I’m not a U.S. Civil War buff. Actually, I don’t know much about the U.S. Civil War, apart from what I’ve learned from reading Military Heritage for about ten years now. So, when a small, but loud, sect of libertarians argue that Abraham Lincoln was imperialist scum and the South fought a virtuous secessionist war I don’t say anything; not out of tacit agreement, but because I leave criticism to the better-read. But, this doesn’t mean libertarians have been silent about the matter or that there has been no internal criticism. For some time, non neo-Confederate libertarians were the most vocal critics of this mini-movement, probably because at the time the neo-Confederate mini-movement was too obscure.
But what’s a little confusion and misuse of language for Mr. DiLorenzo, compared to the masses of errors that characterize his recent works? Mr. DiLorenzo would have us think that the reason for the secession of the southern states was, oh, tariffs and such like. His sole evidence is the erection of a straw man: that Boaz and “a small band of Marxist historians” claim that “the war was caused by slavery alone.” Now note the rhetoric: Boaz claimed quite rightly that without slavery, there would have been no secession, not that “the war was caused by slavery alone,” which is a view few could hold, if for no other reason than that “the war” followed the secession and was not necessitated by it. To dispense with the canard that slavery was not the overriding reason for the secession, one need but read the “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union,” which makes it quite clear that the process was very, very, very much about keeping people in chains. I strongly encourage anyone who supports the secession of the southern states — which is quite different from the subsequent decision to wage war on them; either might or might not be justified, but they are very different acts — to read that document. They may not be made “physically ill,” but if they are decent human beings (and more so if they are serious libertarians) they will be repulsed by the sentiments that motivated those who took the south out of the union.
And, remember that Richard Gamble, in his review of Tom DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln, described the book as “a travesty of historical method and documentation.”
Why don’t libertarians continue the in-fighting and effort to correct the small neo-Confederate sect? Opportunity cost: it’s a waste of time, and most aren’t motivated by smear campaigns to undermine Republican politicians (if we dislike their policies, we attack what’s relevant). Like with most mini-movements, there will probably always be someone who supports the doctrine. But, this group is bound to get smaller and smaller, as reasonable people walk away.