“War is the health of the state.”
These famous words of Randolph Bourne have been confirmed throughout the course of American history. This course will examine the origins of a number of America’s wars. In each case, we will study the real origins of the war and compare this with the officially circulated mythology.
All too often, America’s wars are presented as conflicts between the “good guys,” us, and the “bad guys,” our enemies. Propaganda to view the wars in this way played a key role in advancing the power of the state, and it is essential for libertarians to understand the issues involved.
After World War I, a group of historians including Sidney Bradshaw Fay, Harry Elmer Barnes, and Charles Callan Tansill challenged the view of World War I popular during the war. These historians, called “revisionists” because they wanted to revise the war-guilt clause of the Treaty of Versailles, denied that Germany bore exclusive responsibility for the onset of war. Tansill in particular exposed Wilson’s unneutral conduct in leading America into war.
In part as a result of these historians’ research, American public opinion in the 1930s came to see America’s entry into World War I as a mistake. Unfortunately, this shift in opinion did not prevent Franklin Roosevelt from maneuvering America into a new war.
A similar revisionist movement arose during and after America’s entry into World War II. Many of the World War I revisionists, including Barnes and Tansill, again joined battle against the official propaganda line. Murray Rothbard highly esteemed these writers and was himself a notable contributor to the movement.
This course will emphasize the contributions of the revisionist historians and will consider extensions of their approach to other wars, along the lines set out by Rothbard.
The course consists of six lectures, on the following wars:
Week 1: The War Between the States
Week 2; The Spanish-American War
Week 3: World War I
Week 4: World War II
Week 5: The Onset of the Cold War and the Korean War
Week 6: Vietnam
The video lectures are online. Lectures will be Tuesday evenings, 7:00 – 8:30 pm Eastern Time. They will be recorded and made available for enrolled students to download.
All readings for the course will be free and available online.
Grades and Certificates
The final grade will depend on quizzes. Taking the course for a grade is optional. The Mises Academy is currently not accredited, but this course is worth 3 credits in our own internal system. Feel free to ask your school to accept Mises Academy credits. You will receive a digital Certificate of Completion for this course if you take it for a grade, and a Certificate of Participation if you take it on a paid-audit basis.
If you drop the course during its first week (7 calendar days), you will receive a full refund, minus a $25 processing fee. If you drop the course during its second week, you will receive a half refund. No refunds will be granted following the second week.