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The Greatest Libertarian Accomplishment in History?

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

What is the most important libertarian accomplishment in history?

Not long ago David Boaz of the Cato Institute was asked that question.

His response? “The abolition of slavery.”

“The greatest libertarian crusade in history was the effort to abolish chattel slavery, culminating in the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement and the heroic Underground Railroad,” Boaz wrote recently at Huffington Post. “It’s no accident that abolitionism emerged out of the ferment of the Industrial Revolution and the American Revolution.

“How could Americans proclaim that ‘all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,’ without noticing that they themselves were holding other men and women in bondage? They could not, of course. The ideas of the American Revolution — individualism, natural rights and free markets — led logically to agitation for the extension of civil and political rights to those who had been excluded from liberty, as they were from power — notably slaves, serfs and women. …

“In the United States, the abolitionist movement was naturally led by libertarians. Leading abolitionists called slavery ‘man stealing,’ in that it sought to deny self-ownership and steal a man’s very self. Their arguments paralleled those of John Locke and the libertarian agitators known as the Levellers. William Lloyd Garrison wrote that his goal was not just the abolition of slavery but ‘the emancipation of our whole race from the dominion of man, from the thraldom of self, from the government of brute force.’”

That’s a great answer, just the kind you might expect from the editor of The Libertarian Reader, an The Libertarian Mindessential and delightful anthology of libertarian thought throughout history — 68 choice selections from the Bible and Lao-Tzu to Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard, including selections from abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglas, Lysander Spooner, Angelina Grimke, Sarah Grimke and William Ellery Channing.

Boaz is also the author of a new book, The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom, which has just been released. It’s an updated version of his classic book Libertarianism: A Primer, one of the best examinations of libertarianism available, which gathered worldwide praise. I highly recommend it.

I also highly recommend the rest of Boaz’s article, “Black History Is American History.” Next year, when Black History Month comes around, I expect it will be high on my list of suggested resources for libertarians to read and share.

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month – Part 2

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Recently, we examined some resources for Black History Month, a time which opens the door for discussions on issues key to libertarians.

This week I’m concluding with some more issue-oriented Black History Month resources and talking points.

First, a look at state-created poverty and unemployment affecting black Americans.

  • Race and Economics,” a short column by economist Walter Williams, examines this often-ignored point. Excerpt: “Some might find it puzzling that during times of gross racial discrimination, black unemployment was lower and blacks were more active in the labor force than they are today. … During the 1930s, there were a number of federal government interventions that changed the black employment picture.”
  • Walter Williams looks at the racist outcomes of the minimum wage more closely in “Minimum Wage’s Discriminatory Effects.” Excerpt: “Minimum wage laws have massive political support, including that of black politicians. That means that many young black males will remain a part of America’s permanent underclass with crime, drugs and prison as their future.”
  • Walter Williams’ outstanding 1982 short book The State Against Blacks (long out of print — check your library) — shows how numerous government programs, supposedly enacted to help blacks and the poor, have caused enormous harm to blacks (and others). 
  • In his 2004 column “A Painful Anniversary“ economist Thomas Sowell argues that the 1960s Great Society / War on Poverty programs helped destroy black families. Excerpt: “The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”

Government’s role in protecting slavery and enforcing Jim Crow laws is often ignored. Yet of course it was government that created and defended such abominable and unlibertarian practices.

Still another fascinating topic tailor-made for Black History Month is the little-known history of how gun rights helped protect civil rights activists and advance the civil rights movement.

  • For starters, check out “Yes, Guns Are Dangerous. But They Also Save Lives and Secure Civil Rights“ by Damon W. Root of Reason magazine.
  • Also see this excellent review of the 2004 book The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill, from The Nation magazine. This book tells the remarkable story of the Deacons for Defense, who at their peak had several hundred members and twenty-one chapters in the South. 
  • Black Open Carry: Why Gun Rights and Civil Rights Need Each Other” is a provocative new Reason TV video. It examines the little-known long, intertwined history of the gun rights and civil rights movements, from slave revolts to Reconstruction-era armed resistance to the Black Panther Party. “One of the great untold stories about the civil rights movement was that it required violent resistance from blacks to be effective,” says historian Thaddeus Russell. Seven eye-opening minutes in length. 

Libertarianism and Racial Discrimination

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Do libertarians support laws prohibiting racial discrimination by businesses?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, businesses could refuse service to individuals for any reason. However, they would be punished for racial discrimination by losing the profit they otherwise would have made. This feedback is so powerful that even in the post-Civil War South, segregation could only be maintained when governments made integration (serving blacks and whites in the same establishment) a crime.

If integration could only be stopped by outlawing it in the post-Civil War South, surely today it would take place readily without government mandates. If some individuals, black or white, wished to maintain some separateness, why should we force them together?

In a libertarian society, laws enforcing segregation could never have been passed in the first place. Slavery would never have been legal. In short, if the U.S. had been a totally libertarian society, Africans would never have been enslaved and given second-class status. Government creates conditions that foster racial prejudice, then creates backlash and further prejudice by forcing people together.

Want to learn more? I recommend black economist Walter Williams’ concise and hard-hitting book The State Against Blacks, which offers easy-to-read documentation on the real root of discrimination — government!

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Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Holidays and annual observances offer a great opportunity to present the ideas of liberty to new and receptive audiences. Every libertarian should collect a selection of facts and stories to share on those occasions. (We offer them frequently in the Liberator Online.)

February is Black History Month. This event, observed annually since 1976, opens the door for discussions on issues key to libertarians.

If anyone should be receptive to the message of libertarianism, it should be black Americans, who as a group have suffered from government oppression more than any other ethnic group in America, and whose historical and ongoing struggle for freedom is arguably the most dramatic one in our history.

And that story — the story of a people savagely oppressed by government power for centuries and bravely fighting to overcome that oppression — is one that Americans of all races would benefit from pondering. Libertarians have a unique angle to bring to that discussion.

As a start, I recommend “The Law Perverted: A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month,” an article by James Padilioni, Jr. of Students for Liberty. It will stimulate your thinking on this issue and provide a seldom-heard historical and theoretical background.

Black History Month is an excellent time to show how government coercion was and is the chief engine of the oppression of black Americans, as well as Americans in general. One obvious example is the War on Drugs, which is horrible for all society and from which blacks suffer disproportionately.

Here are some resources:

* “How the War on Drugs is Destroying Black America,” John McWhorter, Cato Institute.

* “Race and Prison,” drugwarfacts.org. Excerpt: “Mass arrests and incarceration of people of color — largely due to drug law violations — have hobbled families and communities by stigmatizing and removing substantial numbers of men and women. In the late 1990s, nearly one in three African-American men aged 20-29 were under criminal justice supervision, while more than two out of five had been incarcerated… orders of magnitudes higher than that for the general population. … In some areas, a large majority of African-American men — 55 percent in Chicago, for example — are labeled felons for life, and, as a result, may be prevented from voting…”

Another topic is state-created unemployment for black Americans. “Race and Economics,” a column by economist Walter Williams, examines this.

* Williams looks at the racist outcomes of the minimum wage more closely in Minimum Wage’s Discriminatory Effects.” Excerpt: “Minimum wage laws have massive political support, including that of black politicians. That means that many young black males will remain a part of America’s permanent underclass with crime, drugs and prison as their future.”

* Walter Williams’ 1982 book The State Against Blacks shows how numerous government programs, enacted supposedly enacted to help the poor have caused enormous harm to blacks and others.

* In his column “A Painful Anniversary“ economist Thomas Sowell argues that the 1960s Great Society / War on Poverty programs helped destroy black families. Excerpt: “The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”

* Another fascinating topic tailor-made for Black History Month is the little-known history of how gun rights helped protect civil rights activists and advance the civil rights movement. For starters, check out “Yes, Guns Are Dangerous. But They Also Save Lives and Secure Civil Rights” by Damon W. Root of Reason magazine. Also see this excellent review of the 2004 book The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill, from The Nation magazine. This book tells the remarkable story of the Deacons for Defense, who at their peak had several hundred members and twenty-one chapters in the South.

* Ex-slave Frederick Douglass is one of the towering figures for liberty in American history.  A short libertarian look at Douglass is found in “Frederick Douglass, Classical Liberal: A fresh look at the political evolution of a great American,” a book review by Damon Root from the August/September 2012 issue of Reason magazine. Also, see  the Cato Institute’s libertarianism.org for more on, and by, Douglass.

* Finally, here’s a great collection of videos of black libertarians and classical liberals, past and present, speaking on liberty. They’re suitable for any time of year, of course, but Black History Month is a great time to share them.

Advancing Liberty Is Like Driving a Car at Night

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Point Section of Volume 18, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here.)

Driving at NightThere has never been a libertarian country. No time and no land has ever been fully free.

Some of our ancestors made progress. Made inroads to freedom. The Magna Carta. The Declaration of Independence. The Constitution of the United States of America.

But all had deep flaws, failings and shortcomings. Even in America, they allowed slavery. Or failed to recognize the rights and freedoms of women. Or violated the life, liberty, and property of native Americans. Or allowed blue laws. Or condoned Jim Crow laws. Or deprived gay men and lesbians of rights and liberties that we recognize for heterosexual men and women. Or shamelessly violated — and continue to violate — everyone’s natural or Constitutional rights — trampling on our fundamental Bill of Rights liberties.

We have partial freedom. More than many, but less than we could have and should have. We must find and drive an unmarked road to full freedom.

“Advancing liberty is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — adapted from E.L. Doctorow.

The headlights keep us on the road, but the freedom road markers make sure we’re moving toward a more complete liberty.

Freedom Road Marker: “Does this proposal cut government spending — AND return every penny to the taxpayers?”

Freedom Marker: “Does this proposal shrink government — or not?”

Freedom Marker: “Does this expand liberty — or not?”

Freedom Marker: “Does this reduce the size or spending or taxing or power or authority of government — or not?”

If we keep driving in the direction of small government and individual liberty, we will reach our rightful destination: a libertarian America.

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Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s brand-new book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.