They’ve Thrown Lincoln Out of the Party of Lincoln

(formerly “Lincoln v. the Radical ‘Republicans'”)
Hat tip toThe Chinuk of Preemptive Karma,
who spotted the obvious…

Who ya gonna call?

In poker, you’d call it a “tell.” The statement that John Tillman made about the Tax Day tea parties to a Chicago journalist seems at first nonsensical:

We have to transform Illinois from the Land of Lincoln to the land of opportunity, said John Tillman (right), CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute. “Take President Obama’s home state. Take it back for liberty. Take it back for prosperity. Take it back for opportunity once and for all.”

The president of Golf, Illinois has some kind of problem with Abraham Lincoln?

Well, actually, and in all probability, YES.



It was a slip of the tongue, as are little “libertarian” tells like “statist” and “collectivist,” and, formerly, “nanny state.”

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Abraham Lincoln Association in 2004 [emphasis added]:

From the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association Vol. 24, Issue 1.

Two new books dealing with the economic dimension of the Civil War suggest that the ranks of Lincoln detractors have been augmented by libertarian economists. A generation ago this would have seemed an unlikely source of anti-Lincoln opinion. On the face of it, hostility toward Lincoln would appear as counterintuitive for market-minded economists as for emancipation-minded African Americans. By any reasonable standard, the defeat of the Confederacy and abolition of slavery, for which Lincoln was primarily responsible, signified the expansion of liberty in the form of free labor and entrepreneurial capitalism, as well as racially impartial civil rights guarantees.

Yes. There is a strong anti-Lincoln sentiment in libertarian ranks, and it has been there from the earliest of days. I showed, several days ago ["The Invisible Empire," 10 April ], that you can find a prominent Libertarian essay on Lincoln on both libertarian sites and on the virulently racist Council of Conservative Citizens’ sites, “Lincoln as Lenin.”

The Illinois Quarter 2003

But let the Abraham Lincoln Association’s Journal put it in more polite terms:

DiLorenzo and Adams, by contrast, write from a hard-edge libertarian perspective that is considered politically conservative because it is critical of the mixed economy of modern corporate capitalism. They attack Lincoln as the “great centralizer” who paved the way for the twentieth-century liberal regulatory welfare state. In this view Lincoln used the sectional conflict over slavery as a pretext for destroying the voluntary, states-rights Union of the founding fathers as well as the decentralized system of private property and agrarian-commercial liberty that was its economic corollary.

THAT is the danger. These groups that John Tillman fronts for are still libertarians, albeit hiding behind the apronstrings of “Republicanism.” Listen again to this concise critique of the Libertarian stance on Lincoln:

In this view Lincoln used the sectional conflict over slavery as a pretext for destroying the voluntary, states-rights Union of the founding fathers as well as the decentralized system of private property and agrarian-commercial liberty that was its economic corollary.

It seems odd that such a virulent hatred of Lincoln could exist within the Republican Party, but such a profound contradiction, I am led to believe, is considered “bad form” to point out these toxic daze.

Illinois license plate 2010

You know, in the manner that Strom Thurmond, unrepentent until the end for his segregationist past, and father of a Black daughter via his molested housemaid could, without blinking, attend Republican leadership conferences and rise to prominence in a Southern-Dominated Republican Senate caucus.

Otherwise: how on Earth does Illinois Policy Institute CEO John Tillman make such a profoundly WEIRD pronouncement IN Chicago, Illinois on Tax Day?

“We have to transform Illinois from the Land of Lincoln to the land of opportunity.”

What? They’re mutually incompatible? Evidently. It is SO savagely bizarre that the Chicago Tribune reporter who records it doesn’t think to ask a followup on it? What’s the negative on “Land of Lincoln”?

Illinois license plate 1954

Well, the “libertarians” that Tillman fronts for seem to have an agenda that, in some respects, runs at ideological right angles to what the vast majority consider “normal reality.”

That confessing libertarians can contort the documentary record into an attack on Lincoln for emancipation under false pretenses, tells us more about contemporary academic life than it does about slavery and the Civil War,” states the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.


There is a deep and unreported radicalism embedded in “libertarianism” that rarely sees the light of day. MOST self-identified “libertarians” and Republicans with “libertarian leanings” these days are simply looking for a quick rationalization to allow them to distance themselves from George W. Bush without ever actually repudiating the madness of his reign.

To quote myself from long ago:

But we, proud, free, brave Americans don’t take offense when some rich New York apartment landlord fronts for various other shadowy rich cranks. To the extent that they’re “libertarian” they believe that, as David Bergland, the former Libertarian presidential candidate wrote in Libertarianism in One Lesson: “Taxation is immoral, indistinguishable from theft.”

They’re also against Social Security (the Cato Institute brags that it was responsible for the ‘privatization’ notion); against public education (currently under the code phrase “school choice.”) They disdain religion (but will, seemingly, take Father Frank Pavone’s cash to put a “Terri Schiavo” initiative on Nebraska’s ballot.) They’re fanatically “free market” (the late LP presidential candidate of 1996 and 2000, Harry Brown, wrote in “The Great Libertarian Offer: “Low wages abroad are no reason to restrict imports,” and “Sweat shops abroad disappear as workers gain wealth.”) They’re anti-union, anti-safety-net, anti-tax, and pro-unlimited wealth, untaxed, passing down all the generations.

In other words, at a minimum, they’re in favor of a hereditary oligarchy. (The uneducated, one presumes, can clean their children’s mansions and dredge their moats.)*

[* 2010 note: With 50% of the population sharing 2.5% of the total wealth, we're a lot closer than  my 2006 hyperbole might suggest. - HW]

If the entire “libertarian” agenda were laid before the public, there is so little doubt as to the public’s reaction that there is equally little doubt as to why they mask their money behind an endless series of shell foundations all with highfalutin’ names.


If the public were given a real peek behind the phony-patriotic masks that these “libertarians” use, these “libertarians” obviously fear that they would be justly tarred as Machiavellian, Molochian manipulators. Self-appointed meddlers, malefactors of great wealth. Their very attempt to hide is their own self-indictment.

Attempting to flee from a crime is admissible as evidence of guilt in a court of law. Why is conscious deception not seen as evidence of guilt in the court of public opinion?

How can you (through your paid media consultants, paid Public Relations firms and paid media advertising) claim to speak FOR the “people” when your very actions belie the very concept of home rule?

And, while Howie Rich and company are endlessly in favor of “term limits,” they impose no such restriction upon themselves, and insist in picking electoral fights in any state whose policies offend them …

Lincoln hating is only Exhibit ‘A’ from the cranky libertarian playbook, but it is singularly instructive. From the “Libertarian Non-FAQ”:

30.  Dred Scott and the Fugitive Slave Laws were examples of government enforcement of slavery. [Libertarian argument]

No. There’s a subtle distinction: they were enforcement of property rights of slaveowners. It was entirely the owners assertion that he was property that the government was acting upon. If the owner had at any time freed him, he would not have been a slave.

Libertarians would love to lay slavery at the feet of government precisely because slavery is a sin of capitalism. The US government NEVER enslaved the blacks. The US government never said “you must now own this slave” or “you’ve never been a slave before, but you are one now.” US slavery was initiated by capitalists.

The US government was NOT in the business of proclaiming people free or slaves: that was a private sector responsibility until that Evil Statist Lincoln stole that sacred private right for the State. Until that time, only private, capitalist owners had the right to declare whether a black person was free or slave.

That awful statist, Abraham Lenin

Or, let’s look at that classic of Libertarian “thinking” — “The American Lenin” by L. Neil Smith (quoted by the CCC and other neoConfederate hate groups):

It’s harder and harder these days to tell a liberal from a conservative — given the former category’s increasingly blatant hostility toward the First Amendment, and the latter’s prissy new disdain for the Second Amendment — but it’s still easy to tell a liberal from a libertarian.

Just ask about either Amendment.

If what you get back is a spirited defense of the ideas of this country’s Founding Fathers, what you’ve got is a libertarian. By shameful default, libertarians have become America’s last and only reliable stewards of the Bill of Rights.

But if — and this usually seems a bit more difficult to most people — you’d like to know whether an individual is a libertarian or a conservative, ask about Abraham Lincoln.


History tells us that Lincoln was a politically ambitious lawyer who eagerly prostituted himself to northern industrialists who were unwilling to pay world prices for their raw materials and who, rather than practice real capitalism, enlisted brute government force — “sell to us at our price or pay a fine that’ll put you out of business” — for dealing with uncooperative southern suppliers. That’s what a tariff’s all about. In support of this “noble principle”, when southerners demonstrated what amounted to no more than token resistance, Lincoln permitted an internal war to begin that butchered more Americans than all of this country’s foreign wars — before or afterward — rolled into one.


The fact is, Lincoln didn’t abolish slavery at all, he nationalized it, imposing income taxation and military conscription upon what had been a free country before he took over — income taxation and military conscription to which newly “freed” blacks soon found themselves subjected right alongside newly-enslaved whites. If the civil war was truly fought against slavery — a dubious, “politically correct” assertion with no historical evidence to back it up — then clearly, slavery won.

Lincoln brought secret police to America, along with the traditional midnight “knock on the door”, illegally suspending the Bill of Rights and, like the Latin America dictators he anticipated, “disappearing” thousands in the north whose only crime was that they disagreed with him. To finance his crimes against humanity, Lincoln allowed the printing of worthless paper money in unprecedented volumes, ultimately plunging America into a long, grim depression — in the south, it lasted half a century — he didn’t have to live through, himself…

Yeah. That dastardly, Lincoln. Getting himself shot in the head that way so he didn’t have to live through his evil, statist Leninist cum Commie usurpation!

Need to change the sign, evidently

You gotta hand it to L. Neil Smith: only a looney-tunes “libertarian” could turn a man’s assassination into an ad hominem attack ON the assassinated, rather than, say, the assassin.

But, listen to this:

Happy 200th Birthday, Abe the Dictator!

10:34 pm [Feb. 7,. 2009]

Thursday is the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.    I would be perplexed by the Lincoln cult if I thought the prime Lincoln idolizers gave a damn about individual liberty.  Lincoln is lionized not because he saved self-government, but primarily because he sanctified and vastly extended Leviathan.

Here is a riff I did on Lincoln for a National Review Online symposium on Lincoln 8 years ago, and a snippet on Abe from Attention Deficit Democracy

James Bovard
Author of Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion & Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years

How can the same people who vigorously support indicting Serbian leaders for war crimes also claim that Lincoln was a great American president?

Lincoln bears ultimate responsibility for how the North chose to fight the Civil War. The attitude of some of the Northern commanders paralleled those of Bosnian Serb commanders more than many contemporary Americans would like to admit. [...]

No: Lincoln-hating among libertarians is as ubiquitous as fluff on dandelions. As I’ve pointed out earlier, this neatly segues into neoConfederate arguments and thought, since the libertarians have come up with a long series of rationalizations for the Civil War, for slavery, and, ultimately, for the “right” of secession (never mind that the question was settled in blood and fire 150 years ago.)  Libertarians have an Antebellum South view of “constitutional” law, and whatever’s been settled in the past century and a half are merely fodder for their endless fantasies about the world as they believe it SHOULD be, and not about the world as it IS, or, one might argue, the world as it COULD be.

Lincoln coffin

No: John Tillman’s statement is not bizarre — WITHIN libertarian circles. It is only OUTSIDE that context that it becomes bizarre and seemingly nonsensical:

We have to transform Illinois from the Land of Lincoln to the land of opportunity, said John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute. “Take President Obama’s home state. Take it back for liberty. Take it back for prosperity. Take it back for opportunity once and for all.”

Let’s return to Thomas J. Lorenzo (one of the authors reviewed by the Lincoln Society, above) in 2009, on the Lew Rockwell  blog, a mainstream libertarian bastion if ever there was one:

A ‘Lincoln Scholar’ Comes Clean

Historian William Marvel … is also unique among all the “Lincoln scholars” who I have read in that his books do NOT read like defense briefs in The War Crimes Trial of Abraham Lincoln, filled with hundreds of bizarre rationalizations for every odious or barbaric act. Instead, they read like they are written by a man searching for historical truth.

[...] body skipped [...]

For those who are wading through the putrid swamp of Lincoln “scholarship” that seems to have exploded in recent months thanks to Abe’s 200th birthday, and are seeking something other than yet another bundle of doubletalk and circular reasoning, read Lincoln Goes to War and its sequel, Lincoln’s Darkest Year: The War in 1862, by William Marvel.

February 12, 2009

Thomas J. DiLorenzo  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 and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today.

And, one last example, lest you believe that I’m cherry-picking. (There are a thousand other examples, and I’ve only tried to present a reasonable spectrum).

Journal of Libertarian Studies
Volume 15, no. 3 (Summer 2001), pp. 57–93
© 2001 Ludwig von Mises Institute

Joseph R. Stromberg*

[*Joseph R. Stromberg is Historian-in-Residence at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.]

Sectional conflict over control of the area taken from Mexico was a key factor in starting the subsequent War for Southern Independence, the Civil War. This period, from 1861–65, led to a mammoth resurgence of Hamiltonian statism.

First, by denying to states the right of secession, Lincoln utterly transformed the federal union, dealing a deathblow to real decentralization and abolishing the final check in the checks-and-balances system.

Second, Lincoln’s far-reaching executive “war power”—invented from whole cloth—paved the way for twentieth-century presidential Caesarism. Likewise, his conscription set a precedent for wartime, and later peacetime, militarization of America. Civil liberties naturally suffered.

With respect to the political economy, wartime centralization was equally harmful. With the free-trading South out of the union, Lincoln’s Republican administration secured passage of a “National Bank Act, an unprecedented income tax, and a variety of excise taxes” verging on “a universal sales tax.” The tariff, whose lowering Southern nullifiers had forced in 1830, was increased to nearly 50 percent, with postwar rates going steadily higher. Wartime greenbacks set a precedent for future inflation. Finally, subjugation of the Confederacy and its reintegration into the union on Northern terms made the South into a sort of permanent internal colony of the Northeastern Metropolis, just as blacks remained a sub-colony within the region. [and so on and so forth ...]

No: Tillman wasn’t hallucinating. He just made a little slip of the libertarian tongue, like calling someone a “statist” or a “collectivist.” Within the context of libertarianism he’s well within the mainstream, believing with all of his little golfing heart that they need to (minor rewrite here) “Take President [Lincoln]’s home state. Take it back for liberty. Take it back for prosperity. Take it back for opportunity once and for all.” (In a pre-Civil War, Southern sense, it ought to be noted.)

Lincoln Monument on I-80 between Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyo.

Because, crazy as it might sound, that is almost undoubtedly what he actually DOES believe, there in his 97.6% white and $90K median income golf course home.

Another ‘everyman’ for libertarian principles.

Maybe one day the endless media outlets he flits between — like a bumblebee collecting pollen — will see fit to actually ask him about what he REALLY believes.

That’d make for a hell of an interesting show.

But it won’t happen. Promise.

After all, we’re talking about modern “professional” journalists here. Which are distinguishable from coma patients mostly inasmuch as they collect semi-regular paychecks which they, themselves endorse.



UPDATE: This came to light after putting this column to bed. A sort of smoking gun, as a fellow billing himself as  “the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.”*  reviews a book by Murray Rothbard on awful Lincoln and the North not letting the South secede, a book by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel (available from, and perhaps published BY, then-owner Andrea Rich’s Lassez Faire Books) and L. Neil Smith’s infamous essay quoted above. Just so’s you know that this isn’t FRINGE Libertarian thought. It’s mainstream (i.e.

The Libertarian
by Vin Suprynowicz

… Slavery? “In every other part of the New World, slavery was peacefully bought out by agreement with the slaveholders,” Rothbard asserted in the 1994 talk on which this essay is based. (Actually, Haiti was the other violent exception.) “But in these other countries … there were no Puritan millennialists to do their bloody work, armed with a gun in one hand and a hymn book in the other. … The Yankee fanatics were the Bolsheviks of their era.”

Lincoln’s “character”? Rothbard notes that Lincoln was the perfect model of the modern ” ‘reform liberal’ … whose heart bleeds for and yearns to ‘uplift’ remote mankind, while he lies to and treats abominably actual people whom he knew.

Lincoln declared that the Union was “a family, bound indissolubly together by the most intimate organic bonds,” Rothbard points out, while meantime acting “viciously toward his own humble frontier family. He abandoned his fiancee in order to marry the wealthier Mary Todd … he repudiated his brother, and he refused to attend his dying father or his father’s funeral, monstrously declaring that such an experience ‘would be more painful than pleasant.’ “

But Rothbard is gentle on Our Massa Lincoln compared to Libertarian novelist L. Neil Smith …

Just in case you were wondering.

[* "Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His new book, Send in the Waco Killers," was released by Mountain Media March 1, 1999. Subtitled "Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998," the 500-page trade paperback is available at $21.95 per copy plus $3 shipping"]

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