Modern Historians Confront the American Revolution

3 01 2007

The historian must be more than a chronicler, a mere lister of events. For his real task is discovering and setting forth the causal connections between events in human history, the complex chain of human purposes, choices, and consequences over time that have shaped the fate of mankind. Investigating the causes of such a portentous event as the American Revolution is more, then, than a mere listing of preceding occurrences; for the historian must weigh the causal significance of these factors, and select those of overriding importance.

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Why Abolishing Government Would Not Bring Chaos

31 12 2006

I wrote recently that government should be abolished. Among the responses to the article were objections of the sort shared by most who encounter for the first time the prospect of living without forcible government. The most common objections are fundamentally similar to each other: Violence would rule the day; corporations would run over us little people; foreign governments would invade; big neighborhoods would pillage small neighborhoods; etc. The books I linked in the previous article answer these objections, but since most of us (myself included) might not buy a book online – and then be sure to read it – every single time we surf the net, I’ll address those objections briefly here, and provide links to online articles wherever possible.

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Society without a State

28 12 2006

In attempting to outline how a “society without a state” — that is, an anarchist society — might function successfully, I would first like to defuse two common but mistaken criticisms of this approach. First, is the argument that in providing for such defense of or protection services as courts, police, or even law itself, I am simply smuggling the state back into society in another form, and that therefore the system I am both analyzing and advocating is not “really” anarchism. This sort of criticism can only involve us in an endless and arid dispute over semantics. Let me say from the beginning that I define the state as that institution which possesses one or both (almost always both) of the following properties: (1) it acquires its income by the physical coercion known as “taxation”; and (2) it asserts and usually obtains a coerced monopoly of the provision of defense service (police and courts) over a given territorial area. An institution not possessing either of these properties is not and cannot be, in accordance with my definition, a state.

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Muhammad Cartoons: A Libertarian Analysis

21 12 2006

There are several perspectives now making the rounds regarding those cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. For those who have been in Rip Van Winkle land, they first surfaced in Denmark and are now being reprinted all over the world. The libertarian claim is that these caricatures did not constitute fraud, force, or the threat of initiatory violence; therefore no physical sanctions should be visited upon the cartoonists, or those who reprint their work. This does not mean that such artistic acts were nice or moral or appropriate or considerate; they were not, in my personal opinion. They hurt the feelings of vast numbers of people, Muslim and non-Muslim. But, as long as private property rights and freedom prevail, such initiatives should be legal.

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The Life and Death of the Old Right

10 12 2006

The libertarian movement was once a mighty movement, hardcore but not kooky, part of the mainstream of American ideological and political life. In the XVIII and XIX centuries (for example, in the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian movements), libertarians were even the dominant political force in the country. America was, indeed, conceived in liberty. But right now, I’m not going back that far: I’m talking about the origins of the modern XX century movement.

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Cato’s Letters (1720-1723)

9 12 2006

These articles, written under the name “Cato,” were the work of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, a pair of uppity English Whigs who, writing in the immediate aftermath of one of histories’ great corporate scandals, produced what is, without question, some of the best liberal writing ever published in a popular format. In the course of 144 articles, published over a three-year period in the
London Journal and British Journal, few subjects are left unbroached. Some of those subjects, of course, relate to then-contemporary matters, and are of little interest to modern readers, but others present remarkable parallels with contemporary politics. The letters are very well argued, the writing straightforward, concise, and quite hard-hitting; delightful and inspiring reading that became one of the major sources of American revolutionary thought. “No one,” notes historian Clinton Rossiter, “can spend any time in the newspapers, library inventories, and pamphlets of colonial
America without realizing that Cato’s Letters rather than Locke’s Civil Government was the most popular, quotable, esteemed source of political ideas in the colonial period.”

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On Resisting Evil

6 12 2006

How can anyone, finding himself surrounded by a rising tide of evil, fail to do his utmost to fight against it? In our century, we have been inundated by a flood of evil, in the form of collectivism, socialism, egalitarianism, and nihilism. It has always been crystal clear to me that we have a compelling moral obligation, for the sake of ourselves, our loved ones, our posterity, our friends, our neighbors, and our country, to do battle against that evil.

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