Thursday, September 16, 2010
The American Lenin
by L. Neil Smith
It’s harder and harder these days to tell a liberal from a conservative — given the former category’s increasingly blatant hostility toward the First Amendment, and the latter’s prissy new disdain for the Second Amendment — but it’s still easy to tell a liberal from a libertarian.
Just ask about either Amendment.
If what you get back is a spirited defense of the ideas of this country’s Founding Fathers, what you’ve got is a libertarian. By shameful default, libertarians have become America’s last and only reliable stewards of the Bill of Rights.
But if — and this usually seems a bit more difficult to most people — you’d like to know whether an individual is a libertarian or a conservative, ask about Abraham Lincoln.
Suppose a woman — with plenty of personal faults herself, let that be stipulated — desired to leave her husband: partly because he made a regular practice, in order to go out and get drunk, of stealing money she had earned herself by raising chickens or taking in laundry; and partly because he’d already demonstrated a proclivity for domestic violence the first time she’d complained about his stealing.
Now, when he stood in the doorway and beat her to a bloody pulp to keep her home, would we memorialize him as a hero? Or would we treat him like a dangerous lunatic who should be locked up, if for no other reason, then for trying to maintain the appearance of a relationship where there wasn’t a relationship any more? What value, we would ask, does he find in continuing to possess her in an involuntary association, when her heart and mind had left him long ago?
History tells us that Lincoln was a politically ambitious lawyer who eagerly prostituted himself to northern industrialists who were unwilling to pay world prices for their raw materials and who, rather than practice real capitalism, enlisted brute government force — "sell to us at our price or pay a fine that’ll put you out of business" — for dealing with uncooperative southern suppliers. That’s what a tariff’s all about. In support of this "noble principle", when southerners demonstrated what amounted to no more than token resistance, Lincoln permitted an internal war to begin that butchered more Americans than all of this country’s foreign wars — before or afterward — rolled into one.
Lincoln saw the introduction of total war on the American continent — indiscriminate mass slaughter and destruction without regard to age, gender, or combat status of the victims — and oversaw the systematic shelling and burning of entire cities for strategic and tactical purposes. For the same purposes, Lincoln declared, rather late in the war, that black slaves were now free in the south — where he had no effective jurisdiction — while declaring at the same time, somewhat more quietly but for the record nonetheless, that if maintaining slavery could have won his war for him, he’d have done that, instead.
The fact is, Lincoln didn’t abolish slavery at all, he nationalized it, imposing income taxation and military conscription upon what had been a free country before he took over — income taxation and military conscription to which newly "freed" blacks soon found themselves subjected right alongside newly-enslaved whites. If the civil war was truly fought against slavery — a dubious, "politically correct" assertion with no historical evidence to back it up — then clearly, slavery won.
Lincoln brought secret police to America, along with the traditional midnight "knock on the door", illegally suspending the Bill of Rights and, like the Latin America dictators he anticipated, "disappearing" thousands in the north whose only crime was that they disagreed with him. To finance his crimes against humanity, Lincoln allowed the printing of worthless paper money in unprecedented volumes, ultimately plunging America into a long, grim depression — in the south, it lasted half a century — he didn’t have to live through, himself.
In the end, Lincoln didn’t unite this country — that can’t be done by force — he divided it along lines of an unspeakably ugly hatred and resentment that continue to exist almost a century and a half after they were drawn. If Lincoln could have been put on trial in Nuremburg for war crimes, he’d have received the same sentence as the highest-ranking Nazis.
If libertarians ran things, they’d melt all the Lincoln pennies, shred all the Lincoln fives, take a wrecking ball to the Lincoln Memorial, and consider erecting monuments to John Wilkes Booth. Libertarians know Lincoln as the worst President America has ever had to suffer, with Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson running a distant second, third, and fourth.
Conservatives, on the other hand, adore Lincoln, publicly admire his methods, and revere him as the best President America ever had. One wonders: is this because they’d like to do, all over again, all of the things Lincoln did to the American people? Judging from their taste for executions as a substitute for individual self-defense, their penchant for putting people behind bars — more than any other country in the world, per capita, no matter how poorly it works to reduce crime — and the bitter distaste they display for Constitutional "technicalities" like the exclusionary rule, which are all that keep America from becoming the world’s largest banana republic, one is well-justified in wondering.
The troubling truth is that, more than anybody else’s, Abraham Lincoln’s career resembles and foreshadows that of V.I. Lenin, who, with somewhat better technology at his disposal, slaughtered millions of innocents — rather than mere hundreds of thousands — to enforce an impossibly stupid idea which, in the end, like forced association, was proven by history to be a resounding failure. Abraham Lincoln was America’s Lenin, and when America has finally absorbed that painful but illuminating truth, it will finally have begun to recover from the War between the States.