Blogs > Liberty and Power > Dresner v. Malkin on Japanese Internment

Sep 9, 2004 11:38 am

Dresner v. Malkin on Japanese Internment

"An Oakland, California Grocery store bears a"Sold" sign as well as one proclaiming the patriotism of its owner. The Japanese American shopowner, a University of California graduate, hung the"I am an American" sign the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Soon afterward, the government shut down the shop and relocated the owner to an internment camp, along with thousands of other Pacific Coaast Japanese Americans." See here for source.

Unfortunately, even some of my libertarian friends have been persuaded by Michelle Malkin's case in favor of the Japanese internment. For a good summary of holes in her arguments, see Jonathan Dresner at Cliopatria.

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Jonathan Dresner - 9/10/2004

The conventional wisdom is not 'seriously weakened' by Malkin: the conventional wisdom notes clearly the differential treatment of Hawai'i Japanese and German/Italian Europeans versus the west coast Japanese and concludes that the only significantly different factor was, indeed, racism. If the US government had carried out a selective internment, as they did with European citizens and Hawai'i Japanese, Malkin might indeed have a point.

Then we could talk about the nature of the selection process, the combination of intelligence and idiocy which, under crisis conditions, produced a sloppy but understandable policy. But that's not what we're talking about. As you yourself note, the internment was legally, morally and strategically flawed to a degree that Malkin's recycled cherry-picking cannot redeem.

Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/10/2004

Malkin's argument, at least in part, is that the motivation for the internment was not simply racism, but was based on legitimate fears of widespread Japanese fifth column activities. It seems clear to me, based on Japanese fifth column activities in China and the Philipines, as well as the MAGIC intercepts, that these fears had a legitimate basis. Obviously, there was a strong component of racial hatred in the Western states, both dating back decades, and because of Pearl Harbor, which certainly made it politically cost-free to go ahead with the internment.

Was the internment the correct solution? Neither morally nor legally. As it turns out, by the time the internment was well under way, it was tactically unnecessary as well. (The inertia of a bureaucracy works in both preventing action, and keeping that action going.) But the "it was all about racism" argument that has been the conventional wisdom on this matter for decades seems to be seriously weakened by the evidence that Malkin advances.

Kenneth R Gregg - 9/10/2004

I find it more than a little amazing that there is no full-fledged biography of this great libertarian. His influence has been great, but little-studied. His consistency against invasions of civil liberties (such as the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII), his strident opposition to public school education, and his advocacy of individual rights has no match in the newspaper business.
The Freedom Newspaper chain which he founded has a website dedicated to him: