I was excited when I first heard that Young Americans for Liberty had invited Thomas E. Woods to speak at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I figured that Woods, author of Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse, would have some interesting things to say about the economic crisis. I agree with his general thesis that federal policies caused the crisis and that “bailouts will make things worse.”
Woods will also speak on Saturday, April 4, in Colorado Springs at an event sponsored by the Limited Government Forum. The event will feature other speakers associated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
But then a friend pointed me to an article by Eric Muller blasting Woods as a “founding member” of the League of the South. Through archive.org, I found the web page that includes this claim in a biographical note. (I only wish this were an April Fool’s joke.)
Another archived page notes that the League of the South “seeks to protect the historic Anglo-Celtic core culture of the South” and keep that culture from being displaced. The current web page notes that the group “reveres the tenets of our historic Christian faith and acknowledges its supremacy over man-made laws and opinions.” The League “upholds the ontological or spiritual equality of all men before God and the bar of justice, while recognizing and rejoicing in the fact that is has neither been the will of God Almighty nor within the power of human legislation to make any two men mechanically equal.” The group further believes that Southern culture is “structured upon the Biblical notion of hierarchy” and the “natural societal order of superiors and subordinates.” The League of the South is thus racist and theocratic.
Woods wrote to one blogger, “I am in fact not a member of the League of the South, though I did attend a meeting in 1994 when a decentralist organization was said to be forming. I was 21 at that time.” Muller offers several facts indicating the relationship went beyond the attendance of a meeting.
In a review essay for the Mises Institute, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel writes:
Some of the critics [of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History] have laced their denunciations with ad hominem attacks on Woods. Going beyond his book’s content, they have dredged up what they consider either guilty associations with the League of the South or unconscionable past writings in The Southern Partisan. [Actually it’s the Southern Patriot.] The most egregious offender is Eric Muller. Although Muller in no way qualifies as either a libertarian or conservative, his venomous assaults, descending to the low of Klan baiting, have been frequently referenced by other critics of the book.
Obviously Muller has his own ideological ax to grind, but that doesn’t automatically invalidate his criticisms of Woods. In fact Woods was associated with the League of the South, however loosely. But Muller’s criticisms hardly end with that fact. Hummel himself writes, “Woods clearly wants to tender a neo-Confederate interpretation, in which slavery is shunted into the background as a motive for southern secession.”
So Woods is not a member of the racist and theocratic League of the South, he is only a neo-Confederate who argues the South had the right to secede. How comforting.
Muller points to an article of Woods published by the League of the South; the archived article remains available. Woods wrote that “hard-core northern conservatives have admired Southern society for remaining socially and theologically sound long after John Winthrop’s ‘city on a hill’ had descended into a nightmare of Christian heresies and secular crusading.” He praised the “social harmony and adherence to tradition that characterized the South.” The South, he wrote, “remained stubbornly orthodox in it’s Judeo-Christianity further undermined the myth that the two sections constituted a single nation.” He denounced the Fourteenth Amendment as “incompatible with a federal system.”
I’m all for federalism, but only as a means to individual rights. States do not have “rights” in the fundamental sense of the term. No state that systematically and massively violates individual rights has any “right” to secede from a broader government.
Even disregarding Woods’s past associations, he clearly believes that liberty has its roots in theology and is defined by theology. Thus, it is no surprise that Ron Paul, who has vacillated between a state’s-rights argument against abortion and a federal amendment laying the grounds for outlawing abortion, wrote the foreword to Woods’s latest book.
I do not doubt that Woods has many insights into the financial meltdown. Nor do I doubt that, ultimately, he is as dangerous an enemy of liberty as any leftist.