Lincoln, Authoritarianism, Manipulated History
Tom DiLorenzo on Abraham Lincoln, US Authoritarianism and Manipulated History
by Scott Smith
The Daily Bell is pleased to present an exclusive interview with Thomas DiLorenzo.
Introduction: Thomas James DiLorenzo is an American economics professor at Loyola University Maryland. He is also a senior faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and an affiliated scholar of the League of the South Institute, the research arm of the League of the South, and the Abbeville Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Virginia Tech. DiLorenzo has authored at least ten books, including The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Arch Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution – and What It Means for Americans Today, How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, From the Pilgrims to the Present, and Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe. DiLorenzo lectures widely, and is a frequent speaker at Mises Institute events.
Daily Bell: You’re prolific and widely read. So please excuse the repetition of our questions. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became interested in economics.
Thomas DiLorenzo: I was an economics major at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, where in my first semester the professor used as a “supplementary text” a little book of essays on current economic events by Milton Friedman. They were a collection of Friedman’s Newsweek magazine columns, which he wrote in the 1970s. I loved how he used economics to explain just about everything about the economic world and economic policy. I also admired his very persuasive writing and speaking styles, and spent years in school trying to emulate it (and that of others who had similar talents). I also discovered The Freeman magazine, published by the Foundation for Economic Education, while a freshman in college, and reading through the back issues introduced me to the whole classical liberal tradition of scholarship, especially the free-market economists like Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Israel Kirzner, Friedman, and others. I earned a Ph.D. in economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where one of my professors was James M. Buchanan, who won the Nobel Prize in economics for being one of the founders of the “Public Choice” School, which uses economic theory and methodology to analyze politics and political institutions. One of the textbooks I used in my first semester at VPI was Human Action by Ludwig von Mises. That course was my real introduction to Austrian economics, which I then pursued mostly on my own.
Daily Bell: You’re a valued member of the Mises Institute. When did you join?
Thomas DiLorenzo: When I was an assistant professor of economics at George Mason University in the early 1980s I received a flyer in the mail from Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell announcing the creation of the Mises Institute. I sent them a check for $35, which I suppose made me a “member.” I soon began sending them articles for their monthly publication, The Free Market, and presented papers at some of the early Mises Institute conferences. I’ve been teaching at the week-long Mises University that is held every summer for almost twenty years now. In short, I’ve been associated with the Mises Institute from its very beginning.
Daily Bell: How did you arrive at your insights about Lincoln? Explain, in a short summary if you can, what they are.
Thomas DiLorenzo: As for my research and publications on Lincoln, Civil War history was a hobby of mine for years, and I began thinking about how I could combine my profession, economics, with my hobby and get a few things published. I was struck by the fact that for his entire adult political life Lincoln was almost exclusively devoted to Hamiltonian mercantilism – high protectionist tariffs, other forms of corporate welfare, a central bank modeled after the Bank of England to pay for it all, and political patronage and matching politics. It made no sense at all that his ascendancy to the presidency had nothing to do with these issues, as America’s court historians say, or that these issues had nothing to do with the reason for the war. In fact, in his first inaugural address he literally threatened “invasion” and “bloodshed” (his exact words) if the Southern states that had seceded refused to continue to pay the federal tariff on imports, the average rate of which had just been doubled two days earlier. The entire agenda of Hamiltonian mercantilism was put into place during the Lincoln administration – along with the first income tax, the first military conscription law, and the creation of the internal revenue bureaucracy, among other monstrosities.