Blogs > Liberty and Power > Finally, a libertarian who is not a jerk (at least to your face).

Apr 12, 2007 4:33 pm

Finally, a libertarian who is not a jerk (at least to your face).

Posted this afternoon to H-Teach, a plea for help.

I’m hoping that folks on the list will be able to help me out – I’m in
a real knot about this.

I have a student in the U.S. survey, education major/social science
emphasis (he’ll be teaching high school). He’s a transfer student
from a conservative college just outside of Fort Wayne. Decent
student – B range – absolutely loves history – and a libertarian (he
told me at the beginning of the semester) – friendly guy, not a jerk
(at least to my face).

He has also just signed up for my fall course,
upper division, U.S. history 1919-45. He wrote a paper (most of it
dealing with Anne Moody’s The Coming of Age in Mississippi) – and in
the last section, where he was supposed to contemplate whether or not
he would have been involved in the civil rights movement, he utterly
criticized the whole civil rights movement -- blacks asking
for “special privileges” and such – and called the Civil Rights Act of
1964 “despicable.” (He said it may have been fine for the gov’t to
prohibit discrimination in public spaces, but not, absolutely not, in
private places). He ended with a quote from Ayn Rand.

Frankly, I’m at a loss to understand how anybody (esp. anyone who
attends a university and who has some education) can reject the entire
CRM – but perhaps there are other students out there who aren’t
letting me know what they really think. I’m not sure what to do about
it – do I sit down have a chat with him? Try to talk sense? Leave the
lines of communication open – hoping that he will learn something?
Hoping perhaps, that by taking college course he will begin to
question some of his assumptions? (although I am not naïve enough to
think that I can really change his world view)? I’m scared to think
that this guy is going to get a teaching job.

Note that this student also wanted the history department/history club
to sponsor a speaker (about whom the student was almost giddy) whose
books include The Politically Incorrect Guide to U.S. History (from
Amazon – the entire New Deal/Great Society are socialist plots and
historians in academe are all radicals) and The Politically Incorrect
Guide to Islam (need I say anything here?)

Colleagues, I am so troubled about this and I don’t know what to do.

Thanks from the trenches,

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More Comments:

Sudha Shenoy - 4/16/2007

1. Swiss cantons have split & merged; new cantons have formed; & smaller units ('communes') have shifted from one canton to another. So there's even more flexibility.

2. In the US South: Even tho' no white man was ever convicted of killing a black, it is interesting that the charade of a court case was gone through: the DA didn't simply refuse to prosecute.

Were white juries empanelled for trials of black defendants accused of killing/injuring another black?

3. It's interesting that white jurors were chosen from the electoral rolls. In the West Indies, following the English system, jurors had to have some property or pay local taxes so the black population participated actively in the courts (esp. informally!) The electorate was highly restricted, of course, to the white planters & a few others.

4. What about civil cases (eg contract) in the American South? Did blacks ever sue whites? Did they ever win?

Anthony Gregory - 4/15/2007

That's why the Southern states should have let portions of those states secede from the larger bodies. Everyone should secede from everyone, at least politically.

David T. Beito - 4/15/2007

It is a matter of size. The Swiss cantons are so small that local tyrannies tend to break down because people and capital can flee easily.

Had the cantons of this size (rather than states) been the main unit of government in the South, it is likely that the same process would have eroded Jim Crow and disfranchisement at a much faster rate. Instead of having to move to Chicago, for example, oppressed blacks in Alabama could move a few miles to a more tolerant cantons such as fully self-governing Tuskegee.

The problem is that the states in the South during the Jim Crow era (especially in a time where technology and mobility was much less advanced) were geographically too large for this process to work efficiently .

Lester Hunt - 4/15/2007

Yes, I'm not familiar with this distinction: ie., between states rights and the canton system.

Mark Brady - 4/14/2007

"The history of the period provides an excellent argument for the view that had the U.S. used the Swiss canton model, rather than the states rights model (so beloved by some libertarians), civil liberties for blacks could have come much earlier without the heavy hand of the feds."

Interesting. Please explain your thinking.

Anthony Gregory - 4/14/2007

I think the anti-racists and the anti-statists aren't necessarily all blind to the problems they don't focus on. Sometimes they are. But it's usually a difference of emphasis — this is sometimes due, if not to blindness, to a more selective outrage. There should be a more full libertarian scholarship, integrated and more complete, on this, so, as Aster says, we don't feel like we have to choose.

Anthony Gregory - 4/14/2007

Yeah! Yeah! Bash the feds. Bash racist grassroots tyranny. Bash the politicization of good causes.

Sudha Shenoy - 4/14/2007

has written a good criticism of Tom Woods' book. At least let the student know that there can be differences amongst the libertarians -- & there's still good hiatory & bad history.

Common Sense - 4/13/2007

I agree with the comments above.

David T. Beito - 4/13/2007

Somebody should suggest that this student read David Bernstein's Only One Place of Redress. Unfortunately, his teacher won't! It provides an alternative approach to history that shows the statist nature of Jim Crow and the largely pro-liberty response of blacks to it.

As someone who has studied Mississippi during this period, I agree with Anthony that there many good things in the CR movement. They were clearly the good guys compared to the white power structure.

While I am no fan of voting, the fact that nearly all blacks in the state did not have the franchise made them utterly defenseless when it came to protecting their rights in the courts (juries, of course, were picked from only registered voters and thus all-white).

A white killer of black person had almost a 100 percent change of getting away with it.

Interestingly, black civil rights activists often had their greatest success at the local level. In Little Rock, for example, the city school board was willing to integrate. The same was true of Tuskegee where blacks began to vote in large numbers in the 1940s....that is until the state retaliated in the 1950s by abolishing the city!

The history of the period provides an excellent argument for the view that had the U.S. used the Swiss canton model, rather than the states rights model (so beloved by some libertarians), civil liberties for blacks could have come much earlier without the heavy hand of the feds.

Aster Francesca - 4/13/2007

I quite agree. I hate having to choose between anti-racists blind to the injustice of statism and libertarians convinced that racism is someone else's problem- or some other time's- and certainly not theirs.

Anthony Gregory - 4/12/2007

I'd like to see more libertarian scholarship on the Civil Rights movement, to parse its good elements from bad, and its good effects from its bad. Some libertarians seem to believe the whole thing is bad because it had statist outcomes. Other libertarians even defend some of those statist outcomes! I'd like to see a more methodologically individualistic and nuanced approach to the movement.

John W. Payne - 4/12/2007

Did you at least inform this fellow that Tom Woods wrote the PIG to American History while the PIG to Islam was written by Robert Spencer?