Axioms and Animadversions (2)

I recall a few years back that it was fashionable to argue that Abraham Lincoln was a closet homosexual, based on the thin tissue of his letters to Joshua Speed and other close friends, along with the fact that Lincoln sometimes shared a bed with a man (including Speed I think), especially when out on the road doing legal work and staying at the local inn. To be sure, this was decades before Guglielmo Marconi invented Gaydar, and it overlooks the fact that it was entirely common for men to share beds in the cramped rooms of 19thcentury inns and taverns.

Well that’s old hat. The new thought from revisionist lefties is: Lincoln was a Marxist! No, seriously, that’s the Shiny New Thing:

According to an essay by Gillian Brockell, “Lincoln was regularly reading Karl Marx” and appears to have adapted a Marxist conceptualization of the labor-capital relationship to the discussion of slavery in his first annual message to Congress.

Economic historian Phil Magness (a recent Power Line podcast guest) makes quick work of this nonsense idea:

The claim that Lincoln regularly read Marx, or picked up economic doctrines from Marxist writings, is entirely anachronistic. Marx did not publish the first volume of his treatise Capital until 1867, some two years after Lincoln was assassinated. His earlier writings on the relationship between capital and labor primarily appeared in obscure European outlets with little circulation in North America, and even the Communist Manifesto of 1848 went almost completely unnoticed in the English-speaking world until sometime after 1870.

There’s much more in Phil’s thorough fisking, but you get the idea.

Today is the official publication date of an important new book by Prof. Edward J. Erler: Property and the Pursuit of Happiness: Locke, the Declaration of Independence, Madison, and the Challenge of the Administrative State. As you will gather from the title, property rights are the central focus of the book, and it collects a number of revised essays from Erler.

Here’s a nice overview of why this issue is important, from the Introduction:

The right to property has almost disappeared today from the Bill of Rights. It is the only “fundamental right” in the pantheon of rights that does not receive strict judicial scrutiny against legislative and executive encroachment. This development came about as the result of the advent of the administrative state and what has been called post-constitutionalism. The private right to property stands as a barrier to the developing doctrine that all property is held in public trust and that the rightful owner, to be chosen by government, is the one who can best serve a “public purpose.” Once the Supreme Court amended the original language of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause from “public use” to the more expansive “public purpose,” constitutionalists should have taken alarm at this first innovation on the right to property. The right to property was always regarded as the “fence to liberty,” and once that fence was breached, liberty would be in danger.  The fence to liberty has in fact been breached, and the right to property, as I argue, has been restored to something like a feudal basis where government has become the “universal landlord.” Liberty is indeed under attack by an administrative state that is fast evolving into a post-constitutional state, where administration is deemed to have replaced the Constitution and politics.

Definitely worth picking up for your reading pile.

 While we’re on the subject of “diversity”—we were, weren’t we?—we ought to recall the sage view of the issue from the world’s greatest TV journalist, Ron Burgundy:

And finally, as you prepare for tonight’s resumption of the Democratic Party’s cage matches, you can’t do much better than this tweet:

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