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L. Neil Smith's
Number 576, June 27, 2010

Mercantilism is the same thing that we now call "fascism"

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Textbook Controversy part 2
by Sean Gangol

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Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

In the first part of this article I discussed the controversy behind the changes made to the textbooks by the conservative members of the Texas Board of Education. People on the left, as well their allies in the mainstream media, have ranted about their fears of conservative bias in the textbooks. As I wrote in the first part of my article, the controversy for the most part seems overblown. Of course I haven't really seen the textbooks for myself, so the only word I have to go on is that of the mainstream media, which I don't put much stock in. In the second part of this article I wanted to discuss another form of bias that never seems to make the headlines. Like I said in part one, most of the bias that I have seen in the textbooks, usually leaned to the left.

If you take a look at what has been written in these textbooks about the Civil War, you will see that it contains nothing but bias. The people in the South are usually portrayed as slave owning sadists, while people in the North are portrayed as compassionate boy scouts whose only intention was to free the slaves. Abraham Lincoln is practically regarded as a saint, who could do no wrong. For the sake of fairness, the right is also responsible for reinforcing this image. Also if you take a look at some of the textbooks in the South they would have you believe that their slaves where a bunch of happy people playing banjos on the front lawn.

Regardless, most textbooks give off the impression that the War Between the States was a black and white conflict over slavery. What the textbooks rarely mention is that Honest Abe wasn't all that concerned with slavery. Sure, he may not have been fond of the institution, but he did very little to combat it. During his years as a lawyer, he helped slave masters legally retrieve their runaway slavers. Lincoln was also a racist, who wanted to ship every last slave back to Africa. Even the Emancipation Proclamation was relatively half hearted, considering that it only applied to the states that were still rebelling against the Union.

It is also rare to see a textbook mention that Lincoln shut down newspapers that criticized his administration and had the editors charged with treason. Nor do they mention the thousands of arbitrary arrests that occurred through out the war. Honest Abe also put out an arrest warrant for a judge that challenged his authority and he had one congressman deported for his criticism of his actions.

The free market is depicted in the textbooks as a cesspool that was cured by government regulation. This is largely based on Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle, which depicted the conditions of the meat packing companies as ungodly. Despite the fact that Sinclair was a socialist trying to push an agenda and that his book was a work of fiction, The Jungle is taught as if it was a well researched exposé. When I learned about the book in high school and more extensively in college, I was never told that many of the things in the book were proven to be false. Theodore Roosevelt, though not a laissez-faire man by any stretch of the imagination, believed that Sinclair was a crack pot and that his novel was full of exaggerations and falsehoods. Roosevelt's sentiments were supported by the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Animal Husbandry report in 1906. Another thing my high school and college textbooks failed to mention was that meat inspection had already existed on the local levels and that it was supported by the big meat packing companies to make it more difficult for their smaller competitors to function. Sinclair himself realized this and that was why he opposed the Meat Inspection Act of 1906.

Entrepreneurs like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie are referred to as "Robber Barons" in almost every textbook that I have read. Almost all entrepreneurs are portrayed as greedy and ruthless businessmen who operated under amoral principles. Never mind that John D. Rockefeller had helped reduce the cost of kerosene from a dollar to ten cents a gallon, which made it affordable for poor people to keep their houses illuminated at night. He also used his wealth to fund research, which found cures for Yellow Fever, Meningitis and Hookworm. Andrew Carnegie helped increase the quality of steel while driving the price down. Like John Rockefeller, he also gave much of his wealth to charity. Let us not forget Henry Ford, the man who made the automobile more accessible to the common man. I have known college professors, who don't even realize that it was Ford who gave us eight hour work days and forty hour work weeks, not the unions. The contributions that these men have made on society are virtually ignored in the textbooks, while their names are practically dragged through the mud.

What amazes me the most is that almost every textbook portrays Franklin Roosevelt as America's savior from the Great Depression, despite the overwhelming evidence that says otherwise. One of the biggest misconceptions about the Great Depression is that it was simply caused by greed. I have seen few history books that acknowledge that it was largely the fault of the Federal Reserve. They also carry on the myth that Herbert Hoover was a laissez-faire president who allowed the depression to deepen by doing nothing. In reality Hoover deepened the depression by burning surplus crops (when people could barely afford food) and placing higher tariffs on imports, which led to other countries doing the same to US imports. As for FDR, none of the things he had carried out in his administration made any economic sense at all. He carried on the same crop burning policies as Hoover. The administration also increased taxes and regulations that made it even more difficult for businesses to prosper. Roosevelt pretty much did away with competition, when he created price controls. There were depressions that occurred before the great one in the 1930's. I don't think it's a coincidence that the previous depressions lasted only five years with little or no government interference, while the great one lasted for almost two decades with an abundance of government intervention.

People on the left complained about the changes made to the textbooks by the conservative members of the Texas Board of Education, fearing that they were trying to indoctrinate school children with their conservative views. With the exception of the exclusion of Thomas Jefferson from the Texas Curriculum's world history standards on Enlightenment thinking and the lack of mention of the Latinos who fought for Texas independence, most of the changes seemed within reason. As I just demonstrated in this part of the article, there have been far more falsehoods in the textbooks that have leaned towards the left, which seem far more dangerous then anything that the right has written in the history books. With all the falsehoods that have been written in these textbooks by the left, it is no wonder this country seems to be making the same mistakes over and over again. People have been told that central planning is a good thing even though it was the very thing that caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. History is supposed to help us learn from our mistakes. Like I said before, the government seems to have a severe learning disability.

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