Why the South Seceded

Slavery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I came across this article from Libertarianism.org (reposted by the Cato Institute) and was mildly surprised at how fervently some of the comments disagreed with the author and even criticized the groups posting the article for some sort of betrayal of principles. Reading through the comments, it seems the people who disagree with the fact “the South seceded because of slavery” are using two main arguments:
 
1) The North was (initially) willing to accept the South back into the Union with no changes to slavery.
2) Lincoln and other prominent Northern politicians made clear (in 1861-1862) the war was not about freeing slaves, as they worked to sell the war effort and build up the army.
 
Both of these statements are true, but far from the whole story. For instance, “each state declaration of secession made defense of slavery a clear objective“, and accepting the South back into the Union without addressing slavery would just have meant delaying the inevitable reckoning over the slavery issue. Events like Bleeding Kansas, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry*, and Nat Turner’s slave revolt would have continued and worsened.
 
Furthermore, part of Lincoln’s genius was his ability to judge public sentiment and then push for change when then time was right. Even though he, and abolitionists in his cabinet like Chase, Seward, and Bates, would have liked to outlaw slavery earlier, they knew majority sentiment in the North during the first couple years of the war wouldn’t support a bloody war with the sole purpose of liberating slaves. Once that changed, Lincoln saw his opportunity, and grabbed it. I highly recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” and you can get the Fountain Notes of it here.
 
Unfortunately, as happens with many popular, contrarian views, the above two points have truth to them, but are taken out of context and used to support the exact opposite historical position.
*Michael Korda’s biography, “Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee,” has a large section about Brown and his raid (since Lee was in command of the army forces who retook Harper’s Ferry). It’s a great biography, and also available as Fountain Notes Vol. 018 for those of you who want the essential information the next generation of leaders should have.
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Volume 20 of Fountain Notes will be Ray Dalio’s new book

It almost snuck past me, but prominent businessman and investor, Ray Dalio, just released his book, Principles: Life and Work. If you aren’t sure who he is, there are many hours of him speaking all over YouTube, but these clips from Evan Carmichael will give you a brief look at what he has to share.

While the focus at Fountain of Chris is educating and advising the next generation of leaders, there is plenty one can learn from a businessman as successful as as Dalio, without focusing on investment strategies or financial events.

The book is nearly 600 pages, so you can expect the Fountain Notes to be ready this Friday, the 22nd, but I’ll be back with an update before then. You can connect to the Fountain of Chris Twitter for short quotes and updates, Facebook for the good stuff that won’t fit on Twitter, and Instagram for my dogs, daily antics, and some business stuff.

Click here to take a look at the Fountain of Chris store. Volume 19 – The Haidmaid’s Tale, just released today (Thursday the 20th), and you can get the annotated edition for the price of the basic if you buy before Saturday at 12pm EDT.

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Finals Hours of the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fundraiser

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Many thanks to all of you who have made purchases in support of my fundraising effort for the United Way of Greater Houston flood relief. As I write this, there are just under 17 hours left before I match what has been raised, and send the total donation off to them.

For those of you who haven’t done so yet, pick out whichever volume(s) of Fountain Notes appeal to you before 1pm EST on September 5th, and I will match those sales and add them to the donation.

This is my way to giving you something you can learn a lot from while you also help make a difference for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Let’s finish strong!

**Click here to visit the Fountain of Chris shop**

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Two Treatises of Government – Flash Sale

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The man. The myth. The legend.

I got a bit distracted with the Hurricane Harvey relief idea and forgot that today is my man crush, John Locke‘s, 385th birthday. To celebrate, I’m going to have a 24-hour half-off sale on Fountain Notes Vol. 008 – Two Treatises of Government, basic edition. Instead of the regular $1.97, you can get it for just $0.97…and remember, all proceeds will be matched, and go to the United Way of Greater Houston for Hurricane Harvey relief.

In this volume, you will find these favorites of mine…

  • “Property…is for the benefit and sole advantage of the proprietor…but government, being for the preservation of every man’s right and property, by preserving him from the violence or injury of others, is for the good of the governed.”

  • “Every man, in the state of nature, has a power to kill a murderer, both to deter others from doing the like injury…and also to secure men from the attempts of a criminal…” A murder “has declared war on all mankind.”

  • “The end [goal] of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.” “Where there is no law, there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others.” “Who can be free when every other man’s humor might domineer over him?”

…as well as many more.

The sale lasts until 9pm EST on 9-30-17, so take a look, and buy soon.

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Hurricane Harvey Relief

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Major catastrophes require a major response, and I’m sure we have all been wondering how best to help those whose lives have been upturned by Hurricane Harvey. I’ve decided the best way I can help is to use my products as an incentive to you guys to donate more to the relief effort.

To that end, I will match 100% of the sales of Fountain Notes this week with my own funds, and donate the total to United Way of Greater Houston (4/4 on Charity Navigator with a 93.29 out of 100). Since it’s already Tuesday, this offer goes up to 1pm EST on Tuesday the 5th of September, after which I’ll send off the combined donation.

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Fountain of Chris is still a new business, with limited reach, but every bit we can donate will help alleviate the suffering of those displaced, and you will get some powerful information in exchange for your donation. Prayers and sympathy aren’t enough. Now is a time for action.

You can browse the Fountain Notes catalog on this Facebook page, or at the Fountain of Chris online store:
https://fountain-of-chris.myshopify.com/ >

I have a special offer available while this is going on. This PDF contains all 18 volumes of Fountain Notes that I had completed by the start of this fundraising effort. Please remember that I will match and donate all sales of Fountain Notes through 1pm EST on 9/5/17. This bundle is for those of you who are interested in helping, while also getting every volume of Fountain Notes, basic editions, at a steep discount. Buying all 18 separately costs $34.46, but you only pay $19.97 (saving over 40%) with this bundle. Of course, you are welcome to buy them separately, since it all goes to United Way of Greater Houston, but I wanted to give another option for those of you who are tight on funds. Here is the link. Thank you for your support. ~Chris

United Way of Greater Houston:
https://www.unitedwayhouston.org/flood/flood-donation/ >

Charity Navigator:
https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm… >

**U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West, creative commons**

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What to Do with the Remaining Public Confederate Monuments

**Short on time? Click here for a free PDF file of the notes I took while researching for this article, including many which didn’t make the final cut.**

Even after the safe removal of four monuments in New Orleans earlier this year, and the clandestine removal of four more in Baltimore earlier this month, there are still around 1,500 monuments and memorials to the Confederacy across more than 30 states. In a similar fashion to the Confederate battle flag debate from a few years ago, the current national debate is focusing on publicly displayed monuments to the Confederate cause in areas which are not battlegrounds or specific historic sites. City by city, we are in the process of deciding what to do with them.

To clarify, this debate has nothing to do with monuments or memorials to the Confederacy on private property, nor the right for private citizens to display the Confederate battle flag in public. Those are, and should remain, within an individual’s Constitutionally-protected rights. Furthermore, commentators from across the political spectrum (including The Atlantic and The National Review) think battlefields and museums remain appropriate places to display these monuments. Those who want to use their time to visit these places and learn about America’s divisive history will experience the monuments in context.

Unfortunately, creating the majority of the public memorials and statues to the Confederacy had much less to do about accomplishments in battle than it had with celebrating and promoting white supremacy over blacks, which explains why the majority were erected after the Jim Crow laws took effect, at the height of the Ku Klux Klan‘s power (1895-1915), and another spurt of monuments began after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, as Southern whites felt their superiority threatened.

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As for Robert E. Lee, it is tough to find an objective article about this man who has become so polarizing. Some focus entirely on his flaws, which are perhaps more noticeable after 150 years of social progress, but others focus entirely on his strengths, neglecting how complex his character was. This failure to provide the complete picture is exactly why I listened to the recent, 33-hour biography by Michael Korda, Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee, and created Fountain Notes for the Next Generation of Leaders Volume 018 from the information within it.

Lee is a polarizing figure exactly because he was complex. If you want to look at him and see “nothing worth celebrating”, you will find enough evidence to support your position. If you want to make him into some mythical saintly legend, you will find enough evidence to do that too…but doing either requires being disingenuous enough to ignore the other half. Perhaps gray is the perfect color for describing him, both physically, and morally.

As you will learn in Volume 18, there are a number of similarities between Robert E. Lee and George Washington. There is no way Korda could have known three years ago that in 2017, President Trump would wonder aloud to the nation if taking down monuments to Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson would lead to removals of Washington’s own monuments and memorials. Writing in Reason, Eric Boehm calls this argument “nonsensical”.

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By Cville dog – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21113526

Matthew Yglesias writes about how a Yale commission considers the concept of “principal legacy” when evaluating historical figures. To quote Yglesias, “Confederate leaders, by contrast [to the founding fathers], are being celebrated purely for doing something bad.” This statement is overly simplistic, and tosses aside the numerous admirable qualities which Lee possessed, and for which he is also remembered, but it is hard to deny that Lee’s choice to fight for the South was, whether he liked it or not, a choice to fight for continued human bondage.

In order to give you a better-educated opinion on the comparisons of Lee and Washington, I moved Ron Chernow’s 41-hour biography, Washington: A Life, all the way up to the on-deck circle, and am currently listening to it in preparation for Fountain Notes Volume 019, which should be out within a few days. So, between Volumes 018 and 019, you will be one of the best-informed people you know for discussing how Lee and Washington are alike and different, and you will know what to emulate, and what to avoid, from these two lions of American history.

This still leaves us with the task at hand: What to do with the remaining public Confederate monuments. In an article where Kevin M. Levin explains the power of seeing the empty pedestals where statues of communist leaders once stood, he also mentions off-hand what is likely the best way to proceed. Speaking about how the offending statues in Prague had either been moved to museums or destroyed, he says, “The monuments were exactly where they needed to be, as determined by the community members themselves.” [emphasis mine]

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By Volodymyr D-k – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31280461

New Orleans, Baltimore, and now potentially North Carolina, decided on their own, through local, elected representatives, to remove the statues which societal pressure has turned against. Yes, these monuments have been offensive to many from the start, and the Southern cries of “protect our heritage” may really be “fighting for their right to declare their ancestors good, despite the evidence of the horrors they perpetuated…”, but the key to bringing the Lost Cause era to a permanent end lies in community pressure, followed by local decisions.

Finally, while crowds of protesters, or lone actors, may be considered “local”, the moral cause of the removal effort is immeasurably strengthened, and made sustainable, by staying within the system. As Baltimore showed, even governments can take rapid, effective action when public opinion is strong enough. For those of you who would like to know more, but don’t have time to read all the articles I linked to, click here for the free PDF file of notes I took while researching for this article, many of which didn’t make the final cut, but are still plenty-relevant to the topic. Enjoy!

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The scary parallels between Venezuela and Atlas Shrugged

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In July of 2016, I spent 3 hours conversing with a Venezuelan on the flight from Miami to New York. Despite having lived in the United States for decades, her business and relatives gave her reasons to visit her home country multiple times each year, and she remained optimistic about its future. While, in the long run, I hope she is correct in her optimism, I wonder how her perception has changed in the past year. Ironically, we were flying on American Airlines, a company which gave up operating in Venezuela shortly after our flight.

As I read through article after article about the continuing crisis in Venezuela, a number of similarities appeared between how that situation developed and what happened to Ayn Rand’s version of the United States in Atlas Shrugged. There is one major difference; the socialist movement in Venezuela was spearheaded by a populist demagogue rather than a more collective, council effort. Still, the step-by-step weakening of a market economy, coinciding with ever-increasing government authoritarianism, and the flight of the nation’s most productive citizens to greener pastures is in lock-step with what has happened in Venezuela.

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Of course, Ayn Rand based her dystopian United States on the post-Russian Revolution U.S.S.R. Hugo Chavez’s (in)famous declaration of being a Trotskyist makes the comparison between the two even stronger. After being held up as an example nation for the first part of this century, many of Chavez’s former supporters in the developed world are disturbingly silent or blaming capitalism for the current economic failures in Venezuela. Socialism isn’t working, because it really isn’t “full socialism”. Yet, the nations who get closest to such a socialist ideal (the former U.S.S.R. and current North Korea) have to go to extreme measures to keep people from flooding out of their socialist paradises. If Chavez truly knew about Trotsky, he would have realized Trotsky’s extreme socialist measures had to be almost immediately revised in order to keep the nation from starving.

Oil production in Venezuela has fallen 30% since 1998, despite having the largest oil reserves in the world. This is a perfect, real-life example of what occurs in Atlas Shrugged. The industry was increasingly regulated, price controls were implemented, and the government took greater and greater control of who got the product. In the book, the industrialists eventually started giving up and disappearing. In real life, a massive exodus of the upper and middle classes began as Chavez vilified them, following his rise to power in the late 90s. Noam Chomsky blames “export of capital” by capitalists for Venezuela’s plight, but what sane capitalist would stay in a country insisting on making it almost impossible to even bake bread? It truly is a state where every man is a criminal, because it is impossible to not break laws. Chavez’s populism relied on the upper and middle classes to be their villains. Expecting them to stay is like expecting a domestic abuse victim not to leave. Lorenzo Mendoza, owner of Empresas Polar, is the real-life version of Hank Rearden from Rand’s novel. Beleaguered and vilified, his company carries on against every government imposition, still producing better than the nationalized factories despite the assault on capitalist principles.

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It seems rather obvious now, but many in Venezuela are wishing for things to be how they were before Chavez. Despite the thriving smuggling business for getting people out of the country, one smuggler says, “I would prefer a thousand times that there was no crisis and we could live in the Venezuela from yesterday.” The sad thing is, there were plenty of problems BEFORE Chavez came to power (which is exactly why he could come to power). Populism begins by appealing to the people; a prelude to “majoritarian extremism”. It can only thrive with polarization. Unfortunately, those people who Chavez promised to help are the ones least able to leave the country he led to ruin. If there is extreme poverty in a market economy, at least there is still food in the stores. Perhaps true extreme poverty is what Chavez and Maduro have created.

As with Atlas Shrugged, every little step toward socialism led to more problems, which led to more intervention, which led to more problems, which were blamed on industrialists. As Friedrich Hayek wrote in, The Road to Serfdom, over 70 years ago, partial steps toward socialism still lead to totalitarianism, just more slowly. Venezuela’s first steps began long before Chavez, in the late 1950s, before accelerating with the nationalization of oil in 1976. Now, around 60 years later, Nicolas Maduro is being called a dictator, and the U.S. has imposed sanctions on him and top officials in his administration. His dissolution of the popularly elected legislature is in direct opposition to his constitutional authority and puts him in what John Locke would call, “a state of war with the people.”

In a sense, maybe those who say capitalism is at fault for Venezuela have a point, but not in the way they mean. Ludwig von Mises explained in his book, Liberalism in the Classical Tradition, how socialism is a “policy of capital consumption.” As Margaret Thatcher famously said, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Once all the internal capital has been consumed providing “bread and circuses” for the people to keep socialists in power, the country becomes reliant on functioning market economies in other countries to provide the necessities it cannot produce. Capitalism is propping up the failed state that is Venezuela by providing buyers for Venezuelan oil and goods that get smuggled across the borders.

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I am not advocating we cut off trade with Venezuela. That would make an already horrible situation even worse for tens of millions of people, which is exactly why the sanctions so far have been against individuals, and not the country, or its oil. Perhaps the saddest part about all this is how it would be improved by simply removing limitations on markets. The government doesn’t have to borrow billions to feed people, or provide free medicine, or take over industries. All it has to do is step aside (from trying to control the economy). The beauty of a market economy is that even partial measures will have positive effects on the lives of the people. This was the case in post-WWII West Germany. It was also the case in Sweden, which is often held up as functioning democratic socialism, but has many more free market characteristics than Americans think.

As much as the Venezuelan situation seems a good opportunity for proponents of classical liberalism to gloat over yet another failure of socialism, Marian Tupy made the poignant statement, “I cannot rejoice, for I know that Venezuela’s descent into chaos…will not be the last time we hear of a collapsing socialist economy. More countries will refuse to learn from history and give socialism a go.” There is a pattern to socialism as described by von Mises. The printing presses and upper classes provide (willingly or not) the funds for social programs, then rising prices lead to price controls, shortages of goods follow, foreign investment collapses, and the domestic businesses are left paralyzed.

So, as we debate if an international rescue effort is a good idea, or ponder how much more valuable World of Warcraft gold is than the bolivar, my only hope is that, a year from now, the woman I shared a flight with in 2016 will have many more reasons to be optimistic about Venezuela’s future.

Fountain Notes Volumes Referenced:

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