Blogs > Liberty and Power > More on David Bernstein and Ron Paul

Nov 22, 2007 2:31 pm

More on David Bernstein and Ron Paul

In his critique of Ron Paul, David Bernstein writes,”And come on, the idea that the federal government ‘most divides us’ is absurd. I don't know how to measure the precise effect of government on harmony among Americans, but I do know that historically there is a positive correlation between a small federal government and high levels of bigotry in society.” Implicit in that passage is the notion that when the federal government was small it opposed racist policies but had no power to end them. Perhaps he has forgotten that the Fugitive Slave Act was a federal law or that when the people in Missouri wanted to join the union the federal government explicitly told then that they had to allow slavery. Does he not remember William Lloyd Garrison's argument that before it was amended, after the Civil War, the Constitution, as it was popularly interpreted, provided an implicit federal acceptance of slavery. And, that the federal Supreme Court, in the Dred Scott decision, ruled that black people had no rights that needed to be respected

The brisk growth of the federal level of government did not change its nature with regard to race. The racist color of many of the Progressive Era arguments is well documented and in her book Farewell to the Party of Lincoln historian Nancy Weiss brilliantly described how the rapid expansion of federal power called the New Deal featured a distribution of benefits characterized by high levels racial discrimination. In addition, as David Beito and Ron Paul have already pointed out, the war on people who use certain kinds of drugs is the most racist institution in modern America and the federal government is the most enthusiastic participant in that endeavor. During my lifetime, a period featuring a very large national presence in everyday life, there has been a constant stream of complaints and lawsuits by black people correctly asserting racial discrimination by a wide variety of federal government departments and agencies.

It is a popular misconception that the federal government freed the slaves. If you believe in the concept of inherent individual rights then there never were any slaves, there were only people whose natural rights were being systematically violated because of the color of their skin. Chattel slavery, by far the most egregious example of racism in American history, could not have existed without the active participation of government. In some areas of the South black people out numbered whites by as much as one hundred to one, so the system would not have been maintained without the kind of organized effort available only from the state. Slaves were sold on public auction blocks and the slave patrol was paid by the county. When Lincoln debated Douglas, on the extension of slavery to the territories and the concept of self determination on the issue, he argued that the point was mute because without the countenance of local government slavery could not survive. Therefore, the Emancipation Proclamation does not represent an expansion of government power to do good but rather a limitation on government power to do bad.

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David T. Beito - 11/23/2007

Excellent. Well said