Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on October 28, 2011

in Hubris and humility, Seen and Unseen

… is from page 87 of Vol. 1 of the 1980 Knopf edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America:

But I am of the opinion that a centralized administration is fit only to enervate the nations in which it exists, by incessantly diminishing their local spirit.  Although such an administration can bring together at a given moment, on a given point, all the disposable resources of a people, it injures the renewal of those resources.  It may ensure a victory in the hour of strife, but it gradually relaxes the sinews of strength.  It may help admirably the transient greatness of a man, but not the durable prosperity of a nation.

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rbd October 28, 2011 at 8:18 am

I used to be hard working. Only I could satisfy my needs and wants, and this drove me satisfy the needs and wants of others, for remuneration, of course. I was creative, diligent, persistent, and always trying to keep one step ahead of the competition. It was hard work, but rewarding.

Now, things are different. You see, Dad took me under his wing. Instead of working hard pleasing others, I find it more profitable to ask him for more, and he usually acquiesces. My friends seemed to have noticed. They say I’m not the person I once was. I’m out of shape, a little overweight, and carry a chip on my shoulder. They say my fire is gone, replaced with a rotten sense of entitlement. I don’t care what they think. I’ll just need to find some new friends.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 28, 2011 at 8:33 am

boy did history prove de Tocqueville wrong on this.

1) United States–as well explained in Wink’s April 1865: The Month That Saved America, the Civil War ended slavery and state’s rights, made the United States a nation, with a strong central government and saved the nation

2) then we have Great Britain and the Empire

3) then we have the German and Italy being formed into Nations

4) the we have Japan

5) then we have the USSR and China

6) then we have Spain and even Portugal

and we could go on and on.

Now, we see Europe moving closer and closer to union

rbd October 28, 2011 at 8:55 am

How does formation of these political boundaries negate Tocqueville’s argument that all-powerful governments usually end up depriving man of that which he so desperately needs?

So, would your utopia consist of all of mankind, firmly united in solidarity, beholden to one omnipotent central world government?

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 28, 2011 at 9:17 am

mankind enjoys more freedom, today, than at any time in history, all concurrent with the modern nation state that can be toppled with Twitter

get real

Anotherphil October 28, 2011 at 9:23 am

with the modern nation state that can be toppled with Twitter

To be relaced by a brutal Sharia theocracy.

I am real. Since I can think, and am not a slave to programming-bot-go play with the rest of the drone nation.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 28, 2011 at 9:55 am

as opposed to being replaced by say brutal catholicism, as in several hundred years of inquisitions

around here everyone loves corollaries.

since, throughout history, religion is always the running dog of brutality, shouldn’t we, as good libertarians, support taking off the heads of religion, base don our principle of corollaries

Anotherphil October 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm

“as opposed to being replaced by say brutal catholicism, as in several hundred years of inquisitions”

Lets grant for a minute the absolute veracity of your claim (I don’t because my view of history is more informed than watching the state-owned monculture forming BBC product-Monty Python. However, its replacement in certain portions in the middle-east gave us the Al-Jazerra, so life is so much more complicated than you statists and your transient monomanias imagine.

Then we have to consider the inquisitions as a part of a two thousand year history. That would render their occurrence a transient and abberant feature of a two thousand year history that also included laying the groundwork for modernity and perhaps being the single greatest instrument for the private, voluntary relief of poverty. (Which is why the statist left hates Chistianity or any religion that dares to attempt to alleviate misery, as its vitality would mitigate reliance on the state)

Every land has hospitals, orphanages and other institutions that have crosses on them. However, as Paul Johnson pointed out, Islam has always been martial and supercessionist. The current resurgence more so. Funny, they seem to know how to knock centers of commerce down, but have yet to erect a single hospital. There’s simply no comparison.

However, there’s no need to fear anything Catholic in Europe, let alone Egypt or LIbya, then again most Islamic countries need not fear the development of the secular superstate you favor.

But hey thanks for revealing another of the seething prejudices that animate your economic lunacy. Now go back to chanting about Jewish bankers, and perhaps you can impale the heart of your ideology on a stake of reality, as a celebration of Halloween.

Ken October 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm

“…shouldn’t we, as good libertarians, support taking off the heads of religion, base don our principle of corollaries…”

I’m a Roman Catholic. Want to start with me?

rbd October 28, 2011 at 9:29 am

Well, I would argue that the modern nation state is slowly chipping away at our liberties. You need to wake up and realize that self-serving governments seek only one thing: more power. True liberty doesn’t correlate well, especially in the long-run, with expansionary government.

You place too much faith in these man-made institutions.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

i place no more faith in man than in his instituions

Marcus October 28, 2011 at 9:53 am

It is often claimed that religion has murdered more people than any other institution. I’m no fan of religion but that claim is plainly false.

By far, the most murderous institution in the history of mankind is the nation-state. No other institution comes close.

Ken October 28, 2011 at 10:35 am


And the most brutal and murderous nation states have been atheistic. The communist countries actively denied religion, yet were and are the most devilish nation states on earth.


Dan H October 28, 2011 at 10:40 am

Marcus and Ken,

Great points. It should also benoted that violence and war in the name of religion (i.e. The Crusades) only happened because of the marriage between Church and State. It was as much State-sanctioned as it was religious.

Marcus October 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

Actually, the most brutal nation-states have been non-democratic.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 9:03 am

And yet, all of those nations, once superpowers in their respective periods, have fallen by the wayside (with the exception of the US, currently).

Italy and Germany fell into fascism and were eventually destroyed by war (He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword. ).

The British Empire became so large is began collapsing in on top of itself (first the Colonies, than Australia, New Zeland, Canada, India, Africa). Now all that remains is a island in Europe.

Japan destroyed itself through war and imperialism (see above).

USSR no longer exists

China, although a rising economic superpower, suffered greatly under the Communist rule.

Spain drove herself into debt in the 1600′s by fighting wars with heretics, Lutherians, and the British.

Portugal was once a major trading power, but not any longer.

The US influence has diminished greatly after the two wars in the Middle East and botched military action in Africa in the 90′s.

Sorry, man, but these are the facts. Yes, each of these nations were able to gain power through some kind of powerful centralized administration, but they weren’t able to hold onto it for too long.

Of course, that is not to say one doesn’t need central government with some authority; the Articles of Confederation proved that quite conclusively. The question to ask is how much authority should be given. The answer to that question is the Constitution (which, of course, then leads into interpretations).

Jon October 28, 2011 at 9:17 am

Good God, my grammar is atrocious. I wish there was an edit button. I apologize for that.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 28, 2011 at 9:27 am


Thank you for proving my point. The rise and fall of nations has nothing to do with “diminishing [of] their local spirit.”

I especially love your example of Nazi Germany which was born in the beer halls of Barvaria. Talk about local spirts.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 9:42 am

Oh, I don’t know. The Fascism nations replaced local spirit with fanatical devotion to the Leader (see purity oaths, army oaths, etc).

British nationals became complacent in enterprise and came to rely more and more on the colonies for support.

Chinese and Soviet citizens under their respective Communist rules were apathetic and hardly enterprising.

Spanish citizens were the epitome of lethargic and apathetic behavior; the Spanish saw their national falling into corruption but didn’t give two figs since the Church said it was fine.

Portugal suffered a fate similar to Spain.

Don’t forget that all of these nations once were bold explorers, traders, explorers, religious and pious people. However, they all fell into the spirit of complacency. This is what happens to superpowers, whether it be a corporation or a country: they eventually become so large or powerful they abandon their risk-taking, enterprising ways for safe bets. IBM once lead the world in computing! Microsoft replaced them when IBM refused to go into personal computing. Apple is replacing Microsoft because they do not do anything exciting anymore.

A more modern example: Borders.

With a centralized system, when beurocrats are involved, when innovation requires more time filling out forms than inventing, people loose the drive.

Really, the classic example of this is Rome (both the fall of the Western Empire and the eventual fall a century later of the Eastern Empire).

It seems to be a life cycle of freedom: tyranny, revolution, free society, tyranny again. And it starts all over. The Classical Civilizations (Greece, Rome, Egypt, Carthage) are great examples of this, as are English and Russian histories.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 28, 2011 at 9:58 am

no one said nations don’t all over the board. the point was that de Tocqueville was wrong as to why

Jon October 28, 2011 at 10:03 am

Will you please elaborate, sir? I cannot think of an example of a powerful centralized government/entity that did not eventually lead to ruinous behavior by its citizens/believers.

Hell, the Catholic Church is a prime example of de Tocqueville’s claims.

Anotherphil October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm

especially love your example of Nazi Germany which was born in the beer halls of Barvaria.

Nazi Germany was born in the Prussian Administrative state, which gave us the modern new administrative (super)state.

Greg G October 28, 2011 at 9:31 am


It is worth remembering that the U.S. Constitution was opposed by the libertarians (anti-federalists) of the day who nearly succeeded in defeating it. They predicted, as they always do, that everything they were opposed to would lead to tyranny.

Fred October 28, 2011 at 9:38 am

Only a tyrannical government could tell its subjects what kind of light bulbs they may purchase.

rbd October 28, 2011 at 9:51 am

And the amount of water in your toliet
And the temperature of the water in your restaurant sink
And the gas mileage of your car
And the fuel mixture of your gasoline
And the time, date, and place you may purchase alcohol
And where your children attend school
And places where you can and can’t travel
And how you can use your own property
And the type of milk you can offer for sale
And what you can bring onto an airplane
And molest you before you get on that airplane

Fred October 28, 2011 at 9:57 am

Wonko the Sane decided the world had insane when he saw directions on a box of toothpicks.

I decided our government had gone insane when it outlawed the international symbol for a good idea.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 10:04 am

Fred, what is the international symbol for a good idea?

Fred October 28, 2011 at 10:21 am

Jon, I don’t think there is an official international symbol for a good idea.
However, say you were drawing a cartoon and wanted to show a character as having a good idea in such a way as to not need words.
How would you do it?

Jon October 28, 2011 at 10:48 am

Light bulb… ah I got your point now.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 9:45 am

This is true, Greg. The anti-Federalists of the day did oppose the Constitution. But I think all but the most extreme Libertarians of today realize the need for some central government who can collect taxes, provide for national security, and enforce laws and contracts. Modern Libertarian thinkers such as Hayek, Friedman, Paul, Paul Jr., all have a role for government. We are not anarchists, after all. :)

Greg G October 28, 2011 at 9:56 am


The colonial anti-federalists were not anarchists. They were people who were doing well under the existing system an feared they would lose the power they held at the state level.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 10:00 am

Very true, sir. Most people who oppose legislation are those who would lose power. That’s why you see big companies push for protectionism.

vikingvista October 29, 2011 at 3:27 pm

So “most extreme” is the adjective for a consistent application of principles? So be it. Correct vs incorrect isn’t a popularity contest.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 9:59 am

The Libertarian argument is that any instillation of power in a centralized figure, whether it be a government, corporation or person, inherently reduces individual’s freedoms. For example, and I shall use an extreme example to highlight my point, if we were to give Congress the power to mandate the number of children each couple should have, it takes away the freedom of the couple to make a choice based upon their circumstances.

The question, and there is division even within the philosophy, is how much power should be given.

Classical Liberals believe in the Natural Rights: Life, Liberty, and Property. We, generally, believe governmental power should be focused primarily on protecting these rights. For example, we support anti-murder laws, anti-theft laws, trial by jury, etc. You’d have a hard time finding anyone who would say a murderer should get off scott free (despite my moral relativism a few posts ago).

But then, why do we object to things like mandating health insurance? Well, it infringes on Liberty; my choice to cover myself or take the risk.

The economic arguments are a discussion for another time, however.

To sum up, what de Tocqueville’s argument of spirit is the spirit of liberty. Simply by giving more power to a central figure, you are removing power from yourself. And that makes you complacent. I hope that clears things up some, Greg?

Greg G October 28, 2011 at 10:15 am

OK Jon. What argument do you use to justify the level of taxation and government authority that you seek to another libertarian who claims that violates his liberties? How are disputes between libertarians settled?

Dan H October 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

Greg G,

The Founders had an answer for that: Federalism. Keep the powers of government concentrated as locally as possible, and let States and localities make their own laws and regulations. It works. It’s why I may be jumping across the river from Cincinnati to Covington, KY. Of course, after decades of “not getting it”, the Cincinnati City Council is getting tired of people and businesses leaving and could be lowering property tax rates soon.

Greg G October 28, 2011 at 10:31 am

Dan H

Federalism doesn’t settle the issue. It just moves it to the state level where there is still a government that needs to decide it. Consider abortion. Many say that should be a state issue. I think that is an easily defensible position. But it doesn’t make the issue go away.

You have libertarians who think liberty means that abortion is a personal issue the government should stay out of – and libertarians who believe the state should force a rape victim to carry the rapist’s baby to term. Abortion was debated between two libertarians on this very blog recently.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 10:31 am

Greg, that’s where the courts come in.

Kind of the ironic thing about Libertarian principles is we believe in a powerful court system. Go figure, huh?

Also, economically speaking, there is the Coase Theorem. The super, super, super simplified version of this, as postulated by economist Ronald Coase, is that, with no transaction costs, usually a settlement can be reached where the injured party is compensated by the injurer through an arbitration process. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but you’ll have to take a course on that

Jon October 28, 2011 at 10:49 am

Yes, Methinks and I got into it. I think it was Methinks, anyway.

vikingvista October 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm


Here you hit on a fundamental contradiction in principles among most libertarians.

J. W. October 29, 2011 at 3:22 pm

“Abortion was debated between two libertarians on this very blog recently.”

Well, not quite. Jon said that laws against abortion are “socialist” and yet another Dave and I disagreed with that description without going into whether there should be such laws. Also, I don’t identify as a libertarian (although yet another Dave might; I don’t know). But you might be referring to another discussion that I didn’t catch.

Still, it’s true that abortion legislation is a point of contention among libertarians.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 31, 2011 at 2:21 am
Greg Webb October 31, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Nikki, Soviet industry was owned and operated by the Soviet government, which was controlled by the Soviet communist party. Your evidence supports that no one can trust big government. Your advocacy for big government, despie the evidence, shows you to be the typical uncaring big-government ideologue.

vikingvista October 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm

And now we see that they were right.

Anotherphil October 28, 2011 at 9:09 am

Now, we see Europe moving closer and closer to ruin.

And now, we’re free to have the federal government enslave us-to confiscate the product of our labors, no matter what out race, to be treated differently (not equally) by the main instrument of plunder, the tax code. We’re free to have our money confiscated to fund “programs” with fictitious “trust funds”, to support failed foreign states and their potentates. We’re free to have our lives manipulated so we will be reliant on the massa, in order that our consent is coerced and obtained under duress, under a new form of insidious feudalism. We’re free to have any control of the monster rendered moot by the empowerment of a pantheon of regulatory gods to issue every more voluminous and complicated rules that serve no purpose other than to protect those in symbiotic union with the beast, screeds that insist on our servility, even as the issuers are exempt from peril of removal by election.

This, even as our ruling class masters jet off to exotic locales at our expense while exhorting us to “sacrifice” and indulge in the finest confections while telling us to get up and move, to live in luxury, free from any want while telling us we’ve gone soft.

Ignorance is knowledge! Slavery is freedom!.

The more I think about Lincoln’s enactment of the first income tax, the more I think he the Emancipation Proclamation with one hand and the articles of general enslavement with the other.

Nikolai Lazyson- a mindless bot bringing you statist doxologies every day, thanks to a grant from the federal government which assured the creation of his programming code.

Greg G October 28, 2011 at 11:34 am


Even if you go to the next level and into court you still have to argue the case. And once two libertarians disagree there is nothing other than the subjective decision of an individual or a small number of individuals to decide the case.

The solution democrats prefer (deciding policy through elections) often gives bad results. But democratic processes give you a chance to try again soon when you get a bad result. They also have the virtue of being….wait for it…..decentralized and bottom up as compared to other solutions.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 11:45 am

The idea with a court system is it allows for the two opposing parties to come face-to-face and lay out their issues before a finder of fact (usually a jury). It spurs negotiations so that proper compensation can be reached.

It also allows for the greater questions to be answered. For example, the famous quote “My freedom to move my fist ends when it reaches your nose.” What, exactly, are limitations to our freedoms?

Finally, it allows for the problem to be targeted in the most accurate manner possible. I have a beef between myself and another man involving cows. This situation is different from a beef between two other farmers. Through the court (or Coasian system), our individual issues are resolved. Federal legislation, since it does have to cover all 50 states, is usually wide-angled and may or may not solve the issue that myself and Farmer Bill have.

Of course, we cannot have a society founded on individual laws for each person.

But we do want each person to have the ability to live how they please within the pramaters of the Natural Rights.

That is the role of the Federal Government: to establish laws that will protect the Natural Rights of it’s citizens.

Does that make sense, Greg?

Greg G October 28, 2011 at 11:49 am


Nothing you said there to disagree with. We are each describing two different aspects of the same system.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 11:53 am

I like talking with you Greg. Although we disagree, we at least understand each other. We are opposite men, but both warriors for truth

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 31, 2011 at 2:22 am
Greg Webb October 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm

That pic, Nikki, show big government’s handiwork because the government of the Soviet Union, under communist ideology, owned and operated all industry.

Dan H October 28, 2011 at 10:06 am

“1) United States–as well explained in Wink’s April 1865: The Month That Saved America, the Civil War ended slavery and state’s rights, made the United States a nation, with a strong central government and saved the nation”

So… about slavery… It was an institution that existed BECAUSE of government.

And as much as the South cried “state’s rights”, they certainly did not give a damn about the North’s “state’s rights” when it came to their refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, so they bitched and moaned for the all-powerful Federal government to pass the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made federal marshalls in the North liable for fines if they refused to enforce the law.

Greg Webb October 28, 2011 at 10:37 am

Slavery was created and enforced by government. The elite of the southern states benefited by slavery and were willing to manipulate logic and principle to continue violating the liberties of certain individuals. The principle that they manipulated was State’s rights.

The rights of State governments with respect to the federal government have not been abolished as Nikolai suggests. That relationship is an important check and balance on the powers of both the federal and the state governments called federalism.

Nikolai manipulates logic and principles, much like the southern elite once did, to advocate for greater governmental power and less liberty for individuals. Those who advocate for more governmental power today are no different from those who advocated for more government power in the past. The southern aristocracy; the kings, pharoahs, caesars, and emperors; socialists of all kinds including national socialists, nazis, socialists, communists, international socialists; etc have a common theme – the need to control others to enrich themselves while peddling the propaganda that they are doing it for the good of the people.

Anotherphil October 28, 2011 at 1:02 pm

So… about slavery… It was an institution that existed BECAUSE of government.

Excellent point. What happens when government grants your rights, rather than merely recognizing them.

Greg Webb October 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Government cannot grant rights. It can only recognize and enforce those rights. Rights are granted by your Creator or, in the case of my atheistic friends, rights are self evident.

Anotherphil October 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I agree with you, however-if government has taken all your rights away, then they are in the position of dispensing them.

The lightbulb and toilet issues shows just how petty and intrusive the feds have become.

Greg G October 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm

The very fact that the lightbulb and toilet issues loom so large in this discussion is evidence that repression today is not nearly as bad as in other eras and other countries.

I am sure that many of the most genuinely oppressed throughout history, and throughout the world, would be astonished and cheered to know that “the light bulb and toilet issues” are among the most talked about oppressions of the day now.

Methinks1776 October 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm

err, Greg G, are you really so dim you can’t grasp the concept of “slippery slope”?

This is precisely why those of us who have lived under genuine oppression are so wary.

But, don’t let that stop you from skipping along like a useful idiot.

muirgeo October 30, 2011 at 1:32 am

methinks no country I can think of went to communism via a slippery slope. They ussually went via a revolution from some other prior increasingly oppresive regime that cared not about their 99%.

Ghengis Khak October 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm

“methinks no country I can think of went to communism via a slippery slope. They ussually went via a revolution from some other prior increasingly oppresive regime that cared not about their 99%.”


Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 31, 2011 at 2:23 am

government is the only thing that could have assured these children the right to be born with limbs


Jon October 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm

A government that has the power to give you everything you want also has the power to take away everything you have.

Greg G October 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm


Of course I understand the concept of a slippery slope. The problem is, most interesting issues are slippery slope issues. Simply invoking the slippery slope argument doesn’t get you anywhere. How much to reduce the size of government could be a slippery slope. Reduce it too much and you could get anarchy. Reducing it a little is far from anarchy. And a few restrictions on light bulbs and toilets are far from real repression.

In the Soviet Union you lived under a regime where your political opponents really did want to take your freedom. I don’t think you have fully adjusted to the fact that our system is different from that. Americans have had robust political disputes since the very beginning, all while maintaining or expanding one of the most free societies in all of human history. You are always lecturing me on my biases. You should question your bias that everyone you have a political dispute with wants to take away your fundamental freedoms. That’s not how it works here.

Methinks1776 October 29, 2011 at 10:50 am

Yes, Greg, the problem is I haven’t fully adjusted to the American system because I don’t think it’s any of the politician’s business what kind of light bulbs I use or how much salt is in my food. And, of course, it’s obviously follows that if I don’t want politicians dictating how many squares of toilet paper I can use to wipe my behind, then the next stop is Somalia.

You’re a sharp one, Greg G. Nothing gets past you.

Ken October 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm

The slippery slope is real enough. Ask ‘em in California, where part of the sales job on registration of (and banning further sale of) so-called “assault” rifles was that they’d never ever, cross-my-heart-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye NEVAR try confiscation. EVAR.

Until Dan Lungren (Republicrat, for those needing to keep score), trying to polish his “lawn ordure” credentials while running for goober in the goobernatorial election, floated confiscation as a trial balloon. He desisted when (so the story goes) the head of the state police in California let him know quietly that he wasn’t interested in “feeding my officers into a meat grinder.”

Ken October 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I’d like to thank (once again) the Slave Power for giving a bad name to resistance to the centralizing tendency of state authority.

Darren October 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm

The Month That Saved America, the Civil War ended slavery and state’s rights, made the United States a nation, with a strong central government and saved the nation

Yes. 620,000 lives is a small price to pay.

Greg G October 29, 2011 at 6:54 am

One of several surprising things I have learned since coming to this site is that many here believe that we should not have fought a war to end slavery because slavery would have eventually gone away on its own.

Are you willing to apply the same logic to the American Revolution? After all most British colonies achieved their independence peacefully. What principle is it that could justify fighting a war about taxation but not fighting over people literally being enslaved with whips and chains????

Greg G October 29, 2011 at 10:10 am

Why is it so hard to get an answer to this question?

Methinks1776 October 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm

You think getting answers from you is easier?

Greg G October 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm


Methinks1776 October 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Then you would be wrong. Again.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 31, 2011 at 2:25 am

Greg you cannot get a reply because this Blog is Code for Racism. The people here dream of a return to Charleston, SC Dec 31, 1860

Greg Webb October 29, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Greg G, war is an awful thing that should rarely be resorted to.

Slavery was a great tragedy inherited from the old world (which still goes on today) that may not have required a war to end in the US as was not required in Great Britain to end slavery. The Civil War resulted in the death of over 600,000 American lives, widespread disruption of people’s lives, and huge destruction of property.

The American Revolution was also an awful thing because of death, disruption, and destruction. But, it resulted in an experiment in government unique to the world – a large, populous country with a constitutional representative government expressly limited in its power. I’m not sure that would have ever happened without the American Revolution and the particular mix of ideas represented by the Founding Fathers. Remember that the history of the world, with very limited exceptions, has been filled with centralized governments run by the few for their own benefit despite their propaganda about helping the people.

Crawdad October 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm

IIRC, there were several precedents of slavery being eliminated peacefully both internationally and right here in the good old U.S of A. (New York for example) prior to our “civil” war. So it was not unheard of back then and even voices of the time, abolitionists like Wiiliam Lloyd Garrison and Lysander Spooner among many others, believed the U.S. could follow those examples.

You are playing fast and loose with history if you believe most British colonies achieved independence peacefully. While outright war might not have taken place there was almost always rebellion and bloodshed involved. The American Revolution had no precedent as it was the first British colony to successfully break away. I think it was the “without representation” which led to outright rebellion and the war came about when Britain sent in troops to quell it, sometimes brutally.

Greg G October 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm

GW and Crawdad

I agree with virtually everything you have written here. My point is that there is more to the story. I know there was plenty of violence short of war in most British colonies. There was also plenty of violence to slaves that would have continued for some unknown amount of time without the Civil War. How long would you be wiling to submit to being enslaved to avoid a war?

And what principal are you appealing to that would distinguish between the two? Is it just that, with hindsight, you prefer one result to the other? When deciding what is worth fighting for and what isn’t, you never know beforehand how it will turn out. What I’m saying is that people being literally held in slavery with whips and chains seems like a much greater outrage than feeling you are overtaxed.

Crawdad October 29, 2011 at 5:34 pm

In reply to Greg G as there was no reply button after his last comment.

I think what I’m struggling with in regards to your examples , Civil war (or war to end slavery, which is debatable btw) vs the American Revolution and a guiding principle for when to go to war, is your stated perspective. For instance, you’re judging the issue of slavery from a modern viewpoint with no historical context then trying to establish a case for the two wars as a one-to-one comparison when it is really apples to oranges.

I know it is almost beyond comprehension to the modern mind but slavery was, for almost all of human history, a worldwide phenomenon. Almost every culture I know of practiced it in some form. On that time scale the abolishionist idea was very new and the thought of fighting a war to end slavery beyond imagining. A shifting of view that dramatic takes time to spread through a culture and if you think in those terms the shift was happening pretty rapidly. This is not an apology for slavery it was (and in some parts of the world remains) a great evil. There a difference though between a person rising up and fighting against his own enslavement and people taking it on themselves to lay their lives on the line to free others who are enslaved.

The colonists who decided to enter into rebellion against the British crown had been born free men and equal subjects to the crown. That was their baseline perspective. When enough of them decided the crown was encroaching on their status and freedom they decided to rebel. It was the British crown that forced the war upon them as they would probably have preferred to have walked away peacefully. So really the colonists didn’t decide to go to war, they decided to stand up for their rights and, if required, to fight for them. So that’s what they did.

From my perspective there isn’t as much of a moral quandry as you seem to think you’ve presented.

Greg G October 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Thanks Crawdad. I think I have a much better idea where you are coming from now. I guess I was reacting more to a few commenters from the other day who were suggesting that Lincoln was a terrible tyrant. I assume you are not in that group. Correct me if I am wrong.

Greg Webb October 30, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Greg G, you said, “How long would you be wiling to submit to being enslaved to avoid a war?”

Greg G, you present a straw man argument in the form of a question. Let me turn it around for you. Would you be willing to die to eliminate slavery in the world? If so, then why are you wasting time posting on this blog because slavery still exists.

Slavery has existed for thousands of years and continues to this day. You cannot completely eliminate it without war and the loss of likely millions more in lives to liberate all enslaved peoples everywhere.

It is likely that slavery in the US would not have survived much longer, which is why the southern elite, to protect their economic interests, declared independence and war rather than negotiate a resolution. The Founding Fathers, on the other hand, tried to negotiate a resolution with the King as late as the siege of New York.

brotio October 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Lincoln’s own words indicate that he didn’t believe the War Between the States was about slavery:

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. – August 22, 1862

Greg G October 29, 2011 at 6:51 pm


I agree that preserving the union was a higher priority for Lincoln than preserving slavery. You are right about that. On the other hand, there would have been no issue about preserving the union without slavery.

I guess what I am really trying to get at here is to what extent, if any, cafe patrons give consider economic freedom more foundational than political freedom and physical freedom. So in that sense, I am more interested in what you think than what Lincoln thought.

Can tax grievances be a bigger outrage and better reason to go to war than full out slavery? And remember, just as it is almost certain slavery would have ended eventually without war, it is equally likely that the 13 colonies could have also gotten their independence peacefully given a lot more time. Are you in the camp that sees Lincoln as a tyrant?

Crawdad October 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Greg G,

In response to your question about Lincoln and speaking only for myself I’ll just say that he is not one of my top 10 presidents. The reasons I’m ambivalent would take longer than a comment on a blog. Unlike most professional historians I’m not fascinated by presidents, or generals or kings etc. who looked for and found ways to accumulate power.

In your response to Brotio you ask do commenters here “consider economic freedom more foundational than political freedom and physical freedom”[?] My response to you is to ask do you think a people can really be free without all three?

Crawdad October 29, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Also, you keep asking the same questions regarding Lincoln/ slavery and the Revolutionary War. As I said above you continue to ignore the fact that you are comparing apples to oranges in trying to prove some point here about people not liking Lincoln, I guess that the commenters here are all Confederate sympathizers and apologists for slavery? I really don’t know what you’re after. Does everyone have to love Lincoln in your world?

If I were you I would look into the issue of secession a little more. It had a long and viable history long before South Carolina declared its withdrawal from the union and several of the secession movements had nothing to do with slavery.

Now I have a question for you. If the people of California, after long debates, decided for whatever reason that they wished to withdraw from the union, would you be amongst those advocating sending troops in to stop them or even taking up arms yourself to prevent them? Why or why not?

Methinks1776 October 29, 2011 at 11:00 pm


It’s completely impossible to have economic freedom without physical freedom and you cannot be free without those two freedoms, but political freedom is not necessary (see Singapore, where there is a lot of economic and civil freedom but no political freedom). Although, economic freedom usually leads to political freedom.

It would be fair to say that dictatorships such as the one in Singapore do not usually lead to economic, but clearly the existence of Singapore proves that it is possible.

BTW, it’s become clear Greg G is here to confirm his bias. Whatever answer produced by a cafe patron in conflict with that goal will be ignored or tortured into compliance with his priors about libertarians, banks, the rich, etc.

Crawdad October 29, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Thanks Methinks. I suspected as much but sometimes I feel like engaging and discussing points of view anyway.

Singapore slipped my mind when thinking about the three freedoms offered up by Greg G. Would it be safe to say then that the people of Singapore are not completely free? Don’t know how they feel about it and I have to confess a little ignorance concerning that country. If there is agitation there or movements for more politial freedom I can’t say as I’ve heard of them. Guess it’s time to do a little research.

brotio October 30, 2011 at 12:44 am

I agree that preserving the union was a higher priority for Lincoln than preserving slavery.

I don’t accept that it was just a “higher priority”, it was the only priority. If the Southern States had seceded simply because they didn’t like Illinois, Lincoln would have been willing to wage war to undo secession.

I won’t go so far as to label Lincoln a tyrant. The Senate had the power to remove him if they thought he was committing high crimes or misdemeanors.

Methinks1776 October 30, 2011 at 9:05 am


It’s none of my business whom you choose to engage and I, for one, enjoyed reading your thoughtful answers. My aim in that part of the comment was to share with you my observations about Greg G, not to affect your behaviour.

re Singapore: From time to time people grumble. There’s no unrest, if that’s what you mean. People usually turn on politicians when their economic or civil freedom is impinged on. Since the defacto dictatorship is careful not to do that (Singapore is either number one or two in entrepreneurship and economic freedom), people can improve their lot in life and live largely how they want. It’s no libertarian paradise (no country is). Gum and drugs are illegal. But you have to ask yourself – what’s more valuable to you, the one near worthless vote you get to cast to choose which politician will pick your pocket for the next few years, or not being able to cast one near worthless vote and retain a politician who is committed to not picking your pocket? Here you get to choose the guy who steals from you. There you don’t get to choose the guy who doesn’t. Not surprising that despite a lack of political freedom, there’s no civil unrest in Singapore.

Greg G October 30, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Crawdad, Brotio and Methinks

Thanks for those thoughtful and honest answers. What I was really trying to explore was this idea that Methinks expresses that “political freedom is not necessary.” To me that is a deeply shocking idea that explains much about why libertarian ideas are not more popular.

Crawdad, your question about whether or not I would fight to keep California in the union if it came to that is a good one. The answer is, probably not, but I would fight to keep slavery out of California, or to preserve political freedom there.

As far as confirmation bias, I am sure I have as much as anyone else but the reason I come here is that I like to have my ideas challenged. Sometimes I learn things from that and change my opinions about things. That has happened several times already in the last few weeks. But, like everybody, my core beliefs are slow to change. Methinks, of all the people who comment here I can’t think of anyone less likely than you to admit a mistake and change their view on even the most trivial point. But that kind of irony is one of the things I enjoy about this site.

Methinks, I think the idea that you can deny political freedom without denying some people their physical freedom is extraordinarily naive. Hayek was quite comfortable with Pinochet. But the many thousands who were murdered, disappeared, tortured and imprisoned by his regime felt differently.

Methinks1776 October 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm

but the reason I come here is that I like to have my ideas challenged.

I literally burst out laughing.

I’m really glad you think you know me after a few interactions. You’re superficially deep, Greg G.

Sometimes I learn things from that and change my opinions about things. That has happened several times already in the last few weeks.

Good to hear. What are some examples? I predict deafening silence.

Hayek was quite comfortable with Pinochet.

Whatever lie makes you sleep better at night, dear. And that has fuck all to do with political freedom. You just keep torturing the facts. Don’t let anyone stop you.

Greg G October 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm


Do you think I come here expecting most people to agree with me? I do see a pattern. But I’m glad I could make you laugh. Sometimes I wonder where your sense of humor is. You write like the most irritable person on the entire blog most days.

There are several things I have changed my opinion about since coming here. Since you asked: I used to think anti-trust laws were important. But after hearing Don’s views on the subject I was persuaded that they have done far more to protect uncompetitive firms and waste taxpayer money than help the consumer.

I have become a skeptic about the idea that we need more stimulus for the sake of stimulus now although I do maintain a belief that a counter-cyclical fiscal policy is best. I used to think more stimulus would be a good idea.

I have been persuaded by Russ that the average American has improved his standard of living more in the last 30 years than those of us concerned with the level of income equality usually admit. The number of new things, from i-pods to hip replacements, that are now within the reach of the average American is truly impressive.

I even was persuaded of a couple of things by you. I agree that TBTF firms have succeeded in pushing regulatory pressure away from themselves and onto smaller players with perverse results. And I thought you made a good point when you pointed out that the GINI coefficient fails to distinguish between who is sharing the wealth and who is sharing the poverty. I hadn’t really considered that much before.

So now let’s see if you can produce any examples of you questioning your priors after considering the arguments of your political opponents? That should be interesting.

Methinks1776 October 30, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Do you think I come here expecting most people to agree with me?

No, Greg, I think you come here to complain about the things you’ve heard about libertarians in leftist rags. If you’re not, you sure do a lot of it.

You write like the most irritable person on the entire blog most days.

I don’t sugarcoat. That can be mistaken for irritation. C’est la vie. I also do find it irritating when you try to smear people you haven’t made any real effort to understand. If you want to know how libertarians feel about slavery, it’s usually best not to accuse them of something first. “I know libertarians are fine with slavery, but…” is understandably annoying. At best, it’s childishly and transparently passive-aggressive.

I grew up with very far left lefties (typical on University campuses in the humanities and music). I also spent time in the bible belt. I didn’t know anything about libertarians. But, I didn’t much care either.

I try to take each argument as it comes. Over the years, I’ve changed my mind about the constitution, anti-trust, Keynes (although, that was pre-Cafe Hayek), war, the ability of war to pull us out of recession (also pre-Cafe), the ability of government to run even the most simple welfare program, regulation, intellectual property (still deciding), democracy, incentives of politicians, immigration, the need for government to deal with market failure, insider trading. That’s a woefully incomplete list. Some of the change came from debates with cafe patrons, some from Don & Russ and some from other sources. Often those other sources I’ve been pointed toward by both patrons and the blog hosts.

I find most Americans are pretty libertarian. They don’t want to dominate anyone and they don’t want to be dominated. They don’t want people to be able to use the government monopoly on violent force to elevate some at the expense of others. So, most (but not all) across the political spectrum want pretty much the same thing, but we disagree about the methods to achieve them. We most often argue about means, not ends.

You may notice I often ask you to clarify what you mean. I don’t know what you mean by “small investors don’t get a fair shake”. I happen to agree they don’t. But, I’ll be what I mean by that and what you mean are two different things.

Greg G October 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm


You quoted me as saying “I know libertarians are fine with slavery but…” I don’t believe I ever said that. If I am wrong and, you can show me where I said that, I will apologize for it. If not, you should apologize for misquoting me, especially in light of all your lectures on priors and misinterpreting other people’s comments.

You say that you have changed your mind a lot over the years. And you give a lot of examples that sound to me like examples of you moving toward a libertarian position. That is fine. But they not an examples of you moving toward your political opponents during the time I have changed my mind on the things I listed. I am older than you. We all do come to fairly settled points of view with age. C’est la vie. You argue well when you choose to. You ought to stop the tiresome and repetitive pretending that my priors are any less rigid than yours.

Greg G October 30, 2011 at 5:33 pm

meant to say more rigid obviously.

Methinks1776 October 30, 2011 at 5:54 pm


You’re constantly misrepresenting people here. Sorry, I have dinner plans and don’t have time to dig up every quote every time you don’t remember your misrepresentations.

I don’t have political opponents, btw. I don’t remember arguing politics with you at all. And no, you didn’t sway me with your aggressive assertions about “shadow banking”, the greatness of Keynes, the spreading of risk to people who are too dumb to understand it and that we should force ourselves into private investor/management arrangements (where you provide mostly broad complaints). Sorry. I’ve not really seen a new argument from you (no offense).

I grew up around University professors and Communists who make you look like a poster child for Bible Belt conservatism. My mind has mostly been changed to a more libertarian position from where it was before. If you want to change my mind, write something compelling. I’m open to it.

Daniel Kuehn October 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm

re: “You’re constantly misrepresenting people here”

You realize this is what most of your comments consist of, right?

Methinks1776 October 30, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Oh, and…Greg, I meant your priors wrt libertarians and what that mostly means (it varies – some are anarchists, some are not, etc.). It’s nice to hear you’ve changed your mind on anti-trust, etc,, but that’s not what I was originally talking about. Unfounded accusations and misrepresentations in order to support whatever view you’ve picked up about libertarians in (likely) the leftists rags that have made smearing libertarians their newest objective.

I don’t care if you disagree with libertarians (I guess you “political opponents”?), but at least make an effort to understand what you’re dealing with. Accuracy.

Methinks1776 October 30, 2011 at 6:04 pm

You realize this is what most of your comments consist of, right?

Asking you questions you’re too uncomfortable to answer, my pet?

Greg G October 30, 2011 at 6:11 pm


You fabricated a quote for me while lecturing me on misrepresenting people. Now you don’t have time to back it up or admit it. How convenient.

I don’t seek to try to change your mind. Nothing could be . more of a waste of time. I come here because I like to debate these issues and I take care to be a lot more polite than most of the people you accuse me of abusing. I know if I bring a weak argument in here I’m going to get my ass handed to me. Sometimes I learn something that changes my mind. Sometimes I learn something I didn’t know. Sometimes I get better at defending my values. Sometimes I am just entertained by all the unintended irony I see here. Call that complaining if you like.

Methinks1776 October 30, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Hey, Greg. I found the slavery quote of yours to which I was referring (because I just love you so much and Mr. Methinks is running late). You were right. I read it too fast and got it exactly backwards by missing one word “not”. I owe you an apology.

I’m sorry.

Greg G October 30, 2011 at 6:39 pm


Thanks. Apology accepted. There have been a few times I’ve misinterpreted people here but never on purpose. It’s embarrassing when it happens. I’ll write a little more on my “priors” about libertarians while you are at dinner. Enjoy.

Methinks1776 October 30, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Don’t be embarrassed. Shite happens. We’re all human.

You enjoy your evening as well. Ciao.

Greg G October 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm


I’m have no idea what “leftist rags” you are convinced that I am relying on but the vast majority of what I read on current events and politics is in the NY Times. I realize most here probably do think of that as a leftist rag but I can’t ever remember reading anything at all about libertarianism there. Apparently they don’t even see you guys as significant enough to bother slandering much.

Most of my “priors” about libertarianism come from talking with a family member who is a libertarian. He is very passionate about it but he is like the dog that caught the car when he engages in a debate about it. He thinks he wants to do it but won’t really engage and answer tough questions once it starts.

So I was quite happy to find this site and see it was filled with very skilled debaters (and a few who are pretty lame) who are ready to go. My main prior beliefs are that libertarians believe that they care more about liberty than everyone else and fail to realize that everyone cares deeply about their own conception of liberty.

And I think that libertarians fail to realize that there is no principle that can settle a dispute between two libertarians. There are a spectacular variety of people with very different views who self identify as libertarians. The one thing that unites them all is a hatred of government, especially more centralized government, and a tendency to blame government for just about every problem short of male pattern baldness.

I realize that the variety of libertarianism on this blog is considerably more homogeneous than the variety in the larger world. Even so, I don’t believe you guys could engage in much debate here about exactly which taxes and government services are legitimate before the consensus about how much you all hate politicians would shatter into most of you bitterly disputing who were the real true libertarians.

So there you go. Those are my priors. I am not now, and never was, trying to hide them. Maybe some will be proved wrong.

One thing I did not ever expect to hear a libertarian say is “political freedom is not necessary.” I learned something I didn’t know about libertarians when you said that.

Greg G October 31, 2011 at 6:35 am

Greg Webb

You ask “Would you be willing to die to eliminate slavery in the world?”

The answer is no, but I think the standard is much different for in your own country than “in the world.” Recent history has provided plenty of evidence of the limits of our ability to fix problems in other countries through war.

What I was really driving at is something different. (And yes, those of you complaining that what that has been hasn’t been entirely clear do have a point.) I was trying to get at the issue of: To what extent do people here prioritize economic freedom over political freedom? If you have the patience and the interest to read through the rest of this long thread you will see that we do eventually get there.

Crawdad October 31, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Greg G.,
Really late getting back to this but I can’t let you go with the last word cause some things need to be responded to.

First, I was astonished by this comment from you, “What I was really trying to explore was this idea that Methinks expresses that “political freedom is not necessary.” To me that is a deeply shocking idea that explains much about why libertarian ideas are not more popular.” Bullcrap.

That’s not what she said so I have to assume you’re being wilfully dense, that your biases are clouding your reason or that you’re just being dishonest. Even a cursory reading of Methinks reveals she was saying that one can enjoy, as Singapore proves, economic and physical freedoms while not possessing political freedom. She was not proclaiming any form of value judgement, just pointing out the reality. In your rush to condemn libertarians you put connotations on her comments that clearly were not there.

It seems to me you could do with a little reading of libertarian writings too. It has been my experience that libertarians value principles above all else, way more than self-described liberals/progressives. It’s one of the reasons the left, including some of the trolls here, try to paint libertarians as dogmatic. Haven’t you heard?

I don’t think you would find as much acrimony as you think should there be a debate over proper levels of taxation or government services here or at most libertarian blogs/websites. As a matter of fact, I could say that instead of looking for the splinter in libertarian eyes you might want to check out the moat in progressive’s eyes in regards to infighting, reeducation and indoctrination. Just explore some of the goings on amongst leftist groups in the 1960s here and abroad.

You are correct that libertarians come in different colors, minarchists, anarcho-capitalists, etc., but they have way more in common regarding core ideas and principles than differences.

Greg G October 31, 2011 at 3:07 pm


Methinks really did say “political freedom is not necessary.” I did not suggest that she thinks it is undesirable, just, well….”not necessary.” I am sure that she does think it is a nice thing thing to have, however unnecessary. And she said it in the context of a discussion about the relative importance of economic and political freedom. Her full quote was “It’s completely impossible to have economic freedom without physical freedom and you cannot be free without these two freedoms but political freedom is not necessary.”

She went on at some length to describe how she feels that Singapore, without political freedom, has a better system than us in several ways. The only superior thing she chose to cite about our system was the legality of chewing gum.

I do not consider myself a leftist although you might. And I agree with your point that there was a lot of discord on the far left in the 60′s and beyond. So what?

Methinks1776 October 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm

She went on at some length to describe how she feels that Singapore, without political freedom, has a better system than us in several ways. The only superior thing she chose to cite about our system was the legality of chewing gum.

I never said anything about “our system”. I never claimed the that “our system” was superior because it allowed chewing gum. I never claimed that Singapore has a better system than “our system”. Whatever the hell “our system” means. You seem to conflate lack of “political freedom” with “slavery”, though.

Intentionally dense. Crawdad is spot on.

Greg G October 31, 2011 at 3:35 pm


You wrote “Here you get to choose the guy who steals from you. There you don’t get to choose the guy who doesn’t.”

I did indeed think that you were referring to our political system in that first sentence. And I don’t believe you can take away political freedom without imprisoning people. I also don’t take the fact that there is no civil unrest visible to foreigners to be evidence that political opponents are not being jailed there. The jailing of dissidents is more likely to be the reason no civil unrest is visible in a political dictatorship.

Crawdad October 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Wow. Just wow. My point was you know crapola about libertarian thought, other than what you’ve apparently gleaned from your brother-in-law or whoever it was you say exposed you to it, but you feel compelled to offer up critiques of it even still. Most of your attempts though read to me like you set up a libertarianism of you own design then dismantle it. Well done.

And I still say you’ve misrepresented Methinks’ point though she’s quite capable of defending herself.

As for why I brought up the left’s behavior in the past and present it was to show you that relatively speaking, the discord amongst libertarians of every stripe is minor and as one of its central precepts is minimizing coercion/force I’d say it’s pertinent as to how disputes would be settled within it. Like I wrote, you might want to do some reading.

Methinks1776 October 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Greg G,

So what you’re really trying to say is that you don’t know anything about Singapore but you’re willing to make wild-ass assumptions about how repressive it is over there. Also, your reading comprehension is appalling. Thank God you don’t have to take an SAT anytime soon, eh?

This sounds like a personal problem you’ll need to solve on your own.

Greg G October 31, 2011 at 4:55 pm


What makes you think you know, what I know, about Singapore? I had a tour of the city from a Malaysian friend who knows quite a lot about it. And you used the phrase “no political freedom ” to describe it.

And where was it that I wrote whatever made you think that I “was trying to say that ( I ) don’t know anything about Singapore but…” Actually I never commented on my knowledge about Singapore. And you are worried about my reading comprehension? You only need to look a few comments above to find yourself reading me completely ass backwards. This kind of unintended irony is the thing I love most about this site.

It’s easy to tell when you are out of arguments. That is when the recycled insults come out.

Greg G October 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm


I am not here posing as an expert on libertarianism. I come here to debate issues and ask questions and learn about it and be entertained. You are free to skip my comments if you think they are not worth your while.

Most of the comments that upset you were in response to Methinks talking about my biases about libertarianism. I admitted those biases and characterized them as my priors, not metaphysical facts. And I said that it was possible some might be proved wrong. It’s not like people on this site don’t have strong biases about people they disagree with.

Crawdad October 31, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Greg G. My last words on this cause I just can’t seem to get through to you. There is a difference between honest inquiry and agenda driven sniping. You’ll forgive me if I’ve misinterpreted what you were attempting here. I don’t think I am.

I got into this discussion because you asked questions about how people here felt about Lincoln/slavery and comparing the justifications for the Civil War to the Am. Revolution. Implicit in your continued repetition of those questions, even after the premises behind the questions had been shown to be flawed, to say the least, was an accusation that everyone who felt that Lincoln was a tyrant was somehow a neo-confederate/ apologist for slavery (and the ever present charge of RACISM!) If you don’t get that just look what it illicited from Nikolai after you asked why no one would answer early on.

You followed that up by claiming that libertarians seemed to have no principles for distinguishing between fighting just vs. unjust wars, that we are decadent for noticing and commenting on the fact that every day government seems to find myriad new ways of encroaching on our liberty, that at least one person here (ironically the only one who actually lived under a totalitarian nightmare) was an apologist for a regime that allows no political freedom and that Hayek seemed to have no problem with Pinochet. You then projected on to libertarians what is clearly more of a problem for the left, ie: that we would crumble into disarray and infighting over levels of taxation and government services. So you are correct, you are no expert on libertarianism.

You say you come here to learn and ask questions and maybe you mean it but your methods of inquiry imply, at least to me, that what you are about is something less noble. Finally, I want to say that blogs are not the place for learning about anything. If you are really interested in libertarianism and free market (as opposed to our current crony capitalism) ideas or Austrian School Economics there are sources such as FEE, the online library at http://oll.libertyfund.org/ and many other place where whole books are available for free.

Greg G November 1, 2011 at 9:13 am


Thanks for a thoughtful and polite response. You don’t always get that here.

First of all, I want to make perfectly clear that I am not calling anyone a racist either implicitly or explicitly. I understand why you are so sensitive to that. Other people often do it and it is especially irritating when it comes in the form of innuendo or hit and run attacks. We agree on that much.

I guess I wasn’t clear enough about this, but my point was not that individual libertarians lack principles for making moral decisions. It is that they lack a METHOD for deciding disputes when there are disagreements between people who both think their liberties are being violated. And they seem to lack an appreciation for how often reasonable people of good faith have differing concepts of which liberties are most important.

This especially matters when you combine it with a very cynical view of political democracy and when you give economic freedom a higher priority than political freedom.

Anotherphil October 28, 2011 at 9:11 am


think he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 9:16 am

de Tocqueville’s writings are great documents to check out if you are ever interested in Early American history. They’re from the perspective of a foreigner and provide an interesting look into the early US mindset

Greg Webb October 28, 2011 at 11:28 am

Great quote, Don! Alexis de Tocqueville’s analysis of what made the United States a great country is correct as is his admonition that greater centralization, while necessary in war, will eventually bring the country down. The people, as innovative individuals, make a country great. Government can, through coercion, bring all those innovative individuals to focus on accomplishing a single task like in war, but over the long term government’s coercion and control of those individuals will destroy their innovative characteristics and thus cause the country’s decline.

Jon October 28, 2011 at 11:32 am

All this talk reminds me of the story of the Roman consul Cincinnatus who had absolute power during war but relinquished after: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cincinnatus

Dan H October 28, 2011 at 11:40 am

The namesake of my hometown! Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory and a Society of Cincinnati member, awarded land throughout Ohio to Revolutionary War soldiers and changed the name of the trading hub on the Ohio River from Losantiville to Cincinnati in honor of the soldiers and of George Washington, the Cincinnatus of his time.

Dan H October 28, 2011 at 11:42 am

(I took a “History of Cincinnati” class in high school… there’s a lot of history in this town that many do not know about!)

Jon October 28, 2011 at 11:47 am

I hear ya on that, Dan! My hometown of Wareham, MA has a place called British Landing. Why was it called British Landing? That’s the first place the British invaded in the War of 1812. It’s amazing what you learn!

Moggio October 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm

In French:
“Mais je pense que la centralisation administrative n’est propre qu’à énerver les peuples qui s’y soumettent, parce qu’elle tend sans cesse à diminuer parmi eux l’esprit de cité. La centralisation administrative parvient, il est vrai, à réunir à une époque donnée, et dans un certain lieu, toutes les forces disponibles de la nation, mais elle nuit à la reproduction des forces. Elle la fait triompher le jour du combat, et diminue à la longue sa puissance. Elle peut donc concourir admirablement à la grandeur passagère d’un homme, non point à la prospérité durable d’un peuple.”

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