Krugman, of course, is attempting to pile on to the Rand Paul/Jack Hunter "controversy," and the attempt not just to tar the Kentucky Senator (who may or may not be sort of a libertarian depending on who you talk to) with neo-Confederate leanings, but to claim that Libertarians will never shake their neo-Confederate ties.
This is, of course, a clever coded way of saying that Libertarian theory as well as every Libertarian (to include our "small-L" libertarian cousins) is racist. Some are more urbane about it than others, but deep down we are all willing to court racists to get into power:
That’s not say to say that the Pauls are racists themselves, but rather that they’re beholden to a constituency who is. Libertarianism is, right now, a very small movement very much on the political margins. The neo-Confederates continue to make up a significant portion of the libertarian movement (if not its intellectual ranks)...This is pure bunk (oddly, what Krugman calls the 'libertarian populism' he made up) for several reasons, and at the risk of taking too long I will lay them out for you:
1. All politicians, all political movements, and all political theories are about molding the present rather than understanding the past. Therefore, they distort "the lessons of history" to serve their own purposes. This is neither a liberal nor conservative nor libertarian nor even green particularism, but it is a feature (rather than a bug) of popular politics. For those convinced that their own side is relatively oriented toward fact rather than distortion, feel free to bring it on. You will lose. And lose. And lose. And lose again. (I especially like that last one, it's from 1994.)
2. Distorting history and getting away with it is so easy because (a) the American people aren't really interested in history in the first place, and (b) our so-called "standards-based" public education curriculum is a vast failure so far at imparting the critical thinking skills necessary to make people understand something as basic as the difference between posing questions and offering evidence. We live in a world wherein journalism (no matter how shoddy) is confused with history, history is confused with memory, and memory is tinged by mythology. History--real history as painstakingly practiced by professional historians--can tell us a great deal about the past, but that discipline is slowly fading into academic obscurity I could fill this paragraph with links to that effect, but you wouldn't click through and read them anyway.
(But do this thought experiment with me: if a knowledge of history is a necessity for keeping a well-informed citizenry, which is a necessity for keeping our republic from sliding further into autocracy and oligarchy, then why is history always considered to be the least important and most expendable of the "core" academic subjects? It's not because you need English/Language Arts to teach history--you don't. I've successfully taught history to kids who were functionally illiterate. It's not that high-school science is any more relevant to the everyday lives of 95+% of high school graduates than history--it's not. They are not going to ever design a bridge or build a motor, but they will potentially vote for President multiple times. It's not even that high-school algebra is critical to real-life success whereas history isn't. There is another--quite clear--reason, and I will leave that as an exercise for the student.)
3. The people screaming about "neo-Confederates" and "Confederate apologists" the loudest don't actually know squat about Civil War historiography. Most of them will, in fact, have to click that link to figure out what historiography is in the first place. (Go ahead; I'll still be here when you get back.) They like to disdain Thomas DiLoreno's interpretations of the Civil War and especially Abraham Lincoln, but they really don't know why DiLorenzo's work is considered to be so ridiculous by virtually all Civil War historians of whatever personal political ideology, because DiLorenzo's work is not only bad, it's intellectually dishonest. You can find out why, if you really want to know, but you'll have to actually pay attention to the internet sources beyond the first three pages or check some real academic sources. Neither of which the overwhelming majority of people bashing Libertarians over people like DiLorenzo because they are far more interested in the potential for bashing than in understanding the history.
In point of fact, understanding the American Civil War (its causes, its course, its aftermath, and the way its history was written and remembered) is pretty much a lifetime study, but if you want a quick primer that will only send you through a few books of several hundred pages each, here is it is:
The two books you need to read to have a fundamental understanding of the origins and function of the "Lost Cause" mentality and how public memory has distorted history are Rollin G. Osterweis The Myth of the Lost Cause and David Blight Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. There are dozens of other good books and good authors like Gary Gallagher and Emory Thomas on these issues, but these will give you the basics, and you will discover that how the Civil War has been remembered North AND South has much more to do with the politics of the time doing the remembering rather than the facts of the time being remembered. (Sound familiar?)
|Washington DC 1926: no Confederate flags in evidence|
when the KKK marches. Wonder why? Read Coski.
If you want to understand why the American Civil War, which ultimately turned out to be about human freedom, nevertheless became a grand failure (at least in the short term--say the next 125 years) for African-Americans, then try Eric Foner Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 or the John Hope Franklin classic Reconstruction After the Civil War. Likewise, if you want to understand how the twisted history of the Civil War and race has played out in American Southern history, you could not do better than Victoria Bynum The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War or Ervin L. Jordan Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia.
Want the best Lincoln biographies or monographs out there so you can understand while DiLorenzo is so full of crap? David Donald Lincoln is still the best available, while LaWanda Cox Lincoln and Black Freedom and John Waugh's Re-electing Lincoln are both excellent if much narrower studies.
Perhaps you even want to understand how the 14th Amendment (which, yes, did pass and was ratified) was changed by a series of Supreme Court decisions in the 1870s-1880s to become the corporate protection act: see Robert G. McCloskey, American Conservatism in the Age of Enterprise.
Every book I have cited above is a well-respected book by a professional Civil War historian, and if you are really interested in the subject I recommend (unabashedly) two articles I have done on comparable subjects; "African-Americans Resist the Confederacy: Two Variations on a Theme" and "Evaders, Resisters, and Predators: Patterns of Anti-Confederate Behavior." (The links sorta suck here because the main North & South magazine page is down, but if you really want to read them let me know.)
You won't (the overwhelming majority of you) go read any or all of these because it would be a massive undertaking, and because (especially if you are a political activist of any stripe) you don't have the time. You are interested in changing the present, not learning in depth about the past--at least not that small a segment of the past.
(That's also why most Libertarians do not understand the very limited examples of free markets in American history--since the colonial days there has been governmental regulation of our markets--or the distinction that Fernand Braudel proved between markets and capital (and why the development of "capital" between 1500-1800 was not necessarily a good thing for economic freedom).)
All of which is an excessively long-winded way of saying that all this political rhetoric about Libertarianism and its supposed neo-Confederate roots amounts to the willfully ignorant taunting the woefully misinformed--and nobody's got a good point.