say “slavery was at the heart of the issue” is grossly incomplete.

Vanmind March 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Translation: “No person matters, all that matters is my imagined institution known as The State.”

filc March 8, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Amazes me how people bend over backwards to defend Lincoln. Wasn’t he one of the most disliked presidents in his time? When judging from newspaper headlines and media/press at that time?

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Who’s defending Lincoln here? Certainly not me, I despise him. But Higgs is engaging in falsehoods here, and that shouldn’t stand.

Thomas Talionis March 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm

There is a lot of Romanticism surrounding Lincoln.

The Emancipation Proclamation was his concession to the “Radical Republicans” who were going to run a candidate against him because he wasn’t going to give immediate full and equal rights to blacks once the war was over.

Many Republicans don’t know that Lincoln didn’t run as a Republican for his re-election. He chose a Democrat to run with him in order to win the majority vote instead of running on conviction.

Thomas Talionis March 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm

If Lincoln believed in white supremacy . . . so does Hillary Clinton. Hear her say it in her own words. No context necessary:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkUH_ktWy44

Sione March 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Dear Mr Higgs

Thank you for an interesting article. As you can appreciate, it has stimulated vigorous debate. While it is understood that the message of the article was that the vacuous arguments promoted to defend and prolong the existence of the institution of slavery seem to be similar to those presented to defend and prolong certain other institutions, a contributor to the thread has raised an issue that it would be good to have clarified. Please can you assist with this.

A cursory reading of the Lincoln quote reproduced in your article appears to have him supporting the institution of chattel slavery. A contributor to this thread reproduced the same quote as part of a larger position statement made by Lincoln which apparently demonstrates that Lincoln was not a consistent supporter of the institution of chattel slavery. I certainly appreciate that it is clear Lincoln was a white spremicist and a racist (and, for that matter, a statist), however there is considerable debate about your inclusion of the quote in your article and whether it was presented in a misleading way. Please elaborate on your position and outline what was intended by presentation of this Lincoln quote.

Thank you for the clarification.

Sione

Daniel G. March 9, 2011 at 12:23 am

Nice reply, I hope to see Mr. Higgs’ response soon!

Capn Mike March 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Well said Sione!

I look forward to Dr. Higgs’ reply which I trust, will be shortly forthcoming.

I also think that this is a tempest in a teapot, as the primary thrust of the piece is obvious, and all this Lincoln stuff is a sideshow.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 8:42 pm

I don’t think it’s a sideshow. If libertarians object to the way this was presented, what are non-libertarians going to think? Giving the impression that libertarians are just dishonest hacks like any other political movement out there is not a good thing, IMO.

Wildberry March 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm

@The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 8, 2011 at 8:42 pm

I feel strange supporting you, given the unfriendly things you have said about me, but in fairness, I could not possibly agree wtih you more.

It is not necesarry to distort the basic facts in a matter. If it is wrong, the actual facts will be sufficient to demonstrate it. It is the respectful thing to do, and respect is a large part of the battle.

Capn Mike March 8, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Fair Enuff,

I think that the POINT was that Lincoln’s opinions of blacks was, at best ambiguous, and he was perfectly happy to co-exist with slavery.

THAT much is unambiguous.

end of it.

Abhilash Nambiar March 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm

But why was he perfectly happy to co-exist with slavery? What was his tolerance level? When did he put his foot down and say enough is enough?

newson March 8, 2011 at 10:37 pm

anyone who didn’t find lincoln’s words (nambiar version) especially scandalous might find this interesting.
http://is.gd/01zdWt

David March 8, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Seems a little sensationalistic to compare non-anarchists to anti-abolitionists. But that is the way the Rothbard Institute roll these days.

HL March 8, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Wow, that’s ten great reasons to keep paying my taxes! I think I will write a check to the IRS right now.

David B March 9, 2011 at 12:47 am

The full Lincoln quote does not paint him in a better light. It simply shows that Lincoln was a double-talking scoundrel like every other politician.

First part of quote: There can never be political and social equality between blacks and whites. I am in favor of this.
Second part of quote: I am in favor of equality for blacks and whites.

It’s a fine example of playing both sides. Like all politicians, Lincoln thrived off people’s willingness to believe only the best qualities existed in them, despite the fact that the worst qualities are what make a great politician.

This quote is typical. It’s no different than the double talking nonsense that Hillary and the Obama admin. has spewed all month about Libya and Egypt. Generations from now, Hillary defenders will point out how she supported freedom in the Middle East, get all riled up when only the bad parts of her speeches are reprinted at the LvMI, and spend (waste) hours defending a tyrant that was simply using typical double-speak.

This whole thread is complete nonsense. Abe was a politician, no more and no less. And as such, talking out of both sides of his mouth was the skill he needed to master. There’s a reason he’s considered the greatest politician.

Abhilash Nambiar March 9, 2011 at 7:15 am

There is no double talk. In plain English all it says is he considers people who are morally or intellectually inferior to him and people who he cannot personally get along with to have the same rights as he has to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Besides you are missing the point. Lincoln was misquoted to show he was arguing for slavery, when in fact he was arguing for exactly the opposite.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 9, 2011 at 9:39 am

Good point. Lincoln (and in general the “Founding Fathers”) should not be viewed in light of modern liberalism, which either denies the reality of moral gradations (eg, that it is wrong to kill, but surely worse to kill a friend than a stranger) or (in its more usual form advanced by the usual suspects) inverts moral gradataions, such that those more unlike us have a greater moral claim on us than those more like us. There is nothing out of order with saying that blacks should not be enslaved, but that they should not be given the same political rights as whites. Few Northerners in Lincoln’s time would have been puzzled by this.

Note that I am here referring to statist arrangements, the only justifiable solution of course is a completely private society, eg anarcho-capitalism, so that no one is forced into living under a jurisdiction (“union”) that they find objectionable. It should go without saying, however, that this was not any kind of option in Lincoln’s time. BTW, hasn’t the mainstream media recently caught on to the fact that Lincoln viewed repatriation back to Africa as the only viable long-term solution to the racial problem in America? There’s great horror and shock over this of course, but it’s not clear why it would have been an inherently bad solution at the time.

David B March 9, 2011 at 9:45 am

Yeah, and when Hillary Clinton says she wants to work with Mubarak in one sentence and then freedom for Egyptians in the next, that’s not double talk either.

What a waste of a life and reason to defend not only a tyrant and a bigot, but even worse… a politician!

The quote is obvious double-talk. And Lincoln, like all politicians was an obvious liar. If you wish to defend a liar and a thief as your humanitarian purpose, feel free.

Higgs can cherry pick any quote from any politician he wants to make his point. Politiicans deserve no better, even the ones held up before us as sanctified beings.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 9, 2011 at 10:12 am

Politicians deserve nothing but contempt (or worse), but the readers of this site (or any participants in intellectual discourse) deserve honest presentation of arguments. They didn’t get it here, sad to say.

David B March 9, 2011 at 10:28 am

My point is that there is nothing dishonest about Higgs’ quote selection.

Again, recent events highlight my point. Higgs could make an argument against government tyranny, pulling a recent quote from Hillary Clinton in which she reaffirms US partnership with Hosni Mubarak in the face of unrest. Abhilash and other Hillary defenders could then scream bloody murder about how Hillary said that she supported Egyptian freedom in the very next sentence. (This obvious double talk was highlighted on several occasions by Al Jazerra.)

Would Higgs be dishonest to exclude the second part of the quote, when it is an obvious lie? Of course not. Nor is Higgs dishonest to exclude the second part of this quote, which is an obvious lie.

It is exactly the same kind of politico double speak. Lincoln both supported and opposed slavery so that he could curry political favor with as many people as possible. This quote highlights the supporting words. It’s not dishonest in any way.

If a politician doesn’t want to be quoted in favor of a particular position, they shouldn’t make statements that support it, even if they follow that statement up with double speak.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 9, 2011 at 10:54 am

Yeah, but the point is, there was no double-talk in the quote by Lincoln! He explicitly denies that blacks should be enslaved. Whatever his views on racial equality (which seem rather sensible to me and at any rate were very typical for his time), they are NOT an endorsement of slavery.

Perhaps you believe that a belief in racial differences that preclude any kind of extensive cooperation that characterizes mosts societies is tantamount to a belief that slavery is justified. If so, you should make this argument, but until you put forth such an argument successfully, the plain meaning of Lincoln’s words here should be accepted.

David B March 9, 2011 at 11:49 am

I made it pretty clear in my comment above that the two parts of the quote are obvious double talk. I don’t understand why that needs to be revisited.

“First part of quote: There can never be political and social equality between blacks and whites. I am in favor of this.” – Me

I guess i don’t understand how one can be politically and socially inferior in the eyes of the government without also being enslaved. If you own your life, labor, and property you are not inferior. If you don’t own it, you are enslaved.

I’m not quite sure why this is arousing disagreement. In the first part of the quote, Abe clearly supports an inferior position for other human beings. That inferior position can only come about through enslavement because you can’t have an inferior position without taking away their rights.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 9, 2011 at 12:01 pm

“I guess i don’t understand how one can be politically and socially inferior in the eyes of the government without also being enslaved.”

Not a bad point, but apart from the general point that *all* subjects of a state are in this sense “enslaved,” it’s pretty clear that Higgs is talking about *chattel* slavery. I’m all for libertarian rhetoric properly applied, but that’s not the case here. Talk about the State as inherently an aggressor, by all means, but when one uses the term “slavery” there’s a pretty standard usage in mind.

David B March 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Ok, well I guess I don’t make the standard distinction between chattel slavery and enslavement through government coercion. From my point of view, it’s merely a question of degrees rather than anything fundamental, particularly since chattel slavery in America was institutionalized by colonial governments.

I’m not going to speak for Higgs. Maybe he agrees with me. Maybe he doesn’t.

Thanks for the discussion. Your comments were thoughtful.

Abhilash Nambiar March 9, 2011 at 7:07 pm

@David

“I guess i don’t understand how one can be politically and socially inferior in the eyes of the government without also being enslaved. ”

It is easy. I consider communists to be politically inferior and prostitutes to be socially inferior. That does not mean I want either of them to be enslaved.

Ashraf March 9, 2011 at 6:06 am

A true libertarian cannot be an advocate of slavery.

Plus, the comments that Higgs makes, has some racist undertones. Definitely not good.

The one thing that concerns me, which I find also slightly disturbing, is when libertarianism is highjacked by fascist and narrow-minded people, such as in the Tea Party and Neocons such as Glenn Beck. True libertarians, don’t associate yourselves with these people.

J. Murray March 9, 2011 at 7:28 am

Someone didn’t read the entire article.

Daniel G. March 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Read more carefully before commenting. Higgs wasn’t actually defending slavery. He merely listed the main arguments (many of these were clearly racist) in favor of slavery that we see in historical documents, and then pointed out the resemblance between these arguments and arguments in favor of the state.

Lassie Ivius March 10, 2011 at 7:46 am

Higgs should write a retraction saying something like” While Lincoln did not openly advocate slavery he implied blacks were inferior. This mindset in others led to justifications for slavery, since if blacks truly were inferior as Lincoln said why shouldn’t the government keep slavery legal? That’s its job, after all, to promote the general welfare. And what could promote the general welfare more then keeping sure black people stay in there socially/mentally inferior place? If the general welfare is somehow, even indirectly promoted by slavery then who cares if such things like the individual rights of blacks are trampled on?

But i also think its highly ironic that anyone defends Lincoln for opposing slavery since

1 Its likely lipservice opposing slavery bought votes in the north, the same way lipservice opposing terrorists today will buy votes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he really was against slavery just like politicians today aren’t necessarily against murdering civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

2. Lincoln used the draft to force men to murder and die. The draft is coerced labor and potential death for something that its victims had no choice in. This is hardly laudable in anyone regardless of what platitudes they might mouth.

J. Murray March 10, 2011 at 7:56 am

Actually, it’s not the job to promote the general welfare of individual people. That’s a misinterpretation of the US Constitution. The General Welfare clause only applies to the States, which are considered a political entity separate from The People in Constitutional language. Additionally, this General Welfare is not a power provided to the Executive branch, but the Legislative branch. The word “The People” is used only once in Article 1 and only refers to how State Representatives are elected. All other Congressional powers provided deal solely with States as political entities. Congress was never given any powers to engage in law making, regulation, or the welfare of individual citizenry. And since the main function of the Executive branch, and thus the President, is to enforce law passed by Congress, the President has zero Constitutional authority over any individual in the nation. He is little more than just another person as far as the Constitutionally granted powers are concerned, mostly unimportant to our daily lives.

Also, Higgs doesn’t need a retraction because Lincoln had many times justified the continuation and protection of slavery if it meant keeping the Union together. Lincoln would have made no hay against slavery if the Confederacy never attempted to break out of the Union. His primary concern was keeping the southern states under the sphere of Federal influence, and if that meant justifying slavery, so be it. The article was about justifying slavery, not about whether it was right or not. Lincoln justified it, it was just circumstances made it so that justification never came to fruition.

Abhilash Nambiar March 10, 2011 at 8:44 am

At this point, it does not matter anymore whether Higgs writes a retraction or not.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 10, 2011 at 9:06 am

I can pretty much guarantee he will not write a retraction, or even acknowledge his error. Shameful, esp for a scholar of his status.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 10, 2011 at 9:46 am

Since this article was originally written in 2009, I find it hard to believe that no one has brought this issue to Higgs’ attention by now, yet the article still stands untouched. We can draw the obvious conclusion.

Abhilash Nambiar March 10, 2011 at 8:43 am

It is very obvious to me that you are talking about something you do know nothing off.

Vanmind March 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm

As opposed to you? Been a slave, have you? Or, perhaps, a slave owner?

Ryan Vann March 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm

People seem rather preocuppied with a corpse in this thread.

Abhilash Nambiar March 10, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Ideas can live on even after the body disintegrates. Are the people who run LvMI also pre-occupied with a corpse?

David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm

The idea that slavery is wrong is just a variation of the liberal belief that human beings have rights. The only rights humans have are the ones given to them by their governments.

Suppose you are stranded on an island and very hungry. There is a cave with mushrooms perhaps, but you are too small to enter a it. Then, another human being drifts onshore. This person is small, weak, and without weapons. Unfortunately, this person is afraid to go into the cave. Should you force him or her? A rational mature person will say: It depends on the circumstances. A liberal will say: No.

David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I meant “too big to enter the cave”.

David B March 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm

@David Roemer,

Can you define the terms “rights” and “privileges” and then apply each of them to this statement to fill in the blank:

“The only BLANK humans have are the ones given to them by their governments.”

Let me know if you understand the difference now.

Thanks,
David B

David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I’m afraid I don’t understand the difference between “rights” and “privileges.” It makes as much sense to speak of “human rights” as to speak of “human privileges.”

Mike Kirby July 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I respectfully suggest that this is why you come off so ignorant. You should learn the core issues of the topics you wish to discuss before you begin discussing them.

Wildberry March 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm

@ David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm
If we say that rights arise when they are asserted and successfully defended, then the answer to your puzzle is clear; if the big guy can force the small guy to do it and the small guy can’t stop him or chooses not to, then the rights have been settled.

If we wish to anticipate such a scenario, we can make a rule. Say, the big guy can’t use force, but everything else is fair game; promises of reward, some other exchange, etc.

But the rule is only as good as the weaker’s ability to defend it, should the stronger attempt to renege. If there are no third parties around to appeal to, we are back to voluntary compliance or “might makes right”. If we introduce the presence of other’s in the scenario, we can appeal to group ethics in support of the rule, and the strength of the group against the individual to enforce it. In other words, we have changed the weaker’s ability to defend his rights against the stronger.

We have just created a libertarian society.

David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I don’t see the difference between the two statements: 1) There is a rule against slavery. 2) Slavery violates human rights.

Now slavery is against the rules in the U. S, but earlier it was not. In other words, the rights of Americans have changed. There is no such thing as the rights of human beings.

Abhilash Nambiar March 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm

You seem to be unaware of the self-evident axiom of self-ownership. State can only discover and enforce rights that you already have. It cannot grant you non-existent rights. It has been tried.

DixieFlatline April 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Dave is correct, there is no such thing as objective rights.

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I take it you do not believe in Natural law.

DixieFlatline April 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I’m not a religious libertarian.

Can you prove natural law (I assume you mean “natural rights”) exists?

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I am not a religious libertarian either. Natural means innate to man’s tendency. There is nothing religious to it. It is Rothbardian and Rothbard was at least an agnostic. It is not proved. It is self-evident.

DixieFlatline April 8, 2011 at 7:43 pm

The religious bit was a joke. I know what natural means as Rothbardians use it.

I don’t understand what you mean by self-evident. If you cannot prove it exists, then does it really exist?

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Now you need a lesson in epistemology.

Wildberry April 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm

@ Abhilash Nambiar March 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Would you agree that the issue of human rights and how they arise as a social convention begins with the ethical question?

If so, then I would assert that ethics like all human rights are a human device, just as animal rights from the particular view of a given species, is an “animal device”. This means that a given society of humans may establish an ethical principle with which you personally disagree, but rules and/or laws based on that principle would be “legitimate” within the frame of reference of that particular society and any given time. Therefore, the concept of jurisdiction becomes relevant.

If we attempt to arrive at a universal principle of ethics, we can postulate something like self-ownership as the self-evident axiom establishing a fundamental right. Even this axiom however, is not itself absolute, as ethical distinctions as to its application remain regarding the “ownership” rights between a mother and her child, and how these rights may evolve over time.

Yet as with all rights, if they are asserted, they must be successfully defended against challenges to violate them; else they cannot be considered “actual” rights. This does not mean “legitimate in your opinion”, but rather rights which operate in a society in a way that is consistent with all such rights, including those rights that you and I may view as legitimate.

Regardless of how we view slavery from our ethical frameworks today (which we seem to share), the facts are that at one time the right to own slaves was asserted and successfully defended as a property right, backed by law and government enforcement authority. It is the contest over the ethics of that position you have been discussing here, in my opinion; otherwise known as the Civil War. To be defensible, the majority of society must view the principle of chattel slavery was within acceptable social ethics. One attempt to resolve this conflict was to divide the jurisdiction such that this would cease to be a conflict within the resulting jurisdictions, demarcated at the Mason-Dixon line, as I recall.

If government is a function established and supported by the governed, then for a law to stand, it must remain within the boundaries of accepted ethical norms. As you point out, government can only support rights “we already have”. I think more accurately, government can only support rights that are consented to by the majority of society that is within the jurisdiction of that government system, i.e. within the ethical boundaries of the governed.

Slavery did not maintain that status, and the outcome was the same as it would be for any law which finds itself outside the boundaries of socially acceptable ethical principles within the jurisdiction of laws of that society. It is the struggle between those who were advocating a fundamental ethical principle of self-ownership and those who held that their property rights were a superior principle, that framed the conflict over slavery as an American institution.

This struggle, in which Lincoln was a prominent actor, eventually resulted in the resolution of the supremacy of the principle of self-ownership, and slavery ceased to be a property right that could be successfully defended. Therefore, it was abolished. Not to minimize the size and scope of that struggle, but isn’t this, in essence, what actually happened?

If you agree with this view and description of the subject (abolition of slavery and human rights) in which you are obviously an expert, then wouldn’t you agree that this principle of assertion and defense of rights is also applicable in general, such that we can say that all human rights are a human device, and arise when they are asserted and successfully defended? When they are unsuccessfully defended, they cease to be rights?

In the course of defending an asserted right, the first line of defense is “might makes right”. Civilized societies tend abandon this method of conflict resolution quickly. The second line of defense is the ethical principles of a society which bind the group to act in defense of the individual in the service of preserving this principle. A right that is not defended is no right at all. The third line of defense is a code of laws which seeks to reconcile these principles with the specific application of specific facts to the principles, and establishing rules and procedures for enforcement. Finally, there is an economic policy defense, which establishes principles of human interaction in the service of producing the intended social consequences of market operations. This is the essence, in my view, of the work of Mises and Hayek.

Given this view, I quibble with your use of the word “discover”. This implies that government has an independent motive to act as the result of a “discovery”, when in fact, at least ideally, government acts to enforce rights that are established in society long before that society organized that government for their own benefit. Such use misstates the proper cause and effect of self-government. To put it succinctly, society is the cause of government, not the other way around. Government is not the cause of rights, nor does it discover that from which it was originally conceived.

Respectfully,

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Let us discuss this elsewhere. Why not post it at a forum and leave me the link? There are simply too many things to address.

Abhilash Nambiar March 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm

When it comes to animals, what you say is 100% correct “might literally makes right”.

But human behavior is not shaped by physical strength. It is shaped by social norms. And social norms have their foundation in ideology. That is the reason US government lost the war in Vietnam. In terms of sheer physical strength, they had the upper hand, in terms of ideology they did not. You could still say that ‘might makes right’, but it is the might of the ideology.

Wildberry March 15, 2011 at 5:26 pm

@David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm

“There is no such thing as the rights of human beings.”

Outside of the context of human society, you are right, human rights don’t exist. Outside of the context of the assertion of a right and successful defense, it doesn’t exist in general.

In the past, slave owner asserted their rights to own slaves. They successfully defended that right for a time. Slaves asserted their rights to be free, and unsuccessfully defended that right for a time. Therefore, slaves did not have the right to be free in reality. Sometime later, that situation was reversed. From an internal perspective, one could say that, since (human) rights are a human device, they shifted from one configuration to another. From an external perspective, one could argue that the ethics of individual freedom “always” existed, but was “unsuccessfully defended” during slavery, and “successfully defended” when slavery was abolished.

What is wrong with this explanation of rights?

@Abhilash Nambiar March 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm

“State can only discover and enforce rights that you already have.”

I disagree with your premise here. First, I did not mention the state yet. Let’s use the concept of society; cooperating humans. The might of the group can always overcome that of the individual. If individual freedom is a right, then it only exists in realty if asserted and successfully defended.

You and I may agree that individuals SHOULD be free, and could further agree to defend that right against all challengers. As long as we fight for it and continue to win, freedom will exist both as an ideal and in reality. If we cannot, it is only an ideal.

The existence of government or not is an issue of enforcement preference. Ancaps believe only privately owned resources should be used to enforce rights. Others believe that government is a legitimate way to organize defense. That is a separate issue. In either case, government, in a free society, does not “discover” rights. Governments are created by humans to enforce rights. Some governments are formed to enforce some rights above others. The American form of government is designed to enforce individual rights above all others. That is the ideal.

Governments, like all rights, including property rights, are a human device.

“When it comes to animals, what you say is 100% correct “might literally makes right”.

Aren’t humans, at the most primitive level, animals; not in the pejorative sense, but in the sense that the primal source of cooperation is the common defense against external threats, whether they are natural threats or from other humans?

“But human behavior is not shaped by physical strength. It is shaped by social norms”.

Yes, I agree. But your assertion implies “social” and “norms”. “Society” means a group of cooperating humans, and “norm” means a common agreement about something; in this context, an ethos. To manifest that ethos, defense is required. In a primitive society, or in the wild animal context, defense strategies are worked out and employed to insure survival.

“And social norms have their foundation in ideology.”

A system of social norms, a complex ethos, becomes an ideology which binds a society together. In this sense, the very definition of “together” is “common ideology”, including the codes of how the common defense is to be organized.

“That is the reason US government lost the war in Vietnam. In terms of sheer physical strength, they had the upper hand, in terms of ideology they did not. You could still say that ‘might makes right’, but it is the might of the ideology.

You are making a huge leap here, but let’s see if I can follow and remain consistent. The US asserted its right to determine the course of events in Vietnam. However, it was unable to successfully defend this right. Despite superior weapons, the assertion failed.

Why? I’m sure we could identify a number of factors, but we could roll all of that up into the conclusion that the US unsuccessfully defended its asserted rights over the Vietnamese. By the same token, the Vietnamese who were the object of our military force DID successfully defend their asserted right to remain free of US influence. One could say that they asserted their right to be free, and successfully defended this right; this is why we “lost” the war.

Oddly, an “ideology” is related to an idea in that it can be freely adopted by anyone who encounters it and wishes to do so, just as IP opponents say ideas should work (and I agree, although I support IP). You are observing that the power of an ideology CAN overcome physical might, except in the unlikely case that every vestige of that ideology is wiped out by force.

This is why I would say that humans are ultimately governed by the consent of the governed, because the larger group can always overcome superior force in the long run, if they choose to do so.

David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Liberals don’t say, “rights are a human device.” Liberals say, “humans have rights.” The first statement makes sense, the second statement does not. Liberals also say, “humans should be free.”

Wildberry March 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm

I say “rights are a human device” because if you start there, you understand the problem.

If you say “humans have rights” you are saying that somehow they exist independent of human action. They do not.

Ethics are a human device. It is a rule that we understand as basic to our relationships with our fellow humans. If we hold a common ethos, we can cooperate on that basis, if we don’t, we need a method of self defense.

If that basic condition is misunderstood, a debate about anarchism or any other theory of self defense is meaningless because we don’t understand the problem we are trying to solve.

Abhilash Nambiar March 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Human rights can exist independent of human action. Rights are an abstract concept. Action does not reveal them. You need to reflect in order to discover them.

Now if you say Human rights cannot exist without Human beings, I agree. That does not make it a human invention. Think about it, the human kidney and the human heart also cannot exist without Human beings.

Anyway there is too much to go through here. I highly recommend that you read human action.

Wildberry March 16, 2011 at 12:48 am

@Abhilash Nambiar March 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm

I have read this book and others. I am a huge fan of Mises. Not to put too fine a point on it, but…

I am taking off on his direct quote; “Property is a human device”.

If this is so, what about other rights? He is not, apparently, a fan of “natural” rights, as he says, correctly in my view, that Nature is indifferent to humans.

“Action does not reveal them. You need to reflect in order to discover them.”

Are you sure? I am thinkin of how rights might arise. Before government, in a primative society. I think they in fact arise from the reflection on human actions.
They are a device of human cooperation. This is the basis of ethics, not some abstract contemplation of universality, edicts of God or government or anything else along these lines. They arise for the reasons I have said, and they are explained through the narratives we create to describe them.

I do not mean it in the way that you say, as subset of the class “human”. I am saying that we create rights as part of the human experience. We define them to serve some purpose. If we do define them, assert them in the context of human action, and successfully defend them, they are rights as legitimate as any other rights we might contemplate and/or name.

Now, does that mean that they are simply arbitrary? I don’t think so. I think certain rights are justified by the narrative we create to describe them. We wish to adopt them and therefore describe them because they are useful. They serve a purpose. That purpose is cooperation.

I am asking what is wrong with this explanation?

As for this:

“States can only discover and enforce rights that you already have.”

This is a misleading use of language, taken out of context. I think the term is anthropomorphism. The “state” does not discover things. That is a function of human cognition.

If humans define a right, at some level they do not need government to defend them. They are defensible by means directly available to them; force, ideology, cooperation, negotiation, contract, laws, etc. In this context government too is simply an invention for a purpose, primarily and fundamentally as a means to defend asserted rights.

Whether government is or is not present is not the fundamental issue. The issue I am raising is whether human rights are a human device, or whether they arise from some universal law, like gravity or the speed of light. I say the former.

Abhilash Nambiar March 16, 2011 at 7:12 am

Are you sure? I am thinking of how rights might arise.

It is derived from self-evident axioms.

The “state” does not discover things. That is a function of human cognition.

I meant officials representing the the institution of the state.

Wildberry March 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm

@Abhilash Nambiar March 16, 2011 at 7:12 am

Another time, perhaps?

Wildberry March 15, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I say “rights are a human device” because it defines the problem.

If we say “humans have rights” it seems to mean that they exist somewhere “out there” beyond the human experience.

Anyone can state something like this as an ideal. That ideal may be adopted by others or not. In the end, if the assertion of the ideal can be successfully defended, it can actually exist.

No one is going to ride in from outside the human experience and confirm that what we believe is a human right actually is. It is if we can make it exist. Making it exist starts as an idea, and becomes an ideology, and ideology is an assertion of rights which can be defended and manifested. We can choose more than one method of defending an asserted right.

No one is going to ride in from outside the human experience and confirm that what we believe is a human right actually is. It is if we can make it exist. Making it exist starts as an idea, and becomes an ideology, and idology is an assertion of rights which can be defended and manifested

David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm

The way I understand Wildberry is this: He admits that humans do not have rights. However, he maintains that human rights is an ideal. This means he wants governments to protect human rights. This is an improvement. This makes sense. But it raises two questions: 1) What rights do you want the government to grant? 2) Why do you want governments to protect these rights?

Suppose, for example, you want the government to protect property rights. Why?

Wildberry March 16, 2011 at 12:21 am

David,
I tried, but this is too raw for me. Perhaps another time.

Regards,

Abhilash Nambiar March 15, 2011 at 6:55 pm

@Wildberry David Roemer seems to be waste of my time, so I will ignore him for now. But if you want to get to the substance of my claims, I recommend you read, Human Action by Ludwig Von Mises. There is too much to cover here and this is not the time or place.

This claim I made

“States can only discover and enforce rights that you already have.”

That is the essence of classical liberalism. I am not telling it is all correct, but that forms the basis for the United States. Big governments, small governments, centralized governments, decentralized governments all have been proposed for that reason mainly. For their supposed capacity to uphold rights.

David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm

I’m not saying “might makes right.” Slavery in the American South was unjust. What is irrational is the statement: “Slavery is unjust.”

This is not a quibble about precise language. It relates to the idea, recently expressed in a blog about Hamilton’s Curse, that Hamilton, not Jefferson, gave us with the statist mess we have now. I don’t agree. I blame Jefferson. DiLorenzo’s analysis doesn’t explain the flip-flop that occurred in American and British politics when liberals started believing in big government. Liberals have always been the irrational ones, even when they believed in small government.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Why do you think slavery in the South was unjust?

David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Slavery in America (not slavery in some abstract sense) was unjust because it was cruel and unfair to the slaves. The owners were benefiting at the expense of the slaves. It was also unjust because of the anti-emancipation laws. The slaves were not free to buy their own freedom.

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Wow, that’s deep.

Abhilash Nambiar March 15, 2011 at 4:44 pm

The slaves were not free to buy their own freedom eh?

http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/maai/emancipation/text1/text1read.htm

The Fresh Prince of Darkness March 15, 2011 at 7:24 pm

It’s very difficult to take David Roemer seriously here.

Abhilash Nambiar March 15, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Which is why I don’t.

David Roemer March 15, 2011 at 5:28 pm

The link given above mentions slaves buying their own freedom at an early point in time. The following quote is from the first paragraph of the above link:
“A few were bought by Quakers, Methodists, and religious activists for the sole purpose of freeing them (a practice soon banned in the southern states).”

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 11:59 am

People here are infected by Orwellian double think. Facilitating the end of slavery makes Lincoln a dead tyrant. Facilitating the end of Hitler makes FDR a fascist tyrant. Facilitating the end of Saddam Hussein makes George Bush a conservative tyrant. Facilitating the end of Gaddafi now makes Obama a liberal tyrant. But opposing Lincoln, FDR, George Bush or Obama makes one a ‘libertarian’.

In short de-facto support for slave owners, Nazis, Baathists and Islamic Socialists makes one a libertarian. You don’t say?!

Now before anyone cry foul, I am fully aware that those are not the words you use to express your arguments. Nevertheless it is the narrative that you end up affirming whether or not you like it. Orwellian double-think. Nothing more.

Think about it. Please think about it.

DixieFlatline April 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Opposing all aggressive power makes one a libertarian. Just because two tyrants are fighting doesn’t make one a libertarian tyrant.

Please think more before you post.

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Just because two tyrants are fighting doesn’t make one a libertarian tyrant.

Right. And if I had said that, you would have had a point. But that is not my point. Rather it is this.

You my friend and those like you are only facilitating tyranny – willingly or otherwise. The US president (assuming he is a tyrant) is the tyrant under your influence. The tyrant he opposes is not. When you try to tie the hands of the US president, you are actually helping the other tyrant. The other tyrant has purged his opposition. He is not constrained because of you the way your tyrant is. By acquiescing to that tyrant you become as guilty as he is for facilitating his aggression. The kind of tyranny that your US president will never be capable of doing as long as you remain vigilant.

Maybe that is what you really want. I do not know, but I will consider that possibility too. Orwellian double think never aided the forces of liberty. It was instead used to confuse the proponents of freedom. Facilitating tyranny in the name of opposing tyranny confuses your less sophisticated liberty loving opponent. That confusion creates the opportunity for real tyrants, the kinds that are not foolish enough to yield to your or my influence. In a sense you act as an accomplice for tyranny – willingly or otherwise. If willingly you will continue. If not, you will stop. I am still willing to believe that you will not knowingly act that way.

DixieFlatline April 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm

You my friend and those like you are only facilitating tyranny – willingly or otherwise.

Can you substantiate this charge with some proof?

The US president (assuming he is a tyrant) is the tyrant under your influence.

I am not an American, and the President is not under the influence of every individual American.

When you try to tie the hands of the US president, you are actually helping the other tyrant.

This is a lesser of two evils. Libertarians don’t make lesser of two evils arguments.

Orwellian double think never aided the forces of liberty.

You keep using this phrase, but I suspect you have never read Orwell, because you are abusing it.

Abhilhash, this format is not conducive to debate since the editing/formatting tools are so poor. Would you be willing to back up your claims and debate them in the Mises Community?

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Can you substantiate this charge with some proof?

Even a blockhead knows that Hitler is worse than FDR and Saddah Hussien is worse than Bush and Gaddafi is worse than Obama. Calling both parties tyrants is an insult to common intelligence. One side has a self-declared strong man, the other has the leader of a free-world selected according to proper procedures of the free country. To ask for proof here is an insult to common sense.

I am not an American, and the President is not under the influence of every individual American.

The US president is under the direct and indirect influence of not just every American, but more or less every person. Even the mob that burns the American flag in the remote village in tribal Pakistan has some degree of influence over the US president. He is no one’s puppet to be sure. But he is not insulated from the happenings of the world. He is part of it, he impacts it and is impacted by it. Compare that to the relatively event-free life of a private citizen without that burden of responsibility.

As for Orwell, I have taken the trouble to read him yes.

This is a lesser of two evils. Libertarians don’t make lesser of two evils arguments.

It is the lesser of the two evils argument and there is no logical reasons that libertarians cannot make it. If you read the US declaration of Independence, you will see this argument too. That document is still the most influential pro-liberty document in the world today, so try not to push it aside.

DixieFlatline April 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Abhilash, you didn’t respond to my debate request. Will you debate me on these topics?

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Which request? Where? This is just just an unstructured conversation, except everything is typed instead of said.

DixieFlatline April 8, 2011 at 8:27 pm

To ask for proof here is an insult to common sense.

To repeat a claim after being asked for proof, without providing proof, is avoiding substantiating your argument. Either your argument is true or not. I know it is true, and I suspect you do as well, which may be why you didn’t provide any proof of it.

To claim “even a blockhead knows” is not an argument. Would you like to try again to prove your argument?

Compare that to the relatively event-free life of a private citizen without that burden of responsibility.

lol

As for Orwell, I have taken the trouble to read him yes.

Then please stop abusing the term “Orwellian”.

It is the lesser of the two evils argument and there is no logical reasons that libertarians cannot make it.

Sure there is. Libertarians do not tolerate any evil, and know it is unnecessary for a functioning and healthy society.

If you read the US declaration of Independence, you will see this argument too.

Ever heard of Lysander Spooner?

That document is still the most influential pro-liberty document in the world today, so try not to push it aside.

It’s just a piece of paper. It’s not law, and it has no value in court. It does nothing to protect anyone’s life or property. No American today can exercise his liberty under the declaration, and your beloved President regularly ignores the will of the people, and would never tolerate any right of the people to rebel and replace their government.

Still waiting for you to accept the debate invitation.

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Then please stop abusing the term “Orwellian”.

I am not. What you said right now just convinced me even more.

Sure there is. Libertarians do not tolerate any evil, and know it is unnecessary for a functioning and healthy society.

Except the evil of Nazis, or Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein. At that time there is silence. But the evils of the US government are not tolerated, they are trumpeted. But when the US government acts against these big evils some stupid people start getting very noisy. But they are not reflective enough to realize that they in opposing those that oppose a big evil they are giving a shot in the arm to evil. I already explained that. So you cannot feign ignorance. You can willfully ignore. Which is what you are doing. And by doing so you bring shame to yourself.

And just like I anticipated you brushed off the Declaration of Independence as a ‘piece of paper’. You are not intelligent enough to realize the great truths represented in that document.

Anthony April 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Abhilash,

I understand what you are saying here, but it is a very dangerous argument.

During the civil war people were conscripted (thus enslaved) in order to fight to stop slavery (assuming war was actually about stopping slavery). If I refuse to be made a slave by the local tyrant does that really make me “as guilty as” the tyrant we are fighting?

It is certainly reasonable to say “Gaddafi is a much worse tyrant than Obama”, but it seems that you are saying people should not oppose anything but the very worst tyrannies.

The second point is this: the outcome of past interventions falsifies the notion that if Obama’s hands were not tied the world would be better off for his interventions. Read the history of American interventions throughout the world over the past 60 years, all of which were carried out for very good causes, of course. You can read about mass murder, torture, unlawful imprisonment, civilian massacres and ever more hatred for America and for “capitalism”, which America’s actions abroad supposedly represent. William Blum and even Naomi Klien (among many others) tell of the terror and evil that comes with American interventions abroad… although they think capitalism is the cause of the evil they at least get their factual information right.

There is no shortage of “real tyrants” to oppose (even in the good old USA), but there is certainly a shortage of people who are willing to oppose tyranny even when the tyranny is convenient for them or when their country is the one perpetrating/benefiting from it.

(Wildberry, if consistent opposition to the use of aggressive force against non-aggressive people is too “ideological” for you I am sorry)

Wildberry April 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm

@ Anthony April 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm

(Wildberry, if consistent opposition to the use of aggressive force against non-aggressive people is too “ideological” )for you I am sorryblockquote>

It is this issue (emphasis added) that become ideological. Casting the net too widely destroys any relevant distinctions that could be made between one act and another.

General rules are easy to state, but difficult to follow in every case, unless you intend to cut a wide, indiscriminant swath through the subject.

Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 6:17 pm

There is no controlled experiments in social sciences. You know about the problems that existed because of American intervention. They are recorded. But you can never know about the problems that where avoided because of it. What is avoided is not recorded. Understanding is necessary to make sound judgement. There is no rule based decision generating machine.

Wildberry April 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm

@Abhilash Nambiar April 8, 2011 at 11:59 am

Although I am merely an interested spectator on the substance of the discussion here, on your obserations I completely and whoehartedly concur.

The standards here for intellectual honesty and sincere exploration of facts and truth are appalling, given the heritage that supposedly forms the foundations for this site.

Fortunately, those of less ideological purpose and reasonable conprehension skills no doubt apppreciate your presence here, as do I.

Mike Kirby July 24, 2011 at 8:50 pm

This essay had me right up until the very end. The logic is utterly specious except perhaps to those who simply gloss over it because they already agree with your opinion. A similarity between the arguments of the opposing side, if it exists, may arise if the institutions being opposed are similar. Such similarity does not, however, simply by its existence, in any way suggest that the institutions being opposed are in any way comparable.

This is the great problem in our country today: even many of our more intelligent citizens are no longer capable of logic or reason, merely rationalizations expressed with a formidable vocabulary and a superficial sheen of logic… “truthiness”, as it’s been called. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. That’s very well-illustrated in this comment section.

At any rate, very disappointing, since the analysis up to the final point had been very good.

The final comparison is fallacious. Slaves were not free to vote out their masters and vote in ones more favorable to their views. Slaves were not free to improve their situation by their own efforts. Slaves were not in a position where, if they rose up and overthrew their masters, larger corporate masters whom they could not see, could not vote out, could not make appeal to, and sometimes even could find out the identity of, and from whom they did not have the constitutional protections that they had from their current masters were waiting to simply step in and take control of them.

tyler November 9, 2011 at 12:09 am

Meh. I was reading with an open mind but some of your points are completely false. I mean, number four for example, why is it okay to not pay them but claim its humane because you feed them? If they’re working all day for free, (correct me if I’m wrong) and cannot leave, then how are they supposed to find a real job and make real money? Sounds like they just feed them so they don’t die.

Jack November 9, 2011 at 3:22 am

The whole point of the article is that the reasons are rubbish. If you read the whole thing you’d realise that it’s actually making a case for the abolition of government, not the reintroduction of slavery.

Jaime November 28, 2011 at 7:00 am

Hmmm…But i swear slavery has already been abolished:S..

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