Liberal radio host David Sirota had author Paul Finkelman on to discuss his smear essay about Thomas Jefferson: “The Monster of Monticello”. Like so many other NY government-worshipers, Finkelman spent the interview in full on pc attack mode, ripping the minarchist Jefferson to shreds for his racist views. Unfortunately, I could not call the show as I was driving the kids back from daycare, but I did write host Sirota a letter.
Note: Sirota is a reasonable, principled liberal and not ravingly partisan in the way that so many “useful idiots” are in the media, today. He remains refreshingly distant from the doublethink and self-contradictions of so many talk show hosts. He’s a statist, to be sure, but he’s fair.
The vicious tone of progressive Finkelman, on the other hand, underscores that there is a pernicious, concerted effort on the behalf of big government advocates to soil any opponent of their leviathan. Jefferson, regardless of his troubling contradictions, is perceived as a champion of government minimalism to many who question the benevolence of the ever-biggering Big Brother. Idols like Jefferson are rallying points for like minds. Thus, they must be pulled down and destroyed by progressives before any meaningful, ideological opposition can rally around them.
Here’s my letter to Sirota:
Dear Mr. Sirota,
I desperately wanted to call your show when you had Paul Finkelman on. I do concur with your guest that Jefferson is a study in contradiction. But the author had a ‘tone’ about him that suggests a lack of objectivity. He, of course, did not mention that Jefferson proposed freeing all slaves when he drafted a Constitution for the State of Virginia. He also did not mention that Jefferson took a number of slaves with him to Paris who merely had to request asylum there and they would have been granted their freedom.. but they chose to stay with Jefferson. Jefferson was also bound by Virginia law that made it illegal to free his slaves. I am not excusing Jefferson’s hypocrisy, but I think the author’s neglect to mention these circumstances and focus on a hyper-critical assault on him suggest a personal agenda.
Jefferson is, of course, a mythical hero to small-government conservatives and primarily libertarians (who are not conservatives, by the way). As a progressive (someone who believes in the benevolence of government), Jefferson, a government minimalist (at least in his writings), represents the antithesis of the progressive ideal.
Progressive Finkelman did little to contain his philosophical contempt.
Finkelman, a historian, was also confused about Herbert Hoover who is wrongly portrayed as a laissez-faire capitalist by benevolent government types like Paul Krugman. But Hoover’s high wage policies, limiting of immigration, pro union advocacy, pressuring for Fed credit expansion (6 fold increase in the Fed’s balance sheet), increasing federal spending 40% between ’31 and ’33, the RFC (the TARP of it’s day) and FFB (ag price supports), and the capper: the Dust Bowl manifesting Smoot Hawley tariff, all formed the groundwork for the “New Deal” programs credited to FDR and so admired by benevolent government types. Economists like UCLA’s Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian, Nobel Prize winner FA Hayek, as well as a consensus of academic economists were convinced FDR’s meddling in the economy, cartelization of his chosen corporations, institution of the corpo-fascist NIRA, confiscation of gold for the purpose of central bank monetary expansion, and agricultural price fixing did anything other than prolong the misery of the Depression.
To top it off, FDR, the poster boy for modern “progressivism” put 120,000 Americans into concentration camps.
Your guest was also flatly WRONG about Lincoln’s attitude about freeing the slaves. This is well documented. He communicated on many occasions that the Civil War was over preserving the Union and not about slavery. Lincoln, (so admired by Hollywood hagiographers like Spielberg) was every ounce the biggot that Jefferson was even going so far as to proclaim the inferiority of blacks and how they should all be deported at the end of hostilities. In addition, Lincoln was no champion of Civil Liberties having suspended Habeaus Corpus, imprisoning anti war newspaper editors, and instructing Sherman to engage in “total war” on AMERICANS. The war may have been about slavery for the South, but it was certainly not about slavery to the mega-maniacal uber-statist Abraham Lincoln.
I doubt Finkelman will be writing a book about the Monster from Illinois anytime soon.
David, I admire you. I regard you as a liberal and not a progressive. Your positions are thoughtful and your arguments are compelling. As a libertarian, we share a common ideological heritage and I hold your non-partisan views on civil liberties in the highest regard. I hope to call your show some day but I imagine I will end up tearing Michael apart for his superficial, phony “libertarianism”.
Good show. Keep up the good work.