The Other Half of History Columns

Forgetting Federalism

“That government is best which governs least.” Thomas Paine

Today the United States Government spends trillions of dollars annually, on everything from prescription drugs to teapot museums. It already exerts significant control over the relationships between doctors and patients, and Congress is grasping for still more power over the health care industry. The government owns banks and car companies. It confiscates money from unpopular businesses and groups of people, and transfers some of the money (after infrastructure costs) to more-favored business and groups.

The government uses taxpayers’ money to buy corn, then “lends” more tax dollars to third world governments that have no ability to repay the “loans,” so those governments can buy the corn from the US government with US money. It levies punitive taxes on cigarette sales, and subsidizes tobacco growers. For a while in the 1990’s the government forbid condom companies to advertise their products on television, while spending taxpayers’ money on TV adds to promote condom use. The national government dictates the marijuana laws your state has to implement, the curriculum at your local public schools, and the amount of water your toilet can use when it flushes.
It wasn’t always this way.

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Academia and The Second Amendment

“Political power flows from the barrel of a gun.”  Mao Tse-Tung

According to college professors and other leftists, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution does not guaranty individual citizens a right to keep and bear arms. As with many other classroom representations of history, this one is designed to influence the way the next generation thinks about (and votes on) current political issues.

Liberals and conservatives disagree on the meaning of the Second Amendment. The argument is fueled by the somewhat ambiguous wording of the Amendment: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Advocates of gun rights claim that the Second Amendment ensures a right of gun ownership for all individuals. Advocates of gun control take the position that Second Amendment rights are restricted to members of state-sanctioned militias, which no longer exist, hence there is no constitutional right to own guns. There are arguments to be made for both sides, but only one side is presented in a typical college history class. 

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Jim Crow and Capitalism

Prejudice is free but discrimination has costs”  Thomas Sowell

Two earlier HistoryHalf posts addressed the relationship between slavery and economic progress, or lack thereof, in the United States. One post makes the case that standard textbook portrayals of black slavery as an important underpinning of American economic growth are false. The other post describes the slave system as an economic liability that destined the South to lose the Civil War.

This week’s post is about the continued economic backwardness of the states of the old Confederacy during the Jim Crow era, and the explosion of productivity and profit that the Southern states have enjoyed since the Federal Government brought a forcible end to racial segregation.

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Lying About McCarthy

Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands, and at whom it is aimed.” Joseph Stalin

In a previous post I described how left-leaning historians, who resent the backlash against Soviet influence that roiled the nation in the 1940’s and 1950’s, have portrayed Senator Joseph McCarthy as the “villain” who created and drove the whole anti-Communist movement. McCarthy, the textbooks tell us, accused innocent Americans of being Soviet agents. McCarthy, they tell us, destroyed people’s lives and careers with malicious lies. McCarthy, they tell us, invented the whole idea of Communist subversion in the US government.

The truth is very different. Abundant evidence shows that the Soviet Union had an extensive network of agents in the American government in the 40’s and 50’s. And many American politicians crusaded against Communist subversion during this period; McCarthy was not the only one. In fact McCarthy was actually pretty late in joining the movement. Leftist have made McCarthy the face of the anti-Communist movement not because he started it, but because he is easier to demonize than any of the other leaders. And history professors and textbook writers are not above playing fast and loose with the facts when it comes to the man they have chosen as the face of anti-Communism.

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Free States, Free Enterprise

“America; where people do not inquire concerning a stranger ‘who is he,’ but ‘what can he do?’” Benjamin Franklin

Last week’s post included quotes from several college history textbooks, all of which claim that America’s fantastic economic growth was achieved, during the nation’s first few decades, by the ruthless exploitation of slave labor. While it is certainly true that slaves were ruthlessly exploited in our nation’s early history; it is not at all true that the slaves, their white exploiters, or the lands they farmed were the real drivers of America’s economic growth.

From the time the nation was founded the real wealth creation happened almost exclusively in the Northern states, where slavery was never very common, and where it was made illegal early. The rapid growth in productivity and prosperity that made America the envy of the rest of the world was made possible by legal and cultural conditions unique to the Northern “free” states. The Southern states lagged behind (as did the rest of the world) because Southern culture was hostile to all the things that made the North thrive. It also happens to be true that many of the North’s leading entrepreneurs were passionate abolitionists.

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