Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Historians’

Why We Need True History and Good Historians

Posted by M. C. on October 20, 2022

Ryan McMaken

[This article is adapted from the introduction to the Historical Revisionism panel at the 2022 Supporters Summit at the Arizona Biltmore.]

In his novel 1984, George Orwell noted the role of the regime in controlling information about the past. After being “re-educated” by the ruling party, the protagonist Winston Smith dutifully recited the party’s wisdom regarding the fact that “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

In other words, the ruling party in the world of 1984 understood that controlling historical narratives is key in influencing the public’s ideological views.

This is difficult to deny.

Speaking on the Industrial Revolution, historian Ralph Raico noted the importance of history in winning ideological and political battles. According to Raico:

It’s a curious fact that of all the disciplines, it seems that history more than philosophy or economics determines people’s political views. We might consider this unfair. We might think that economics has more to say about what people should think about competition and antitrust, philosophy has more to say about what people should think about natural rights. But in fact, most often it seems that its history—or interpretations of history—that will influence the positions that people take.

Some people, of course, will insist that the most important means of convincing people to one position or another involves rigorous logical arguments. This approach no doubt is of special importance to some, and sound economic and philosophical thinking is certainly important when it comes to interpreting and explaining events.

But for most people, it seems—as Raico notes—historical narratives have had an outsized role in influencing and setting ideological views.

We can easily see this by noting several examples.

Among the most important historical narratives that affect people’s ideological views are views of the Industrial Revolution.

Myth as History

See the rest here

Be seeing you

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How Historians Changed the Meaning of “Liberalism” | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on July 4, 2020

Understandably enough, the current disfavor into which socialism has fallen has spurred what Raimondo Cubeddu (1997: 138) refers to as “the frenzy to proclaim oneself a liberal.” Many writers today have recourse to the stratagem of “inventing for oneself a ‘liberalism’ according to one’s own tastes” and passing it off as an “evolution” from past ideas. “The superabundance of liberalisms,” Cubeddu warns, “like that of money, ends up by debasing everything and emptying everything of meaning.”1

In truth, a survey of the literature on liberalism reveals a condition of conceptual mayhem. One root cause of this is the frequent attempt to accommodate all important political groupings that have called themselves “liberal.” This is an approach favored by some British scholars in particular, in whose conception of liberalism the doings and sayings of the British Liberal Party of the twentieth century weigh mightily (e.g., Eccleshall 1986; Vincent 1988).

There is no doubt that after around 1900 the Liberal Party in Britain veered increasingly in a statist direction. In the United States a similar transformation took place within the Democratic Party—once “the party of Jefferson and Jackson”—at a somewhat later date. But such shifts, evident also in Continental parties that kept the liberal name, are easily explained by the dynamics of democratic electoral politics.

Faced with the competition of collectivist ideas, liberal parties produced a new breed of “political entrepreneurs,” men skilled at mobilizing “rent-seeking” constituencies, i.e., those who use the state to enhance their economic position. In order to gain power, these leaders revised the liberal program to the point where it was “practically indistinguishable from democratic and social-reformist ideas, ending up by accepting the notion of the state as an instrument for redesigning society to produce particular ends” (Cubeddu 1997: 26).2

If one holds that the meaning of liberal must be modified because of ideological shifts within the British Liberal Party (or the Democratic Party in the United States), then due consideration must also be given to the National Liberals of Imperial Germany. They—as well as David Lloyd George and John Maynard Keynes—would have a claim to be situated in the same ideological category as, say, Richard Cobden, John Bright, and Herbert Spencer. Yet the National Liberals supported, among other measures: the Kulturkampf against the Catholic Church and the anti-socialist laws; Bismarck’s abandonment of free trade and his introduction of the welfare state; the forcible Germanization of the Poles; colonial expansion and Weltpolitik; and the military and especially naval buildup under Wilhelm II (Klein-Hattingen 1912; Raico 1999: 86–151, and passim). Actually, if one simply went by party labels, the National Liberals would have more of a right to the title liberal than the authentically liberal German Progressives and Freisinn, whom they opposed, and the question of whether the National Liberals betrayed genuine liberalism in Germany could not even be raised.

A similar difficulty is presented by the case of Friedrich Naumann, regarded by many nowadays as the exemplary German liberal leader of the early twentieth century.

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