David Boaz has written a pathetically stupid piece for Reason Magazine, "Up from Slavery."

In a nutshell, he says if you advocate for a constitutionally limited government, you therefore advocate for slavery.

Yes, it's that dumb. But some people love it!

Let's look at it.

Has there ever been a golden age of liberty? No, and there never will be. There will always be people who want to live their lives in peace, and there will always be people who want to exploit them or impose their own ideas on others. If we look at the long term—from a past that includes despotism, feudalism, absolutism, fascism, and communism—we’re clearly better off.

Here, "golden age" is used to imply some sort of utopia. Other than Leftists, I've never met anyone who ever thought utopia existed, or ever will. Utopian dreams are for children.

But what I do know is, Americans were a lot freer than we are today prior to the Progressive Era of the early 20th century. You know, when Uncle Sam didn't steal any of your income, and licensing and regulations didn't make it next to impossible for the common man to open his own store.

Does TARP and "stimulus" make you free? Or a debtor (enslaved) to Uncle Sam?

Only a naive person couldn't admit we're heading in the direction of "despotism, feudalism, absolutism, fascism, and communism" today. And fast!

I am particularly struck by libertarians and conservatives who celebrate the freedom of early America, and deplore our decline from those halcyon days ... dreams of being a slave-owner. Because as he certainly knows, most of the people in those tobacco fields were slaves.

You see, if you "celebrate the freedom of early America," you wish to be a slave owner!

Where have I heard this argument before? Oh yeah, from the progressive left.

But wait. Did "early Americans consider themselves free"? White Americans probably did. But what about black Americans, and especially the 90 percent of black Americans who were slaves?

Once again, advocate for our original limited government, and you're advocating 90% of blacks be put in chains. Sad. Pathetic. Delusionary.

But too many of us who extol the Founders and deplore the growth of the American state forget that that state held millions of people in chains.

Maybe those of us who "deplore the growth of the American state," do so because "that state held millions of people in chains" despite of our declaration that "all men are created equal."

But Boaz's DC-centric brain can't wrap his head around that.

Seriously, does anyone believe that the income tax, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, economic regulations, licensure laws, drug laws, immigration controls, coercive transfer programs, the federal department of labor, agriculture, commerce, education, energy, health and human services, or homeland security has anything to do with freeing people? Any people?

Get real.

If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?

Yeah, as if those are our only 2 choices. Ignorance is strength.

No doubt one of the reasons that libertarians haven't persuaded as many people as we'd like is that a lot of Americans don't think we're on the road to serfdom, don't feel that we've lost all our freedoms.

Tell that to the crowd at the next Tea Party you attend (though I doubt you'll attend any).

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. offers this challenge to advocates of “smaller government”: Imagine a choice between “a dictatorship in which the government provides no social security, health, welfare, or pension programs of any kind” and “levies relatively low taxes that go almost entirely toward the support of large military and secret police forces that regularly kill or jail people for their political or religious views” and “a democracy with open elections and full freedom of speech and religion [which] levies higher taxes than the dictatorship to support an extensive welfare state.” “The first country might technically have a ‘smaller government,’” Dionne writes, “but it undoubtedly is not a free society. The second country would have a ‘bigger government,’ but it is indeed a free society.”

Again, another false argument. And we're supposed to take this article seriously?

There you have it, according to "libertarian" David Boaz, limited government = slavery. So just shut your mouths about Big Government and excessive taxation, you know-nothings!

This is nothing more than the class warfare drivel that's accepted as legitimate political discourse these days. I know 3rd graders who can give a better argument than this "libertarian" version of Cultural Marxism.

UPDATE:

What next, Boaz? Slavery Reparations?

In case you may think David Boaz's recent attack on Jacob Hornberger is anything other than evidence of a recurring pattern in which he exhibits a full-fledged subscription to the intellectually slothful doctrine of Political Correctness, he has now joined the cadre of usual suspects in denouncing Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's proclamation of "Confederate History Month" for failing to include a hollow "feel good" apology for slavery.

UPDATE 2:

Crimes of PC

Writes Stephan Kinsella:

The attack on the great Jacob Hornberger reminds me of the amazing brou-haha at FEE a decade ago b/c Hoppe didn’t include the phrase, “I disapprove of Hitler” in a Freeman book review — see Day of the Long Knives.

Stephan, all this attempted enforcement of the regime moral code, by the warmongers, looters, and police statists calling themselves libertarians, is backfiring. Outside of the DC axis of evil, who even pays attention to such charges, designed solely to silence opponents without an argument?

UPDATE 3:

DAVID BOAZ: There’s no such thing as a golden age of lost liberty.

Read the whole thing. I’ve had this argument, too. And I think this sort of despairing, reverse-Whig view of history also discourages people from fighting for liberty. But we’ve recovered before, and we’ll recover again — if we want to.

  • http://www.thats-right.com Russ

    Wow. That is cataclysmicly stupid. Unreal.

    • theCL

      Yep. This is what's considered political discourse in America today.

  • Adam

    This might be the most dishonest piece I've ever read in my life. It doesn't even come close to faithfully representing Boaz's argument. Some of the quotes you have up there are so truncated and stitched together that you may as well have him saying "All libertarians should be executed" (I'm sure he's spoken each of those words at least once in his life!).

    His argument is that some libertarians like to pretend that the 18th century was an age of limitless freedom in America. It was for a small minority, but not for huge masses of people and it's foolish to ignore that. We're a lot freer today than we were two centuries (or even 50 years) ago. In others, we're much less free. But given the choice between income tax and slavery, I'll take income tax. Contrary to your dishonest argument, Boaz never presents it as though it's either or - it's clear that what he means is that the present has its good points, just like the past has its bad points.

    Anyone who reads this post, please read the original piece in full. Judge for yourself whether it even vaguely resembles what's described above.

    • theCL

      Here is Boaz's full response to American Spectator's R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. quote.

      I take it Mr. Tyrrell dreams of being a slave-owner. Because as he certainly knows, most of the people in those tobacco fields were slaves.

      Ridiculous accusation.

      • Adam

        It's good that you're acknowledging the entire quote, because the truncation above makes it sound like "libertarians and conservatives who celebrate the freedom of early America, and deplore our decline from those halcyon days" are the ones that Boaz is saying want to be slave owners.

        I certainly don't read that portion of the text the way you do. I see it as a semi-sarcastic "be careful what you wish for" - i.e., you shouldn't go around wishing that you were an 18th century tobacco farmer because that would make you a slave owner.

        I maintain that you are completely misrepresenting Boaz's argument. Nowhere does he say anything resembling "if you advocate for a constitutionally limited government, you therefore advocate for slavery." Why on Earth would a man who's worked so hard to advance the libertarian cause make such a claim?

  • Adam

    To give you a concrete example of what Boaz is talking about, I just read your November 2008 post about Che Guevara. In it, you say that George Washington "actually established social justice." But what about slavery? What about women? What about Jews? What about Natives? Those aren't some lefty, touchy-feely, culture studies questions. They're actual groups of people who were actually deeply oppressed by the state that Washington helped create.

    This is NOT NOT NOT to say that Washington was a misogynist, racist, anti-Semetic, etc. monster. Not at all. From what I know about him, he was a truly excellent human being and a role model we could learn a lot from today. He was a product of his time and in any case, it's not like he designed American policy from start to finish on each issue. What I mean is that you're casually saying that Washington "actually established social justice" when you know that the young Republic was rife with state-sponsored repression that doesn't exist today.

    Just to make it even clearer, there's no comparison at all between Washington and Che - the former was a great man who refused absolute power when it was thrust upon him, the latter was a wicked mass-murderer and enslaver of his fellow human beings.

    My point (and Boaz's) is simply that libertarians tend to throw around statements like you did when there are some massive, enormous, gigantic red flags that should qualify them.

    • theCL

      Being that it's the year 2010, when any halfway educated person clearly understands the atrocity of slavery, the only reason to add qualifiers is to appease the feeble politically correct mind.

      Limited government does not equal slavery. Period. Nor does it mean travel by horse and not have a refrigerator. To imply otherwise, as Boaz did, is quite frankly, stupid.

      Have you ever read Sowell's "Black Rednecks and White Liberals?" It sheds a lot of light on the subject.

      • Adam

        That straw man objection seems to come up a lot in the Hit & Run thread. There are plenty of people who, when they hear "lost liberties from 1776" think, "I guess you must only care about rich WASPs." The H&R thread also has comments from people who seem to think that caring about gay rights or racism means you must be a leftist stooge. The libertarian movement would be a lot more successful if libertarians were more concerned with communicating the immense harm that statism does to the powerless and the oppressed.

        • theCL

          You can't speak without someone taking it wrong. Look, you think I'm taking David Boaz wrong, so maybe he should have qualified his argument too. Do you see what I'm getting at?

          This blog focuses all the time on the immense harm that statism does. It gets me in trouble with everyone. But hey, I speak my mind and do what I do. Can't please everyone. And I'm certainly not going to place a disclaimer on every post.

  • Rick Fisk

    I think a lot of people see the obvious straw man argument but miss what Boaz is really doing here.

    If you notice the comments of his fans over at Reason, many of whom must also have found their niche after realizing they couldn't openly be Bush/Cheney supporters and remain credible, were echoing the sentiment that things are WAY better now than back then. "Yeah, what HE said!"

    Boaz is pretty clever. He's speaking to the people who don't WANT to open their eyes to what is going on yet still want to enjoy the label "libertarian".

    They want to believe that things are getting better and that libertarian ideals are to be merely debated. As long as no real "change" occurs, Boaz and his followers are content. But when people start advocating fundamental change that strikes at the root of the beltway gravy train, that's when things get dicey.

    In fact I was thinking I heard Kumbaya playing in the background as I read the first page.

    On the other hand, I realize that everyone thinks Hornberger is a great guy now but he's no greenhorn when it comes to attacking other libertarians. The treatment he gave Harry Browne in 2000 makes Boaz look like a puppy.