Sunday, January 25, 2015

Thaddeus Russell

A reader has directed my attention to the work of Thaddeus Russell.  He is a very iconoclastic historian who seems to enrage both Leftists and conservatives.  A lot of his writings appear in libertarian sources.

I have not read his book and doubt that I will have time to do so -- so if anyone wants to do a substantial book review of it I will be happy to put it up here.

I was not impressed by his recent article showing that it was mostly "progressive" legislators who were responsible for putting huge numbers of blacks behind bars.  I think it was the extraordinary rate of black crime that put huge numbers of blacks behind bars.

His main idea seems to be that the underclass has been a major driver of social change.  Underclass refusal to abide by rules laid down by the elites of the day have forced the elites to back off and allow more liberty.

Without reading his book, I don't know how good his evidence is for that but it does occur to me that the repeal of Prohibition is a good case in point.  The puritanical elite of the early 20th century were so dominant and powerful that they even got through a constitutional amendment to make America "dry".  Mere legislation was not enough.  It had to be a constitutional requirement

So what kicked that restriction to death?  It was the sheer disobedience of ordinary people -- some middle class but mostly working class.  In their "Speak-easys" they continued drinking.  Faced with the reality of Prohibition, Americans  rejected it  -- even though it took another constitutional amendment to do so.  Maybe the slowly dawning reality of Obamacare will have a similar effect.

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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