the Totalitarians Among Us Love Lincoln
Thomas J. DiLorenzo
by Thomas DiLorenzo: The
American Tradition of Secession
is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust
these clashing [political] interests, and render them all subservient
to the public good."
~ James Madison,
alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the
spirit of revenge . . . is itself a frightful despotism."
~ George Washington’s
government is best which governs least."
~ Thomas Jefferson
One of the
distinctive features of my book, The
Real Lincoln, is that unlike almost all other books on the
subject, I portray the sixteenth president as a real-life, flesh-and-blood
politician. I quoted Murray Rothbard, who described Lincoln as a
"master politician" which, to Rothbard, meant that he
was a masterful liar, conniver, and manipulator. I also quoted the
Pulitzer prize-winning Lincoln biographer, David Donald, as saying
that Lincoln was "the master string puller" of Illinois
politics before he ran for president. He was just as motivated by
a compulsive quest for money and power as any other successful politician,
This drew an
avalanche of condemnation and calumny from the Lincoln cult, especially
the "Straussian" neocons, who never seem to be able to
stop raising money to erect more statues of Lincoln on college campuses
and elsewhere. Even if Lincoln was a wily politician, they condescendingly
pontificated, one must first be a politician before become a "statesman."
All of this
has changed. Various neocons are now celebrating the fact
that Lincoln was exactly as I portrayed him as being: a lying, conniving,
manipulating politician. In doing so they have finally removed their
masks and revealed themselves to be totalitarian-minded fascists
whose beliefs are patently un-American, if one compares their beliefs
to those of Washington, Madison and Jefferson as quoted at the top
of this article. The vehicle for the new neocon celebration of Lincolnian
political chicanery is Steven Spielberg’s new Lincoln movie.
Exhibit A of
this totalitarian mindset is a November 22 New York Times
article by David Brooks entitled "Why We Love Politics."
(Can you imagine Washington, Madison, or Jefferson ever saying such
a childish thing?). Compared to the traditional American ideal of
limited constitutional government as espoused by the founding fathers,
Brooks continues to advocate virtually unlimited government
by praising to the treetops the "nobility of politics"
that is portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s new "Lincoln"
movie. Rather than warning of "the violence of [political]
faction," as James Madison did, Brooks declares that "you
can do more good in politics than in any other sphere." Of
course, "you" can also create great "enormities"
through politics, as George Washington warned in his farewell address.
The Holocaust and the South African Apartheid system were both government
programs, after all, to name just two examples. Politics protected
and even subsidized American slavery for generations, let us not
forget. It has plunged us into myriad unnecessary wars, and all
the death and destruction that goes with it.
is the best place to develop the highest virtues," Brooks argues,
while denigrating "young people especially" who he sneers
at for being concerned more with community service than national
politics. And what are these "virtues" according to David
Brooks? They are on display in the Spielberg movie, he says, with
all of Lincoln’s political maneuverings. He heaps mountains of praise
on Lincoln for being so willing to "bamboozle, trim, compromise
and be slippery and hypocritical;" to "take morally hazardous
action"; to "ignore court decisions, dole out patronage,
play legalistic games," and "deceive . . . supporters."
The "highest virtues" indeed, New York Times style.
Road to Serfdom F.A. Hayek pointed out that a characteristic
of a totalitarian mindset, one that distinguishes it from individualism,
is a belief in the notion that "the ends justify the means."
All of the worst totalitarians of Hayek’s day espoused this view,
from Stalin to Hitler and Mussolini. To Stalin, the end of a "communist
paradise" was said to justify any means – even the murder of
tens of millions of dissenters. Petty totalitarians like David Brooks,
who would probably never personally harm a fly, also espouse this
dangerous, anti-social ideology and urge the rest of us to do so
as well. Getting the Thirteenth Amendment through Congress, the
main theme of the Spielberg movie, is said to have been "justified"
by any means.
But the Spielberg
Lincoln movie gets its history completely upside down. The main
story line is how Lincoln supposedly utilized every bit of his political
sleaziness to help get the Thirteenth Amendment through Congress.
This is a fiction. It never happened according to the preeminent
Lincoln scholar of our time, Harvard University’s David Donald (See
page 554 of his Pulitzer prize-winning biography of Lincoln). In
fact, the opposite was true: The genuine abolitionists in Congress
had to use their political powers to get Lincoln to
voice his support for the Thirteenth Amendment. Spielberg’s movie,
based on the book Team
of Rivals by the confessed plagiarist Doris Kearns-Goodwin,
is an extraordinarily misleading work of fiction. (See my LRC review
of Goodwin’s book entitled "A Plagiarist’s Contribution to
Lest the reader
believe that I am exaggerating by using the word "fascism"
to describe the political views of neocons like David Brooks, consider
this: Among the defining characteristics of
twentieth-century European fascism were militarism; a worshipful
attitude toward the state and politics; the denigration of individual
liberty, free enterprise, and the civil society; dictatorial executive
branch powers; and a philosophy of "the common good before
self interest." These are also the defining characteristics
of self-described "national greatness conservatives" like
David Brooks and William Kristol, and they explain why they are
such Lincoln idolaters.
is noble because it involves personal compromise for the public
good," Brooks writes in his New York Times column, echoing
the sentiments of Mussolini himself. "The fascist conception
of life, Benito Mussolini wrote in Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions
(p. 10), "stresses the importance of the State and accepts
the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the
State." German fascism was based on the identical philosophy
of "the common good comes before the private good." In
German, "Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigenntz." Under fascism
"the common good" was defined for the public by politicians
and their advisors. The public never had any voice in defining what
was supposedly good for it.
In a 1997
Weekly Standard cover article Brooks condemned genuine, limited-government
conservatives as being "besotted with localism, local communities,
and the devolution of power." He advocated an unlimited expansion
of the powers of the federal government for any reason because,
he said, "energetic government is good for its own sake."
War – any war – would be the most desirable way to create
this "good" according to neocons like David Brooks. All
of this "greatness" is now on display in places like Iraq,
Afghanistan, and Libya.
In a 1997 Wall
Street Journal article co-authored with William Kristol Brooks
advocated compulsory "national service" for all American
youths; a "mission" to Mars, and endless foreign policy
interventionism. "It almost doesn’t matter what great task
government sets for itself," they wrote. For "ultimately,
American purpose can find its voice only in Washington."
This is an
incredibly totalitarian statement, implying that there is such a
thing as one single "American voice." In reality, of course,
there are millions of different "voices" in a democracy
where there is never unanimous opinion on anything. That is why
there is no such thing as "the public interest" in the
context of democratic politics. As Ludwig von Mises wrote in Liberalism,
one can argue that such institutions as private property
are in "the public interest" in that they benefit the
entire society, but this is never true of government policy.
The language of "American purpose" presumes the opposite
– that there is such a thing as unanimous political opinion.
It is statements
such as these that explain why all of the totalitarians in our midst,
i.e., those who wish to control our every behavior through government,
have such a wildly celebratory attitude toward the Spielberg Lincoln
movie. Left-wing propagandists like Doris Kearns-Goodwin, author
of hagiographies of Lyndon Johnson, the Kennedys, and Lincoln, and
right-wing propagandists like David Brooks and his fellow neocons,
are all part of a phony "team of rivals" who pose as political
competitors. In reality, they all are part of an establishment cabal
that views those of us who are "besotted" with ideas about
liberty and freedom as their true enemies and roadblocks to their
own personal wealth and glory disguised by the language of "national
greatness" and mythical and false accounts of American history.
J. DiLorenzo [send him mail]
is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the
author of The
Real Lincoln; Lincoln
Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe,
Capitalism Saved America, and Hamilton’s
Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution
– And What It Means for America Today. His latest book is
Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government.
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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