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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9021/the-attempt-at-vindicating-lincoln/

The Attempt at Vindicating Lincoln

November 26, 2008 by

When I reached page 222 of Vindicating Lincoln, I almost threw the book across the room. In trying to understand his gross errors, we arrive at a key fact. The author was a student of Harry Jaffa, and his book defends to the last detail Jaffa’s analysis of Lincoln. In the end, however, Krannawitter has vindicated neither Lincoln nor Jaffa. FULL ARTICLE

{ 25 comments }

Abhilash Nambiar November 26, 2008 at 10:21 am

I know people at the Mises Institute have assumed a position that denounces Lincoln. In my opinion this topic is separate enough from the fundamentals of economics to warrant a separate discussion in a separate discourse perhaps in a different place, perhaps by scholars more completely dedicated to that task.

By condemning the most popular president of the United States, the Mises institute is undermining itself by making Misesian economics less appealing to the main stream.

Michael A. Clem November 26, 2008 at 10:42 am

Mises Institute also has a position against FDR, another popular president. I don’t think truth is necessarily something to be decided by opinion polls.
And David, while I’m not trying to undermine your argument, I think it’s fair to point out that Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species” came out in 1859. And while Darwin specifically avoided discussing human evolution in the book, it was assumed by so many people to be implied that he got a lot of heat over it, anyway, which is why he went ahead and published his later book in 1871.

David Gordon November 26, 2008 at 10:51 am

It is quite true that many people correctly anticipated in 1859 that Darwin intended his theory to apply to human evolution. But antebellum Southern opinion is not likely to have been influenced by a discussion that did not yet exist.

Inquisitor November 26, 2008 at 11:37 am

It is incredible how ignorant Krannawitter is of discussions of context in historical works. One need not be a relativist (indeed, one can be a realist) to take into consideration certain contextual facts surrounding a historical individual.

Abhilash Nambiar November 26, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Michael A. Clem I do not have any qualms about Mises Institute’s position against FDR because FDR is popular precisely for his economic policies – obviously and plainly. Criticizing FDR is criticizing his economic policies. There was an economic crisis and he was the ‘redeemer’.

Lincoln is not directly relevant to economics like FDR. The crisis he faced had economic implications as all political crisis does, but its essential nature was political. This is why I felt he deserves discussion at a different place.

Here is one topic from the civil war that is directly relevant to economics – money. Both the Union and the confederate side went off the gold standard during the civil war. What kind of banking systems did they have? In what ways where their similar? How where they different? How did people on both sides react to these changes? What was the role of gold in the pricing system of the time? Which money was more preferred in the border states? Who where the people in charge of the economic intuitions?

The political system that is an outcome of sound economics is the libertarian system. So another question in that angle could be, to what extent where the Northern and Southern societies diverging from the libertarian ideal?

Those are the kinds of things discussed in Murray Rothbard’s book ‘Conceived in Liberty’, except he speaks of the colonial era. There is a similar story waiting to be told about the civil war era. I wish he where alive today just to write it.

Kinda Sorta November 26, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Let’s be fair about this Lincoln statement:

“a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid their 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. (p. 19)[3]

There is racism, but not a categorical declaration of white superiority. Lincoln is only “in favor” of his race being on top.

Mike November 26, 2008 at 2:02 pm

David stated in the article:
“Krannawitter argues in this way: Lincoln rejected slavery; for him, the “all men are created equal” clause of the Declaration of Independence applied to blacks as well as whites, and meant that no one by nature was fit to rule over another human being as his master. Those, then, who attack Lincoln must reject natural rights: they are either historicists or believers in economic determinism.”

If Karnnawitter is correct about Lincoln’s view, wouldn’t that conflict with Lincoln’s reasons for waging war against the South? All this talk about “no man is fit to rule over another human being” is rendered meaningless if you look at his attempts to rule over human beings in the South. Isn’t this the essence of slavery?…The inability to walk away or leave a relationship that is unwanted due to the force used by the other party.
This makes as much sense as saying that Lincoln had to destroy or violate the Constitution so that he could save the Republic.

David Hunter November 26, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Lincoln is directly relevant to economics. I would argue that the “Civil War” was primarily an economic war started by the Northern states to maintain their tariff-based tax system. I get tired of hearing the canard that the war was fought to free the slaves. Nonsense.

Caveman November 26, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Mike, good point. Mainstream historians don’t want us to consider the legitimacy of secession because it calls into question their rather curious understanding of “freedom.”

bernardpalmer November 26, 2008 at 5:09 pm

As I understand it Lincoln was responsible for the deaths of over 600,000 people, with probably 500,000 being youngish male Anglo-Saxons. At the time roughly 30 million lived in the US, 10 Million in the south 20 million in the north. Supposedly 15 million were female so over the remaining 15 million males possibly one third were either too young or too old to be classed as ‘breeding stock’. So Lincoln was responsible for the eradication of 5% of the US breeding males which would have in turn meant 5% of US breeding females never breed. Seeing as at around that time the average birth-rate was about 4 children per family then roughly 4 million went missing from the white stockpile in one generation, 16 million by the second and 64 million by the third and so on. Would this vacuum have been filled by other genetic lines that would have made the US into a more hybrid nation? Supposedly over 90% of US blacks now have white blood in them to varying degrees. So what % of whites have black blood? Are these questions making you feel edgy? Is political correctness endemic in the western world?

Will the collapse of the US monetary system bring about a more laissez-faire economy where people can purchase ‘slaves’ starting with slaves now housed in prisons?

What’s the difference between a slave and his mortgage master and a slave and his whip master? Slaves with a whip master were encouraged to breed because the most valued commodity everywhere always has been children.

Ipso facto income tax reduces the amount of children being born and possibly old fashioned slavery increase it.

Excerpt from ‘What is the Primary Fundamental Right?’
“Most of today’s slaves will not see their genetic line continue and because of this and their probable high variant for Individualism, the national gene pool could be worse off in the long run, even though these prisoners only represent around 1.0% of the total American gene pool. American jails are Eugenics ‘work in progress’ and Eugenics is essentially the design of Conformists.”

Abhilash Nambiar November 26, 2008 at 5:14 pm

David Hunter you are right, the ‘civil war’ was not a war to end slavery. But that news is already couple of generations old.

What you are wrong about is the real reason for it. It was to preserve the Union. Lincoln said so himself time and again. Everything else was a means to that end; an end which in itself he considered worthy. Even the much cherished Emancipation Proclamation is consistent with that. Only states that seceded from the Union lost the right to keep slaves, that too just during the war.

Now whether a state has a right to leave the Union is a political question. More precisely, it is a political question with economic implication not an economic question with a political implication, despite efforts by some to portray it that way.

Personally the ‘rights’ of State governments or Federal governments is always dubious. To me the very act of discussing ‘rights’ of government promotes the false idea that governments can have ‘rights’. Individual rights, is what libertarian philosophy deal with and in a libertarian utopia there is no role of either of these institutions anyway.

In the less than ideal world where governments in fact do exist, it can only be legitimized if they are able to uphold the rights of the individual. This is mentioned clearly in the Declaration of independence which was signed by the representatives of all states. Whether the Federal government does a good job in this regard is debatable. Whether the Southern state governments did is not. They have a consistent record of failure as early as the 1960s.

jason4liberty November 26, 2008 at 6:53 pm

“Now whether a state has a right to leave the Union is a political question. More precisely, it is a political question with economic implication not an economic question with a political implication, despite efforts by some to portray it that way.”

When you say it is a “political” question, do you mean that it is a question solely decided by power? Because that is what “politics” is, the quest for and exercise of power over others. Your later statements about individual rights make me think that this is not what you mean, that an individual’s rights are not “political”. Individual rights pre-exist power, power can suppress them, but doing so is wrong and does not remove the individual rights. If the members of the Southern states have a right to seccession, then holding them in the Union certainly used political power to violate their rights.

I also wonder about the doctrine of those who would enslave one group (draft and conscription) to free another. Seems like moral relativism to me, “their” freedom is more important than “yours”.

I hesitate to go on at length, but Austrian (notably Rothbard) economics is ALL ABOUT rights. Self-ownership and ownership of property by extension are fundamental to economic theory and individual planning. These priciples are fundamental to any discussion of rights. Isn’t the right to use your body presupposed in “Man acts”?

Abhilash Nambiar November 27, 2008 at 12:23 am

‘If the members of the Southern states have a right to seccession, then holding them in the Union certainly used political power to violate their rights.’

I was not talking about the members of the Southern states but the government of the Southern states, the government whose representatives signed the document of secession.

Even if one assumes that the people of the Southern States had a right to secession, this particular declaration of secession by that government cannot be an expression of that right for the simple reason that a significant section of the people of the South where forcibly left out of the government which signed the document.

So what we have there is a government whose power was usurped by the slave lobby which was using its muscle to get its way while giving it a semblance of legitimacy ‘in the name of the people’.

‘I also wonder about the doctrine of those who would enslave one group (draft and conscription) to free another.’

Oh that is pretty simple. The doctrine of self-preservation. The government of the Union wants to preserve the Union so that they can continue to govern. I mean without a Union how can you govern a Union? Use whatever means to preserve it, including allowing Southern states the right to hold states. Something Lincoln admitted to freely.

You can argue for or against that doctrine. But that is political science not economic science. So I would not go there here.

‘I hesitate to go on at length, but Austrian (notably Rothbard) economics is ALL ABOUT rights.’

Yes more precisely, individual rights, the only legitimate form of rights. Something that the state governments of the South where very bad at defending, while the Federal government was somewhat better at. I mean on one side you have the government that wants to keep slavery forever and on the other side you have a government that raised an army of slaves to end the power of the government that wants to keep slavery forever. If you where forced to choose between the two which one would you pick? These are the kinds of choices that one is forced to make in a less than ideal world.

Rothbard by the way did not believe any government could effectively secure the rights an liberties of the individual. So to use libertarian ideas to defend the right of state governments which legitimized and upheld the institution of slavery is to submit to the notion of Orwellian double think and makes libertarianism look like a sham.

Abhilash Nambiar November 27, 2008 at 12:46 am

ERRATA

I keep making these annoying spelling mistakes.

‘Use whatever means to preserve it, including allowing Southern states the right to hold states. ‘

It is ‘Use whatever means to preserve it, including allowing Southern states the right to hold slaves. ‘

‘Rothbard by the way did not believe any government could effectively secure the rights an liberties of the individual.’

It is, ‘Rothbard by the way did not believe any government could effectively secure the rights and liberties of the individual.’

AbuHatem November 27, 2008 at 3:32 am

The Mises Institute’s anti-Lincoln position is interesting because nobody else will do the task. Although I have not made up my mind completely on what to think of Lincoln, it is true that some on the Right – particularly the neoconservatives – have defined conservatism, as almost religious dogma, to mean “Following the Founding Father’s through the exposition of Lincoln, and the statesman ideals of Churchill.”

Before Lincoln and Churchill there were of course conservatives and classical liberals. Edmund Burke, Joseph De’Maistre, Alexis De’Touqeville, Frederic Bastiat, and John Locke – just to name a few. The Claremont Institute in its recommended books section of its website says that the constitutional law doctrine of “original intent” believed by “most conservatives” is decedent from “slavery apologists” and based in “states’ rights.” Instead “original intent” is defined as how Lincoln – to them the only person who understood and could defend the Founding Fathers – viewed the constitution. Hence, instead of true original intent constitutionalism, we have judicial activism for a strong federal government on the neoconservative side!

Of course, as many have written throughout the history of this country, if the Constitution was wrong on something – and undoubtedly it was and has been, and will be wrong on many things – then change it! But for a view of extreme federal overreach as being the “original intent” of the founders, the Claremont Institute makes me laugh. That’s why the Mises Institute has to show the other side to Lincoln!

Dither November 27, 2008 at 6:08 am

The whole idea of a “moral war” is a sham. Just look at World War II, the so-called “good war”. It is assumed by many Americans today that this war was a good and proper undertaking by the United States because the Axis powers (in particular the Germans and Japanese) did terrible things to civilians, and were belligerent and repressive.

But this makes no sense. The U.S. air force dropped explosives on civilians in these enemy countries, for the express purpose of killing them in large numbers, and impoverishing and terrorizing the survivors. It dropped atomic bombs on two cities, in which the victims consisted mostly of civilians.

Furthermore, the U.S. allied itself with the Soviet Union, which government killed more of its own subjects in political repressions and forced famine than did the Nazis in their Final Solution, and did so before the Nazis. Then, after the war ended, and from a position of strength, the U.S. government handed over half of Europe to the known vicious tyrant Stalin.

If killing civilians is evil, then how is this evil ameliorated by killing more civilians, and sentencing millions of them to lifetimes of terror, repression and poverty?

For whom was this war good? We’re told that “America (and its allies) won the war.” But who were the actual “winners”? The American soldiers who were killed or maimed? Their families back home: mothers deprived of their sons; wives, of their husbands; and children, of their fathers? What was gained by “winning”? The Cold War? More bloodshed, in Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere? Rampant statism, complete with fascist and socialist economic planning at home?

The whole idea that this war, or any other, was “good” survives only because it is inculcated in the masses from the cradle, and seldom questioned seriously. It is in the interests of those who benefit from the present social order that this be so. The real winners of World War II were the ruling classes, in the U.S. and elsewhere, whose interests are antagonistic to those of the rest of society, and to basic morality.

DS November 27, 2008 at 6:46 am

The fact that Lincoln needed a book to vidicate him shows that DiLorenzo and a host of others have done a lot of good work. In the mainstream politics of both political parties and in the history departments of universities across the country, Lincoln is an un-impeachable, un-questioned saint. The fact that one of the “Lincoln Cult: felt the need to vindicate a saint shows that he is starting to be evaluated objectively for the first time in 140 years.

DS November 27, 2008 at 7:00 am

“Even if one assumes that the people of the Southern States had a right to secession, this particular declaration of secession by that government cannot be an expression of that right for the simple reason that a significant section of the people of the South where forcibly left out of the government which signed the document.”

You could say the same thing about the Declaration of Independece. Slavery was legal and practiced in all 13 colonies, yet these colonies representatives signed a document declaring their independence. This was also against the will of a lot of loyalists who wanted no such thing. Are you saying that the American colonies didn’t have the right to seceed from British Rule because a portion of the population was enslaved?

You seem to be implying that the right to secession is dependent on circumstances, not a fundamental universal right for any group that feels it’s needs are not being met by their current government.

The American Civil war in a lot of ways was simply a replay of the American Revolution, with the North playing the part of the British and the Confederacy playing the part of the colonies. In a lot of ways, other than the ultimate result, it played out the same. If you illegitmize the Confederacy based on the existence of slavery you must do the same to the 13 colonies during the Revolution. The circumstances are identical in this regard.

Book 'em Danno November 27, 2008 at 9:42 am

Dither: Amen, Sir!

DS wrote, “The American Civil war in a lot of ways was simply a replay of the American Revolution, with the North playing the part of the British and the Confederacy playing the part of the colonies.”

Neat summation. Both events were extraordinary, warts and all. I like to contrast the American liberation movements with African Independence, where 9 out of 10 times the rhetoric and result was aimed at continued subjugation, just by native rule. Out with the King, in with the Dictator.

Michael A. Clem November 27, 2008 at 11:36 am

Abhilash, as it says in the About section of the site, The Ludwig von Mises Institute is the research and educational center of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian School of economics. . It’s not just about Austrian economics, although that is its unique calling card. Thus, to consider the non-economic aspects of Lincoln and the Civil War is not at all inappropriate for the blog, although I wouldn’t want too much of it.

Abhilash Nambiar November 27, 2008 at 12:12 pm

‘Are you saying that the American colonies didn’t have the right to seceed from British Rule because a portion of the population was enslaved?’

You make a good point. The Declaration of Independence does stand on its own merit separate from the merit of those who signed it and their reasons for it. If indeed that document had been the basis of the War for Secession in 1861 then we have a strong case to call it the War for Southern Independence.

Unfortunately for you that is not what they did. They did not do that because they could not use the Declaration of Independence to morally justify secession. If anything the Declaration of Independence morally justify their removal by force. The Southern states clearly had governments that had institutionalized slavery and where willing to keep it that way. In other words it had a government that was destructive to the cause liberty.

So they had to come up with a new declaration, which they did – a declaration of causes for secession. A document that that expressly states slavery as the reason for secession and thus a document that cannot stand on its own merit.

‘You seem to be implying that the right to secession is dependent on circumstances, not a fundamental universal right for any group that feels it’s needs are not being met by their current government.’

Session is a means to secure rights, not a right in itself. And that this means can be used to secure rights does not mean therefore that it is the only end that is capable of being achieved through this means.

Here is an analogy to make more sense of it. A gun is a means for self-defense. That does not mean therefore that it is the only way a gun can be used.

So even if fundamental rights remain constant the means to secure it varies with circumstances.

So under what circumstances does the does session become a means to secure fundamental rights? The circumstance here is the presence of a government that is destructive to our liberties.

By that logic the revolutionaries had a right to secede from Great Britain (even if they kept slaves, because they where not fighting for their right to keep slaves).

And interestingly enough by that logic the Abolitionists in the North had a stronger case for secession. After all why stay in an Union that tolerated slavery?

Those that clearly did not have a good case for secession where the people who where too eager to secede. The slave holders of the South and the government they controlled. They where fighting for their dubious right to keep slaves and where even willing to put it in writing.

Abhilash Nambiar November 27, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Michael A. Clem looks like you are right. And here I am discussing libertarian political theory, not having planned to by the way, but it is comforting to know that it is not at all inappropriate. Believe it or not I too prefer to discuss things more directly related to Austrian economics rather than Libertarian political theory.

I feel a sense of incompleteness that I feel compelled to admit. Understanding American history in light of what libertarian political theory teaches us has been done relatively well for the colonial era up to the American Revolution by Murray Rothbard.

But the time since then is not that well done. All interpretations of historical events since seem to be biased. Either liberal or far-right views are put forward, even in libertarian circles, all that happens is that they get re-packaged.

The problem is that since Rothbard raised the bar no one else seemed to have jumped that high.

Tom Papworth November 28, 2008 at 5:08 am

“If we think that slavery is unconditionally wrong, must we not acknowledge that Lincoln’s waging war against the South was correct? By contrast with Lincoln, many of the leaders of the Confederacy thought that slavery was a positive good. Must not all libertarians, then, reject the Southern position that secession was constitutionally justifiable? To think otherwise, he claims, is to support slavery.”

By the same logic, should the Americas not remained colonies of Great Britain, which abolished slavery far sooner than the United States.

I think these questions revolve around whether ends (emancipation) justify means (war).

Abhilash Nambiar November 28, 2008 at 12:49 pm

‘I think these questions revolve around whether ends (emancipation) justify means (war).’

Tom Papworth, the means was war, but the end was the preservation of the Union not emancipation of the slaves. Lincoln freely admitted it. Look it up.

Dylan Voltaire June 19, 2009 at 2:28 pm

The South had no legitimate reason for secession. No constitutional rights had been violated. Lincoln was very careful to walk that line. The only attempts to violate what should rightly be called state sovereignty were taken by the slave states who attempted to coerce California into being a slave state and force Northern states to be slave catchers for them. Gordon doesn’t seem to recognize this at all in his review.

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