There is a strain of libertarian contrarianism that holds that the Confederate States of America were within their “rights” to secede from the Union. Such contrarianism on this particular topic is detrimental to the larger cause of liberty because the logic of this argument relies upon relinquishing individual rights to the whim of the state. Indeed, as there is no legal or moral justification for supporting the Confederacy in the Civil War, it is impossible that there could be a libertarian one.
I made no claims about whether a libertarian should support the Union cause, actions, or anything at all about Lincoln. The most basic formulation of my argument was this, as put forth this morning by my colleague Jason Kuznicki on Twitter, “Secession must be justified morally, not legally. If a given secession is for slavery, it’s not justified.” He added, quite astutely, that “Secession is the decision to step out of an existing political order, so it’s a category error to try to justify it legally.”Recently, an aide to Sentor Rand Paul, Jack Hunter, was revealed by the Washington Free Beacon to have been "a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist."
It’s difficult to police any political movement — but especially one that prides itself on championing freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas.Bleeding-Heart Kansas
“We don’t have a pope. It’s very hard to excommunicate anyone and make it stick,” said Jason Kuznicki, a research fellow at the Cato Institute who has argued with some of the neo-Confederates online. (He calls it a “bizarre experience.”)
Respecting established property ownership is important. It is less important than the principle that human beings are self-owners and not owned by others– absolutely, lexically, hierarchically less important. But it’s a genuine value. The southern antebellum slaveholding class used a language of respect for property rights (among many other languages) to defend their false right to own slaves; they posed as defenders of liberty against an overreaching state that might expropriate their goods without compensation.The Volokh Conspiracy: Libertarianism and the Civil War, Slavery and Secession – The Documentary Evidence, Libertarianism, the Confederacy, and the Civil War Revisited
Revelations that Rand Paul aide Jack Hunter has a history of racist and pro-Confederate statements during his days as a radio shock jock have rekindled the longstanding debate over libertarian attitudes towards the Civil War. Hunter has repudiated many of his former statements and attitudes. But that hasn’t stopped the controversy from continuing.Jason Kuznicki: Rand Paul, the Confederacy, and Liberty
This uproar raises two important issues: First, is there any possible justification for libertarian sympathy for the Confederacy? Second, how should the libertarian movement react to people with views like Hunter’s?
Whatever others may say on the subject, I can’t understand how anyone might admire the Confederacy and also call themselves a libertarian. Any affinity for the Confederacy marks one very clearly as an enemy of liberty.How Libertarians Ought to Think about the U.S. Civil War [PDF]
The Confederate Constitution says all that needs to be said on the subject, and it answers all possible arguments to the contrary
These premises, however, are wrong, as are the prevailing libertarian conclusions. In fact, states have no constitutional authority to secede unilaterally from the union. Nor were southern states engaged in a legitimate act of revolution, because they initiated force rather than act in defense of individual rights.John Stuart Mill on Slavery, the Confederacy, and the American Civil War
For all these reasons, there is little question that the Civil War was “about slavery” and more relevantly was decidedly not about states rights. This was even more true of the South than it was of the North, which held mixed views on the slavery question. But given that the Republican party supplanted the Whigs on the slavery question, there is little doubt that with Lincoln’s electiion Northern policies were about to turn antislavery, while not directly threatening the existing slave regimes in the South. That this was not good enough for the South shows just how ambitious was their slavery agenda for the country, how rabidly pro-slavery their political establishment had been, and how little their motives stemmed from states rights.Reason: What Should Libertarians Think About the Civil War?
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a less libertarian form of government than that of the Confederate South, which was explicitly organized around the collectivist notion that man may hold property in man, that one group of people is lawfully entitled to seize the fruits of another group’s labor.The Confederate Leviathan
As our discussion continued, my dinner companion asked, "Did you know that the Confedaracy introduced conscription well before the Union did?" I admitted that I did not know that. We kept talking about various violations of liberty--other than the horrific atrocity of slavery-- pioneered by the Confederacy. For a quick summary, my companion directed my attention to the blog Civil War Memory run by local historian Kevin Levin.Up from Slavery - There's no such thing as a golden age of lost liberty
The Cato Institute's boilerplate description of itself used to include the line, "Since [the American] revolution, civil and economic liberties have been eroded." Until Clarence Thomas, then chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, gave a speech at Cato and pointed out to us that it didn't seem quite that way to black people.
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