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Secession, Slavery and the Civil War

 Causation, Correlation or Mass Confusion?


The Ludwig von Mises Institute recently hosted their annual get together in Houston on the heroically controversial theme of secession.  Mises Institute President Jeff Deist opened the morning with a speech advising us to secede in our local capacity, starting at the individual level.  Dr. Brian McClanahan detailed America’s rich history of secession, from the 13 colonies’ war of secession from Great Britain to Texas’ war of secession against Mexico.  Lew Rockwell contrasted the rich libertarian history of secession to the regime libertarians’ knee-jerk reaction to such an unapproved opinion.  After lunch, New York Times best-selling author Tom Woods highlighted the absurdity of viewing secession as blasphemous while the decision to kill half a million children is a matter of public policy.  Finally, Dr. Ron Paul closed out the afternoon by speaking of secession as just one tool to be used in the greater contest for liberty.

It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with so many like-minded people from all over the country that chose to travel long distances for a one-day seminar on a topic that is viewed by the mainstream as antiquated and unorthodox at best.  In retrospect, the most amazing part of the event is how we were able to have a rational, thoughtful dialogue on this topic without ever bringing up the elephant in the room: slavery and the civil war.  It’s like we all took it for granted that everyone was familiar with the works of authors like DiLorenzo and didn’t need to rehash the history taught in public schools that Lincoln heroically fought the civil war to free the slaves and save the Union against the traitorous secessionists of the South.  We didn’t need to waste time analyzing that myth; we could immediately jump to more productive and enlightening dialogue.

However, the sad reality many of us faced traveling home was that it is nearly impossible to continue that rational conversation on the merits and challenges of secession with most of our coworkers, friends and family.  Raise the specter of secession and the Pavlovian responses of “racism”, “slavery” and even “neo-confederate” predictably follow.  But what else should we expect in a society with 12+ years of government indoctrination and a mainstream media that foams at the mouth and is undeniably dishonest when someone has the gall to question the necessity of the war considering that slavery was peaceably ended in every other country without requiring the loss of 620,000 lives and billions in damages and debt.

The civil war was fought to free the slaves.  The secessionists were traitors.  These are the commonly held myths we must dismantle before the rest of society can join us in a reasonable and common-sense discussion on the right of secession.

Why was the Civil War fought?

The government-approved history of the Civil War goes something like this: the Southern states illegally seceded from the United States to protect their institution of slavery.  This prompted a Civil War, causing a tremendous loss of life and property on both sides, but ultimately ending with Lincoln fulfilling his quest by preserving the Union and freeing the slaves.

This narrative may seem undisputable but it suffers from fatal errors once you scratch the surface.  On the first point concerning the cause of secession there is no major disagreement.  While the Southern states did have grievances against the Federal Government like protective tariffs that unfairly benefited the North at the expense of the South, the major reason cited in the state’s secession documents was the issue of slavery.  Thomas Fleming’s A Disease in the Public Mind points to the colliding forces of unrelenting abolitionism in the North and the South’s fear of a race war which made it impossible to find an agreeable end to the system of slavery.

So while seven of the Southern states seceded over the slavery issue, the reason for the war given by Lincoln himself was not slavery, but to prevent secession.  As Lincoln repeatedly said,

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.  What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”

Lincoln made this point numerous times such that it cannot be directly challenged by regime historians, but what happens instead is a logical fallacy built under the guise of the familiar mathematical axiom that if a = b and b = c, then a = c.  In other words, “if the cause of secession was slavery, and to prevent secession was the reason for the war, then the reason for the war was slavery”.  This may seem a trivial point, but it is imperative that the undisputed good of ending slavery is not used to cloud our judgment when considering the true motivations for the ugly and brutal war that preceded it.  Any fantasy that the North was fighting a war of racial justice must be dismantled so that we can objectively look at the agreed upon reason for the war, secession, in an unbiased light.

First of all, if the Civil War was about slavery, why would there have been 7 slave states that stayed loyal to the Union while the Confederacy was formed?  The fact is, the people of the North were largely no better or even worse than the southerners when it came to racial equality.  The Northerners enforced fugitive slave laws, kept child slaves for 25+ years during manumission, denied free blacks suffrage, and generally did all they could to make their states white only.  Conversely, Fleming noted that only a small minority of Southern men owned slaves or otherwise had a direct financial incentive in the practice – so why would they fight over it and risk their lives and everything they owned?  The simple answer is they wouldn’t.  So what would they fight for?  Of the seven slave states that originally stayed in the Union, four of those states only seceded after Lincoln had put out calls to raise an army of invasion and the first shots were fired at Ft. Sumter.  If it war was over slavery, can we imagine that Lincoln would have called it quits if the seceded states had freed their slaves?  Of course not!  It wasn’t slavery that drove Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee out; Lincoln made it clear he had no quarrel with that institution in any loyal state.  They joined the confederacy and fought out of disbelief that Lincoln would declare war and invade the southern states which they believed had every right to peaceably withdraw from their government, just as their great-grandfathers had done 90 years earlier from King George III.  It might have been slavery that prompted the first 7 states to leave, but that’s not why 11 states fought a long and brutal war – they fought for self-government.

Unbelievably, it is the fine print of the Emancipation Proclamation itself that best shines a light on the dubious claim that Lincoln freed the slaves.  Proving Lincoln to be the master politician, that document only applied to the states in rebellion, specifically exempting the states that had stayed loyal! So the slaves that Lincoln had the power to free were to remain slaves, but he supposedly freed the slaves in states that had already left the Union and formed their own country.  H.L. Mencken said it best,

“Even his handling of the slavery question was that of a politician, not that of a messiah… An Abolitionist would have published the Emancipation Proclamation the day after the first battle of Bull Run.  But Lincoln waited until the time was more favorable – until Lee had been hurled out of Pennsylvania, and more important still, until the political currents were safely running his way.  Even so, he freed the slaves in only a part of the country: all the rest continued to clank their chains until he himself was an angel in Heaven.”

Ultimately, there are many contending theories of precisely why the Federal government invaded the Confederacy.  While Thomas Fleming discusses the “diseases in the public mind” that fueled the Civil War, Thomas DiLorenzo unmasks the real Lincoln, showing how his ideology favoring a strong central state led him to launch an unnecessary and illegal war to destroy the doctrine of state’s rights.  John Avery Emison takes just about everything we were taught about the Civil War and turns it on its head, first showing us that it would be more accurate to call it America’s second war of secession, and from there demonstrating how our first “total war” paved the way for the horrors of the 20th century’s world wars and set the precedent for the most egregious violations of federal power today.  As if it couldn’t get any worse, John Graham makes the case that it wasn’t historical accidents that caused the War for Southern Independence, but “antagonisms… deliberately agitated during the 1850s by great international banking houses with a preconceived motive of provoking secession” to generate unpayable debts and establish the financial empire that still rules this country.  Regardless of these various theories, we should all be able to agree with Walter Williams when he unequivocally states, the Civil War wasn’t about slavery.

Were the Secessionists traitors?

With the end of slavery properly understood as a happy by-product of the Civil War, but not at all the reason that 620,000 fought and died, we can examine the legitimacy of the war through fresh eyes.  Was Lincoln justified in waging a war against the Confederacy to preserve the Union, and just what did he preserve?

First, it might be instructive to take a step back and examine the points made by Emison concerning just what we should call this decisive event in American history.  Unlike the civil war in Spain, the American Civil War was not a battle of two competing factions fighting for control over a common central government.  The Southern states had no dictates to the North, no terms other than to be left alone.  Jefferson Davis even sent a peace delegation to promote friendly ties between the two countries, which Lincoln refused to see.  So what do we call a war when one side has formally withdrawn and entered into a state of self-government and the other side invades that country to bring it into submission?  A war of independence or a war for secession certainly fits the historical circumstances better than a civil war.

At this point our government indoctrination might be kicking in – am I possibly making the argument that the traitorous South had the moral high ground in this war, the exact opposite of what the victorious Federal Government has led us to believe?  Indeed, Murray Rothbard concluded that there are only two American wars that have met the criteria for a “just war”, that being the first war of secession against Great Britain, and the second war of secession of the Southern states.

But how could this be?  The Southern states seceded for slavery, the act of depriving individuals from exercising their free will, one of the greatest crimes that man can commit.  Doesn’t this fact tarnish secession?  But consider the reverse scenario.  If secession is to be judged by the worst vices of those that endorsed it, shouldn’t we also look at the crimes of those that did not believe in secession but instead in an all-powerful central government?  Adolf Hitler himself wrote in Mein Kampf that secession was illegal because “it was the Union which formed a great part of such so-called states.”  Similarly, the violence wrecked by omnipotent central governments that were no fans of secession counts some 200 million dead in the 20th century alone.

Rather than only focusing on the worst qualities of those that believed in secession, let’s recall that one of our most famous founding fathers was explicitly in favor of secession and nullification to combat the growth of centralized government in the Principles of ’98.  Thomas Jefferson postulated that it was “not very important to the happiness of either part” of the country if the United States broke up.  In a live and let live fashion, he said that in separation “God bless them both, and keep them in the union if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better”.

At the time Lincoln invaded the South there were five living ex-presidents, every one of which opposed the war in one way or another.  Some did not agree with the decision to secede and did their best to convince the Southern states to remain in the Union, but they ultimately believed in the right of secession.  After all, Vermont seceded from New York, Texas seceded from Mexico, and West Virginia seceded from Virginia during the Civil War itself.  And as previously mentioned, the United States itself seceded from Great Britain in the Revolutionary War.  You’d think that would count for something.

Historical precedents aside, we can also look at this logically and constitutionally.  An established precedent of law is known as legislative entrenchment, meaning that what one legislative body has the power to do, another can do or undo.  A prior legislative body cannot rule from the grave and if the state legislature of 1787 has the power to ratify the constitution, so then can the state legislature of 1861 choose to repeal that ratification.  Indeed, Virginia’s secession document explicitly stated it was a lawful repeal of the ratification of the Constitution.  Can we imagine that the 13 colonies, having just had their full sovereign nature individually acknowledged by Great Britain, really joined a union that they could never leave?  Every historical precedent from the federalist papers to the state ratifying conventions says otherwise.

The Southern states were not traitorous when they seceded; they had every right to do so.  The only traitor was Lincoln, who declared war without congressional approval and violated a hundred other constitutional provisions and laws of human decency in his battle to “preserve the Union”.  He may have reclaimed the Southern states as captured provinces, but he certainly didn’t preserve our republic.  What we had was a voluntary association of independent states united under the contract of the Constitution.  Lincoln’s war of aggression most assuredly killed that system of government for all the states, replacing it with the federal leviathan that knows no boundaries and gives no thought to the consent of the governed.  He won the war and we still suffer the losses.

What is Secession?

Secession – it was the foundation of the American Revolution against King George III.  Even today, it is the most radical concept of the last 500 years.  As stated in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, when a government is destructive to the ends of the people that created it, it is their duty to institute a new government.  That wasn’t an idle threat; secession is the means to do so.  It is the true enforcement mechanism to ensure that we have government by consent.

Just think of what a glorious preventative check the threat of secession is to the limitless goals of our federal masters.  Imagine the contrast with a “marriage union”.  Even though it is a document signed “till death do us part”, all modern states recognize the right of divorce, the equivalent of secession.  As Emison questioned, would an abusive husband treat his wife better or worse in a society where divorce was legal or illegal?  The question answers itself, and it also explains why the federal government is able to propose increasingly egregious legislation on battered, defenseless states that have nowhere to run and no hope of retaliation.

How bizarre that in a country founded on the principle of secession time has allowed this cornerstone of liberty and bedrock of freedom to be marginalized and disgraced.  After all, as Tom Woods noted in his speech at the Mises Circle, its practical effect is nothing more than to say, “maybe this imaginary line should be drawn up here instead of over there.”

Lew Rockwell defined secession in more human terms, reminding us of the moral obligation we have to our fellow men and the responsibility we carry when we endorse our political agents to carry out violence in our name.  He summed up the the libertarian perspective this way:

“It is morally illegitimate to employ state violence against individuals who choose to group themselves differently from how the existing regime chooses to group them. They prefer to live under a different jurisdiction. Libertarians consider it unacceptable to aggress against them for this.”

View the right of secession as a moral imperative to not aggress against others that want to go in peace.  Recognize the arbitrary nature of all government boundaries and the absurdity in going into hysterics if one of those lines should change.  Acknowledge secession as the foundation of this very country and think of how it could be a very realistic solution to the issues we face today.  But above all, rescue secession from the dustbin of history that ignorance has placed it.  Secession is a noble, practical and moral idea that deserves our attention and respect.


Around the world people want freedom and if they can’t have that, a more representative government will do.  The CIA and military industrial complex provides us with all kinds of “approved” secessions and revolutions around the world from despots who have inexplicably leaped from the ally to the enemy category – but dare suggest that Texas may be better of seceding if the federal government continues its unsustainable path, or that the citizens of California would be better represented if certain counties seceded to create new states – well you must be a closet racist!  This hypocrisy and doublethink can’t go on forever.

As Thomas DiLorenzo recently documented, secession is a global phenomenon that isn’t going away:

“There are 32 secessionist movements in Africa; 114 secessionist movements in Europe; 20 secessionist movements in North America; 83 secessionist movements in Asia; 11 secessionist movements in South America; and 26 secessionist movements in Oceania.  Neo-Confederates are everywhere!”

However, the most exciting thing about secession isn’t just the prospect of replacing one government with another one, but the larger philosophical impact for the libertarian movement.  Followed to its logical conclusion, when the state can secede from the country, and the county from the state, and the town from the county, we can envision a practical path to our anarcho-capitalist utopia.  But ultimately, if the right of secession is accepted and respected, we could imagine a government that has an actual incentive to stay within its delegated boundaries, a government that actually serves its supposed purpose of contributing to the happiness of the people instead of to their destruction.  It may be impossible to keep the state with its monopoly on violence within the boundaries set by those that consented to its jurisdiction, but if it were to be possible, it is certainly only so in a society where the right of secession is alive and well.  Let us fight to create such a society, not through violence – that is the government’s specialty, but in the war of ideas.

I shared the above article from a good website that I hereby recommend to you.  Below are two more posts he put up that I also find worth the read.  You might just bookmark his site and visit it once in a while on your own.  – Ted

Punishment Park, U.S.A.

They have been branded enemies of the state: thought criminals, anti-American propagandists, political extremists and even the occasional violent agitator.  Stripped of their rights, hustled through kangaroo courts and abused by indifferent captors; many who considered themselves peaceful dissidents learn to channel their righteous indignation into a brutality equal to what was inflicted upon them.  In this way violence begets violence.  But something else occurs.  The agents of the state were taught to see political protesters as cop killers and nonconformists as lethal threats; now their training is vindicated.  When a brother in blue falls in the line of duty vengeance inevitably takes priority over the rule of law.  The killers and their allies must get what they deserve; after all, they’re criminals.  The cycle of hate, violence and toughness escalates and continues.

This scenario is being played out in cities and states across the country as racial tensions, economic recession and police militarization collide in a snowballing eruption.  For anyone familiar with Peter Watkin’s 44-year-old film Punishment Park it may bring about a sense of déjà vu.  Unfortunately, we’ve seen this movie before.

In Watkin’s alternative history President Nixon declares a state of emergency to deal with the growing anti-war movement and other dissenters of the American regime.  These emergency powers give federal authorities the ability to abduct and imprison those deemed “risks to internal security”; people like subversive poets, student group leaders and pacifists fleeing the draft.  After each of the accused is summarily sentenced to 10-30 years in federal prison they are given a perverse choice: serve your sentence or take your chances with three days in Punishment Park.  If you survive a 53 mile hike through the Arizona desert and reach the coveted American flag you are set free.  However, if you are apprehended by the police and National Guard members that hunt you as part of their training then you carry out your sentence as before.  Resist their capture in any way and the full force of the state is ready to meet violence with violence.  Film crews from around the world document America’s experimental legal system and the result is the mockumentary Punishment Park.

In 1971 this film was met with shock and anger, with Hollywood studios refusing to distribute it.  Innocent Americans branded communist sympathizers, a citizen tribunal consisting of “America take it or leave it” automatons and police enforcers indifferent to the violence they deliver because “they’re just doing their jobs”; perhaps these elements combined with the documentary style of the film hit too close to home.  But if the parallels were ominous then, what can we say in a world with legalized indefinite detention, presidential kill lists of American citizens and CIA torture camps across the globe?  Watched through today’s lens it’s equally valid to call this film prophetic and passé.  Which is worse, that a film that “couldn’t happen here” and was viewed as heretically outrageous has indeed come to pass or that we’ve already moved beyond Punishment Park’s quaint limitations such that it doesn’t elicit much of a reaction at all?

Pawns in the Game

44 years ago Punishment Park was called disturbing, unpatriotic and possibly even communist propaganda – whatever it took to see it censored and banned in country after country.  When this forgotten film found a new life on the internet a new generation saw it in a much different light.  Instead of condemning Watkins they asked what he would think of his film in the era of the Patriot Act, the NDAA and the invasion of Iraq.  The question was asked, could this movie even be made today?  Many saw parallels between the behavior and attitudes of Punishment Park’s police and civilian tribunal with what you now find in the neo-cons of both parties.  As James Allen Wilkins noted in his review, “You can almost interchange the word “communist” with “terrorist” throughout the film and the movie might as well have been made last week.”

However, it’s important to remember that no one watches this film in a vacuum; everyone brings their own bias to Punishment Park.  In 1971 54% of the public “almost always” trusted the government but now that number has been cut in half, with the millennial generation showing all-time low levels of trust in government.  Hence, one generation relates to the enforcer class and model Americans of the film while another generation mostly sides with the rebels and victims of the state.  This is where I see the brilliance and timelessness of the film.  All the characters give such an honest portrayal of both perspectives that there is no obvious group of good guys / bad guys but rather viewers will walk away with their own narrative based on which group they instinctively relate to in the story.  It’s similar to the “libertarian test” of watching a video of a police beating.  Is your first reaction to defend the cop who is “just doing his job” or to side with the person guilty of some heinous crime like selling untaxed cigarettes?

Recognizing that a shift in perspective can lead one to have a totally different reaction to the film, this is where we have a real opportunity to use it as a lesson for exploring the bigger picture.  Instead of automatically siding with either the protesters or the police, it is more interesting to take a step back and look at the system that was erected around them; look at the chess board instead of the individual pawns in the game.

On one side the police and military are saying “I’m just doing my job”, “I wouldn’t have killed him if he would have obeyed my orders” and “they attacked us, we were just defending ourselves”.  Perhaps if the prisoners of Punishment Park had meekly submitted to their arrest no harm would have come to them, so shouldn’t they bear some of the responsibility for what happened?  From the perspective of the prisoners recall that they are running for their freedom; they are desperate, starving, dehydrated and being chased 24/7 by the cops and military.  With that waving American flag within arm’s reach, so delirious with the prospect of freedom that they can taste it, of course some of them will resist going back into bondage.  Hence, a peace-seeking and naïve enforcer or prisoner may enter Punishment Park with the best intention of following the rules, but the system itself is rigged to ensure only one outcome is possible: anger, rage and bloodshed.

When we understand that this game always ends in an escalation of violence so that there are no winners, this prompts us to look outside of our own team’s interest.  It’s memorable of the mock-interview with one of the members of the citizen tribunal, where she is asked how she’d feel if her own child was brought before the court at Punishment Park.  She gasped in horror at the thought, “well that is impossible, my kids would never do that.  They were trained different.”  What she failed to consider was that the same unilateral / dictatorial powers that a right-wing president welds against “leftists”, “communist sympathizers” and “revolutionaries” could be used by a future left-wing president against “right-wing extremists“, “constitutionalists” and “tax-protesters“.  The baton of power goes from the right hand to the left and back again but it keeps getting bigger and bigger, perpetually preparing for the next chance to swing an even deadlier blow.

So why even play this game?  The people certainly don’t gain anything when a police officer is murdered; all that does is solidify the cops into a gang mentality and prepares them to use their military training against the protesters who are committed to peaceful civil disobedience.  Ultimately the police will not win either.  The economy will be destroyed in a police state and the enforcer class is traditionally liquidated by its own government when it goes down this path.  When we finally see that our self-interest isn’t linked to our enforcer/protester costume but to the system we all share then we finally have the opportunity to transcend this game and create something better.  But first we need to understand the game we’re playing so that we don’t unintentionally duplicate it.  That begs the question, who created it and why?

The Power of Prediction

This scene is currently unfolding: cops follow orders to enforce malum prohibitum laws like a tax on cigarettes and murder a man on video.  The secret proceedings of the grand jury result in no charges being pressed against the police.  Protests turn violent as someone randomly murders two police officers, not because of their acts but because of their uniform.  Now the state can ratchet things up and it will go back and forth like this across the country.  Will the final escalation result in the logical consequence of the state’s monopoly on violence – a complete gun ban? If so, this would be the story of America’s second civil war.

This is the scenario that Alex Jones has been warning about for years.  While he’s known as the king of conspiracy for seriously investigating the “inside job” angle of events from the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 to Sandy Hook, this aspect of his work often distracts from his record of accurate predictions.  Credit must be given where credit is due.  Regardless of what someone thinks concerning the origin of these events one cannot deny that Alex Jones has been incredibly accurate on the state’s reaction to them.  Whether it is an Illuminati plot using the tried and tested formula of problem-reaction-solution or a more modest criminal enterprise that is prepared to heed Rahm Emanuel’s advice to “never let a serious crisis go to waste”, Jones has been chillingly prophetic when it comes to how our world would change in response to terrorism, mass-shooting attacks and economic crises.

As someone who has been a listener to his show for 8+ years, his consistent message has warned of an American police state, economic collapse and a resulting civil war.  When it came to 9/11 he always said that the specter of Muslim extremists were always the necessary excuse to pass laws like the Patriot Act and the NDAA, but that the Homeland Security apparatus was always designed for the American people.  For Jones, foreign wars not only made the military industrial complex billions but also hardened our troops for what would be required of them when they’d return to police American streets as if they were in Fallujah, Iraq.  Derivative bubbles, “too big to fail” banks, Wall-Street bail-outs and legislation that is conveniently passed or repealed paves the way for one economic crisis after another, making the average American increasingly desperate and willing to trade liberty for security.  Watch one of Jones’ first films from the ’90s and recognize with disappointment how right he’s been.

But it always goes back to the same question that’s harder to answer with satisfaction: Why?  How was Jones able to predict these events and how America would increasingly be turned into a Police State?  Whose master plan is this?  As George H.W. Bush said 10 years to the day before 9/11, “it’s a big idea… a New World Order“.  You cannot have world government with any sovereign nation, so “order out of chaos” techniques are used to destabilize one nation after the next, with America being the last shining jewel to take down.  As America’s wealth is used to run the engine of global police it has the dual effect of discrediting America and destroying it from within.  If we can’t wake up to this trap we’ll play out the scenario Jones warns of the most: a civil war brought on by economic depression and gun control with the military and police against the American people, all the pawns senselessly killing each other while the globalists laugh in their offshore fortresses.

Austrian Economics meets Conspiracy Theory

The Jonesian picture may be hard to swallow: New World Order, Skull and Bones, and Illuminati secret societies pushing civilization off a cliff to establish world government.  Many libertarians will decry these types of theories as discrediting to their movement.  However, one can ignore this angle of a sinister agenda and still find events like 9/11 completely predictable and even logical using only Austrian business cycle theory and libertarian class analysis.

For just over 100 years, since the beginning of the Federal Reserve, the eventual collapse of the dollar was predictable.  Power corrupts and the power to print money out of thin air is such an awesome force that few could withstand the temptation for abuse.  Like the ring of Sauron it pollutes and defiles all who weld it.  Indeed, the reason Dr. Ron Paul first ran for Congress was because of the end of Bretton Woods, when the dollar lost its last remnant backing to gold.  Dr. Paul was trained in the school of Austrian Economics and he knew that a pure fiat dollar could not last, such that he’s been giving the same warning speech for 40+ years.  Some thought he was a prophet, but what’s more amazing than clairvoyance was his consistency and integrity to never sell out and never back down from what he knew would be true.

Thus, one can assume that those of us familiar with the Austrian School of Economics are the only ones that understand the inherent problems of fiat currency: how it fuels business cycles and pumps up bubbles that must end in busts.  Under this theory our global government, banking and finance leaders have swallowed their own Kool-aide and actually believe that Keynesianism solutions are solutions, regardless of the logical and historical evidence to the contrary.

But let’s explore another option: assume that at least a few people in power are completely aware of the long-run futility of money printing as a panacea.  A few insiders know that the inherent instability of the petro-dollar, the 100+ trillion in unfunded liabilities, etc. will eventually bring economic collapse, with that collapse most likely followed by one last heroic attempt at money printing to result in hyper-inflation.  For those in power, who most certainly want to maintain their power, what should be done with this knowledge?

Knowing that time is running out for the American empire, and perhaps even holding to some bizarre ends-justify-the-means logic of preventing a new uprising of the communist system, those in power would have a very real incentive to institute a police state to ensure that they can maintain their power during a time of economic hysteria.  Dissidents would have to be silenced; revolutionaries would have to be disappeared.  Maybe they got some of their ideas from Punishment Park.  The point is that these police state powers would be unthinkable under the American system of 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even pre-9/11.  The American people would rebel if these changes were instituted overnight.  But instead, do it slowly, year by year, right-wing administration followed by a left-wing administration, and blame it all on an external threat, the shadowy Muslim extremists in faraway lands.  They will never see it coming.  You can even imagine how a “patriotic American” could be persuaded to assist in such a diabolical plan; after all, the future of “America” depends on it.  A few billion dollars in pay-off and hush-up money wouldn’t hurt either.


Whether this was all planned 100 years ago by Cecil Rhodes and Satan or if we’re all in the back seat of a car being driven recklessly off a cliff by drunkards who know not what they do, the question remains: what should we do about it?  How do we stop this tragedy of errors where innocent people are murdered by police with official immunity and random cops are in turn murdered by desperate people who see no other way to achieve justice?  Are we destined to stupidly kill each other while the people that put this system in motion, the ones that constructed our Punishment Park, sit back and laugh?

What must be done is education and peaceful non-compliance.  This is not the fast and easy answer, but it is the only chance we have at true success.  We need to reach out to those in uniform and those without state issued costumes.  The nosy neighbor or the parent that calls the cops to deal with an unruly child will certainly learn the folly of their ways when their baby is summarily murdered, but surely this isn’t the best or only way to learn this lesson.  Don’t call the police unless you absolutely need men with guns – because that’s all they are good for.  Similarly, we must reach out to those in uniform and wake them up to the role they are playing in this lose-lose game.

The common thread connecting the 9-1-1-calling-boob and the license-to-kill-carrying meter maid, the root of the problem we face, is the belief in authority.  As demonstrated in Punishment Park, the police and military do not hold themselves accountable for the murders and other crimes they commit while they are in uniform, nor do the member of the citizen tribunal who sentence the innocents to their fate.  As Larkin Rose says, their actions are no longer their own, they have become a part of “authority” such that they are free from the moral responsibility and consequences of their actions.  This myth must be overcome.  It won’t be easy, 12-20 years of government school indoctrination has made sure of that, but it is the only possibility of success we have.

The last and most important point that cannot be overstated enough is this: aggressive violence is not the solution.  The state, as defined as the holder of a monopoly on violence, has gotten very good at violence, just as anyone becomes excellent at a particular trade through specialization and practice.  We shouldn’t challenge Michael Jordan to a game of basketball or Tiger Woods to a game of golf, not when our lives depend on it.  We cannot win a game of offensive violence with the government, we cannot out-state the state.  The state is the problem; anarcho-capitalism is the answer.

The Political Mysteries of Easter Island

It goes by many names: “Easter Island” or “Isla de Pascua” both refer to the day the Dutch stumbled upon this mysterious island in 1722.  About 50 years later a Spanish explorer named it after his king but “San Carlos Island” didn’t stick.  According to lore this land was named “Te Pito O Te Henua” meaning “The Navel of the World”, but today the locals refer to their home with a Polynesian name given in the 1860’s: Rapa Nui.

With descendants of the indigenous people also known as Rapa Nui and their ancestral language sharing that name, early explorers concluded that there may not have been a distinct name for this remote island in the Pacific.  Since it is a single landmass and not a chain of islands there is no other landmark to compare it to.  More than 2,175 miles from mainland Chile and a similar distance from Tahiti, it is a mystery in itself how the Polynesian sailors of over a thousand years ago first came to inhabit this land.

Rapa Nui’s beautiful weather, deep blue ocean, white sand beaches, gorgeous volcanic peaks and welcoming, hospitable locals would make this island worthy of any tropical vacation – but throw in one thousand 10-70 foot tall ancient statues scattered across the island and you have a must-see “bucket list” destination.  It was these mysterious statues, the moai, which drew me to the island.  The stone giants sit upon monolithic platforms built with ten ton perfectly cut hard basalt rocks that rival the engineering secrets of Egypt.  The largest moai known to have stood upon such a platform weighed over 80 tons.  Upon the moai’s heads sat top-knots known as pukao carved from red scoria rock, themselves weighing 20+ tons.

Many different theories exist as to how a few thousand people without large animals could obtain the resources, tools, techniques and willpower to carve these wonders out of volcanic rock and transport them to the farthest points of the island – and every few years new scholars seek to make a name for themselves by proposing a new explanation.  Some say the Rapa Nui walked the statues from the quarry to their platforms using nothing but manpower, team work and ropes.  Others look at evidence that indicates they must have had more advanced engineering techniques, with one curious book claiming that Easter Island is the tip of a lost continent called Mu that was home to an advanced civilization.  While many locals still believe the oral tradition of their ancestors using “magic” to move the moai, the longtime residents of the island agree – there is no consensus.

I went to Easter Island anxious to hear the mysteries of the ancient moai but instead found myself drawn to the modern political problems that confronted the Rapa Nui people.  Talking to tour guides, businessmen and artists I discovered wonderful new and unexpected things: there are no taxes, virtually no crime and in 5 days I never saw a single police officer.  Yet, the same dismal outlook concerning Easter Island’s politics reappeared in every conversation, whether from native Rapa Nui that were born and raised on Easter Island, foreigners that had married into a Rapa Nui family or travelers that fell in love with the island and decided to never leave.  The moai may remain a mystery forever, but I’m confident that libertarian answers are exactly what the fiercely independent people of Rapa Nui need to solve their modern problems.

A History of Violence

To understand the present one must understand the past, and the past of the Rapa Nui includes famine, disease, war, slave raids and cannibalism.  Ask when the first Polynesians settled the island, when the moai were created or when their construction ended will bring answers differing by hundreds of years – so all we can reasonably conclude is that there is no consensus for these questions.  What is known with certainty is based on the records of western explorers.  The Dutch and Spanish only wrote of standing statues in 1722 and 1770 respectively, but starting in 1774 and continuing for 60 years thereafter reports of toppled moai were recorded until none were left standing.  Again, what exactly lead an advanced commercial society to collapse into cannibalism and civil war is up for debate, but by the time the missionaries of the 1860s appeared the islanders were already separated into competing tribes that respected clear-cut property lines.  Their legends spoke of the first king that divided up the island among his sons, eventually resulting in these clans.  At some unknown point the class system of the king and the royal family were disposed by military leaders that instituted the cult of the birdman, where a representative from each clan would compete in a yearly ritual that would result in one clan gaining power over the island.  One way or the other, a population that scientists believe peaked at 15,000 came to be estimated at only 3,000 by western explorers in the 18th century.

But by the 1860s cannibalism and inter-clan warfare became the least concern for the Rapa Nui.  Peruvian slave ships captured about half the islands population and sent 1,500 men and women to work in guano deposits and plantations.  A few years later the well-meaning bishop of Tahiti intervened and demanded the Rapa Nui be returned home.  Unfortunately, the survivors brought smallpox and tuberculosis back to Easter Island that wiped out the other half of the population.  By 1877 only 111 people were still living on the island, only 36 of them having children.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, less than a dozen years later Easter Island became a territory of a modern state.  A representative of the Chilean government duped the supposed king into signing the “Treaty of Annexation of the Island”.  Like all social contract theories, this act by one “king” is now interpreted as having been signed with the Rapa Nui people as a whole and somehow implicitly transferred onto future generations in perpetuity.  Even postulating that such a contract could be morally or legally justifiable, it is doubtful that the signer of this treaty of no authority realized what relinquishing his people’s sovereignty meant.  While the first king of Rapa Nui allegedly foresaw Easter Island in a dream and led his people on a triumphant voyage towards a great civilization, this last king couldn’t even anticipate the misery that would immediately follow signing a contract with the State.

With the ink barely dry on the annexation treaty, the Chilean government leased Easter Island to the Williamson-Balfour Company in 1888, which then created a subsidiary company to imprison the islanders in the town of Hanga Roa and turned the rest of the island into a giant sheep farm.  With a name that is unbelievably honest to our modern ears, this company was called “Compania Explotadora de la Isla de Pascua” or “The Easter Island Exploitation Company”.  While the company carelessly destroyed sacred Rapa Nui relics to build stone walls for the sheep, the people lived in a veritable concentration camp – and this continued for 70 years!

While the rest of the world partook in an industrial revolution, supposedly rid the world of slavery, mastered the secrets of the atom to harness great energy and raced to land a man on the moon – the Rapa Nui people lived and died without ever leaving the few square miles that comprised the island’s only town.  The sheep ruled until 1953 and then the Chilean Navy took over only to run business as usual.  It wasn’t until 1966, the same year Californians elected their first movie star as governor and cigarettes were first mandated with warning labels, that the Rapa Nui were allowed to roam outside of their open-air prison.  Needless to say, this experience has given them a healthy mistrust of the State.

Rapa Nui Problems

The good news is that the problems the Rapa Nui face today are not as drastic as those which faced their ancestors.  The flip side is that the issues are more subtle, they exist under the surface of everyday life which makes potential solutions more difficult to discern.  When your town is surrounded by barbed wire and you are denied the freedom to walk on the land of your ancestors because it has been taken over by a foreign army it is very clear where your righteous anger should be directed.  But again and again I heard the same despondent attitude towards the difficulties facing Easter Island, with the best hope being that a future generation could fix things.  This outlook of resignation and acceptance of failure does not mean that potential solutions don’t exist – it only indicates that in a world of statism the answers are so unorthodox that they are never seriously considered.

The most obvious, alarming and disturbing issue that is readily acknowledged by the locals should also be one of the most clear cut examples of the tragedy of the commons to any student of economics.  After the islanders’ status changed from prisoners of Hanga Roa to citizens of Chile their remorseful government mandated that going forward only native Rapa Nui would be eligible to own property, but of course the State itself was exempted from this agreement.  The entire coast line and the vast majority of Easter Island is owned by the government, with the predictable results being shocking to the conscience.

Priceless moai, platforms, and petroglyphs are constantly degraded by the elements.  While rain and winds are an excusable and inevitable challenge of an “open-air museum”, the most insensible and egregious damage comes from the hundreds of roaming cows and horses that find themselves unable to respect the “no touching” signs infrequently posted across the island.  One of my guides could only shake his head when he noticed that a nose section of his family’s ancestral moai had broken off since his last visit to the site, the culprit was most likely a wandering horse.

The cows are not used for their milk and the horses are not used for their meat.  There are plenty of cars on the island; some say too many, so no one is using these horses for transportation.  In fact, the largest and virtually only cause of car accidents on the island is from running into rambling horses.  To repeat: the outrageousness of the situation isn’t that the horses are causing damage to cars, those can be replaced, it is that these thousand pound animals are doing tremendous damage to the hundreds of unique and irreplaceable artifacts that are totally unprotected.  At first glance it would seem that during the rush to industrialize the island with power generators, combustion engines and the internet someone forgot to introduce the technological wonder known as a fence.

But this is where the complications of the island politics and family history come to bear.  When the Rapa Nui population was decimated to 111 people the 36 of them that had children had very large families – with 20 children being common and the largest family containing 28.  These families all knew which ancestral clan they descended from and that knowledge has been passed on such that today the entire population of more than 3,000 Rapa Nui operates within their various familial networks.  All of them can trace their lineage back to one of the original clans that communally owned a certain piece of the island, each with their own sacred burial sites, platforms and moai to represent their ancestors – so in that sense they have a very legitimate claim to let their horses roam where they damn well please.  The tragedy of it all is that the government formally owns the land but knows that it can’t get away with fencing it up or otherwise excluding the people (and their livestock) from their sacred sites – so we arrive at this quasi-ownership scenario where no one can enforce decisions that would protect the very artifacts that everyone is interested in preserving.

Occasionally the various Rapa Nui families are able to join together against the Chilean government and demand that their ancestral land is returned to its rightful heirs.  Whenever the protests and civil disobedience are threatening enough the Chilean government brilliantly cuts off a random piece of land in the middle of the island and sits back to let the families fight over it.  The majority of them don’t want *that* particular territory, not only does it not belong to their tribe but it’s probably the ancestral site of a rival clan.  Yet this technique to redirect their anger against each other and away from their government works every time.

You find this same misplacement of anger when it comes to the perfect example of what Hans-Hermann Hoppe calls “forced integration“.  With Easter Island labeled a territory of Chile and the Rapa Nui becoming Chilean citizens, this opened the flood gates for Chileans to come from the mainland and set up shop in this tax-free paradise.  Just as Americans can move to Hawaii and live or work without any special permission, Chilean mainlanders are notoriously threatening the jobs and cultural identity of the Rapa Nui, with over 50% of the population of Easter Island now consisting of foreigners.  Their answer to this problem is to plead with the government to enact some kind of immigration quota.  Not only is this an example of addressing the symptom instead of the disease, it is far worse because the doctor prescribing the medicine is in fact the villain that dispensed the originating poison.

Libertarian Solutions

A tragedy of the commons, dubious property titles and forced integration, all originating from the acts of violence committed over 100 years ago against the Rapa Nui people that included fraud, theft, kidnapping and murder.  Before exploring the practical aspects of righting these wrongs, let’s review what libertarian justice would demand.

The first crime to analyze is the signing of the “Treaty of Annexation of the Island”.  Assuming for the sake of argument that the existing king was the rightful property owner of the entire island and had the capacity to sign it over to the government of Chile, it is seriously doubtful that there was a “meeting of the minds“.  In other words, a reasonable person would not sign a contract that would immediately make himself, his people and his lineage slaves and prisoners on the land his fathers colonized.  The treaty should be considered fraudulent and granting no validity to the subsequent crimes of transferring the island to an “exploitation company” to imprison the people and steal their land.

With the current occupier and defacto owner of Easter Island having no legitimate title to it, we ask the question of who has the moral right of ownership.  The libertarian Lockean / homesteading principle of just property tells us that “everyone has absolute property right over previously unowned natural resources which he first occupies and brings into use”.  This absolute property right includes the right to give it away or bequeath it to one’s heirs, so common sense tells us that the clans that lived, worked, and “mixed their labor” with the island were the natural owners.  Furthermore, the property boundaries that they themselves established and respected should be seen as the legitimate borders for today.  For the vast majority of the island that is currently in the unjust possession of a criminal government, that land should be immediately returned to the families that can trace their lineage back to those clans.

What is the moral thing to do with the property that is in private hands?  There are two scenarios.  First, assume we are discussing land still under the control of the Williamson-Balfour Company.  As their possession of the land was directly facilitated by the criminal state, not to mention the horrendous crimes that they directly committed, any land held by them on Easter Island should also be returned.  They have no rightful claim to ask others to respect their “private property” that was seized through violent aggression.  In an essay entitled “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle” in the June 15th, 1969 issue of the Libertarian Forum, Murray Rothbard wrote,

“What we libertarians object to, then, is not government per se but crime, what we object to is unjust or criminal property titles; what we are for is not “private” property per se but just, innocent, non-criminal private property.  It is justice vs. injustice, innocence vs. criminality that must be our major libertarian focus.”

In a case that’s not so obvious is the occupation of the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa.  A German family bought the land from the Chilean government and spent millions of dollars building a hotel on it.  Only after the construction was complete and the business was preparing to open did members of the indigenous Hitorangi clan occupy the hotel rooms claiming that the land was illegally taken from their ancestors.  The occupation lasted for several months until the police forcibly removed them. In this scenario a different passage from Rothbard’s essay may be more applicable:

“Often, the most practical method of de-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownership on the person or group who seizes the property from the State.  Of this group, the most morally deserving are the ones who are already using the property but who have no moral complicity in the State’s act of aggression.  These people then become the “homesteaders” of the stolen property and hence the rightful owners.”

While the Williamson-Balfour Company was certainly complicit in the State’s offenses, it is harder to convict the owners of the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa of the same involvement.  Lacking the taint of criminality and considering the millions worth of labor and capital they invested, an argument can be made that they have a greater claim to that particular piece of land than anyone else.  Accepting that some cases of confiscation and restoration will not be as evident as others but that justice will be served when the State-occupied land is returned to the rightful and identifiable heirs, we can now review the likely benefits that will result.

With all of Easter Island being privately owned by the people that care the most about its preservation we can expect that the current practice of having horses and cows trample over their sacred artifacts will immediately cease.  Not only do good fences make good neighbors but with private ownership comes the incentive to be the best possible steward of a given natural resource- whether the land contains a white sand beach or sacred archaeological relics.  The motivation to provide proper short-term maintenance and ensure preservation for future generations may purely come from the love of one’s ancestral land but it could also be enhanced by the desire to profit from the appetites of the nearly 100,000 tourists per year that travel from all over the world and are ready to spend thousands of dollars to marvel at the ancient moai.

Similarly, in the case of the forced integration of unwanted Chileans, in an island of private property everyone will either be a welcome guest or will not be admitted.  Perhaps some clans will choose to only employ native Rapa Nui while others will be eager to hire outside help and specialized talent from around the world – the market will ultimately reward those that best please the desires of the consumers.  While this scenario supposes that the Rapa Nui will choose not to sell their land, with full property rights free from the current state-mandated restriction they would have the choice to sell part or all of their land to anyone they wanted, regardless of nationality.  Perhaps not everyone will be optimally pleased with what the people of Rapa Nui decide to do with their rightful land, but two things are certain: justice will be done and the moai will be better preserved than they are today – it couldn’t possibly be worse.


It would be dishonest to ignore an objection that will surely come to any mind that has been indoctrinated in government schools: with privately owned land Easter Island would be ruined!  Greedy capitalists would fill it with 5 star hotels, casinos and other monstrosities, utterly destroying the majesty, mystery and miracles that have come to characterize Rapa Nui and bring tourists flocking in larger and larger numbers every year.

Stated in this way, the objection answers itself.  Tourists that want that kind of vacation go to Tahiti, Maldives or Bora Bora while an entirely different type of tourist spends the time and money to travel to Easter Island.  Any successful entrepreneur will need to cater to what the tourists of Rapa Nui demand, and any that refuse to answer their wishes will be replaced with those that will.  Furthermore, a benefit of living on an isolated island with such a small and intimate population is that everyone knows everyone, such that libertarian techniques like social ostracism would work very well in discouraging someone from committing a serious taboo like building a McDonalds on Rano Raraku.

Another objection that is always brought up in any discussion of the stateless society is… you guessed it, who will build the roads?  The answer is that the same people that currently build them may continue to do so, only they will be paid by private individuals instead of the state.  Currently every tourist to Easter Island pays a $60 fee to the Chilean National Park Service.  Instead of that money going directly back into the island which drew the tourists in the first place, the money is first sent back to mainland Chile and then divided equally among all the national parks – whether they draw any visitors or not.  Tourists pay thousands of dollars in flights, hotels, and higher prices for just about everything in order to cross Easter Island off their bucket list – surely they would continue to pay $60 or more to the new non-governmental owners of Rapa Nui.  The art of building roads will not be lost like the art of building moai.

Finally, for those that are concerned that private ownership of the moai could mean the end of tourism or archaeological research on Easter Island, rest assured that this is highly unlikely.  I found the Rapa Nui people to be incredibly warm and welcoming, cognizant of how tourism is central to their entire economy.  This symbiotic relationship would likely continue with an even greater financial interest in keeping tourists happy.  If you are shocked at the idea of putting a dollar sign on “priceless” artifacts like the moai, remember that something is only “priceless” when it is not allowed to be privately owned.  In the realm of archaeology, one can imagine wealthy benefactors or immensely lucrative crowdfunding campaigns that would be very successful in persuading the Rapa Nui to sell or lease some of their land to a serious team of researchers that could potentially break new ground.  Ironically, only through solving the political mysteries of today may we have a chance at solving the ancient mysteries of the moai.