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January 30, 2008

Lincoln and More

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I've been exploring audio presentations from the Mises Institute in recent weeks. There's nothing quite like wrestling with the arguments of anarcho-libertarians to blow the cobwebs off your mind. (I suspect that Mencius would agree with this judgment.) Plus -- as the work of anarcho-libertarians should be -- it's all free, free, free! Go to this page and download to your heart's content. Using the Search box is highly recommended.

* Lincoln buffs should relish -- as in "be provoked, or outraged, or delighted by" -- Thomas DiLorenzo's talks about Father Abraham. For DiLorenzo, Lincoln was an unqualified disaster: brilliant as a politician and a rhetorician, of course, but in practice a warmonger, a gross violater of the Constitution, and a lackey of Northern business interests. He wasn't, in other words, a mysterious divinity who saved the sacred integrity of the nation; instead he was a power-driven demon who ended the good Republic and jump-started the evil Empire. (One of DiLorenzo's talks is entitled "The Lincoln Cult.") Back here, I confessed to being of many minds about Lincoln; visitors chimed in with ideas, instruction, info, and opinions.

* I've also enjoyed a talk by Bill Kauffman, who sets out in his florid, humorous, and big-hearted way to rehabilitate the tradition of literary support for American isolationism. Did you know that Melville, Hawthorne, and Emerson were OK with letting the Confederate states secede? And that e.e. cummings, Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser, Edmund Wilson, and Edgar Lee Masters were all against entering WWII?

* Audio fans might also want to pay a visit to the WhiskyPrajer blog. Darrell has been exploring freebie podcasts from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and he says that some of them are as good as anything the Teaching Company sells.

* R.J. Stove argues that 1) Western classical music created post-1945 has been a disaster, and 2) said disaster was caused by government funding. Visitors contribute many fun, opinionated, and informative comments.



posted by Michael at January 30, 2008


Well, if political nitwits like Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser were against our participation in WWII, that's all the evidence I need to be convinced that it was necessary. And if an infantile provocateur like Kauffman agrees with them, that seals the deal...

Posted by: tschafer on January 30, 2008 4:23 PM

tschafer -- Why, you say "infantile provocateur" like it's a bad thing!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 30, 2008 7:01 PM

Careful there, Michael. You're not supposed to question the Official History.

Posted by: Bob Grier on January 30, 2008 7:15 PM

When Stove says "Western classical music created post-1945," he seems to mean only a very small fraction of it. Granted it was the "official" school of composition for a while, but people never stopped writing music in other, more vital styles. So I'm not sure what he's talking about.

Posted by: BP on January 30, 2008 8:14 PM

"...against our participation in WWII, that's all the evidence I need to be convinced that it was necessary": what? Japan attacked you; Hitler declared war on you. There was no choice. On a happier note: what might have become of post-war music had Gershwin lived a few decades more?

Posted by: dearieme on January 31, 2008 2:59 PM

"Japan attacked you; Hitler declared war on you. There was no choice."

Japan attacked Hawaii, and Bill Kauffman would tell you that Hawaii was an illegitimate acquistition of the American empire, so best to let it go and fend for itself. As for Hitler, what's a few Nazi flags compared to the atrocity of a McDonald's drive-thru in the heart of Batavia, NY?

Posted by: James M. on January 31, 2008 3:57 PM

Dearieme -- The story in some quarters goes that 1) FDR wanted war and provoked the Japanese into attacking us, and was thrilled when they did. (In other words, war with the Japanese wasn't necessary.) And 2) Hitler could declare war against us as much as he wanted, he still had no way of attacking the U.S. across the big Atlantic. (Ie., the hell with the Europeans -- let them fight their own wars and self-destruct as often as they please, it's none of our business.)

I'm less than no scholar so have zero idea how to evaluate 1, though I gather that there's certainly some evidence that FDR wasn't exactly unhappy about the prospect of war with Japan.

As for 2, well, it's interesting that until the country actually declared war against Germany, a majority (if I remember right) of Americans were against it. In any case, it was a surprisingly large number of Americans who didn't want to go to war.

Because in retrospect WWII has acquired the rep of having been the ultimate Good War, and because it has come to seem inevitable that we'd enter it and defeat the ultimate Bad Guy, it seems to some now that anyone who was against the war at the time must have been a fascist, or stupid, or worse. It seems almost unthinkable that anyone could have been against fighting the Nazis. We forget that in 1940 there were many good Americans who were rooting for us not to go to war, and that they made a good (if not clinching) case for their point of view.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 1, 2008 11:54 AM

"FDR deliberately provoked Japan into attacking" is the grist of conspiracy theorists and Imperial-Japan apologists. The U.S. refused to sell oil to Japan, and encouraged other nations to refuse, because Japan was engaged in an extraordinarily brutal war of aggression. Correspondence between FDR and Churchill at the time shows that neither wanted a Pacific war, as it would be a distraction from the vital task of defeating Nazi Germany.

Oh, and Gallup polls from 1941 show that only about 20% of Americans were flatly opposed to entering the war against Germany. About 20% were in favor of declaring war regardless, and about 40% were in favor of aiding the Allies as necessary to defeat Germany, even at the risk of war. (The other 20% had no opinion.)

"let them fight their own wars and self-destruct... it's none of our business..." translates, in this case, to "Let criminals run wild, looting and murdering at will, as long they haven't bothered me yet." Or in other words, "Why die for Danzig?"

The notion that the U.S. should or even could separate itself from the rest of the world is fatuous. Even in 1807, trade embargo was an economic disaster. Our ties to the world were a hundred times stronger in 1940, and not just economically. If the rest of the world went to hell, we'd follow. The same is true today.

As for Di Lorenzo, genuine Lincoln scholars regard him with the same distaste as rational people do for 9-11 Truthers and Holocaust deniers (many of whom are fond of Di Lorenzo). His claims can be and have been thoroughly refuted; knocking them down again is repetitious.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on February 4, 2008 3:09 AM

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