Modern Historians Confront the American Revolution

Murray N. Rothbard

I. Basic Causes of the Revolution

The historian must be more than a chronicler, a mere lister of events. For his real task is discovering and setting forth the causal connections between events in human history, the complex chain of human purposes, choices, and consequences over time that have shaped the fate of mankind. Investigating the causes of such a portentous event as the American Revolution is more than a mere listing of preceding occurrences; for the historian must weigh the causal significance of these factors, and select those of overriding importance.

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“The Great Reset” Is the Road to Socialism Mises Warned Us About

Tho Bishop

Through the sheer power of his intellectual output, Ludwig von Mises established himself as one of the most important intellectuals of the twentieth century. His work Human Action remains a foundational text of the Austrian school. His critique outlining the impracticality of socialism was vindicated with the fall of the Soviet Union and remains without a serious intellectual challenge today.

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The 1787 Constitution Was a Radical Assault on the Spirit of the Revolution

Murray N. Rothbard

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

It was a bloodless coup d’état against an unresisting Confederation Congress. The original structure of the new Constitution was now complete. The Federalists, by use of propaganda, chicanery, fraud, malapportionment of delegates, blackmail threats of secession, and even coercive laws, had managed to sustain enough delegates to defy the wishes of the majority of the American people and create a new Constitution. The drive was managed by a corps of brilliant members and representatives of the financial and landed oligarchy. These wealthy merchants and large landowners were joined by the urban artisans of the large cities in their drive to create a strong overriding central government—a supreme government with its own absolute power to tax, regulate commerce, and raise armies. These powers were sought eagerly as a method of handing out special privileges to commercial groups: navigation acts to subsidize shipping, tariffs to protect inefficient artisans stampeded by national depression from foreign manufactured goods, and a strong army and navy to pursue an aggressive foreign policy designed to force the opening of West Indies ports, the Mississippi River, and the Northwest. And, to pay for all of these bounties, a central taxing power would be harnessed that could also assume and pay the public debt held by wealthy speculators. But government, by its nature, cannot supply bounties and privileges without taking them from others, and these others were to be largely the hapless bulk of the nation’s citizens, the inland subsistence farmers. In western Massachusetts, taxes to pay a heavy public debt owned by wealthy men in the East had produced Shays’ Rebellion. Now, a new super government was emerging and carrying out on a national scale the mercantilist principle of taxation, regulation, and special privilege for the benefit of favored groups (“the few”) at the expense of the bulk of producers and consumers in the country (“the many”). And while to acquire sufficient support they had to purchase allies among the mass of the people (e.g., urban artisans), the major concentration of benefits and privileges would undoubtedly accrue to America’s aristocracy.

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WaPo Editors: “Liberty” Requires Us to Implement Vaccine Passports

Alice Salles

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

Mandating private and government employees to be immunized against covid-19 and requiring the use of standardized electronic passes as proof of immunization across the nation is what liberty is made of, the editors of the Washington Post argued last week

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The Roots of “Anticapitalism”

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

In many minds, “capitalism” has come to be a bad word, nor does “free enterprise” sound much better. I remember seeing posters in Russia in the early nineteen-thirties depicting capitalists as Frankenstein monsters, as men with yellow-green faces, crocodile teeth, dressed in cutaways and adorned by top hats. What is the reason for this widespread hatred for capitalists and capitalism despite the overwhelming evidence that the system has truly “delivered the goods”? In its mature stage it indeed is providing, not just for a select few but for the masses, a standard of living cordially envied by those bound under other politico-economic arrangements. There are historic, psychological and moral reasons for this state of affairs. Once we recognize them, we might come to better understanding the largely irrational resentment and desire to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

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The Twilight of the Antifederalists

Murray N. Rothbard

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

New York was the toughest nut for the Federalists to crack. For here was one state where not only was the population overwhelmingly opposed to the Constitution, but the opposition was also in firm and determined control of the state government and the state political machinery. Here was a powerful governor, George Clinton, who would not, like Hancock and Randolph in the other critical states, yield to a sellout under pressure. Clinton had been a highly popular governor since the formation of the state, had a strong political machinery based on the mass of upstate yeomanry, and was determined to organize and defeat the Constitution.

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The Electoral College as a Restraint on American Democracy: Its Evolution from Washington to Jackson

Randall G. Holcombe

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

When the American colonies declared their independence from Britain in 1776, the fundamental principle underlying the new government they created was the principle of liberty. To the Founders, liberty meant freedom from government oppression, because at that time, government was the primary threat to the liberty of individuals. The Declaration of Independence contains a long list of grievances that the colonists had against the Bang of England to document how King George had infringed upon the liberty of the colonists, and those grievances provided their justification for creating a new government, independent of Britain. At that time, the concept of liberty was a relatively new and truly revolutionary idea, and it provided the fundamental principle for the design of the new American government. Two centuries later, the principle of liberty has been replaced by the principle of democracy, and most Americans at the end of the twentieth century surely would view the fundamental principle of American government to be democracy, not liberty.

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The Not So Wild, Wild West

Terry Anderson & P.J. Hill

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

The growth of government during this century has attracted the attention of many scholars interested in explaining that growth and in proposing ways to limit it. As a result of this attention, the public-choice literature has experienced an upsurge in the interest in anarchy and its implications for social organization.

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The American Revolution and Classical Liberalism

Murray N. Rothbard

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

The libertarian creed emerged from the “classical liberal” movements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the Western world, specifically, from the English Revolution of the seventeenth century. This radical libertarian movement, even though only partially successful in its birthplace, Great Britain, was still able to usher in the Industrial Revolution there by freeing industry and production from the strangling restrictions of State control and urban government-supported guilds. For the classical liberal movement was, throughout the Western world, a mighty libertarian “revolution” against what we might call the Old Order—the ancien régime which had dominated its subjects for centuries. This regime had, in the early modern period beginning in the sixteenth century, imposed an absolute central State and a king ruling by divine right on top of an older, restrictive web of feudal land monopolies and urban guild controls and restrictions. The result was a Europe stagnating under a crippling web of controls, taxes, and monopoly privileges to produce and sell conferred by central (and local) governments upon their favorite producers. This alliance of the new bureaucratic, war-making central State with privileged merchants—an alliance to be called “mercantilism” by later historians—and with a class of ruling feudal landlords constituted the Old Order against which the new movement of classical liberals and radicals arose and rebelled in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

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The Tyranny of the Minority Is Just as Dangerous as the Tyranny of the Majority

Michael Rectenwald

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

In a previous installment, I pointed out that in On Liberty, John Stuart Mill advocated for minority opinion to be specially “encouraged and countenanced,”1 and thus that Mill was not an absolute free market thinker where opinion is concerned. Mill suggested that minority opinion should not only be tolerated but requires special encouragement in order to gain a fair hearing. Such special encouragement would amount to the subsidization of opinion, most likely by the state. Thus, Mill did not argue for a free and fair “marketplace of ideas.”

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The Covid Lockdowns Showed Us How Dangerous Social Engineers Have Become

Birsen Filip

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

Since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, governments around the world, along with a handful of unelected medical experts, have been behaving as though they are the social engineers of totalitarian regimes (e.g., fascism, Nazism, and communism). To be more precise, this select group of political leaders and medical experts have upended economies, as well as the lives of billions of ordinary people, by implementing extremely coercive and restrictive lockdowns and physical distancing measures for the stated purpose of bringing the pandemic under control and preventing future outbreaks. Specific measures have included curfews; police patrols on the streets; the compulsory closure of businesses deemed nonessential, as well as workplaces, schools, and institutions of higher education; the banning of social gatherings; the cancelation of sporting and cultural events; the suspension of religious services; and restrictions on personal movement and interactions at the local, national, and international levels. In many parts of the world, people have been subjected to mandatory stay-at-home orders, requiring them to spend most of the day confined and isolated in their homes. Lockdown measures have also been used to prohibit people from engaging in public protests and freely expressing their opinions, as failure to comply with limits on social gatherings has led to people being arrested, detained, and fined. It has also not been uncommon to see excessive police force being used to enforce lockdowns and curfews, and to disperse protests against unreasonable restrictions. Some governments have also set up detention centers for international travelers entering into their countries, where they are forced to quarantine at their own expense while they wait for the results of their covid-19 tests. Shockingly, in early June 2021, the provincial government in Ontario, Canada, went so far as to announce that residents in long-term care homes would soon be permitted to engage in “close physical contact, including handholding” and “brief hugs” with visitors when both parties are fully immunized.

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Why the Regime’s Regulatory Power Is a Standing Threat to America

Jacob G. Hornberger

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

Whenever some foreign regime that is independent of the U.S. Empire goes after dissenters, U.S. officials trot out the First Amendment to show how different the United States is. Here, people are free to criticize government officials without fear of being put in jail or otherwise punished for exercising their free speech rights, they proudly point out. 

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The Fed Plans to Raise Interest Rates—Years from Now

Ryan McMaken

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee voted to continue with a target federal funds rate of 0.25 percent, and to continue with large-scale asset purchases. According to the committee’s press release:

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Consent of the Governed?

Robert Higgs

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

What gives some people the right to rule others? At least since John Locke’s time, the most common and seemingly compelling answer has been “the consent of the governed.” When the North American revolutionaries set out to justify their secession from the British Empire, they declared, among other things: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” This sounds good, especially if one doesn’t think about it very hard or very long, but the harder and longer one thinks about it, the more problematic it becomes.

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Governments Are Failing at Their Most Basic Duties—While Promising Free Stuff

Gary Galles

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

Three city blocks were systematically burned to the ground as hundreds of the local police stood by and viewed the violence. They were obeying orders not to harm the arsonists. The National Guard was called, adding more armed watchers. A passive gendarmerie consorting with open rebellion has rarely been seen in American history, until recently.

Except for variation in detail and numbers, this sort of thing is happening today.

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Why Big Business Ends up Supporting the Regime

Ryan McMaken

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

Policymakers know they hold immense power to regulate and punish firms that don’t play ball. Industry leaders know this too. So it’s likely both sides will indeed end up “playing ball.” 

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In Defense of Debt Collection

Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

You know hypocrisy, as when the pot calls the kettle black? Well, this news report gives new meaning to the idea:

The rise in American consumer debt has been accompanied by a sharp increase in complaints about aggressive and sometimes unscrupulous tactics by debt collection agencies, a phenomenon that has government regulators increasingly concerned.

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Thanks to Federal Megaspending, the Trade Deficit Has Only Gotten Worse

Mihai Macovei

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

President Trump’s protectionist trade measures against China and other external partners have not caused a reduction of the total US trade deficit. The latter actually grew further as China’s exports found indirect ways into the US and massive domestic spending schemes were expanded during the pandemic.

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This Is What Could Trigger Big Growth in CPI Inflation

Brendan Brown

(Originally posted on Mises.org)

Many episodes of monetary inflation, some even long and virulent, do not feature a denouement in a sustained high CPI inflation over many years. Instead, these episodes have the common characteristics of asset inflation and the monetary authority levying tax in various forms – principally inflation tax or monetary repression tax. For the monetary inflation to undergo combustion into sustained high CPI inflation it must generate necessary one or two necessary conditions. First, currency collapse; or second, a credit boom which spawns a persistent tendency of demand to exceed supply at present prices across a broad range of markets in goods and services.

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