Trump and his View of the Civil War and Andrew Jackson

trump jackson civil warPresident Trump is of the opinion if Andrew Jackson was President of the United States around the time of the Civil War that he might have prevented it from occurring at all. It’s an interesting premise in a number of way.

Firstly, Jackson actually was president near the time of the Civil War. He left office only twenty-four years before hostilities broke out and the long simmering dispute was in full bloom during his term. While president, Jackson presided over what is called the Nullification Crisis. Jackson’s actions all but caused the Civil War to start earlier.

Legislators in South Carolina believed federal tariff laws were hurting the state’s economy. They passed legislation that essentially said laws created by Congress could be nullified by the states. Jackson sent in troops and eventually South Carolina, after some negotiating, backed down.

I suspect when Trump makes the suggestion that Jackson would have prevented the Civil War, he is referencing the Nullification Crisis and the resolution therein. It’s an interesting history lesson in what can happen in a short period of time. The twenty-four years that elapsed after the crisis and the beginning of the Civil War were dramatic.

The two presidents that preceded Lincoln were Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. Both men knew the terrible danger of Civil War and did their best to appease the southern states and avoid the calamity. It is generally thought their inaction led to the conflict because it emboldened the southern states. They believed the northern states would never allow the country to go to war over the question of slavery.

Lincoln, on the other hand, was far more of a Jacksonian. He called the bluff of the southern states but, unlike at the time of Jackson, these states were now ready to push the issue. Thus, the Civil War began.

When Jackson made his stand, the circumstances were far different from the situation Lincoln found himself in. The lesson is important. We can learn from history but situations change. An action that led to one particular outcome yesterday can lead to an entirely different one tomorrow.

There is an apt idiom stating: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The idea is that someone who knows nothing about an issue generally does not attempt to fix a perceived problem. On the other hand, someone who has a small amount of knowledge might be willing to make a fix, but because their information is limited; that solution causes enormous problems.

Issues are enormously complex and fixes difficult. There is often no perfect solution to a particular problem. In the case of the Civil War, the two paths were both rather awful. One was the Civil War and the other was to continue to allow the abomination of slavery along with permitting the southern states inordinate power in comparison to their voting bloc.

The Civil War, it’s causes, and the events leading up to it are part of a complex tapestry that is not particular easy to piece together. What President Trump seems to be saying is that Jackson could have bluffed the south away from the issue of slavery. That by threatening them with war, they would have voluntarily abolished the peculiar institution. That is an example of making statements with little understanding of the issues involved.

That being said, his admiration of Jackson’s forthright style has merit. Someone should tell him that Lincoln was cut from the same cloth. That’s why the Civil War happened when it did, because Lincoln was behaving just like Jackson.

Tom Liberman

Masada Admirable Rebels or Foolish Martyrs?

masada-fortressAlmost two thousand years ago Roman soldiers besieged Masada which was held by a splinter group of Jewish people called Sicarii. This group strongly opposed Roman occupation of Judea and carried out a terrorist campaign to prosecute their beliefs.

Eventually less than a thousand of them took refuge in Masada where they held out for a few months before Roman engineers finished a ramp into the fortress. When the Romans finally arrived, they found the Sicarii had all committed suicide rather than be captured.

This event has come to be celebrated as symbol of Jewish heroism against overwhelming odds although another opinion is that it was simply a group of violent extremists who forced the Romans into drastic action. That the Sicarii brought about their own deaths because they refused to accept reality and engaged in a series of assassination against not only the Romans but any residents of Judea who they deemed sympathizers.

Which was it? Heroic martyrs or violent extremists? I think the answer to that question contains a great deal of value to the modern world. I won’t keep you in suspense. It’s apparent to me the Sicarii were violent, murdering, extremists tied to a hopeless position and willing to drag down anyone who opposed them.

The Roman occupation of Judea was generally, as were many Roman conquests, enlightened. The Romans brought their laws, clean water, and other benefits with them. This was one of the main reasons they were able to conquer much of the world. The daily lives of the average person improved under Roman rule as compared to the previous government.

I’m not saying it was all wonderful for everyone. Certainly, the leaders of the former regime often met gruesome fates or at least lost their power and prestige.

The reason I mention this is because the modern-day equivalent to the Sicarii are radical Islamic terrorist. The people who are carrying out the most horrific and terrible violence against innocent civilians would actually be far better off under the rule of those who they see as invaders. They live under despotic, theocratic rulers who allow them very little freedom and restrict their general well-being in any number of ways.

The terrorists are essentially fighting to preserve their own misery. As individuals, they have committed to a particular side and refuse to compromise in any way or even accept the fact their leaders are far from ideal.

While the terrorists are somewhat responsible for their own circumstances there are other culprits. The western world spent many years exploiting these nations for their mineral resources while propping up said brutal dictators. We are still doing so.

I think it’s important to understand that we can only be responsible for own behavior. We can’t tell a terrorist to stop her or his suicidal course. When we seek out and kill terrorists, when we support brutal dictators, when we cause terrible hardships through economic sanctions, we only push more and more of the population to terrorism. We can only control our own actions.

That’s a little bit off topic as to my point today. I’m saying that we all have choices in life. We should make decisions that are going to be in our long-term benefit. The Sicarii chose a path that led to their own destruction and did not benefit their nation in any way. Modern-day terrorists are doing the same thing.

The United States is making choices that create far more terrorists than we kill and has been doing so for some time.

What choices are you making?

Tom Liberman

Pre-Industrial to Industrial to Information

Industrial-revolutionI’ve seen quite a bit of debate both in person and online about the idea of Protectionism and why we either need to avoid it or embrace it. I find that people who believe one side of the argument seem to be largely immune to attempts to convince them otherwise. As you might imagine much of this debate is fueled by the current political climate in the United States.

President Trump is a strong protectionist. He believes that we must protect our workers from foreign depredation. On the other hand we have Libertarians like myself who believe in Free Trade. What I’d like to do today is not argue with you but ask you to argue my point. Perhaps no one will take me up on it, my blog viewership is somewhat short of the millions. However, perhaps a few people who believe in the Protectionist mantra will be willing to step forward.

So here we go.

Imagine that is not 2017 but in fact it is 1760. Before even the United States existed as a free nation.

Our economy is based almost completely on Pre-Industrial economics. Agriculture is the primary form of employment and wealth generation, as it has been for tens of thousands of years. People are born, live, and die all within fifty miles of a single location. On the horizon is a frightening thing. The Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution will destroy virtually every single job that exists today. I am a precursor of the Luddites. I believe this new way of doing things will destroy my family and my life. I will no longer be able to work, to make money. Tell me why I should embrace textile manufacturing, metallurgy, steam power, machine tools, chemicals, cement (my job is a brick layer), gas lighting, glass making, paper machines, automated agriculture, mining, canals, roads, railways.

These things will destroy my family. My children will work in a factory instead of providing subsistence farming at home. I don’t know the skills required to live in this coming world.

I will suffer. I will not have a job. You, the government, must protect me and my job from this new way of doing things. I don’t know how to write code, I mean fix a steam engine. Explain to me how it could possible be to my benefit, to my nation’s benefit, to the world’s benefit to move from pre-industrial to industrial. Why should we not fight this?

Go!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Christmas Truce a Libertarian Anthem

Christmast-truceTen million men died. Another twenty-seven million were injured or went missing. World War I. In the midst of this unfathomable horror came the Christmas Truce.

Call it humanity. Call it decency. Call it a miracle. Call it what you will. I call it The Libertarian Holiday. This was a moment in history in which men of different nations, for a brief moment, embraced the world as it would be under a Libertarian Utopia.

That moment. Those men, few if any are still alive, represent everything for which I stand. And they represent it in a way, under circumstances, under insanity, which I will never know.

These men decided to stop killing each other. They decided to cross over lines and exchange gifts. To tell each other about themselves. To share common ground beyond the vile Nation State. Beyond the politicians who would have them hate and kill one another. To find that which they shared.

And that is everything I attempt to discuss in my blogs and my novels. Why do Republicans hate Democrats? Why do Christians hate Muslims? I don’t think it’s about politics. About religion. It’s about those who fear people of like interests enjoying each other’s company despite artificial divides. It’s about two people who share an interest. Dungeons and Dragons. Model Trains. Nothing else matters.

No nation. No religion. No political party. Spend your time with those who enjoy doing the same thing as you. That is all. That is the Libertarian Utopia.

After the Christmas Truce of 1914 the powers that were forbade it. They issued strict orders that it should not occur again. The powers that be are your enemy. Those who share your interests are your allies. It matters nothing nation, religion, political party.

Those who tell you differently are manipulating you. Using you. Twisting you to their own ends. Be free, my brothers and sisters. Be free.

Be free. Be a Libertarian.

December 25th. Christmas to you. Freedom to me.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Great Pyramid of Giza and Critical Thinking

Great_Pyramid_DiagramThe pyramids of Egypt are in the news lately for a couple of reasons and it gives me the opportunity to discuss the nature of critical thinking. Of course I’ll take it!

The first story involves a new chamber being found in the tomb of Tutankahmun.

The second story involves presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s assertion that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a grain silo.

Another group of stories involves how it is impossible for the pyramids to have been built with the technology of the time. I addressed this issue in another blog so I’ll leave it alone today.

Finally is the twenty year timeline for building the pyramids themselves which is based upon certain assumptions.

The first story proudly declares that a new, hidden region was found in the burial chamber of Tutankahmun.

When I finally got around to reading the story I discovered that no such new chamber has been found at all. What they do is scan the region for temperature. An area where the temperature is slightly cooler might indicate a draft from a room. It could also indicate some damage to the structure that is letting in air. No one has gone into these areas because to do so would potential destroy them. It’s a lot of speculation and, frankly, I’m not convinced. It seems more likely to me that the cool areas are caused by structural flaws than hidden chambers, particularly because any number of these were found in the analysis.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are many hidden passages in the burial region. It just seems to me that it’s best to go with the most logical explanation before leaping to the most sensational conclusion. That’s critical thinking.

This, naturally, leads me to the rather bizarre assertion by Carson that the Great Pyramid of Giza was a grain silo. I’ve included a diagram of the pyramid to illustrate why this conclusion is so unlikely. The grain silo explanation has to do with a biblical story about Joseph warning Pharoah (Genesis 41 ESV) that seven good years would be followed by seven lean years and thus grain should be stored away.

What is called the main shaft of the pyramid, which leads to the burial chambers, is basically equivalent in dimensions to a silo. However, building a grain silo of those dimensions would have been trivial to the people that built the Great Pyramid. One look at the diagram above makes it obvious that it was not designed to store grain. Only someone who desperately wanted to come to the grain silo conclusion could possibly think otherwise. This is called a Cherry Picking fallacy. From what I’ve seen of Carson this fallacy seems to largely determine his entire thought process.

Finally, as to the twenty year time scale on the Great Pyramid of Giza. This is based on three facts.

  1. Workers left a mark in an interior chamber with their name on it and the name of Pharaoh Khufu.
  2. Khufu reigned for 23 years. This is disputed.
  3. The mummification process took some 70 days to complete.

From these three facts Egyptologists assume Khufu started the Great Pyramid upon ascending to the throne and that the completion of the pyramid coincided with his death.

I find these conclusion dubious. Khufu could have died long before the Great Pyramid was completed and been stored away until then. His reign could have been much longer than twenty years, some sources put it at over sixty.

The most logical conclusion I can draw is that some other Pharaoh started the pyramid but it was finished during Khufu’s reign and he simply usurped its use for himself.

Do we know for certain? No. But why not go with the most apparent conclusion first? Why leap to an unlikely scenario?

Tell me where my critical thinking skills have failed me in the comments!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn