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36Historically Speaking May/June 2004 LETTERS To the Editors: The January 2004 issue of Historically Speaking includes a symposium on liberalism and globalization that astonished me when confronting the biases and omissions ofthe contributors. All three ofthem equate liberalism with free trade, which the Germans supposedly played a key role in undermining. Richard Cobden, who in the 1860s endorsed compulsory universal education and universal manhood suffrage, was, with due respect to the symposiasts, not a 19th-century liberal. He was politically well to the left ofthe English Liberal Party. (Though a self-proclaimed supporter ofuniversal peace, Cobden inconsistently favored intervention by England in the American Civil War against the slaveholding American South.) All the contributors confer an irreversible grace on England and the U.S. as "liberal" societies; Professor Greenfeld also puts the French among the blessed, while joining another contributor, Alfred J. Mierzejewski, in going after the Teutons for their aberrant nationalism and "shallow commitment to the free market." English merchants who allied with sovereigns like Henry VIII were, according to Greenfield, "rational beings" while German industrialists who wanted protectionism are assumed to have been nastier pieces ofwork. Allow me to point out the problems with this framework ofanalysis. If free trade is the litmus test for who is or is not a liberal, how does one characterize the "liberal" U.S., which from the time ofthe Great Emancipator on imposed some ofthe highest tariffs among industrialized nations? Lincoln's alliance with industrial cartels, passionate advocacy of increased tariffs, and invasion of secessionist states can all be cited as evidence of his "belligerent nationalism," a term that seems at least as applicable to Lincoln Republicans as it does to Bismarck and the German National Liberals . Friedrich List, the German economist, who favored aZollverein within Germany and Schutzzölle against foreign competitors, spent much of his life in the U.S., whose system oftariffs he hoped to see brought to his native land. Real 19th-century liberals, about whom I have written extensively , were bourgeois nationalists—as opposed to global democratic internationalists. The Belgians , following their uprising against the Dutch in 1830, gave themselves not only a liberal government but also tariffs to protect their infant industries. Despite their belief in the need for a separation between government and civil society, flesh-and-blood liberals, outside ofEngland, then the world's industrial leader, were generally not fans offree trade. Although Lindsey cites the German work of my friend Ralph Raico, Die Partei derFreiheit, he misinterprets a large chunk ofthat book's argument. Raico does not maintain that the Germans labored under an unusually weak liberal (by which is meant libertarian) tradition. To the contrary: he says Germans had influential representatives of that tradition, including but not limited to Eugen Richter, who landed up being politically defeated. And this, according to Raico, was not a peculiarly German fate, since it happened in the Anglo-American world, with the rise of the welfare state. Another point I find entirely questionable is the treatment ofthe Anglophone world as being immune to the evils of the illiberal German Second Empire. Contemporary Western "democracies " exercise a degree ofcentralized power and intrusive entanglement with social institutions that would have shocked even the Kathedersozialisten , whom our symposiasts denounce as totalitarian nationalists. I do not recall (having read their work) Gustav Schmoller or Adolf Wagner demanding that the German state punish "crimes ofopinion," a practice that European and Canadian democracies now perform routinely. Following the Napoleonic Wars the states of southwestern Germany introduced the most liberal constitutions then in Europe, which remained in force into the 20th century. Ifreligious tolerance is another mark ofa liberal disposition, then Prussia, which practiced such tolerance while England was oppressing Irish Catholics, must have been a relatively liberal country. Moreover, the percentage of GNP taken by the German Empire, which was a federal state, was puny in comparison to what is now paid to our democratic welfare states. Detailed figures on this and other related subjects are available in Wolfgang Reinhardt Geschichte der Staatsgewalt. (For France, one might look at Pierre Rosanvallons llétat en Francede 1 789 à nosjours.) But then Prussian and French bureaucrats in the 19th century, unlike functionaries and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6438
Print ISSN
1941-4188
Pages
pp. 36-37
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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