Sunday, July 04, 2010

Van Gosse: Thank You, Rand Paul (From a Historian)

Thank You, Rand Paul (From a Historian)
by Van Gosse
Huffington Post

Rand Paul is a gift to historians. As a candidate he embodies some of the longest-lasting, most picturesque -- and most reactionary and dangerous -- elements of the American political tradition: contempt for government; veneration of personal property over all else; freedom defined as the absence of restraint, meaning the 'freedom' to exploit.

Like his father Ron, Rand Paul is schooled in the late-modern ideology of libertarianism (Ayn Rand, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman). But learned discourses on "capitalism and freedom" hardly matter to their base, which wouldn't know Hayek from a hole in the wall. When they rouse audiences, they appeal to currents in American life that predate Friedman's "free markets" utopia.

The real ancestors of the Pauls, Sarah Palin, and the rest of the Tea Partiers are the antebellum Jacksonian Democrats, who drew on the "Old Republican" tradition of Southern slaveholders. Deeply concerned about threats to their way of life, they accused national government supporters of "monarchical" tendencies, and authored the doctrine of states' rights and nullification of federal authority. Sound familiar?

Like today's Tea Party, Jacksonians considered themselves the inheritors of the American Revolution. Above all, they venerated private property of two types. First was the land they had extorted at gunpoint, following massacres, from the Southern Indians, who mistakenly thought federal treaties protected them. The second form of property was the slave labor that turned the forests of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana into the "Cotton Kingdom" after Jackson's armies expelled the Indians. Led by Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis, the men who rose to power on the wealth slaves created broke up the Union rather than accepting Lincoln's victory.

Jacksonians like Davis believed in their rights, as white men, over everyone else--their women, children and slaves, the Indians, the land itself. They asserted that this was America's identity: conquering nature, accumulating wealth and ruling over others. They wanted only enough government, under their control, to protect them in these endeavors. Anything else they viewed as treason. To libertarians and Jacksonians alike, freedom belongs to those who can take it, and practicing freedom means having the liberty to make money any way you can.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

No comments: