Throwing Sticks at Aunt Sally

Aunt Sally is a traditional English throwing game in which players throw sticks or battens at a model of an old woman’s head.

Sounds fun.

straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument which was not advanced by that opponent.

Useful when critical thinking is in short supply.

In the United Kingdom the [straw man] argument is also known as an Aunt Sally, after the pub game of the same name where patrons throw sticks or battens at a model of an old woman’s head.

Jason Kuznicki, editor of Cato Unbound, has taken aim at Aunt Sally.  He has thoroughly destroyed her:

Jason Kuznicki argues that

“anyone who cares about human liberty—to whatever degree—ought to despise the Confederacy.”

Jason can’t understand why any libertarian would admire the Confederacy:

Whatever others may say on the subject, I can’t understand how anyone might admire the Confederacy and also call themselves a libertarian. Any affinity for the Confederacy marks one very clearly as an enemy of liberty.

Nowhere in this essay does Jason identify a single libertarian – of prominence or otherwise – that holds this view; nowhere does he offer a quote.  Instead, he abuses Aunt Sally.  As he doesn’t bother to name names and identify quotes, it seems inappropriate to defend these non-existent libertarians, so I won’t.

Let’s just say I have yet to read any prominent libertarian who “admires” the Confederacy – I can’t think of any libertarian who admires any state; at most, comparisons of relative aggression are made.  The most one can say regarding the example of the Confederacy is that there are libertarians who support the right of secession…as one must if one adheres to the non-aggression principle.

But, if Jason – or anyone else – can point to such statements from libertarians, please do so.  Aunt Sally can’t long take such a beating.

What does Jason have against the Confederacy?

The Confederate Constitution says all that needs to be said on the subject, and it answers all possible arguments to the contrary.

Suffice it to say, the Confederate Constitution had many passages in defense of the institution of slavery – worse than anything in the US Constitution, according to Jason.  I am guessing that most libertarians understand that the Confederate government supported slavery, but it is important to prop up the old woman’s head before throwing the sticks.

These provisions are unlibertarian, but they are far worse than that. There is only one legal term that seems quite to do them justice. That term is hostis humani generis: The founders of Confederacy were the enemies of all mankind….

Jason thereafter goes apoplectic.  Aunt Sally never took such a thorough beating.  University courses on logical fallacies can be structured around the next several paragraphs of his post.

He closes with an admonition: when faced with a choice between two wrongs (as he doesn’t apologize for Lincoln), better to choose the lesser one – suggesting libertarians choose the Union and condemn the Confederacy.  Of course, adherents to the non-aggression principle condemn both.

But it is worth asking: is the Confederacy automatically the greater evil?  I have no idea how to build a balance sheet on this one; after all and among other aggressions, Lincoln started a war that killed more than 700,000 Americans.

Comparing evils: Hitler v. Stalin, Yankees v. Red Sox, Barcelona v. Real Madrid, Jason Voorhees v. Freddie Krueger.  How does one decide?

I will suggest that the Confederacy did nothing more than attempt to perpetuate an already existing evil; slavery existed in the South both before and after Jason’s dreaded Confederate Constitution.  no new evil was introduced.

Lincoln introduced many new evils, not the least of which was the war that killed more than 700,000 and wounded perhaps a like amount.

The status quo of slavery (which would have died of natural, economic causes in short order anyway) or the new evils of war?  I won’t decide.

Libertarians will support secession; where else does the non-aggression principle lead?  Libertarians condemn all initiations of aggression – slavery and war being two of the more egregious violation.

When it comes to libertarians and the Confederacy, a critic can only attack Aunt Sally on this subject.

Jason does so admirably.

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