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Overcoming Historical Revisionism

Abraham Lincoln was a saint. Andrew Jackson was purely awesome because he ended the first central bank. Murray Rothbard was never in error. Ludwig von Mises was absolutely correct on all accounts. JFK should be exalted. etc etc etc etc etc...

None of the above folks were perfect. Here, most are familiar with the bad side of Lincoln; however, we rarely consider that Andrew Jackson presided over the Trail of Tears. The lyrics of a song by the Native American band Corporate Avenger go:

"If Hitler was on the twenty-dollar bill, how would the Jews feel?"

By selectively ignoring either the good or the bad of historic figures, we endorse the practice of historical revision. It is important that people embrace the realization that no one person is purely good or evil. Too often, people are swayed by one side of the story or the other and never consider that famous (or infamous) people were - just that - people. Everyone is flawed.

There is a common strategy that people use to "win" arguments based on the above tendencies. Suppose you are having a discussion and reference a quote from Rothbard. Subsequently, someone says "You can't take anything Rothbard said seriously. He once said that parents should be allowed to let their children die of starvation." Many times, this type of statement would set a person back. However, what the hell does that conjecture have to do with the validitiy of the original quote that you used? Likely, NONE. People that engage in such a strategy are most probably on the losing side of and should be called out.

Most people don't set out to be a perfect role model. They live and they sometimes make mistakes. People are people. Don't let the bad diminish the good. Realize that every person has shortcomings. Take the opportunity to learn from both the good and the bad.

Be suspicious when people are exalted to the status of saint.

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I don't disagree but

to whom is this aimed? Do you find people here on DP have a simplistic understanding of any of these persons?

Except for Lincoln, who few would disagree was pure evil, you could start a lively thread discussing the relative merits of these people and it would be well informed. You might even find some Lincoln apologists.

Maybe this goes on here but I don't see it much.

As for the critique of Murray, that's not the one I would use. All he said was that we shouldn't use guns to force parents to feed a child. That is a valid point. If you're going to take unilateral action, then feed the child yourself. Leave the gun in your holster.

The biggest problem with Murray is he didn't follow his own logic all the way through. He, like Dr Block, thinks that the laws of a free society would somehow always conform the to NAP. They will mostly, but not always. That's not much of a critique because arguably no one would have even given any serious thought to a free society without Rothbard's economic foundation for it in the first place.

Very well said

I often get flak when I say, praise something said by Gore Vidal or Dennis Kucinich or someone else associated with the left.

"Don't you know they are basically commies?"

Maybe, maybe not. But most likely whatever I had praised had nothing to do with their economic views.

PS. Good to see you back posting here a bit, dwalt

*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*

Been terribly busy...

I had taken a break from grad school for a while and just returned in August. I enjoy my new research much more now. I've been doing a lot of bash scripting (for batch calculations on a supercomputer) and Fortran programming (on some quantum chemistry software). I've also been learning quite a bit about parallel programming (programming software to utilize more than one cpu core).

Hopefully, I will get done sometime next year! I'm ready to have a regular job and make a little more money.

However, I'm trying to find the time for writing more. I enjoy it, and I think it has an impact.

Just yesterday, I introduced one of my Chinese colleagues to Anatomy of the State by Rothbard. He told me that Hayek's Road to Serfdom was popular in China! Remember, everyone is connected to everyone else by just 6 degrees of separation.

Soon our philosophy will take over the world! It's hard to stop the truth! Shit spreads like wildfire!

Love it

Keep up the great work !

*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*


Excellent. Couldn't agree more.

Thank you saying what needed to be said...

I agree with you completely here but I must say that 2 people who come to mind as being potentially only evil is Hillary Clinton and GHW Bush.

I still keep an open mind that something will be found in their history that is not pure evil but to date I have not found any evidence of any of their activities as being anything other than evil. The deeper I look the more evil I see.

The most powerful Law of Nature is Time. It is finite and we all will run out of it. Use this Law to your advantage, for it offers you infinite possibilities...

Thanks for your thoughts

I've recently had the same sentiment with regards to Nelson Mandela.. And Jesus.
I think that these men were part of an idea whose time had come.
It is my belief that positive change on earth is pushed forward by forces more powerful than the individuals in the midst of the change.
The collective conscience is so interesting!

The argument from authority is cheap and easy

It's true because the President said it. It is legal because Lincoln did it. It is right because RonPaul endorsed it. Yeah, those arguments are used everyday by all kinds of people.

For those of us who admire Rothbard, Rand, Mises, Hayek, Paul...we're likely to fall into the same patterns. Rather than fully understanding and articulating an argument, we take the shortcut of saying, "Well, Rand said...." in hopes that our opponent will not want to take on the great Rational Sage. Of course, then the argument veers off into Rand's picadillos, and good reasoning is lost to bad gossip.

Michael Nystrom's picture

Good on you Walters

Thank you for the essay and the words of wisdom.

To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.


I first readily understood what was meant in sight of idolizing historical figures. However, I'd have to stress that alot of the worshipping done by the populace is spearheaded by the very institutions meant to educate the people, public school systems.

If such is the case then historical revisionism is in need to properly educate those in error of the facts. As I understand it historical revisionism isn't meant to idolize or revere any past figure, it is meant to present the facts that were not revealed to the populace as such.

"Forgetting, and I would even say historical error, are an essential factor in the creation of a nation, and so it is that progress in historical studies is often a danger to nationality." -Ernest Renan