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The current Tea Party concept of “liberty” to mean “what’s mine is mine” was most eloquently articulated by John C. Calhoun in Union and Liberty, in which he argued that any attempt to deny southern slave owners of their right to own slaves was an infringement on their (the slave owners’) “liberty,” and should be opposed as such with arms (which, of course, happened a couple of decades after he published it). Calhoun also argued for the protection of “minority” rights, by which he meant the rights of southern slave owners to own slaves.

There is a direct and unbroken line connecting those who opposed ratification of the U.S. Constitution, through those who advocated “nullification” doctrine (that each state has the right to ignore the federal government at will), through the southern secessionists, through the southern opponents to Civil Rights legislation and jurisprudence, to the modern Tea Party.

They are, happily, the losers of American history, whose loss has meant real freedom and real opportunity for hundreds of millions who would otherwise have been denied it. But those whose ideology keeps getting thankfully relegated to the dust heap of history are relentless, incessantly trying to “take back America,” by which they mean a return to some semblance of previous eras characterized by Jim Crow, slave ownership, and the completely dysfunctional Articles of Confederation, not to mention the onset of The Great Depression.

The connection to slavery and Jim Crow is a historical continuum, not a current identity. Virtually no one today identifies themself as an advocate of slave ownership. Relatively few, but some, state opposition to the federal engagement which put an end to Jim Crow. Many oppose current federal efforts to address the legacy of that history still extant today.

My point is not that by being a modern Libertarian you are an advocate of slave ownership, but rather that the history of modern Libertarianism belongs to those who were advocates of slave ownership. Those who succeeded to slave owners defended Jim Crow. Those that succeeded to defenders of Jim Crow oppose any federal commitment to social justice.

It is a logical continuum, with a shared underlying philosophical thread: “What’s mine is mine, as a matter of basic principle, regardless of the injustice of that distribution of wealth and power, regardless of the historical violence implicit within it, and regardless of how politically and economically dysfunctional the belief is.”

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