In the first chapter of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four, we meet the hero Winston Smith, busy following orders in the Ministry of Truth by selecting items of history to be destroyed or changed. Orwell's foresight was amazing, for in 1948 when it was written, that could only have been allegorical; the task of changing the record of the past was laborious, involving recall of newspapers from every library for example; snipping out the bits to be altered wasn't just a few minutes' work. Yet today or very soon, that is all it takes; once Google and all its rivals are fully under government control, it doesn't matter what versions of history are out there on the Net. If those versions are not approved, few will be able to find them. They just won't show up on the search page.
Smith explains: "When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building." Why all this labor, in Minitrue? - because "'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'" As we know, government is all about control.
That's the reason the current fad about "Civil War" monuments in the South is so ominous. History is being denied, altered, in the hope that in a generation or two there will be even fewer who understand what that conflict was about - or even, for that matter, whether it took place at all!
I look forward to the day when, somewhere on the site of the former IRS buiding in DC, the new owner erects a statue of Irwin Schiff; and that will stay in place for as long as the owner wishes. Since there will not (in the ZGS) be any non-private land, there will be no destruction of statues by non-owners.
"Educated" by generations of government-school teachers to believe that the CSA was wicked, it's no wonder that monuments to its leaders are being trashed. The tragedy is not so much the trashing, more the mis-education. Slavery was wicked, of course, as is the partial slavery prevalent today; and it's true that the seceding States thought (wrongly) that slavery was indispensable to the Southern economy and gave its preservation as one of the reasons for seceding. But by rights, one can secede for any reason; and no clause in the Constitution forbade them to quit whenever they so wished.
Today it is an article of Statist faith that the War was fought over slavery - just as if Lincoln had issued an ultimatum, saying "abolish it, or we invade." There was never any such threat. Monstrous tariffs were imposed, to transfer wealth from South to North; and the Southerners were tired of that, so they quit. That was the main reason they seceded, and the secession was not an act of war.
The first act of war - the first shot, as it were - was the North's refusal to close its outpost at Fort Sumter, upon request from South Carolina. S.C. had just become an independent State, meaning it was a foreign country to the remnant Northern Union. Its soldiers and guns had no business being there; by deliberately remaining, they had actually invaded the South. After a decent period to allow removal arrangements to be made and undertakings given, without any result, the S.C. military then fired on the Fort, to encourage compliance. The only response were ships bringing extra supplies, a further invasion of the newly independent State of South Carolina.
So the cause of the War was not slavery, and it was not begun by the South. So much for the two major myths of government-school history. Those are the facts.
Some will assert that, even though the Constitution did not prohibit secession, it is anyway an act of war. I can see no logic at all to that, but notice an extra reason: the United States cannot have it both ways. If leaving an existing ruler's domain is to declare war, then in 1776 Americans began the war on Great Britain. Nonsense! What they declared was independence, for good and stated reasons; the war began only when the Brits refused to accept their declaration.
These are the facts of history, which ought to be remembered and of which everyone should be reminded. To that extent, the removal of flags, symbols and statues memorializing the Southern struggle is a tragedy. They should remain, to help remind succeeding generations that once, a large group of people tried to resist the monolithic Federal Government. However flawed they were, that's no mean feat.
Let's check further the biggest of their flaws. Preserving slavery was, indeed, one of the reasons for the secession, which is as above quite different from war. Slavery depended entirely upon the willingness of the Northern states to hunt and return any slave who escaped there; had that practice been stopped, slavery would have rather quickly collapsed. It could be sustained solely because government - North as well as South - enforced it. But still, was it, as the South believed, vital to its economy?
It's tragic that they didn't work this out, but the answer is, obviously not. Cotton and other harvests needed to be reaped, and in the mid-1800s that was labor-intensive; so labor was certainly needed. But it never came free. The costs of keeping a slave included the capital cost of buying him from the apparent owner (actually a kidnapper) and its amortization. Then he had to be clothed, fed, housed and watered. He had to be given medical care, for otherwise he'd be of no use to the "owner." All those things cost money; they were by no means free. Then at day's end he would produce a certain volume of work; a volume enforced at whip's end, the very minimum that the slave could get away with; for the slave, like every other human being, had the motive to maximize his happiness. So he was driven by the system to do the least amount of work consistent with avoiding punishment. Some work ethic!
The "owner" always had the option of declaring his slaves free, then offering them a job, wholly or partly on a piecework basis. His costs would probably rise some, for he'd still have to amortize the capital cost - to pay off the bank - as well as paying the agreed wage. Then the wage would have to be enough for the freeman to pay for housing, food, drink, clothes, medical care etc. So perhaps the cash costs of that change would increase by, say, 10%. Now, how would the output (the work performed) differ?
The former slave would now have the opposite motive - to do as much work as he could, so as to earn more. What would that increase be; 20%? 50%? No doubt in my mind, it would more than compensate the farmer. His net cost of planting and gathering the harvest would fall, not rise, per unit measured.
What a tragedy that such a basic business calculation was not done, prior to 1860. That would have removed one of the reasons for seceding. The South would have done so anyway because of the tyranny of the tariffs, but it would have prevented Northerners concealing, after the event, their real reason for waging the War: to retain centralized power.