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Originally posted at Talk to Action.

 photo thomaswoods_zps65b2661f.jpg This post constitutes my third and final reply to Thomas E. Woods, Jr.'s critique of my series on his neo-Confederate activities. In my first reply I explained why, his protestations not withstanding, he is indeed a neo-Confederate. My second reply focused on how Woods twists his opponents' statements into self-serving red herring.

Now I get to what is as the heart of Woods's neo-Confederate/libertarian agenda: defending the right to oppress; a critical component of which is the combination of nullification and secession.

"I am a libertarian" and "not a `neo-Confederate'" wrote Thomas E. Woods, Jr. in a verbal shell game he plays to mask the shared flaw of his chosen philosophies:  the elevation of raw power over justice and equality before the law, cloaking oppression in the guise of freedom and liberty.

As I have previously noted, his advocacy of both secession and the unilateral nullification of Federal court decisions as well as Federal legislation appeals to many on the Catholic Right. What's more, nullification is becoming a weapon in efforts to thwart the will of the American people as expressed by its elected representatives.

Some Neo-Confederates are also Libertarians

While not all libertarians are neo-Confederates, neo-Confederates of Woods's ilk are certainly libertarians. This comes into focus when we consider the League of the South,a neo-Confederate organization with which Woods proudly identifies and whose core economic beliefs are of the aforementioned Austrian School of libertarian economics: opposition to fractional banking; a return to the gold standard; and a general distrust government regulation that often borders on anarchy. (Indeed, Woods himself is devotee of  anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard).  Woods's strain of libertarianism argues that these are essential elements of freedom.

Austrian school libertarians even oppose the laissez-faire "Chicago school" economics of Milton Friedman -- which at least considers using some government intervention in the economy through monetary policy.  Austrian schoolers want government to play no role at all in the economy. After all, they steadfastly assure us, that economically speaking, everyone acts with reasonable self-interest.

Austrian schoolers also believe that the freedom to contract is absolute, regardless of the imbalance of power between parties, particularly when it comes to matters of employment. "Labor is appraised like a commodity not because the entrepreneurs and capitalists are hardhearted and callous,"  Ludwig von Mises famously declared, "but because they are unconditionally subject to the supremacy of the pitiless consumers." (Woods is a Senior Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Alabama.) Every dollar is a ballot from their point of view; and the messy ethical considerations of government are replaced by the supposed efficiencies of the free market. Of course, if every dollar is a ballot, then those with more dollars have more ballots and the outcome of every election is predetermined.

Thus the question of freedom, is really a question of freedom for whom?

The above von Mises quote suggests that owners are free to abuse low wage workers while providing excessive executive compensation; unjustifiable stock dividend payouts; failing to invest in more efficient manufacturing equipment; and ineffective trades policies. And as the 2007 Wall Street meltdown has proven, many financial figures do not act solely out of "reasonable self-interest;" irrationality plays an outsized role along with, greed, ego and self-aggrandizement.

This gets us to the core of our dispute: That Woods' neo-Confederate libertarianism distorts the meanings of freedom and liberty into a defense of the excesses of self-interest.  He argues, referring to me:

And finally, my critic says I defend a "right to oppress." This is preposterous, needless to say. ... The point is that the federal government is far more likely to be a threat to our liberties, indeed to civilization itself, than the states -- from which, in any case, exit is rather easier. There is absolutely nothing the states could do that would amount to a grain of sand on the beach compared to a new Middle Eastern war, but I am supposed to be super worried about what Montana might do next. Nice priorities.

He then added, "And of course, nothing centralized regimes do ever, ever, ever discredits centralization."

This is typical Woods, vigorously assaulting a straw man of his own invention. (While I clearly believe that a sturdy federal government is far preferable to confederacy, nowhere have I claimed that it is a perfect; all forms of government are subject to abuse.) Quite tellingly though, Wood opposes the centralization of power in a democratically elected Federal government, but thinks the centralization of economic power in the hands of unaccountable private interests is just fine.  

There is no shortage of examples to demonstrate that Woods's definition of freedom includes the right to oppress.  Woods goes so far as to oppose child labor laws. (He claims that passing laws against child labor is like passing laws against gravity.)  He also opposes the recent efforts of fast food workers to achieve a living wage. "Instead of being amazed that they can earn anything at all with no skills to speak of," says Woods, "they are enraged that they aren't making a comfortable living performing a task as simple as fast-food preparation."

Ignoring Facts and History

History teaches us a different lesson about child labor than the world according to Woods.  Child labor in the past has been used to drive down wages by creating a surplus of workers. Beyond that, the law informs us that minors are generally considered to be legally incompetent to enter into most contracts. While Woods's position may be honestly grounded in his libertarian philosophy it does not change the dynamics of highly unequal wage bargaining power -- hence his embrace of a right to oppress children without interference from the government.

Progressive child labor laws have freed children from toiling long hours in mills full of dangerous machinery or having to dig for coal in poorly ventilated and unsafe mineshafts. At the same time, parents have received better wages because the size of the workforce was reduced. Children once unable to attend school, now have the opportunity, which in turn, creates a more sophisticated work force.

Likewise, increases in the minimum wage pegged to productivity have proven to be healthy for the overall economy - as well as being the right thing to do. Woods mischievously frames his argument against fast food workers seeking a raise, by suggesting that they want something exorbitant.  It is not unreasonable for workers to seek wages that are at the very least, adjusted for inflation.  Woods' twisting of facts to fit his argument is characteristic of his method.

As if all this were not enough, there is one part of Woods's critique of one of my pieces on nullification that I find astonishing. "There is absolutely nothing the states could do," he claims, " that would amount to a grain of sand on the beach compared to a new Middle Eastern war..." As someone who holds a Ph.D. in history from an Ivy League university he should know better. He must certainly be aware that his beloved (so-called) Confederate States of America's dreams of a slave empire extending into the Caribbean as well as Central and South America.  History teaches us that neither size nor form of government is a guarantee against Empire - let alone the desire to extinguish individual rights.

If the modern federal state is inherently such a tyrannical menace, why have Sweden's armies not marched in conquest?

No Oppressor is an Island

Woods is also involved with organizations that are devoted to the right to oppress.

As I have previously documented, Woods is a founding member of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group.

The League's "Core Belief Statement" also suggests a religious supremacism of the sort that would clearly be a building block of theocracy. The League declares:

"The South still reveres the tenets of our historic Christian faith and acknowledges its supremacy over man-made laws and opinions...

If the southern Leaguers got their way in this regard, the prospects might be bleak for anyone other than officially approved Christians, and worse for minority religions and the non-religious. Freedom for religious supremacism means the right to oppress, whether at the state, local or federal level.

Woods, a convert to traditionalist Catholicism, is a regular contributor to the The Remnant . This traditionalist biweekly newspaper has been highly critical of anything Catholic since Vatican II, including Nostra Aetate, -- the official Catholic statement repudiating the notion that the Jewish people are guilty of deicide.  The Remnant has also been a vocal supporter of the schismatic - and anti-Semitic - priestly order of the Society of St. Pius X.  For this and other examples of hostility to Judaism The Remnant has also earned a spot on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups.

The Remnant's support for SSPX is a particular point of interest. SSPX has maintained ties to the Northern Italian secessionist political organization, Northern League - as does the League of the South.

Coming Full Circle

Of course, to this crowd, the main problem with a sturdy federal government is that it stands in the way of the neo-Confederate vision itself. Modern notions of civil rights as well as the legacy of New Deal economics exist to protect the rights of those who would suffer if the neo-Confederate libertarian dream were to come true.

What the agendas of secession and nullification are truly about is the frustration of various like-minded minority factions' ambitions to oppress the majority.  To that end, they want the federal government disassembled at least to the point where the religious and economic prejudices of the few are less likely to be checked by the democratically derived consensus of the many.

This happened in 1861 when proslavery forces lost their grip on the White House; and it is happening now with a small but effective gang of Christian Right activists that cannot find a constitutional avenue to impose their moral and economic views on the entire nation.  It is why we see, paradoxically, the likes of the theocratic protestant Gary North (an Associated Scholar of the von Mises Institute) and Opus Dei priest C. John McCloskey embrace Woods's brand of theocratic libertarianism. North and McCloskey are not opposed to theocracy, per se, they just want to localize it. Indeed, that is why Woods's advocacy of secession and nullification is so appealing to them. If they cannot persuade the whole country to see things their way while playing by the rules, they will simply tear up the rulebook - as well as the nation.

This is libertarianism's inherent fatal flaw: Its sole emphasis upon the liberty of the more powerful individual and its striking indifference to the rights of others.  It fails to account for externalities -- when a third person is affected by an occurrence or transaction to which he is not a party.  It is a philosophy of governance that refuses to consider that the individual's well-being is linked to the well-being of all within a given society.

I will assume that Thomas E. Woods, Jr. is sincere when he says he doesn't personally believe in oppressing others who are different than him.  But he defends a philosophy predicated upon a highly subjective definition of liberty attained at the expense of others.  I would go so far as to say he also believes in maximizing the opportunities presented in such situations. Therefore, he resolutely believes in the right to oppress, and is conflating freedom with oppression.

But there is a different way of viewing freedom.  

 "One principle of liberty is for all to rule and be ruled in turn," Aristotle once said, "and indeed democratic justice is the application of numerical not proportionate equality; whence it follows that the majority must be supreme, and that whatever the majority approve must be the end and the just."

For related articles, click here.

Originally posted to Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 03:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  No, he really is a genuine Libertarian (10+ / 0-)
    One who believes that everybody who matters should be free to do anything that does not harm another person of any importance in any way that he cares about.
    As evidenced by Rand Paul's claim that he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act, and instead would have refused to patronize any business that discriminated. As though there could be a non-discriminating business under Jim Crow segregation.

    And in Thomas Woods's case, that Chief Justice Roger Taney was correct in the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court.

    They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. [Emphasis mine]
    The worst forms of oppression are often those imposed for the supposed good of the oppressed.
    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
    John Kenneth Galbraith

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 07:08:41 AM PDT

    •  small question: where is the line between a (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GDbot, dotdash2u, betterdemsonly, caul

      Libertarian and an anarchist and a plain old fashioned narcissist?  It seems many of these folks achieve some sort of success through accident of birth or plain good luck on their part which they immediately take to be synonymous with brains, hard work, talent and ability

      •  There Are Varying Degrees of Libertarians. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kombema, AdamSelene

        For example, there is a big difference between a Senator Barry Goldwater, who though he believed in limited government thought it necessary to function and narcissists such as Ayn Rand or anarchists such as Murray Rothbard.

      •  Actually (0+ / 0-)

        Anarchism, traditionally, is anti-capitalist, and the original meaning of libertarian derives from left wing anti-capitalist anarchists dating back to Europe in the mid 1800s.

        Traditional anarchists don't accept the term anarchism as a label for capitalists, since it is clearly inappropriate in terms of etymology and the root meaning.

        An = without, and anarcho = authority, leaders.

        Capitalism in any form has authority in the form of hierarchy and oligarchy (the ruling owner class) which by definition is not anarchic, since anarchism by definition would not have an owner class, or established hierarchy found in the capitalist business model between the owners and the workers.

        Thus, the American usage of the term anarchism applied to capitalism is an oxymoron. The traditional usage predates the right wing usage by more than one hundred years.

        Anarchists are mostly anarcho-socialists, and they do support participatory communities that are based on horizontal, bottom up organizational structures that are egalitarian, democratic, with all authority handed over to the people, collectively.

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 03:25:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Another Good Piece On This Topic. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    By Joshua Holland, from Bill Moyers' website, just click here.

  •  Thank you for giving me yet another head (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dotdash2u, Frank Cocozzelli, caul

    scratcher to research.  Given the Southern hostility to Catholics, expressed both in the Protestant theology so prevalent in the post War South and the KKK's abhorrence of Catholicism, it caught my eye that one could be a Neo Confederate and a devout Conservative Catholic (Godwin's warning here: but then there were Jews who found accommodation with the Nazis)

    However, to my surprise, it appears Catholics served both sides with little difference in the contribution.  It appears politics and not religion made the difference in choosing sides.  This made the later anti-Catholicism even more surprising as it appears it crested and peaked by the 1930s in the nonSouthern States and yet continued to the present day in many Southern communities.

    Thank you for leading me to expand my knowledge in this area though this was not your primary goal.  Here is a site that deals with the topic:

    However it seems to me that these quasi-Libertarians/Neo-Confederates/RW loons are more narcissists than ideologues bending their beliefs to fit their own selfish needs vs any sort of allegiance to any sort of intellectual position on any given issue

    •  Jefferson Davis Courted Catholic Support (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      entlord, Kombema

      In fact he corresponded with the Pope. Furthermore, In his 1862 State of the Confederacy speech, he attacked New Englanders for their intolerance of Catholics and promised religious freedom for Catholics. The intolerance towards Catholics comes after the civil war with the rise of nativist groups such as the klan.

    •  I live in Indianapolis where the word "papist" is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kombema, Frank Cocozzelli

      nearly equal to the n-word in it's intent and offensiveness.  We're about as far north as the Deep South gets, culture-wise, which explains our red state status.  And also why our politics is rife with militia and tea party types.

      "There's something wrong with a system where a handful of people have more than they'd ever need and the mass of the people have less than they always need." -- Rev. Joseph Lowery

      by caul on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 08:14:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Godwin notwithstanding... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the same kind of quasi-"libertarian" mindset of the Catholic Church induced them to turn a blind eye to the 20,000 labor and concentration camps spread throughout Axis Europe in the 30s and 40s - a mind-numbing number which suggests that no living person in Europe could truthfully claim that they had no knowledge of what was going on behind those barbed wire fences. It's a carefully- muted historical fact that as the Third Reich started to collapse, high-ranking members of that church in Italy assisted in the clandestine exodus of a good many middle and upper- level Reich leadership from southern Italian ports to South America as favors for past support and institutional protection from "evil godless socialists". The situational morality of the time was that National Socialism and Fascism were friendly to the Church as opposed to the Marxist Soviet Union; however that meant little to the 17 million Jews, Gypsies, black people, handicapped, infirm and political threats who just happened to be non-Catholics who perished in those camps. Those Nazi refugees would later find comfort and protection in a predominantly Catholic Argentina where libertarian situational morality also enjoyed a cult following.

      A fundamental flaw of libertarianism is that its ultimate purpose is to be everything to everyone without doing anything for anyone. This always allows a basic trait of human nature to absolve the libertarian mind of any wrong-doing while allowing it to point fingers at everyone else's flaws  and use situational morality to excuse what would otherwise be considered moral bankruptcy.

      Although the greatest concentration of bastards who currently think like this are in the South, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that the rest of the country has a frighteningly high proportion of them spread throughout positions of authority elsewhere. And unless a good many people wake up to this fact and give them the drubbing in the polls that they deserve, this country will see the same fate as the rest of history's failed oligarchies.

  •  Woods Produces Pulp Fiction for the Right (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DavidMS, caul

    Thomas E Woods had a best selling book called the "The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History".   Like nearly everything he writes, the book is an apologia for the Right.   He backs up what he writes with facts and footnotes from other folks on the Right, but very, very rarely uses independent third party information, only other Right wingers' analysis of that info.  Reality rarely intrudes.

    Woods is not a complete liar.  What he writes usually has some truth to it, but not much.  He produces truthiness. He's as truthful as a stopped clock.  Two minutes out every day -- 2 minutes out of every 1440 minutes -- a stopped clock shows the true time.  Of course, that overstates how truthful he is, but is a decent approximation.

    I condone Mr. C for calling out Woods to be a neo-Confederate.  My experience has been that whenever you come across anything  Woods has written, if you follow through to the links provided by those who favor Woods, you end up at  websites filled with stale ideas: Jews killed Christ, slavery helped American Blacks, and unions are evil.

  •  Freedom to contract is "absolute", unless (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    one of the contracting parties is a Union Thug.

    Quidquid id est, timeo Republicanos et securitatem ferentes.
    Bail North Carolina in!

    by Sura 109 on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 11:18:06 PM PDT

  •  The hypocrisy of libertarianism is revealed (4+ / 0-)

    by their opposition to any form of unionism. Apparently the sacred right to contract doesn't apply to voluntary self organization of workers who try to leverage better terms for their contract.
       Their definition of "liberty" is different from ours. As in when Hayek praised the fascist Pinochet for restoring "liberty" to Chile.

  •  I love how he says how easy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Cocozzelli

    fast food jobs are.  He needs to work a few shifts at a busy McDonald's.

    I used to be disgusted. Now I try to be amused. - Elvis Costello

    by gnbhull on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 09:27:32 AM PDT

  •  Many, MANY lies in the libertarians (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kombema, AdamSelene, tobendaro

    Of course the neo-Confederates are libertarian only with respect to the federal government. With respect to the state governments that they dream of, they would be quite reversed. They should, for example, be pleased with Texas's efforts at having no environmental protections as "right for Texas" but having more gun control than Utah.

    The absurdity of their economic dream has been exploded a hundred times. Milton Friedman's fantasies were nightmares in reality, as we are all living through now. This doesn't need discussion.

    Their response has to get more lunatic: (from Dan Kervick at nakedcapitalism)

    a view that I have sometimes called “hyper-endogeneity.” Hyper-endogenists systematically exaggerate the role of commercial bank money in our existing monetary system, treating the banks as possessing certain powers that are actually reserved to the federal government alone.  Hyper-endogenists view banks as, in effect, operating their own fiat printing presses. They claim commercial banks manufacture money cost-free “from thin air” and therefore reap seigniorage profits from the exercise.  I tried to point out the errors of hyper-endogeneity in my essay “Do Banks Create Money from Thin Air.”
    The "Austrians" and today's market people want to believe that commercial bankers lend money its value by touching it in a trade, that it is not "the full faith and credit of the United States" that makes money, but rather the fact that the bank, and only the bank, will trade it.

    Libertarian "efficiency" has never been proven. Way back in the eighteenth century, Smith theorized that the free market was the most efficient means of responding to demand. This is a theory. No one assembled data to prove it.

    Even if it were true, libertarian efficiencies respond to crisis. The market may create worldwide famine, and then it will "respond." First hundreds of thousands will starve, and then there will be a response. First there will be poisoned milk, and then there will be a response. First there will be polluted rivers, and then there will be response. I.e. the ones with capital get a free punch in the face in every case.

    Everyone's innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 10:04:57 AM PDT

  •  Secession ideology gaining traction (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Cocozzelli

    Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, sure looks like they are starting work on empowering the right wing secession movements.

    The Volokh Conspiracy is a blog by RW law professors. Several of them were the stalwarts on the attacks on the ACA.  Their basic argument being that 100 or so years or jurisprudence had gotten it all wrong.

    The founder clerked for Justice O'Connor and is now a Professor at UCLA, though I wonder how he and the other Professors find time to teach with (I assume far  better paid) work for big money interests promoting "freedom."  The VC contributors are certainly are extremely bright folk.  

    "Conspiracy" is defined as a plan to commit unlawful acts, sort of a tongue in cheek comment on how they are creating a defacto aristocracy with themselves a well paid part of it.

    “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” ― Will Rogers

    by MugWumpBlues on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 10:53:53 AM PDT

  •  Good post (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Cocozzelli, underTheRadar

    I never could understand libertarians. Are they saying that everyone should be free to do what they want or everyone should be free to do what they want in economic transactions only and should be prohibited from certain behaviors that would interfere with this?

    If it is the former, then, for example, robbing banks should not be prohibited since the invisible hand will eventually work things out in the best of all possible ways. If the latter, then would an official confederacy of bank robbers make them economic players enough? Or are they saying that a host of laws are required to prevent these types of assault on already acquired property. In either case the end result is tyranny. Either the strongest will overcome the invisible hand (after all if it is invisible, how can it grip anything) and control all, or the guardians of liberalism will be forced into creating ever increasing laws regulating human behavior in order to preserve the privileges of those who gained advantage from the competition. In either case Democracy becomes at best a sham.

  •  Gary North is not merely (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Cocozzelli

    "not opposed to theocracy per se" as you put it. He's an avowed advocate of it.

    Walter Olson from Reason Magazine quoted this from North:

    [w]e must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.
    Overall a good diary, I must say. You won't find anyone who will openly admit to being an oppressor. But in Woods' case, it stems from a belief that only the state can oppress you, from a belief that as long as the state is not in an actor  in a particular situation, then an imbalance of power by definition doesn't exist. As long as outright murder, rape, arson, kidnapping or taking another's stuff isn't involved, all parties are free agents and thus on equal footing.

    liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

    by RockyMtnLib on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 09:53:10 PM PDT

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