Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Revisionist History Day

Revised and re-posted from last Memorial Day:

Since, as Paddy Chayefsky has his main character say in his movie The Americanization of Emily, " We...perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices" (see this and this), I've long thought that what is called Memorial Day would be better recast as Revisionist History Day. The state inculcates an unquestioning faith in its war-making by associating it with patriotism, heroism, and the defense of "our freedoms." This strategy builds in its own defense against any criticism of the government's policies. Anyone who questions the morality of a war is automatically suspected of being unpatriotic, unappreciative of the bravery that has kept us free, and disrespectful of "our troops," in a word, un-American.

To counter this we should do what we can to teach others that the government's version of its wars is always self-serving and threatening to life, liberty, and decency. A good way to spend part of the day would be to pick a war and read a high-quality revisionist account of it. Here are some books (in no particular order) you might use as a guide:

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell
Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men
: A History of the American Civil War, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams
The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur Ekirch
The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic, 1890-1920, by Walter Karp
The Costs of War, edited by John Denson
Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer
All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson
War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin
The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst

A good place to start is this article by Robert Higgs: "How U.S. Economic Warfare Provoked Japan's Attack on Pearl Harbor" (The Freeman, May 2006).

Many other books and articles could be added to the list. The point is this: if we are to prevent wars in the future, we must self-educate and then, when opportune, teach others.


Bob Hodges said...


That's a fascinating list. I've only read Hummel, Williams, Denson, and All the Shah's Men. I'll have to track the rest down. Happy Revisionist History Day.


Sheldon Richman said...

There are so many others that could be named. Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory should also be on the list.

Pat Sweeney said...

I am looking for a book that briefly looks at all of the major wars that the US has been in (1812, mexican-american, civil, spanish-american, ww1,ww2,korea and vietnam. Any suggestions?

Robert said...

I for one believe that it is appropriate for Americans to pay their respects and honor the men and women who have given their lives for the defense of our nation. Without them, you would have no life, liberty and persuit of happiness.

Having served our nation in the U.S. Army for twelve years I know something of the love many soldiers have for America. Having read your blog and other articles you have published, I find it hard to believe that there really are people out there who have no sense of national pride.

People like you leach off of the sacrifices others have made, gain from the contributions of the committed and disparage their honor and memory.

No, America in not perfect. Only because those like you will never see the good we do and actually work to make it better.


Matt said...

While I used to agree with your assesment come to understand a different position. There is no greater national pride than to ask your country to stay the out of other peoples business. This applies both internally and externally. There were reasons that George Washington (if I remember my history correctly) warned against entangling alliances.

If Northerners fought and rioted the drafts because they believed them to be unconstitutional; that the war was morally reprehensible would that mean that they were unpatriotic?

This demand to pay homage to the national entity is terrifying. Our liberty was not defended in WWI or WWII or even the Vietnam War. I will not speak for Mr. Richman, but should any nation send its troops to our shore I would be the first to defend it. The best way to persuade people of your ideas is not at the end of a gun, but by trade and interaction. China is the perfect example. It is slowly making its way towards liberalization, albeit it has a long way to go. Would that have been possible without the economic interaction?

Please and most of all, don't call me unpatriotic because I don't support a war that the troops VOLUNTARILY chose to participate. Surely, what should be done is not a war to stop the spread of tyranny, but open our borders and allow those being pushed out to come here and live. Encourage resistance to the tyranny through individual attempts at education and support.

Sheldon Richman said...


The Costs of War, published by the Mises Institute, edited by John Denson.

Sheldon Richman said...

Robert, I leech? Please. You beg the question; that is, you presume the soldiers were defending our freedom when that is what I dispute. You cannot just assert that. Who threatened our liberty? When?

As for the moral aspect of "service," see Leonard Read's "Conscience on the Battlefield".

Matt said...

Are we really "leaching" if we pay taxes that go to fund the military?

Sheldon Richman said...

I didn't ask for this "protection" [sic].

Matt said...

That's just the thing right? We haven't asked for the protection. If the state were to go "bye-bye" protection wouldn't go "bye-bye." Heck, there is a growing industry of private police forces. Who's to say their wouldn't militias like they used to have in the colonies, like the ones who voluntarily fought against the British.

I think Ed Stringham and Peter Leeson(?), have written some great papers about how policing and military would work in an anarchy.