Libertarianism as a Rejection of Politics

From a review I recently read:

Perhaps the most economical as well as charitable explanation of the inability of these two libertarian writers to see the forest of freedom for the trees of proslavery secessionism is their lack of understanding—indeed their doctrinaire rejection—of politics. Posing a counter-factual, DiLorenzo asks why Lincoln, if he was the master politician that his hagiographers say he was, “failed to use his legendary political skills and his rhetorical gifts to do what every other country of the world where slavery once existed had done: end it peacefully, without resort to warfare.” DiLorenzo says “most Americans would likely have chosen compensated emancipation…. Lincoln never seriously offered the nation the opportunity”(52). And why not? Because Lincoln “was not particularly supportive of emancipation” and needed a war to transform America into a centralized imperial nation! [ . . . ]

DiLorenzo is mistaken. Secession based on state sovereignty is neither the language nor the theory of American nationality in the Declaration of Independence. DiLorenzo’s assertions are, however, a reasonable facsimile of the reasoning that supported Southern secession. In a speech in the Senate, on January 10, 1861, for example, Jefferson Davis attempted to justify disunion in the name of “an inalienable right” of the people in each community giving them “the power … to abrogate and modify their form of Government.” Like Davis, today’s neosecessionists distort the right of revolution by treating it is a constitutionally protected right to overthrow their government. Moreover they err in regarding the Union as a compact between sovereign state-nations that, not withstanding ratification of the Constitution, were never under a legal obligation to obey the laws of the Union, except insofar as they voluntarily chose to do so. This was never the nature of the relationship between political authority and the rights of individuals in social contract communities, including the federal republic of the United States.

Herman Belz, “Review: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, by Thomas J. DiLorenzo; When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession, by Charles Adams”.


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