Friday, March 22, 2013

I'm all for peaceful rebellion


The Whiskey Rebellion

This article appeared in The Free Market, September 1994.
In recent years, Americans have been subjected to a concerted assault upon their national symbols, holidays, and anniversaries. Washington's Birthday has been forgotten, and Christopher Columbus has been denigrated as an evil Euro-White male, while new and obscure anniversary celebrations have been foisted upon us. New heroes have been manufactured to represent "oppressed groups" and paraded before us for our titillation.
There is nothing wrong, however, with the process of uncovering important and buried facts about our past. In particular, there is one widespread group of the oppressed that are still and increasingly denigrated and scorned: the hapless American taxpayer.
This year is the bicentenary of an important American event: the rising up of American taxpayers to refuse payment of a hated tax: in this case, an excise tax on whiskey. The Whiskey Rebellion has long been known to historians, but recent studies have shown that its true nature and importance have been distorted by friend and foe alike.
The Official View of the Whiskey Rebellion is that four counties of western Pennsylvania refused to pay an excise tax on whiskey that had been levied by proposal of the Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton in the Spring of 1791, as part of his excise tax proposal for federal assumption of the public debts of the several states.
Western Pennsylvanians failed to pay the tax, this view says, until protests, demonstrations, and some roughing up of tax collectors in western Pennsylvania caused President Washington to call up a 13,000-man army in the summer and fall of 1794 to suppress the insurrection. A localized but dramatic challenge to federal tax-levying authority had been met and defeated. The forces of federal law and order were safe.
This Official View turns out to be dead wrong. In the first place, we must realize the depth of hatred of Americans for what was called "internal taxation" (in contrast to an "external tax" such as a tariff). Internal taxes meant that the hated tax man would be in your face and on your property, searching, examining your records and your life, and looting and destroying.
The most hated tax imposed by the British had been the Stamp Tax of 1765, on all internal documents and transactions; if the British had kept this detested tax, the American Revolution would have occurred a decade earlier, and enjoyed far greater support than it eventually received.
Americans, furthermore, had inherited hatred of the excise tax from the British opposition; for two centuries, excise taxes in Britain, in particular the hated tax on cider, had provoked riots and demonstrations upholding the slogan, "liberty, property, and no excise!" To the average American, the federal government's assumption of the power to impose excise taxes did not look very different from the levies of the British crown.
The main distortion of the Official View of the Whiskey Rebellion was its alleged confinement to four counties of western Pennsylvania. From recent research, we now know that no one paid the tax on whiskey throughout the American "back-country": that is, the frontier areas of Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and the entire state of Kentucky.
President Washington and Secretary Hamilton chose to make a fuss about Western Pennsylvania precisely because in that region there was a cadre of wealthy officials who were willing to collect taxes. Such a cadre did not even exist in the other areas of the American frontier; there was no fuss or violence against tax collectors in Kentucky and the rest of the back-country because there was no one willing to be a tax collector.
The whiskey tax was particularly hated in the back-country because whisky production and distilling were widespread; whiskey was not only a home product for most farmers, it was often used as a money, as a medium of exchange for transactions. Furthermore, in keeping with Hamilton's program, the tax bore more heavily on the smaller distilleries. As a result, many large distilleries supported the tax as a means of crippling their smaller and more numerous competitors.
Western Pennsylvania, then, was only the tip of the iceberg. The point is that, in all the other back-country areas, the whiskey tax was never paid. Opposition to the federal excise tax program was one of the causes of the emerging Democrat-Republican Party, and of the Jeffersonian "Revolution" of 1800. Indeed, one of the accomplishments of the first Jefferson term as president was to repeal the entire Federalist excise tax program. In Kentucky, whiskey tax delinquents only paid up when it was clear that the tax itself was going to be repealed.
Rather than the whiskey tax rebellion being localized and swiftly put down, the true story turns out to be very different. The entire American back-country was gripped by a non-violent, civil disobedient refusal to pay the hated tax on whiskey. No local juries could be found to convict tax delinquents. The Whiskey Rebellion was actually widespread and successful, for it eventually forced the federal government to repeal the excise tax.
Except during the War of 1812, the federal government never again dared to impose an internal excise tax, until the North transformed the American Constitution by centralizing the nation during the War Between the States. One of the evil fruits of this war was the permanent federal "sin" tax on liquor and tobacco, to say nothing of the federal income tax, an abomination and a tyranny even more oppressive than an excise.
Why didn't previous historians know about this widespread non-violent rebellion? Because both sides engaged in an "open conspiracy" to cover up the facts. Obviously, the rebels didn't want to call a lot of attention to their being in a state of illegality.
Washington, Hamilton, and the Cabinet covered up the extent of the revolution because they didn't want to advertise the extent of their failure. They knew very well that if they tried to enforce, or send an army into, the rest of the back-country, they would have failed. Kentucky and perhaps the other areas would have seceded from the Union then and there. Both contemporary sides were happy to cover up the truth, and historians fell for the deception.
The Whiskey Rebellion, then, considered properly, was a victory for liberty and property rather than for federal taxation. Perhaps this lesson will inspire a later generation of American taxpayers who are so harried and downtrodden as to make the whiskey or stamp taxes of old seem like Paradise.
Note: Those interested in the Whiskey Rebellion should consult Thomas P. Slaughter, The Whiskey Rebellion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); and Steven R. Boyd, ed., The Whiskey Rebellion (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985). Professor Slaughter notes that some of the opponents of the Hamilton excise in Congress charged that the tax would "let loose a swarm of harpies who, under the denominations of revenue offices, will range through the country, prying into every man's house and affairs, and like Macedonia phalanx bear down all before them." Soon, the opposition predicted, "the time will come when a shirt will not be washed without an excise."
Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian School, founder of modern libertarianism, and chief academic officer of the Mises Institute. He was also editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and appointed Lew as his executor. See Murray's books.
Copyright © 2013 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Laurence Vance. Another hero to me, along with William Grigg, posted this in Lew Rockwell today:

The Iraq War Was a Just War

Recently by Laurence M. Vance: Janus Christians
The Iraq War began in Iraq on March 20, 2003, at about 5:30 a.m. In the U.S., it was still March 19. So that means that it was ten years ago today that the Iraq War began.
Although the Iraq War is now officially over, it actually ended three times.
The first time was on May 1, 2003, when President Bush announced – in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner – that "the United States and our allies have prevailed" and "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."
The second time was on August 31, 2010, when President Obama proclaimed that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended" and "Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."
The third time was on December 15, 2011, when a flag-lowering ceremony was held at Baghdad International Airport in which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: "The cost was high – in blood and treasure for the United States and also for the Iraqi people, but those lives have not been lost in vain."
I have argued for many years just the opposite – that those lives have been lost in vain (see "They Died in Vain" and "Why They Died in Vain"). But that’s not all. I have also said that the War in Iraq was immoral, unconstitutional, unjust, senseless, unholy, unnecessary, unscriptural, aggressive, offensive, and evil. I have also said that the U.S. troops killed in Iraq did not die for anyone’s freedoms; they died for a lie.
I wrote about the Iraq War on its third anniversary in 2006 ("Weapons of Mass Distraction"), its fourth in 2007 ("Four Years, Four Plans"), its fifth in 2008 ("Five Years and Counting"), its sixth in 2009 ("What Happened to the War?"), its seventh in 2010 ("The Forgotten War"), its eighth in 2011 ("When Will the Iraq War Really End?"), and its ninth anniversary in 2012 ("A Day of Dishonor").
But now, on the war’s tenth anniversary, I have come to my senses: The Iraq War was a just war.
In its essence, just war theory concerns the use of force: when force should be used and what kind of force is acceptable. The timing of force relates to a country’s justification for the initiation of war or military action; the nature of force relates to how military activity is conducted once a country commits to use force. The principle of the just war is actually many principles, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. A just war must have a just cause, be in proportion to the gravity of the situation, have obtainable objectives, be preceded by a public declaration, be declared only by legitimate authority, and only be undertaken as a last resort.
A war that is not justifiable is nothing short of mass murder. Killing in a war that is unjust or not a war of genuine self-defense is wholesale murder.
Therefore, above all, a just war is a defensive war. As G. K. Chesterton once said: "The only defensible war is a war of defense." This is why I now say that the Iraq War was a just war. Even President Bush once said that the War in Iraq was a defensive war.
In fact, the Iraq War was such a just war that I see no need to write anything else about it again. No more articles on the anniversary of the war. No more articles about the origin of the war. No more articles about the duration of the war. No more articles about the cause of the war. No more articles about the morality of the war. No more articles about the cost of the war. No more articles about the architects of the war. No more articles about the effects of the war. These things are all so unnecessary because the Iraq War was a just war.
The Iraq War was a just war – if you were an Iraqi.
Iraq was not responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks – as the U.S. intelligence community briefed Bush ten days after September 11, 2001, and as Bush and Cheney eventually acknowledged.
None of the alleged 9/11 hijackers were from Iraq. And even if one or more of them were from Iraq, that still doesn’t justify the Iraq War. If an American citizen hijacked an Air France jet and crashed it into the Eiffel Tower, that wouldn’t justify France attacking the United States.
Claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction were just a ruse for war. The speech that then Secretary of State Colin Powell gave to the United Nations in 2003 in which he gave a detailed description of what turned out to be Iraq’s non-existent weapons programs was later said by Powell to be a permanent "blot" on his record and said by his chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson to be "a hoax on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations Security Council." According to the Duelfer Report – the final report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction by the Pentagon and CIA organized Iraq Survey Group – Iraq had no deployable weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the U.S. invasion in March 2003, and had not produced any since 1991.
The Downing Street Memo (2002), which was made public in 2005, showed Bush’s long-standing intent to invade Iraq and his willingness to provoke Saddam Hussein into providing a pretext for war.
The necessity of going to war in Iraq was a lie from the very beginning. A student at the University of Illinois documented in 2004 twenty-seven rationales given for the Iraq war by the Bush administration, war hawks in Congress, and the media between 9/11 and the October 2002 congressional resolution to use force in Iraq. It was "the Bush administration, and the President himself" that "established the majority of the rationales for the war and all of those rationales that make up the most prominent reasons for war." A report prepared by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform in 2004 (Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq) showed that in 125 separate appearances, Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, and Rice "made 11 misleading statements about the urgency of Iraq’s threat, 81 misleading statements about Iraq’s nuclear activities, 84 misleading statements about Iraq’s chemical and biological capabilities, and 61 misleading statements about Iraq’s relationship with al Qaeda." But even before these, Robert Sheer proved, in his 2003 book Five Biggest Lies Bush Told about Iraq, that every major assertion the Bush administration put forward to justify the invasion of Iraq was false.
Iraq was never a threat to the United States, and no Iraqi was ever a danger to an American, until Americans invaded and occupied Iraq. U.S. troops were not liberators, peacekeepers, or patriots; they were aggressors, destroyers, and mercenaries. Iraqis were perfectly justified in using whatever means were necessary to repel an invasion and resist an occupation – just like Americans would be fully justified in doing the same. If ever there was a just war, the Iraq War was a just war.
March 20, 2013