Discovering the Austrian School of Economics 3 or so years ago has helped me undo years of miseducation regarding economics. Like so many others, I now have a firm grasp of the principles underpinning how the market actually works. In addition to economics, I have come to a new coherent interpretation of history as well.
It is hardly an earth-shattering notion that what we learn in government schools is not necessarily the truth, or not the whole truth anyway. In many cases, they are outright lies. It is hardly conspiratorial to think that, in creating school curriculum, those with power have an incentive to teach a certain kind of history. It’s as old as school itself really. By and large, the history taught in American public schools celebrates the American State and everything it stands for. Of course, what the state stands for is force. Force in the form of a redistribution of wealth for their welfare schemes, and especially force in the form of glorious warfare. The state, in its history, is at its best when at war. Furthermore, the state can generally preclude any questioning of its version of history by aligning itself with all that is good in history. Every war the United States has involved itself in was right, moral and just. The most revered presidents are those that sent the most people off to die on the alter of statism. The Lincolns, Wilsons and Roosevelts, we are told, are the embodiment of everything good in American history.
Luckily, and in no small part thanks to the internet, people craving more than just state propaganda in regards to history can locate “alternative” historical works, or what I like to call, the truth. Reading through Great Wars and Great Leaders, a collection of revisionist historical essays, is as eye-opening as it is infuriating. As the summary blurb states:
The great historian of classical liberalism strips away the veneer of exalted leaders and beloved wars. Professor Ralph Raico shows them to be wolves in sheep’s clothing and their wars as attacks on human liberty and human rights.
It’s all there in extremely-well documented black and white. In many cases, the very words of the leaders and their historical apologists themselves betray their true intentions. How the upper echelons of British and American political circles conspired together to bring about American involvement in World War I and II. How a generally noninterventionist American population was propagandised into supporting a globe-spanning Anglo-American empire that continues to this day. How high-minded rhetoric of “democracy” and “human rights” was (and is) used to pursue empire and war. We are all familiar with the most recent American crusade to make the world safe for democracy, but many may not know that it was “progressive” democrat Woodrow Wilson who first enunciated such a policy to force Americans into one of Europe’s many wars. The moral-sounding rhetoric used is to stymie any possible debate. I mean, you don’t hate democracy, human rights and freedom do you?
Unfortunately for state propagandists, reality rears its ugly head in the form of historical documentation to show just how empty such rhetoric is. When you think about the “Good War” (World War II) you immediately think of an epic struggle of good vs. evil. The “court historians” would have you believe that morality dictated that we stand up to Hitler. But if morality was our guide, then surely it required at least an equal response to Stalin. From Great Wars and Great Leaders:
[In 1939 and 1940], Hitler had slain thousands, but Stalin had already slain millions…It has yet to be explained why there should be a double standard ordaining that compromise with one murderous dictator would have been “morally sickening,” while collaboration with the other was morally irreproachable.
What is the point of revisionist history, some may ask? History is in the past, and we can’t do anything about it now. This is true. No amount of revision can stop the slaughters that ensued in both World Wars. No revision of the past can alter the course that history has taken thus far.
However, as William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” George Orwell also understood the importance of history when he wrote “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.” In other words, only by understanding the past can we hope to avoid its mistakes. Unless we have an honest account of historic events, history will begin to rhyme, as Mark Twain once wrote. Everything is connected, the continued presence of American troops all over the world is directly related to the outcome of World War II, which itself was directly related to the outcome of World War I and so on. A little known (at least to American public school children and the voting adults they eventually become) event in 1913 (the passage of the Federal Reserve Act) is directly responsible for every financial crisis since then, from the Great Depression of 1929 to the Great Recession of 2008. Only by viewing history through an instructive lens can we move away from the platitudes and myths propagated by politicians and their court-historians. It isn’t easy to cut through the BS taught to us in school. In many ways, we want to believe all of the lies. But it is a necessary endeavour in our effort to discover the true enemies of freedom, peace and prosperity.
I can only imagine that George W. Bush’s bought-and-paid-for historians are working feverishly to cement his place in history as one of the “great” presidents. He has the credentials; ceaseless expansion of government at the expense of American liberties? Check. Murderous warfare visited upon various peoples of the world? Check. All of these policies sold through propaganda and lies? Check. Yes, George W. Bush (and his successor for that matter) has the resume for a successful future as one of America’s greats. One can only hope that the internet continues to shine its spotlight on the misdeeds of these corrupt, murderous usurpers so that future schoolchildren can be spared the drivel of the wars of the 2000s being the “good wars.” At the very least, I hope it reinforces the idea that the interests of those with power is not always compatible with the citizenry, and in many cases they are at odds with each other. It is the only way to understand how the current crisis in the financial markets, the Middle East and all of the other quagmires created by the state are related and what needs to be done to move towards a prosperous, peaceful and free future.