November 19, 2018

Spanish PM Pulls a Lincoln on Catalan Secession

rajoyIn the wake of Catalonia’s referendum on independence, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy continued to argue, as he had in the weeks leading up to the vote, that any attempt by Catalans to become an independent state violates “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards.”

Americans watching with interest could hardly have missed the similarity to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural speech, in which he declared, “It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.”

The difference is Lincoln was doing just what he said he was doing, “asserting.” His novel theory had no basis in the words of the U.S. Constitution itself and contradicted both the Declaration of Independence and the ratification statements made by three states, including Virginia, who all reserved the right to secede from the union as a condition of ratification.

The Catalonia Conundrum

Prime Minister Rajoy’s statement, on the other hand, was not based in theory. He was quoting directly Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution, which contains the provision Lincoln had to invent. But Rajoy wasn’t quoting the whole Article, which reads,

The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible country of all Spaniards; it recognises and guarantees the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed, and the solidarity amongst them all.

Jumbled together in that one paragraph are the same conflicting pressures which exploded into civil war in 19th century America and continue to smolder under the surface today. On one hand is the recognition that diverse cultures within the union have a natural right to govern themselves as they see fit, without having their political decisions overridden by politicians in a distant capitol who don’t share their values, have no local stake in the community and, in Catalonia’s case, don’t even speak the same language.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Both Lincoln and the Confederacy Were Awful

lincolnWe’re fighting the Civil War again. Whenever both major parties drop any pretense of addressing the real problems facing American taxpayers, their constituents revert to having at each other in “the culture wars.” And no culture war would be complete without relitigating what should now be settled history: the reasons for the Civil War.

Americans sympathetic to the Union generally believe the war was fought to end slavery or to “rescue the slaves” from political kidnapping by the slave states, that seceded from the Union to avoid impending abolition.

“No,” say those sympathetic to the Confederacy. The states seceded over states’ rights, particularly their right not to be victimized by high protectionist tariffs, paid mostly by southern states, but spent mostly on what we’d now call corporate welfare and infrastructure projects in the north.

The declarations of South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas don’t mention taxes or economic policy at all.

That the states seceded for a different reason than the war was fought seems to elude everyone.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Trump confirms he’s a Hamiltonian; invokes Lincoln’s protectionist fallacies

GOP-2016-Trump_sham1-725x483Is Donald Trump reading this blog? If so, he’s not grasping that Trump Isn’t Hitler; He’s Hamilton and Reality Check: Trump’s Platform is Identical to Lincoln’s weren’t meant to be supportive of his mercantilist economic ideas. Maybe that’s on me, the writer.

Regardless, Trump invoked both Hamilton and Lincoln, starting at about the 10:30 mark, during a speech yesterday. He quotes Lincoln saying, “The abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people.”

Like all protectionists, Trump seems to have no idea about the concept of opportunity cost. He posits that tariffs on foreign imports will bring back manufacturing jobs, which he says “the nation” desperately needs. But it never occurs to him that when millions of Americans buy sneakers made in China for $100 instead of sneakers made in America for $200.00, they create other jobs with the $100 they save.

Trump’s speech confirms several of the arguments I make in my latest book. One can draw a virtually straight line from the Federalists, through the Whigs, to the Republicans. Obviously, there are nuances over such a long period, but the core tenets of protectionism, crony capitalism and central banking never cease to be the foundation this house is built on.

More importantly, these are the core tenets of true conservatism in the British-American tradition, since  before the dawn of the industrial revolution. You can call Trump a lot of things, but “not a real conservative” just doesn’t hold water. Free markets, individual liberty and limited government are classical liberal ideas that have only resided within the conservative movement recently and have never been very welcome. That’s because they are all anathema to the conservative worldview that any change, from within or without, threatens to break the barriers between society and man’s dark nature.

The creative destruction of the market, the free movement of labor, capital and goods, and Jefferson’s libertarian principle that the government should be limited to “restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement” is the opposite of conservatism. That’s why Hamilton feared and loathed Jefferson; that’s why Trump fears and loathes the free market. He’s a true conservative, like Hamilton, Lincoln, Coolidge, Hoover and the rest.

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Reality Check: Trump’s Platform is Identical to Lincoln’s

Publication1Donald Trump’s criticism of Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel is only the latest of his positions decried by the Republican Party establishment. They’ve opposed him throughout his campaign for his protectionist stance on trade, his immigration policies and his hostility towards the First Amendment, among other things.

All of this has been decried as “not conservative” and contrary to the party’s principles. Ironically, the so-called “Party of Lincoln” doesn’t recognize in Trump’s platform all the basic elements of Lincoln’s.

American’s tend to see history as a struggle between heroes and villains. Lincoln has been placed firmly in the hero category because of his widely misunderstood Emancipation Proclamation and for winning the Civil War. But when you get past the slavery issue, what’s left of Lincoln’s politics sounds a lot like Trump’s. They didn’t change significantly from the time of Lincoln’s first political speech:

“Fellow-Citizens: I presume you all know who I am. I am humble Abraham Lincoln. I have been solicited by many friends to become a candidate for the Legislature. My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance. I am in favor of a national bank. I am in favor of the internal improvement system, and a high protective tariff. These are my sentiments and political principles. If elected, I shall be thankful; if not it will be all the same.”

Lincoln was then a member of the Whig Party and it was a coalition of former Whigs and abolitionists that formed the Republican Party in 1854. And while there is no reason to doubt Lincoln’s personal opposition to slavery, it was Henry Clay’s “American System,” a repackaging of Alexander Hamilton’s platform, that defined Lincoln’s politics for most of his life.

Politically, the alliance with abolitionists allowed proponents of protectionism, internal improvements and a national bank to achieve the electoral success that had eluded them since 1800, when Jefferson’s victory rang the death knell of the Federalist Party.

“Internal improvements” was the language of the time for what we now call “infrastructure.” Prior to Lincoln’s administration, most roads and other infrastructure were privately funded and built. Both the Federalists and the Whigs had lost elections for sixty years largely for promoting government infrastructure and high tariffs. With Lincoln’s victory and the subsequent fifty-year dominance of the Republican Party, that trend completely reversed.

Lincoln ran on and executed his plans to subsidize railroads and other infrastructure. Trump wants to do likewise. Lincoln ran on and executed his plans to raise tariffs significantly in order to protect domestic manufacturers from foreign competition. Trump also wants to do likewise.

Trump has been criticized as dangerous to the First Amendment because of his continual attack on the press and threats to “open up our libel laws” as president and sue reporters who criticize him. Lincoln had him beat; he threw reporters in jail, just as the Federalists did under the Sedition Act during the 1790s.

While the issue of a central bank has been settled since 1913, it is noteworthy that Trump has lined up with libertarians in supporting an audit of the Federal Reserve. But he has given no indication he opposes its existence.

But what of Trump’s most controversial position, to deport 11 million illegal aliens? Certainly, Lincoln never supported anything like that, right?

Wrong. Until the day he died, Lincoln supported and actively sought to execute a rather bizarre plan by today’s standards, but widely supported at the time, called “colonization.” Promoted since the early 18th century, the idea was to free the slaves and then subsidize their emigration to Liberia (created for expressly that purpose), the West Indies or South America. Colonization was yet another Whig plank Lincoln inherited from his political idol, Henry Clay. In Lincoln’s own words,

”I can hardly believe that the South and North can live in peace unless we get rid of the Negroes. Certainly they cannot, if we don’t get rid of the Negroes whom we have armed and disciplined and who have fought with us, to the amount, I believe, of some 150,000 men. I believe that it would be better to export them all to some fertile country with a good climate, which they could have to themselves.”

In fairness, Lincoln was a supporter of foreign immigrants, opposing the anti-immigrant Know Nothings. But on the charge of racism, Lincoln has far more to answer for than Trump. Trump has repeatedly separated his professed admiration for people of other races with his staunch opposition to illegal immigration. Lincoln made no bones about his view that black people were inferior.

The media and Republican Party leadership has characterized Trump’s campaign as a departure from both the Republican Party’s principles and conservatism itself. In reality, it’s exactly the opposite. Trump’s platform not only represents a return to the founding principles of the Republican Party, but to the long held positions of conservatives in the British-American tradition.

Laissez faire markets and open borders have always been positions traditional conservatives staunchly opposed as a threat to the order and stability their entire philosophy is centered around. The Republican Party was born advocating tariffs and higher government spending. It has never changed those policies in practice, despite free market rhetoric in recent decades.

Trump’s success should come as no surprise. His economic ideas have had the support of truly conservative voters since the days of Alexander Hamilton. That’s why it is a somewhat futile exercise to look for a “true Republican” or a “true conservative” who departs significantly from Trump and can win. Voters seeking free markets, small government and individual liberty should look to Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party instead.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.