Thursday, January 06, 2011

Can War Ever Be Justifiable?

A recent article by EJ Dionne noted the upcoming 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, and it urged the widespread adoption of the leftist view of that war: that it was all about slavery. Unfortunately, the article ignores the fact that, as in all things politic, "it ain't so simple".

There is no such thing as a "good war".


The desire to go to war is all about one thing, and one thing only: Money. The slavery issue was just a way for Lincoln to make war into a “moral imperative”. In our time, “terrorism” is similarly used to justify government aggression.

Conquest is little more than a means for the elites -- who profit from the endless financial rape of mass numbers of people -- to either gain or retain "tax territory".

Tax territory simply translates into "wealth" -- money. Control more territory, and you control more people and the wealth they create. The more tax territory a government seizes, the more powerful an army and spoils system it can support. A powerful army makes possible further conquests of additional tax territory. Of course, if anything comes along that threatens a government's tax territory, expect a brutal response.

Which brings us back to the Civil War.

To believe the North's fight was motivated by an altruistic purpose, such as abolishing slavery, is to believe in fairy tales and Santa Claus. It, like every other fight in history, was about tax territory. The United States government didn't want to lose a large chunk of its tax territory, and so a fight was inevitable when the southern states decided they didn't want to continue being the cash cow for the Northern-dominated congress and its decades-long transfer of billions in southern wealth to the North.

Had Lincoln allowed the South to secede, slavery as an institution would have collapsed on its own. Besides the fact that it had become a huge political liability, there were pricey related expenses (enforcement, social, uprisings, mistreatment) which were rapidly overtaking any profitability. One can look at modern examples of subsidized industries that collapsed even after decades of government protection and subsidization -- steel, autos, textiles, etc.

The Fugitive Slave Act was in effect a direct subsidy to slaveowners at the expense of federal taxpayers. It worked to an extent, socializing the costs of capturing runaway slaves. But even with it, slaves still escaped. Had individual owners been required to pay their own enforcement costs for chasing down runaways, the entire institution would have collapsed before the War. Fugitive slave laws were subsidies that skewed the actual costs of the chattel slavery system, thereby helping it compete in the market against free labor.

Economic reality would have caught up with slavery in very short order under an independent south. Private slavery was subsidized by the public treasury and in that respect it functioned only as well as any other implementation of socialism: it externalized the costs of its activities on others. But eventually, all socialized industries collapse on their own.

"Two wrongs don't make a right". The principle applies to governments as much as it applies to children on a playground. While the slaves were freed from private owners as a result of the Civil War, the entire population of the country became enslaved to overbearing government bureaucracy that intruded into daily life with surveillance, subsidies, taxes, the draft, speech prohibitions, and regulation. That government has only continued to grow to the point where it now steals half of all wealth individuals create every year. Americans to this day are enslaved to the colossus that emerged from the Civil War.

Can one justify freeing slaves by enslaving free men? Can altruistic motives be ascribed to northern politicians who dragged 168,649 young men off the streets to fight for the freedom of others? Lincoln’s draft caused the death of about a fifth of them. One must not deny the fundamental injustice done to those young men. An instructive read on this subject is Jeffrey Rogers Hummel’s 'Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men'.

Can one justify freeing slaves at the price of subjecting non-slave-owning women and children to rape and murder? Unleash an army and rape and plunder will always travel with it. The Civil War was no exception. In her treatise “Rape in the American Civil War: Race, Class, and Gender in the Case of Harriet McKinley and Perry Pierson”, Maureen Stutzman found few rapes (335) prosecuted by the Union army. Most of the recorded instances were limited to 1863 and 1864 . One wonders why there were no rape prosecutions recorded earlier in the war, or in 1865. Lack of records does not equate to a lack of rapes. Southern legal records were often destroyed – so civilian reports of rapes and other crimes by invading troops are hard to come by. In addition, in an environment of subjugation of the southern citizenry, there was considerable reluctance to report rapes committed by conquering troops.

Can one justify freeing slaves at the price of slaughtering non-slaveowners? Various estimates suggest over 50,000 southern civilians were killed as ‘collateral damage’ due to the indiscriminate shelling of towns and cities – many of which were occupied mostly by women and children.

Slavery could have been ended the same way it was done within the limits of Washington, D.C., as well as in many other places in the world, and without bloodshed: simply by compensating slaveowners for the change in national rules. But apparently, that was too much to ask of the northern states, which had been transferring southern riches in a northerly direction since 1783.

Another bloodless alternative could have been simply an official declaration of an end to all enforcement of fugitive slave laws. The resulting uncontrollable exodus of slaves would also have brought collapse.

The slavery issue was a great propaganda tool for Lincoln – a white supremacist and separatist who cared little for the black race. John Wilkes Booth’ bullet elevated the man into a myth; otherwise Lincoln’s blathering about shipping blacks back to Africa would have ruined his legacy.

Lincoln, in his first year of office, rapidly implemented an unreconstructed Whig agenda of a centralized sultanate of government meddling and subsidization of the railroads, tripled protectionist tariffs, and federalization (and debasement) of the money supply.

A few years ago, liberals were criticizing George Bush for imprisoning people without charges, access to counsel, the right to confront accusers, or even a trial. Of course, now that Obama is doing the same thing, they are silent – but the point is that it was Abraham Lincoln who showed Bush & Obama that a president can get away with it.

Far from encouraging peace and compromise, Lincoln’s actions fanned embers into flames.


Addditional reading:

Are you aware of the extent to which free blacks held slaves?  Then check out "Did Black People Own Slaves?" by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

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