So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Friday, October 31, 2014

One Nation Under God, Indivisible: Which Was More Pro-Liberty, the North or the South?

          In my years of following politics, I’ve noticed something about the Neo-Confederate movement, a subset among hardcore conservatives. The more Libertarian (or “libertarian") one is, the more likely that person has NC tendencies. This is especially true if the person repudiates the title of “conservative,” or at least if they much prefer to be called “libertarians.” 
            This seems a little odd to me, that people who are all about liberty--who eschew the title of “conservative” because “conservatives” don’t care enough about liberty--would be among the staunchest defenders of the CSA. To my fellow conservatives and libertarians who lean towards defending the Confederacy, I have to be up front here: The moment you—as a self-described lover of liberty--found yourself defending a society whose stated Raison d'être was the perpetuation and expansion of slavery, something should've tipped you off immediately that something was wrong. Right off the bat, before we address any arguments, the very fact that you’re defending this for any reason should give you pause.  Does it?
            Part of the problem is that NC’s tend to present selective evidence to bolster their case that the South was more pro-liberty than the North. What do I mean?
            Basically Libertarians such as Thomas DiLorenzo and Charles Adams like to make the case that the South promoted more economic liberty than the North. Basically they’re trying to prove that the Civil War was over tariffs rather than over slavery, but here are some counter-points to consider:

·One of the CSA’s main sources of revenue was tariffs.
·The Confederacy also introduced an income tax, a highly progressive one.
·As we mentioned in the last posting, when some people in Virginia wanted to break away from their state and enter the Union, the CSA sent troops to fire upon them in order to put down the movement by force.
·The Southern states routinely passed “gag” rules which forbade anti-slavery speech. They also routinely destroyed abolitionist printing presses and forcefully intimidated abolitionists who had the unmitigated gall to condemn their wonderful institution.

            Let’s examine the claim that the South just wanted to be left alone by an increasingly intrusive federal government. How is that notion compatible with:

oA Fugitive Slave Act, in which if a slave escaped from his master and found his way into a free state, then those free state inhabitants were forced by law to be the owner’s slave catchers. If you abhorred slavery and wanted nothing to do with it, and you had no inclination to leave your farm and family in order to help a slave owner catch his wayward property, too bad!!! You’re part of his “posse,” whether you want to be or not.
oThe Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court, in which the Court decided that a slave owner had every legal right to bring his slave into a free state. If your state passed laws banning slavery within its borders, too bad!!! Oddly enough, the concern of the Southern Democrats for "States Rights" seems rather. . . selective. 
oThe Southern Democrats in 1860 demanded that in every U.S. territory then or thereafter acquired, slavery be guaranteed and given federal police protection.  This was one of the dividing lines between Douglas and the more extreme Democrats, and it was one of the issues which led to their walkout. I repeat: They wanted federal police protection in the territories.
oThe Confederate Constitution, which was so pro-slavery that if a Confederate state later on decided to ban slavery within its borders, it could not do so without the Constitution being amended.
oAnd of course the Confederate Constitution forced any hypothetical future anti-slavery state to allow owners to freely bring their slaves within their borders, thus effectively nullifying any anti-slavery laws they passed.

            And in case you need more evidence,  a lengthy article by Dan McLaughlin about how the CSA was far more intrusive and expansive than the Union was. 
            But, the NC’s will reply, blacks weren’t treated much better up North than in the South! Well, there’s a smidgen of truth behind that claim. Blacks in the North were routinely treated with contempt and racial discrimination which we’d find completely unacceptable today. But I respond with the same answer I’d give to the “moral equivalence” arguments which Leftists frequently present: i.e., the claim that since America has its problems, it’s no better than any other country, and probably even worse. During the Cold War, people on the Left constantly brought up racial injustice in our country, and they still to this day try to make the case that America’s no better than any Third World country or rogue nation which imprisons and murders its own citizens as a matter of policy.
            What’s my go-to argument against Leftists who promote this nonsense? Look at how people vote with their feet. Take a look at the picture below. Do you happen to know this guy?

His name was Peter Fechter, and he was shot trying to get over the Berlin Wall. Without knowing anything more about his story, which way would you guess he was going: A) From (Communist) East to (democratic) West or B) the opposite way?
            Countries with tyrannical governments surround themselves with guards with guns to keep people in, while America has to expend massive resources if it wants to keep people out. Ask any immigration enforcement official how often he’s seen someone sneaking from America into Mexico. Look at how California is hemorrhaging people who flee its high taxes and insane regulations to move to Texas as fast as they can. Look at how black people--in a complete reversal from 19th century patterns--are leaving the North to go to the South. See how many people flee nations from all over the world to come to America. As someone pointed out to me a while back, you don't see security guards forcing people to stay inside Disney Land. They enforce the rules keeping unauthorized people out. In stark contrast, the polar opposite is true of prisons: Their guards with guns are there to keep people in
            So I pose this question to my dear friends in the Neo-Confederate movement: Where was the Underground Railroad for blacks trying to flee the North into the South? If the North and the South were roughly equivalent in their treatment of blacks, then why did so many blacks risk their lives in going in only one direction?
            One of the reasons the South was so paranoid about alleged encroachment of federal government power was because of the rapidly growing population disparity between North and South. On the eve of the Civil War, nearly 21 million people lived in the North, and only 9 million lived in the South, with over a third of them slaves. And this disparity showed no signs of stopping or even slowing down. The South feared that as this disparity grew, the North would dominate more and more in the government and crowd them out of political power.
            But where did this disparity come from? Quite simply, immigration. Just like today, international immigrants were giving up everything and risking their lives in order to come to America, and they were (unsurprisingly) much more attracted to the North than the South, and (understandably) very few people in America were leaving the industrialized and economically booming North in order to get to the rural and agricultural South. So even though the Southerners' fears had a smidgen of validity, it was hardly the fault of the North if it was attracting a lot more people.
            There’s another point to consider. Before I make it, however, I have to reiterate that this in no way justifies personal or legal discrimination. But as I’ve mentioned before, the Free Market System works against against personal discrimination whenever it's given a chance. When you can quit your job whenever you choose, you ipso facto have power that no slave in the South ever had. Just because you have that right, any employer has to compete for your labor with every other employer out there. The same goes for sellers of goods and services who discriminated against blacks: They had to compete with everyone else out there for customers, and if they were stupid enough to discriminate against a certain type of customer, then they paid a price for it. The further you move away from a Free Market, the less people pay for their bad decisions. If a master's slaves absolutely hated him, it's not like they could choose someone else to go to. None of this would have any effect, of course, on legal discrimination—the FMS can’t do anything about that. But any legitimate complaints about racial discrimination in the North only serves to underscore my point: Assuming for the moment that it was so bad in the North, then what does that say about all the blacks who--at the risk of their own lives--fled the South to get there?
            As I mentioned before, I’ve recently read an article by Mackubin Thomas Owens on the National Review website entitled “Civil Liberties in Wartime: Lincoln had the right approach.” In it he refutes the common myth among NC’s that the South was a bastion of personal liberty while the North under Lincoln was a police state run by a tyrant. He cites Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism by Mark E. Neely Jr. Neely did an intense study of 4000 prisoners who were held by the Confederacy and conclusively proved that “the Confederate restrictions on the rights of civilians were at least equal to those of the Union.” For example, “Confederate authorities arrested a Florida newspaper correspondent on the same day Fort Sumter was fired upon and held him without trial. ‘There would never be a day during the Civil War when Confederate military prisons did not contain political prisoners.’” Here’s some more from Owens:

Neely’s most important sources are the records of the “habeas corpus commissioners,” a semi-official group of civilian lawyers who worked for the Confederate War Department. Operating with virtually no supervision or guidelines, the commissioners reviewed the cases of the civilian prisoners in Confederate military prisons, determining whether to release them, send them to a civilian court for trial, or leave them in jail indefinitely. Neely concludes that these commissioners in effect operated as “mobilization officers,” subjecting disloyal civilians to military service if possible and otherwise keeping them out of the way.

            Why did Lincoln hate slavery so much? Have you ever wondered about that? As much as he was unwilling to forgo rule of law in order to eliminate it, he longed for the day in which it would be excised from this land of liberty like the cancer it was. Here’s one big reason why he hated it: It stood against everything he saw in the American Dream. As Rich Lowry put it so well in his work Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream---And How We Can Do It Again, Lincoln loved the American Dream because he lived it. He was born and raised in a log cabin with dirt floors, hewing rails with an axe, and he pretty much hated doing it every moment he was doing it. Like a lot of kids in lousy jobs with back-breaking labor and measly pay, he was highly motivated to get what we’d call a “white collar” job, something more suited to his intellect. He had only about one year of formal schooling, but he read voraciously, studied like his life depended on it, and eventually became the most prominent attorney in the region, being well-paid for his services. He started out splitting logs, but through hard work, self-discipline, and ambition he didn't end up that way. Here’s his vision of the American Dream, which he envisioned for everyone of all colors or backgrounds:

The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This, say its advocates, is free labor--the just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all, gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all. If any continue through life in the condition of the hired laborer, it is not the fault of the system, but because of either a dependent nature which prefers it, or improvidence, folly, or singular misfortune.      

And just in case you're thinking that he's only referring to whites, listen to him here:

I am not ashamed to confess that twenty five years ago I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flat-boat--just what might happen to any poor man's son! I want every man to have a chance--and I believe a black man is entitled to it--in which he can better his position--when he may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him! That is the true system.      

            Like I said before, the very fact that libertarians are defending the Confederacy is a bit odd to me. They can talk about tariffs all they want, but the fact remains that over a third of the population of the South was held in bondage by force of law. As Krannawitter puts it, “Slavery represented the ultimate rejection of limited government”: The fact that the state comes in and tells me that I have to work for some other guy for free, that he has the right to beat me, torture me, and kill me if he so chooses. If I run away from him, then he has the legal right to hunt me down and force other people to help hunt me down as well. All of this isn’t due to any court proceeding or in punishment for any crime I’ve committed, but just because the state arbitrarily says it’s so.
            And it's not only political oppression which made the South much less free than the North. As these articles by Phillip W. Magness and Ryan McMaken demonstrate, slavery is by very definition against economic freedom, indeed its very opposite. Slavery proponents tended not to be really big fans of it, and there's a good reason for this. The Free Market System (FMS) means that you make voluntary decisions to trade money or goods/services with someone else for mutual benefit (with a minimum of government interference). If the trade isn't mutually beneficial, then it doesn't happen (or doesn't repeat). Slavery--as Lincoln loved to point out--means that a Master forces his slave to work out in the hot sun, and the "trade" (you work and in return we won't torture you to death) is neither voluntary nor mutually beneficial.
           How in the world does that not trump any claims that the South was more pro-liberty than the North? 
            As I've stated over and over and over and over, you'll find no greater lover of the South, particularly of my home state of Texas, than this guy right here (points both thumbs back at myself). But the reason I can love the South as it is right now is because it's such a (relative) oasis of liberty. We have less of a burden of intrusive government here than we would almost anywhere else in the country, much less the world. And I've come to the conclusion that the only way the South could be today what it is today is because it lost the Civil War back then. Forcing it to give up its slavery and frog-marching it onto the road towards liberty for all its citizens was--unfortunately--what had to happen in order for it to be what it is today.
            Just like every conservative who deserves that name, I'm a lover of liberty: Religious, economic, political, and personal. And because I love liberty so much, I can't help but utterly reject what the Confederate States of America stood for. Will you join me?

P.S. I just found a very interesting web page. Jim McCullough (who--in his own words--is "conservative on most social and economic issues, but. . . also gay") compares and contrasts at the U.S. Constitution and the Confederate Constitution side by side in a very detailed manner: Article by Article and even line by line. No matter how much you agree or disagree with him on his sexual orientation, I'd advise you to see for yourself which constitution was more pro-"state's rights"; it's pretty clear, however, that claims that the CSA was really more favorable towards state's rights than the Union are pretty specious. If you doubt me, take a look yourself

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