Charlottesville’s Past That Isn’t Even

Here in Charlottesville, Virginia, I like to point out that the rallies of racists are mostly imported from out of state. It’s tempting to relax comfortably on that assertion, and to reflect on how our great lord and master Thomas Jefferson owned people with more reluctance and inner turmoil than Barack Obama bombing a foreign country or Donald Trump mouthing kind or coherent phrases from a teleprompter.

Reality is a little more troubling. Jefferson was a vicious and heartless profiteer and racist who was into slavery for the money and the benefits. UVA had ties to the KKK in the 1920s when the racist war monuments were put up in segregated parks by a wealthy resident. Jim Crow ruled until the Civil Rights movement and has been dying hard. Most people, including the mayor, didn’t come around to favoring taking the statues down until after the deadly rally.

Now Charlottesville’s tragedy has helped many other places take down the sort of statues that still stand in Charlottesville, albeit now covered in black tarps. But Charlottesville and UVA have been leaders on these issues in other ways that one doesn’t hear much about. Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains is illuminating, and criticisms of parts of the book, which I am in no position to judge, do not touch on some central points.

The right-wing anti-government movement that has created things like unregulated “development” in Houston, the defunding of preparation for hurricanes, free rein to destroy the earth’s climate for war and profit, and the bizarre cultural understanding in which we simply accept that we must fund disaster relief ourselves as the government is too busy funding wars and billionaires — all of this has deep roots in an institute of economists now based at George Mason University but originally created at the University of Virginia in 1956 in response to school integration. And those economists’ teachings have deep roots in the thinking of leading advocates for slavery.

James McGill Buchanan created at UVA an economics department funded by Charles Koch and dedicated to expanding the power of the wealthy to hoard more wealth, and to reducing the power of the masses to influence government. John C. Calhoun, proponent of slavery extraordinaire, was the grandfather of the deceptive ideology advanced. In Calhoun’s thinking, taxing a slave owner was an abuse and exploitation, whereas owning someone as a slave was simply the exercising of liberty. Similarly, taxing an oil CEO is tyranny in today’s libertarian understanding, whereas letting people drown in a flood is just right and proper.

Making this twisted line of thought presentable as a quantifiable science overseen by experts has been the work of decades of deliberation and deception. Yet slavery has not been made presentable again, and opposition to public spending on human needs grew out of slavery — arose in fact only in areas that practiced slavery. Buchanan and others did not set out to win over the public, but to mislead the public into supporting policies that would have little backing if properly understood.

Massive resistance was not massive, de-funding is not reform, and the right to work is not a right.

Virginians did not rise up en masse and compel their representative government to shut down all the schools rather than integrate them. Rather, state politicians elected by a corrupt system imposed a shutdown in the face of significant popular resistance to it.

The economist schemers knew that shutting down schools was unpopular, so began the ongoing effort to sell the defunding of schools as school reform, innovation, experimentation, choice, and so forth. They would push the same lies about Social Security and healthcare.

In 1974, Charles Koch set up his own foundation and held its first event here in Charlottesville with Buchanan as featured speaker. Buchanan and his ilk went on pushing for more wealth consolidation and de-democratization, to “save capitalism from democracy.” Buchanan offered Augusto Pinochet guidance on how to entrench elite rule in Chilean institutions, and sought the same in the U.S., working toward the “removal of the sacrosanct status assigned to majority rule.”

Tyler Cowen, who would later succeed Buchanan and who now leads the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, says that in the future people will be “expected to fend for themselves much more than they do now.” The U.S. will be “some version of Texas — and then some.”

You’re welcome, world.

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  • fritter

    That’s not a very good correlation between capitalists and racists. It makes a sort of sense that anyone who supported slavery would favor the monied gentry of former times, but that’s a superficial analysis. Its like saying socialists must be fans of Stalinistic purges because of some common desire to have the state control the means of production. Does it even matter if evil, greedy people are also racists? One thing we can say for sure is that the alt right are not in the same class of people as Jefferson, Obama, or the Kochs. I’m not sure why you are tying these threads together. Capitalists exploit people but I’d say they find it cheaper to pay them a pittance than maintain them as slaves.

  • WillDippel

    Here’s an interesting look at where one American academic places the blame for the recent resurgence of the alt-right in the United States:

    It’s always easiest to blame outside forces.

  • Beautifully written and deliciously sarcastic.

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    Every Race on the Planet has been Enslaved. Today, You`re all Slaves. They like to keep the slaves fighting with themselves so that they never figure out that they are all Slaves. Basically, Living on Credit makes you a Slave by Roman Definition. Rome Basically invented modern Credit to makes Slaves of Citizens.

    So, why all the RAGE over Statues? Poor People … You will remain Slaves with that Attitude! Now, if you`re sick of being SLAVES, then put 1-million Slaves on Wall Street, close the Exchanges, and DEMAND YOUR FREEDOM. You may even get RICH in the Process if you are WISE.

    It will work … Otherwise, Enjoy your Slavery, it will only get worse! Anyone who thinks they are FREE, today, needs a Lesson. I will teach you, but you have to show some aptitude, first.

  • andrew1212

    UVA also has another famous “professor” who LOVES to turn the Truth upside-down–Philip Zelikow.
    Whether it be doctoring the recorded Oval Office tapes of JFK, LBJ and Nixon; or simply brainwashing the official account of 9/11 into the public’s consciousness–Zelikow is bottoms-up.

    • diogenes

      See also his ludicrously cynical “review” (in Foreign Affairs) of Stinnett’s Day of Deceit and its exposure of the original Pearl Harbor, about a year before the arrival of the “new Pearl Harbor” wished for in the report of the Project For A New American Century, with which he was also intimately involved.

  • diogenes

    David Swanson, please provide documentation which you regard as reliable for this assertion: “Jefferson was a vicious and heartless profiteer and racist who was into slavery for the money and the benefits.” It deserves it, and so does your reputation.

  • Wikipedia suggests that TJ thoughts changed between writing the Declaration of Independence in 1775 and becoming a member of Congress in 1783, possibly due the influence of John Adams.

    • diogenes

      I fail to locate the passage you refer to in the article. Can you be more specific? You seem to imply that Adams led Jefferson away from the egalitarian sentiments of the Declaration, at least as applied to race. This is hard to swallow. Boston was the cradle of abolition and John Adams was of its essence. His son, John Quincy Adams, was the person who, in his post-presidential career as Congressman, commenced to force Congress to confront the issue of slavery, and his son, Charles Francis Adams, led the Massachusetts regiment of black soldiers who marched into Richmond when it fell.

      • Wikipedia editors have a style of writing in key to express their belief about the secret crimes of the “Hiney error gang” – the most typical of which is the secret murder of a public figure and their replacement with an imposter. It’s a folk history that would be called “crazy”/”conspiracy” etc. if written out in prose; it’s also not possible to prove convincingly, nor is it as accurate as conventional history. In the case of Jefferson, they believe based on various writings that the original TJ was murdered and replace with an imposter at some point between 1775 and 1783. They indicate 1799 as their best guest. This is indicated in many passages in the article, particularly in the section titled “Election of 1796 and Vice Presidency”. They believe the original Thomas Jefferson did not write “A Manual Of Parliamentary Practice” in 1800. Sounds crazy. My interpretation sounds crazy. But there it is. One can read/interpret many such folk stories in various histories and wonder whether or not they are true.

  • diogenes

    David Swanson, I’m again respectfully requesting that you provide a reference to historiographically reputable documentation of your assertion that “Jefferson was a vicious and heartless profiteer and racist who was into slavery for the money and the benefits.” I have the impression that you are intelligent enough, and possessed of sufficient conscience, to understand the necessity. Your self-respect requires it. As you should be in a position to appreciate. Thank you. I will look back and see what your self-respect has to say, or not.

    • The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson

      A new portrait of the founding father challenges the long-held perception of Thomas Jefferson as a benevolent slaveholder

      Read more:

      Mr Jefferson’s Lost Cause, Land, Farmers, Slavery and the Louisiana Purchase by Roger G. Kennedy. Oxford University Press, New York, 2003

      ISBN: 0-19-515347-2, Hardback. Pages: 350 List Price $30.60

      Reviewed by John Wedgwood Pound MA (Dunelm) Ph.D Student, University of Birmingham.

      Kennedy, supported by a wealth of material, demonstrates at length the idealism of Jefferson’s Agrarian republic vision against the reality of planter dominance, land speculation, exploitation and betrayal. He paints in rich detail a picture of the South’s dependence on slave labour, cotton, and British economic power. This dependence is a central theme – it drives the Virginians in the White House to shamelessly favour the Planters in maintaining a system only sustainable by continual expansion into new territories. Thus lay the imperative to acquire, by fair means or otherwise, the backwater territories of distracted European Powers.

      • diogenes

        Thank you. I’ll have a look at Kennedy’s book.

        The first essay linked includes the statement that: “In 1860, the value of Southern slaves was about three times the amount invested in manufacturing or railroads nationwide.”

        It should be remarked also — and almost never is — that this “value” was appraised and mortgaged on Wall Street. Wall Street finance dominated the import-export economy of the South from before 1800 until 1861, including “Southern” slaves, on whose bodies Wall Street sold mortgages — thus establishing and “financializing” their market “values” and their utility as collateral for Wall Street usurers. Without these key vital “services” provided by the bankers of New York City, “Southern” slavery would not have prospered or survived. If we’re going to topple statue of Confederate generals in fairness and honesty we need to topple the statues, also, of such characters as the Roosevelt ancestor bankers and their fellow New Yorkers who enabled Southern slavery.

        • “And in moral decency . . .”


          • diogenes

            Not to mention common sense. And cents: the “cost” of shelter paid by Americans does not reflect the actual cost of building and maintaining shelter. It is grossly inflated by the “cost” of maintaining mortgage investors and land investors, contractor costs inflated by usury and supply costs inflated by usury enabled monopolies. Absent these costs of maintaining an oligarchy of the one-in-a-thousand 0.1% of Americans and others who own a controlling interest in America and operate it for their own benefit (including ownership of 28% of it) — absent those costs, Americans would be paying about 10% of what is now extracted from us for rent-slavery or mortgage serfdom. Itt’s a free country — you have a choice: serf or slave. Now let’s all go out and topple some statues of Confederate generals. That will keep the idiots occupied indefinitely, while the weenie roast continues.

  • diogenes

    David Swanson, I’m still waiting for you to show in this case the decency I’ve come to expect from you. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to your readers. Your case does not require, and is self-smeared by, the unmeasured and unthinking vituperation of your comment on Jefferson, which no balanced consideration of the man will remotely support.