Aside from the fact that it almost impossible to reduce a very complex topic to a 5-6 minute video, the overall stance is insidious. An outside observer who is unschooled in the intricacies of American history may find this video persuasive, thereby absolving the GOP of their complicity in racist policies. How unfortunate, I think, since there are lots of issues with Swain's version of events. Politifact ruled her claim as “false” and I’d like to add some of my own thoughts in a rebuttal.
If Swain insists that the South’s values have changed and are no longer defined by racism, I would like her to explain why Trump won the ex-Confederate states by 8.4% over Hillary Clinton. Saying that these voters merely believed in guns, conservative Christianity, and limited government while failing to mention race is a glaring and serious omission since Trump was so explicit about his racial resentment (discussed in the second post in this series). As badly as mainstream media covered the 2016 campaign, we still knew enough about him based on reporting to declare in no uncertain terms that Trump was a deranged, racist maniac, serial liar, and charlatan. And the white South still voted for him in large numbers.
In theory there is nothing inherently racist about the belief in limited government, supporting the right to bear arms, or being “pro-life,” which I would rephrase as adopting the anti-choice position advocated by predominantly white evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics while ignoring other issues that harm human life; namely, guns, foreign invasions, and human-caused climate change. The key problem is that in practice and historical experience, these positions have almost always had an important racial dimension. The individuals most likely to believe in guns, a conservative version of white Christianity, and limited government are also the same people most likely to prefer policies rooted in racial animus. As the rest of this post will make clear, the evidence is rather abundant, especially after the Civil War, that limited government philosophy was often a more abstract and respectable way of communicating one's preference for racial hierarchy.
Swain claims to have uncovered some sort of secret scandal that academic historians have spread a myth about southern Democrats switching parties over the Civil Rights Act. I have already discussed in the previous post why her focus on congressional votes exclusively is misleading, but I’d like to emphasize that no historian with whom I am familiar has ever argued that the Civil Rights Act was the only reason the white South went to the GOP. That’s a straw man. The party switch was a lot more drawn out and complicated.
But what about guns and the “pro-life” position? Are there racial dimensions here, too? Yes, there are. Weapons ownership has historically been a white privilege in the American experience. The Virginia Slave Code of 1705 prohibited blacks from owning weapons. So did the Black Codes of 1865. Between these two events, the founding fathers enshrined the right to bear arms as part of a well-regulated militia in the Bill of Rights as part of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. While the framers inherited from England the concept of the right to bear arms, which they wanted colonists to invoke to push back against governmental tyranny, they also wanted the colonists to put down potential slave revolts and use deadly force against Native Americans. The reasons we have a Second Amendment are complex, but we cannot fully disentangle them from questions of race. Consider how in the 1960s, Governor Ronald Reagan of California favored gun control when it was predominantly African Americans in the form of the Black Panther Party who were constituting a largely imagined threat to whites.
Similarly, it is impossible to disentangle white evangelical Protestantism and the “Moral Majority” from questions of race. While Roe v. Wade and Engel v. Vitale, which outlawed prayer in public schools, certainly provided the core set of issues that energized the Moral Majority, so did desegregation of public schools. If we are trying to understand in a comprehensive way why so many white evangelical Protestants in the United States in the 1970s and 80s began to form an alliance with the GOP, we need to understand the controversy involving the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University in South Carolina.
Statistics show that white evangelicals have a troubling association with white nationalism--a sentiment that is beyond coincidental and which seems to have intensified during the Trump presidency. Consider the following:
* white evangelicals have largely supported Trump’s immigration policy that has resulted in the immoral and inhumane separation of families and possible human rights violations;
* of various groups surveyed in a Pew poll, white evangelicals were the least likeliest to say that the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees (see image below).
* according to a February 2017 Public Religion Research Institute survey, white evangelicals were the only group out of those surveyed to believe that Christians are more likely to face discrimination compared to Muslims in the United States.
* Just a few weeks before the 2016 election, 66 percent of white evangelical Protestants said the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values. Nearly as many favored building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico (64 percent) and temporarily banning Muslims from other countries from entering the U.S. (62 percent). And 63 percent believed that today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.
1780s -- Thomas Jefferson and Enlightenment Philosophy
The author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States achieved worldwide fame for defending individual liberties against tyranny. Jefferson, of course, was a key figure in a broader, intercontinental cultural and intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment in which esteemed luminaries sought to apply reason, logic, and scientific principles to other realms of human life. As such, Jefferson sought to observe his own slaves, scientifically. The result, published as Notes on the State of Virginia, became one of the earliest iterations of scientific racism. Jefferson wrote, "A black, after hard labour through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight….But this may proceed from a want of forethought….They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient….their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection….that in memory they are equal to whites; in reason much inferior…in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous….It is not their condition then, but nature, which has produced this distinction…nature has been less bountiful to them in the endowments of the head….”
Slavery was such a fundamental component of the economic development that gave rise to the modern world--thereby giving extra leisure time so that elite men like Jefferson could ponder abstract topics--it would be difficult to separate the system of slavery from prevailing assumptions of ideology and political economy. It was during the Enlightenment period that classical liberalism enjoyed its heyday. One of the core features of this ideology was the protection of private property, free from governmental interference. What often gets left out is that slave property was included in most Americans' understanding of property. It is no coincidence that Enlightenment liberalism and the codification through law of race-based, chattel slavery in the American colonies occurred at roughly the same time. If early Americans cherished classical liberalism and designed a system of government that would deliberately protect the individual's right to property from the confiscatory hand of "Big Government," then the protection of slave property was a key motivating factor. For more on this topic, see the work of James Oakes.
Many of Jefferson’s fellow southerners and ideological heirs voiced constitutional objections to federal funding for internal improvements as a proxy for their racial fears. If a powerful federal government could finance transportation projects or charter a national bank, then in the hands of a northern abolitionist president, it could also wipe out slavery. There were certainly times when white southerners abandoned their penchant for limited government as the Louisiana Purchase and various fugitive slave acts demonstrated, but this ideological deviation almost always protected slavery.
In the infamous Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that African Americans, whether free or enslaved, could never be citizens. He also struck down the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional. His reasoning on the latter part was based on an interpretation of the Fifth Amendment's protection of private property that had been popularized by John C. Calhoun as early as the 1830s. Calhoun was part of a cadre of southern politicians and intellectuals who come up with a system of beliefs known as pro-slavery ideology. They said that slavery was not a necessary evil, but a positive good--an important departure from the thinking of many of the founders. Pro-slavery politicians argued that slaves were property and the Fifth Amendment protects an individual's right to property with due process. No law passed by a legislature would fulfill the requirements of due process. It is important to point out that by the 1830s, Calhoun was well aware of the South's minority status in the country in terms of population. It behooved Calhoun and his slave-owning constituents to find any way that could insulate the South's relatively small class of planters from popular rule and small 'd' democracy. If they could give property (including slave property) extra protection, they might avoid what they regarded as onerous restrictions from Congress. Calhoun rejected majority rule in favor of "limited government" when it came to the "Tariff of Abominations" in 1832. He did the same when it came to the Fifth Amendment and slave property.
Following Calhoun's lead, Taney used the Supreme Court's power of judicial review to wipe the Missouri Compromise off the books. This decision was based on Taney's assertion that the Bill of Rights (including the Fifth Amendment) applied to the western territories. So if a slave owner took his slave into the western territories and did not break any laws, Congress had no authority to prevent the individual from taking his "property" where he pleased. Taney believed that due process had not been met. The point of due process, which dated back to Magna Carta in early-13th century England, was to secure an individual's right to a fair trial and protections against indefinite detention. The government, whether a king or a constitutional republic, cannot punish individuals without first giving them a fair hearing and an opportunity to prove themselves innocent. Certain procedures must be followed so that a government or king does not rule in an arbitrary or despotic manner. Accordingly, it came to be understood over time that a government could not legally take property without following certain procedures.
In constitutional law, there are two kinds of due process: procedural and substantive. Procedural due process guarantees fair procedures in a trial or hearing or public forum. Substantive due process means you have to follow a fair procedure but you also need a good reason to take someone's property. So something can meet the standard of procedural due process and yet still fall short of the standard of substantive due process. To make things easier, we might substitute the word "substantive" for "fundamental." There are some rights that are so fundamental according to proponents of substantive due process that even if you follow sound procedure in the form of legislation, courts can still strike down the legislation as unconstitutional. Effectively an unelected judge was overruling and limiting the scope of what a democratically-elected legislature could accomplish in order to serve the interests of large property holders.
Now most people thought Congress could seize property so long as it followed proper procedures. That was known as procedural due process. But Calhoun and Taney thought this was not good enough. They think it deserved fundamental protection, or substantive due process. And in the text of Taney's decision in Scott v. Sandford, you can see that Taney wants to make sure that Congress doesn't go beyond the authorities that are explicitly outlined in the Constitution. In other words, Taney was making the case for limited government. But if we combine Taney's thoughts on the Fifth Amendment with his views on black citizenship, it is clear that limited government philosophy was being touted in service of racism and white supremacy.
1865 – Late Convention of Colored Men and Founding of the KKK
In each state groups of former slaves met to share their concerns and to request assistance from the federal government. The following message came from a convention of freedmen in Alexandria, Virginia. An excerpt of the message stated: “We warn you in time that our only safety is in keeping them under Governors of the military persuasion until you have amended the Federal Constitution that it will prohibit the States from making any distinction between citizens on account of race or color.”
That same year, in December, a group of ex-Confederate officers met in Pulaski, Tennessee, to found the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the nation’s oldest domestic terrorist organization. The Klan operated as the de facto military arm of the Democratic Party. Klan leaders required applicants to take an oath swearing that they would “oppose Negro equality both social and political,” to favor “a white man’s government.” In the very same section, applicants were asked to favor “constitutional liberty” and the “constitutional rights of the South” and the “inalienable right of self-preservation of the people against the exercise of arbitrary and unlicensed power.”
It is clear that the Klan oath wedded limited government philosophy with racism. African Americans, on the other hand, appealed to the federal government and military governors to protect them from race-based discrimination emanating from the individual states. Thus, it was in the Civil War era that African Americans came to understand that the federal government had a responsibility to protect everyone, including ethnic minorities. This was especially important in the southern states where whites were likely to use their majority status to enact policies that harmed African Americans.
1896 – Plessy v. Ferguson
In a 7-1 decision, the Supreme Court gave its stamp of approval to state-sponsored discrimination in public transportation. Plessy upheld Jim Crow laws as constitutional according to the 14th Amendment. Essentially this was a decision in favor of limited government since it was kneecapping the ability of federal authorities to use the 14th Amendment to provide equal access. Individual states were free to impose Jim Crow laws. In 1952, conservative jurist William Rehnquist wrote that he believed that Plessy was decided correctly. The implication was that Brown v. Board, which was then under consideration and would eventually supplant the Plessy precedent, rested on shaky constitutional grounds. Richard Nixon appointed Rehnquist to the High Court and in 1986, Ronald Reagan appointed Rehnquist to succeed Warren Burger as chief justice.
1954-56 – Brown v. Board and the “Southern Manifesto”
The connection between racism and limited government became clear once again during the modern Civil Rights Movement. Those who opposed Brown and insisted on maintaining state-sponsored segregation invoked the language of states' rights--one example of limited government.
On March 12, 1956, 19 Senators and 77 members of the House of Representatives signed the “Southern Manifesto,” a resolution condemning Brown. The resolution encouraged states to resist implementing its mandates. In 1958 the Court responded to this opposition by revisiting the Brown decision in Cooper v. Aaron, asserting that the states were bound by the ruling and affirming that its interpretation of the Constitution was the “supreme law of the land.” Here are some excerpts from this manifesto: “We regard the decision of the Supreme Court in the school cases as a clear abuse of judicial power. It climaxes a trend in the Federal judiciary undertaking to legislate, in derogation of the authority of Congress, and to encroach upon the reserved rights of the States and the people.”
One can see in the same document that many white southerners regarded state-sponsored segregation as consistent with an "originalist" interpretation of the Constitution. The document stated, “The original Constitution does not mention education. Neither does the 14th amendment nor any other amendment. The debates preceding the submission of the 14th amendment clearly show that there was no intent that it should affect the systems of education maintained by the States.” One of the important questions the Southern Manifesto forces us to ask is: can one disentangle the legal philosophy of originalism from the larger environment that spawned it, including racism against African Americans?
As if the connection between limited government, states’ rights, and racism was unclear, the document statements that said “We decry the Supreme Court’s encroachments on rights reserved to the States and to the people, contrary to established law and to the Constitution…We commend the motives of those States which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means. . . .”
1960-64: Woolworth’s Lunch Counter and the Civil Rights Act
A group of African American college students organized sit-ins at Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960, demanding equal accommodations at Woolworth’s lunch counter. Libertarians and many conservatives did not sympathize ideologically with the students. Philosophically they favored the business owners who wanted the freedom to do as they pleased, even if it was the freedom to discriminate. Any attempt to regulate private businesses by the federal government to provide equal access, no matter how righteous, was ultimately an infringement on “liberty." One wonders whether the African American students at Woolworth’s would be satisfied with the glib rejoinder that they had the “liberty” to seek out another business that would serve them, which sounds reminiscent of another shallow philosophy often advanced by conservatives: “liberty of contract.”
Fast forward to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned private businesses from discriminating against protected classes. Barry Goldwater, a founding father of modern conservatism, famously went before the Republican National Convention in San Francisco and said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!” Another leading light of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley, opposed Brown and the Civil Rights Act in the National Review.
1980 – Reagan Campaign Speech
During the 1980 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Ronald Reagan stopped in Philadelphia, Mississippi, to deliver a speech at the Neshoba County Fair. Philadelphia was the location where three prominent civil rights activists had been murdered in 1964. In his speech, Reagan asserted his belief in “states’ rights.” The predominantly white crowd cheered but African Americans knew at the time what Reagan meant. This was coded, “dog-whistle” politics, and a watered-down version of what segregationists had recently advocated.
1981 – Lee Atwater Interview
Republican strategist Lee Atwater discussed the Southern Strategy in a 1981 interview later published in Southern Politics in the 1990s by Alexander P. Lamis. Here is part of the interview:
Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry Dent and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964 [...] and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster...
Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?
Atwater: Y’all don't quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
A celebrity-turned-martyr among Tea Partiers who proudly wave the Gadsden flag, Bundy is the epitome of your stereotypical older white man who feels personally aggrieved by the federal government and yet derives substantial benefits from it. He holds outlandish, asinine views about the power of the federal government and authority of local sheriffs. In what will most assuredly not come as any surprise to those who are familiar with libertarianism, Bundy just happens to spend a lot of time talking about “the Negro.” To see what I mean, watch this extremely racist video. This lunatic actually wondered out loud whether African Americans would be better off picking cotton, as they did under slavery, than receiving welfare.
The Tea Party:
In 2013, according to one survey, nearly 40% of libertarians identified as part of the Tea Party movement. Ostensibly a “grassroots” phenomenon that received generous funding from SuperPACs like Freedom Works and wide amplification from conservative media that just so happened to coincide with the ascent of the nation’s first African American president, the Tea Party is a prime example of using history inaccurately for political purposes. They claim to be concerned mostly about taxes (hence the acronym Taxed Enough Already), the national debt, and bank bailouts, just as the Founding Fathers presumably wanted liberty in the form of low taxes. We should emphasize that contemporaries of this famous 1773 event, which eventually became known as the “Tea Party” much later, referred to it as “the destruction of the tea” at the time. The term “Tea Party” came from the writings of a shoemaker, George Robert Twelves Hewes, who experienced the original tea-dumping firsthand but did not apply the term “Tea Party” until he wrote about his experience in the 1830s, about sixty years after the fact.
Tea Partiers should also be aware that the American Revolution, as scholars like Gary Nash have written, was more than just a tax revolt. It was also an opportunity to reorganize society and a multi-sided civil war that threatened to upend multiple forms of hierarchy. Those who have looked into the Tea Party, beyond the surface-level slogans about freedom and liberty, have found that its followers seem to be much more concerned about racialized issues like immigration and Obama’s birth certificate than their professed concern about taxes. Christopher Parker and Theda Skocpol have produced valuable studies on this topic. In one peer reviewed study by Eric D. Knowles et al., the authors concluded, “Broadly, the data support claims that the Tea Party is—for some White supporters, at least—a racially motivated movement. Anti-Black sentiment was associated with Tea Party identification across time points. This relationship, however, appeared to be masked by assertions of national decline and the embrace of libertarian ideology.” The authors add: “White identification appears to be a product of immersion in the [Tea Party] movement.”
Few accusations elicit more anger from Tea Partiers than the charge of racism. Yet when you ask Tea Partiers themselves what issues and policies they are most concerned about, time and time again the responses show much more preoccupation with racial issues than raw economic ones. And consider that the chief symbol of the Tea Party, the Gadsden flag, has been historically connected with white supremacy. It still is today. How can one not come away with this conclusion when looking at political protests where the Confederate, Nazi, and Gadsden flags are flown simultaneously? At the center of a famous lithograph by R.H. Howell, based on a drawing by Henry Cleenewerck, is the mantra: “OUR MOTTO: Southern Rights, Equality of the States, Don’t Tread on Me.” Cleenewerck witnessed a public demonstration in Savannah, Georgia, after Lincoln’s election in 1860. The demonstrators burned Lincoln in effigy. The men attending this demonstration were committing treason in the form of secession so that they could protect the $3 billion in slave property from a president who pledged to protect slave property in the South. Notice that the snake featured in this lithograph is very similar to the snake portrayed in the Gadsden flag. And both the anti-Lincoln demonstration of 1860 and today’s Tea Party movement use the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me.”
This article explores how many members of the fascist-leaning, white nationalist alt-right, including Richard Spencer and Gavin McInnes, got their start in libertarianism. David Neiwert, a journalist who has written extensively on the radical right and various hate groups, expanded upon these links in a recent Twitter thread. Many self-described libertarians, according to Neiwert, are actually just right-wing authoritarians. A shockingly large number of libertarians have absolutely rolled over for Donald Trump, who is easily the most authoritarian leader in the history of the U.S. presidency. Neiwert tweeted, “Recall that alt-right founder Richard Spencer started out dabbling in libertarianism. Many other alt-righters claim it in describing their origins: Milo Yiannopoulos. Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet. Augustus Invictus. “Crying Nazi” Christopher Cantwell….Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes still describes himself as a libertarian. To this day, large numbers of Proud Boys describe themselves as libertarian. So do many of the “III Percent” and Oath Keeper militiamen I’ve interviewed. Spencer lives in Whitefish, Montana, a region of the country where the “don’t tread on me” slogan and white nationalism are popular (think of the neo-Nazis and Aryan Nation types in Couer d’Alene, Idaho). If so many libertarians are more than willing to give up their supposed reverence for individual liberties in the support of authoritarians, we have to look beyond individual liberties to see what animates libertarians. Racism is a strong candidate.
Journalist Mark Ames spent many hours searching for the February 1976 issue of Reason Magazine. It took him a long time to track it down, he suspected, because the current editors of Reason were understandably ashamed of what that particular issue showcased: a hotbed of Holocaust denialism pitched as “historical revisionism.” Reason has now made the issue available, but Ames’s discoveries were notable for showing how Ron Paul, the Koch Brothers, Murray Rothbard, and Holocaust deniers were linked in an incestuous web of wealth, power, and bigotry. Check out the whole issue in hard copy and one will find “Buy Gold!” advertisements. One gets the sense that an elaborate conspiracy involving the Rothschilds is only a page or click away. The gold standard is discreditable enough on its own given the historical evidence, but its embrace by racist cranks doesn’t help. The pages of Reason add to a substantial body evidence showing that while not every libertarian is a racist, their ideology clearly appeals to racists.
The Demographic Makeup of Libertarians:
Libertarians are disproportionately white men. Quite a few believe in conspiracy theories. According to one study, 7 percent of Americans identify as libertarian (though a 2014 Pew Research Center survey placed the number at 11 percent). Of those, two-thirds are men (68 percent) and nearly all are non-Hispanic whites (94 percent). Why is this the case? Cathy Young, a libertarian journalist interviewed in a New Republic article by Jeet Heer, suspected that “for a variety of reasons (whether innately psychological, culturally driven, or shaped by life experience), women are less likely to be drawn to political philosophies that emphasize self-reliance and risk. Women are also more likely to rely on government services, both as clients and as employees.” Historically, women like Jane Addams and Eleanor Roosevelt were key to building the U.S. welfare state that libertarians abhor. And libertarianism is generally hostile to the types of collective efforts that challenge sexism, including anti-discrimination laws, affirmative action, and paid leave. I cannot help but think this is related to the current gender gap in today’s politics: women favor Democrats over Republicans by significant margins.
One editor at Reason, Jesse Walker, agreed that the libertarian gender gap is real, arguing that for “various historically contingent sociological reasons, the American libertarian movement has drawn a lot on subcultures that are heavily male (computer programmers, for example), and that in turn had something of a self-perpetuating effect.” Aside from computer programming, libertarianism overlaps with other male-dominated subcultures such as science-fiction fandom, the gaming community, Men’s Rights Activists, and organized humanism/atheism. A more direct and cutting analysis came from journalist Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. Hardcore libertarianism, he opined, is a fantasy where the strongest and most self-reliant folks end up at the top of the heap, and a fair number of men share the fantasy that they are these folks. They believe they’ve been held back by rules and regulations designed to help the weak, and in a libertarian culture their talents would be obvious and they’d naturally rise to positions of power and influence.
The Ludwig Von Mises Institute
The Ludwig Von Mises Institute (LVMI) is a pseudo-scholarly think tank located in Auburn, Alabama that operates on the margins of academia but still manages to attract unsuspecting readers. It espouses “a radical libertarian view of government and economics inspired by the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, whom the institute says ‘showed that government intervention is always destructive.’” What a simplistic statement! Indeed, the institute, which publishes material that is not subject to independent, blind peer review, aims to “undermine statism in all its forms,” and its recent interest in neo-Confederate themes reflects that. One of the LVMI’s senior fellows, Walter Block, once stated that slavery “was not so bad – you pick cotton and sing songs.” Block also argued that white business owners had the right to exclude black customers at Woolworth’s because no one should be forced to associate with people against their will. In a libel lawsuit against the New York Times that a judge dismissed, 17 of Block’s fellow faculty members at Loyola University New Orleans wrote a joint letter calling on the university to “take the long overdue and necessary steps to condemn and censure Professor Block for his recurring public assaults on the values of Loyola University, its mission and the civil rights of all.”
Thomas DiLorenzo is a senior fellow at the LVMI. He’s a Lincoln iconoclast who has conflated Nazism and socialism, an interpretation so absurd and so thoroughly debunked by academic historians that it need not merit a reply here. The LVMI hosts 20 senior fellows and 0 are women. Of the 89, associated scholars, only 7 are women. Now take a look at the gender ratio of the LVMI’s staff to see that women serve in subservient positions in larger numbers. Based on profile pics, which is admittedly tricky and imprecise, very few senior fellows and associated scholars are people of color and none, as far as I can tell, are African American.
LVMI founder Lew Rockwell argued that the Civil War “transformed the American regime from a federalist system based on freedom to a centralized state that circumscribed liberty in the name of public order.” Desegregation in the civil rights era, he said, resulted in the “involuntary servitude” of (presumably white) business owners. In the past, Rockwell has praised the electoral success of European neofascists like Joerg Haider in Austria and Christoph Blocher in Switzerland. Both Rockwell and institute research director Jeffrey Tucker are listed on the racist League of the South's Web page as founding members — and both men deny their membership. Tucker has written for League publications, and many League members have taught at the institute's seminars and given presentations at its conferences. Rockwell, who is also vice president of the Center for Libertarian Studies, runs his own daily news Web site that often features articles by League members. From 1978 to 1982, Rockwell was Ron Paul’s congressional chief of staff. He later wrote anonymously for the Texas libertarian’s newsletters, which sympathized with the militia movement and peddled a lot of bigotry against blacks, gays, and Jews. The newsletter referred to African Americans as “animals” in at least one instance and lamented the fall of apartheid South Africa as “destruction of civilization.”
When we think of limited government philosophy in the modern U.S. context, we usually think of fiscal conservatism, lowering taxes, balanced budgets, and cutting funding for government programs. This discussion has shown that supporting “low taxes” is never purely about limited government in the abstract. This is because the consequence of lowering taxes means that the wealthy, who are overwhelmingly white, will be taxed less to fund social insurance programs that help the poor, who are more likely to be people of color.
The debates over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka “Obamacare,” are instructive. Part of the ACA included an expansion of Medicaid. While the framers of the ACA most likely intended the Medicaid expansion to apply to every state, the Supreme Court ruled that this portion of the law (and not the entire law) was unconstitutional. According to their version of federalism in which the federal government and state governments have shared, equal authority, the federal government could not compel the state governments to expand Medicaid.
I hesitate a bit here because being trained as a historian, I am more interested in narrative and textual evidence compared to a social scientist like an economist or political scientist, who might be more apt to look for those causal links by running regressions. So if there are social scientists who read this and can come up with a common-sense way to measure causation, then by all means, please let me know. On the other hand, I am not sure that is something we can ultimately prove in a scientific sense, so I will leave you with these thoughts…
- One way to test this might be to see if a person if consistent about applying limited government philosophy. Do they favor limited government in all circumstances or only in circumstances in which the applicability of limited government philosophy happens to hurt people of color more than white folks? Do they claim to believe in limited government and fiscal responsibility but say nothing during the Trump tax cut or the Bush invasion of Iraq?
- Most Americans are ashamed to openly admit that they are racist. Adopting a political philosophy of limited government is one way for racists to espouse their views to the wider public without being shamed. Given the way that the federal government has protected the civil rights of minorities in U.S. history, it would make sense that someone who favors racial hierarchy would find anti-government or limited government philosophy appealing.
- Lee Atwater admitted that states’ rights, forced busing, and lower taxes were code for getting conservative whites to vote for Republicans. Essentially “limited government” was a campaign trick. He told the interviewer not to quote him, which indicates that he was saying something deeply honest that would expose him to scrutiny.
- Drawing on Professor James McPherson in his analysis of the causes of the Civil War, states’ rights was almost never an end in and of itself. States’ rights was a means to an end. States’ rights and limited government was a means to preserve slavery and limited government. And in the cases in which white southerners departed from states’ rights—fugitive slave acts, public support for transportation, foreign policy that extended slavery overseas—the larger purpose was almost always the preservation of racial hierarchy.
Further Reading--Suggestions Welcome!
Kuziemko and Washington, "Why Did the Democrats Lose the South?" (2018)
Nicole Hemmer, Messengers of the Right
Kevin Kruse, White Flight
Leah White Rigeur, The Loneliness of the Black Republican
Angie Maxwell, The Long Southern Strategy
Acharya, Blackwell, and Sen, Deep Roots
Carmines and Stimson, Issue Evolution
Thomas Schaller, Whistling Past Dixie
Eric Schickler, Racial Realignment
Black and Black, The Southern Republicans
Robert Mickey, Paths Out of Dixie
Nicholas A. Valentino and David O. Sears, "Old Times There are Not Forgotten" (2005)
Gordon B. McKinney, Southern Mountain Republicans 1865-1900
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