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Up from Serfdom

April 10, 2010

Reason magazine published a response to last weeks “Up From Slavery: There’s no such thing as a golden age of lost liberty,”.

Let’s consider, say, the year 1880. Here was a society in which people were free to keep everything they earned, because there was no income tax. They were also free to decide what to do with their own money—spend it, save it, invest it, donate it, or whatever. People were generally free to engage in occupations and professions without a license or permit. There were few federal economic regulations and regulatory agencies. No Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, bailouts, or so-called stimulus plans. No IRS. No Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor. No EPA and OSHA. No Federal Reserve. No drug laws. Few systems of public schooling. No immigration controls. No federal minimum-wage laws or price controls. A monetary system based on gold and silver coins rather than paper money. No slavery. No CIA. No FBI. No torture or cruel or unusual punishments. No renditions. No overseas military empire. No military-industrial complex.

The author needs to return to school.

Let’s start with the simplest one first. Public schooling. In fact mandatory public schooling started in 1852 in Massachusetts. By the end of WWI all the states had laws mandating school attendance and it wasn’t until 1925 that the government recognized the right to religious or home schooling instead of mandatory attendance at a public school.

No immigration laws. I suppose that may be technically true although there were limits on immigration of Chinese set by treaty, and those limits were expanded in 1882 by the Chinese exclusion acts. These acts also denied the Chinese the right to become citizens.

No Dept of Agriculture, Commerce, etc. – The Department of Agriculture was established in 1862. It achieved full cabinet status in 1889. Department of the Interior was established in 1849, Department of Education, originally established in 1867 but demoted to an Office in 1868.

Bimetallism – That seems to be a really weak one to hang your hat on. As I recall from my history classes bimetallism was one of the major causes of the growth of the progressive movement. Following the discovery of new deposits of silver deflation began occurring which lead to the coinage act of 1873. This essentially lead to the ruin of many farmers who could no longer pay their mortgages due to a collapse in prices. It was a central point in the 1896 Presidential election.

No overseas military empire. Again technically true but it ignores the forcible seizing of Indian lands, Andrew Jackson’s seizure of Florida from the Spanish. The Mexican-American war and it’s outcome (absorption of California, New Mexico, and Arizona), and the Indian wars. The tenther crowd would include the Civil War.

You see what I mean. It’s a very selective reading of history that allows the author to make his assertions. I don’t disagree with his ultimate conclusion –

But should those exceptions and infringements prevent us from appreciating and honoring the fact that our ancestors brought into existence the freest, most prosperous, and most charitable society in history?

I just think we need to acknowledge the flaws and try not to repeat the mistakes.


-FMJRA roundup-

Light fare this week.

XBradTC linked my outrage over Obama’s new nuke policy.
Curses! Foiled Again! picked up the 5 things we should have known about the health care reform act before it passed.


China experiences it’s first trade deficit in 6 years. I’m not sure I believe this. It seems a bit too opportune an occurence, coming as it does at a time when the US may be on the verge of declaring China a currency manipulator.

A followup on the unpaid internship story from last week. –

California’s labor department has issued updated guidelines on whether internships should be paid or unpaid, with the new rules giving employers slightly more latitude not to pay them.

In an advisory letter to a program that teaches information technology, the department’s top lawyer reinterpreted the criteria on compensation for internships, and, in a nod to employers, said interns need not always be paid when they do some of the same work as regular employees.


Over all, the guidance from the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement was emphatic that for internships to be unpaid, they must be educational and predominantly for the benefit of the intern, not the employer.

MSNBC declares Obamanomics is working

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Portlandic permalink
    April 10, 2010 10:16 am

    5PM Pacific today on C-SPAN2: Marcia Nussbaum discusses her book, “From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law”

    • jenn1964 permalink*
      April 10, 2010 10:59 am

      Thanks, I’ll try and catch it.

  2. April 11, 2010 1:44 pm

    I can’t believe someone actually wrote that. But hey, if they would have gone back 20 years they may have gotten some of the data right. Even though the author would not appeal to the tax facts. The actual tax on income came along in 1913, if I have my data right however there was a 10 year of tax on personal income from 1861 when congress passed the revenue act to get money to cover war costs..

    (added by Jenn – This was caught by the spam filter and looking at who it is from it very possibly is spam, but it also relates to the post so I am going to approve it)

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