LRC house historian Thomas J. DiLorenzo likes to credit Lincoln with introducing federal conscription to America. But actually the first federal conscription in America was implemented by Jefferson Davis and the Confederate States of America.
There’s a certain difficulty anyone must face in disputing with those two sentences: They’re both flat-out true. So how does one get around that difficulty? DiLorenzo neatly handles the problem by not quoting the statements he’s disputing and of course not linking to them. This way he can characterize my statements any way he wants, which makes his task a whole lot easier:
“No Treason” Numbskulls
There’s a very silly little blog site called “No Treason” that seems to specialize in childish whining and belly aching about LRC. I’ve never heard of any of the people associated with the site despite the fact that I’ve been reading and writing libertarian literature for more than 25 years. A bunch of nobodies, in other words. They seem to be a gang of non-intellectual morons, to paraphrase the book with a similar title that I reviewed on LRC last week. One recent blurb criticizes me for writing that the Lincoln administration introduced the “first federal conscription law.” This is wrong, they say. The writer points out that the Confederate government did it first. Interesting: I never knew the Confederate states were a part of the federal government and introduced the first “federal” conscription law! (Silly me; I thought the Confederates seceded from the federal government. Must be my public school background).
As lame as it is, this line of argument is also characteristic of John Majewski, Tom Palmer, and quite a few other libertarians (or “liberventionists”), and even a self-described anarchist or two, who seem to believe that it is illegitimate to write critically of Lincoln unless one also, at the same time, writes an entire book critical of Jefferson Davis and every single resident of the antebellum South. This whining, chattering, and complaining crowd — which doesn’t seem to have ever produced any “civil war” scholarship of its own — seems much more interested in being able to strut around pretending to be holier-than-thou and morally pure than in learning about actual history or understanding how the Leviathan state got to be what it is.
If I wrote a book highly critical of Jefferson Davis, it’s a sure bet that these people would not once demand that I also criticize Lincoln for the sake of intellectual balance. They should be thought of as recreational libertarians and not serious proponents of liberty.
Absent context, it would be pretty easy to get the impression from reading DiLorenzo that I must be an apologist for Lincoln and the Union, but in fact I wrote:
When I first started reading LRC I was pleased to see the vigorous criticism of Lincoln. Lincoln is widely perceived as perhaps the greatest president, virtually a saint, when in fact he probably did more harm to America than anyone in history. Most of the criticism of Lincoln you’ll see on LRC is entirely justified. But Rockwellians consistently poison the well when they blend this criticism with a fetish for the Confederacy.
Mr. DiLorenzo: If I saw you routinely ripping Davis and the Confederacy on a highly visible libertarian site that made a fetish of Lincoln and the Union you could safely bet the farm that my criticism would be consistent. If this were simply a matter of failing to criticize the Confederacy I would not even have raised the issue; Lincoln’s crimes are far more relevant to our political situation simply because Lincoln prevailed. No, the problem is not that LRC fails to criticize the Confederacy, the problem is that LRC glorifies the Confederacy.