Freedom and Federalism: The Libertarian States’ Rights Tradition

IS_PP_FF — with Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Cost: $49   Length: 4 Lectures
Format: Independent Study
Status: Open for enrollment

About the Course

See Thomas DiLorenzo’s Mises Daily Article on this class and its topic.

“It is a very significant fact that the adversaries of the trend toward more government control describe their opposition as a fight against Washington and Berne, i.e., against centralization.  It is conceived as a contest of states’ rights versus the central power.”

—Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government

Most people who advocate a more limited, constitutional government concentrate their efforts on electing people to public office who share their views. This can be thought of as a “horizontal” view of politics, namely, that there is a left/right ideological continuum, with the far left representing totalitarian government, and the far right representing a voluntary society with no government. The goal of libertarians under this scenario is to elect like-minded people to public office who promise to nudge public policy to the right. 

An alternative viewpoint is what one might think of as a “vertical” view of politics that focuses on the devolution of power away from the central government in Washington, which by definition transfers decision-making powers to the people as individuals or as political communities at the state and local levels. This is the essence of the American “states’ rights” tradition, also known as “federalism.” It is the basis of the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which Thomas Jefferson believed was the cornerstone of the entire document. It is also the one unique American contribution to political philosophy, historian Forrest McDonald wrote in his book, States’ Rights and the Union. Ironically, says McDonald, this tradition has benefited other countries of the world in their attempts to restrain the relentless growth of the Leviathan State, but has been all but abandoned in America. 

The purpose of this four-lecture course is to introduce to students some of the key ideas about federalism: how it was intended and how it has been used to battle government tyranny, and why the worst political tyrants in history are its mortal enemies.

An outline of the lecture readings and topics is below:

Lecture 1:  The Jeffersonian States’  Rights Tradition

Thomas DiLorenzo, “Constitutional Futility” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo74.html)

John C. Calhoun, A Disquisition on Government (http://www.constitution.org/jcc/disq_gov.htm)

Thomas DiLorenzo, “Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo93.html)

Thomas Jefferson, “The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798″ (http://www.constitution.org/cons/kent1798.htm).

Lecture 2:  Nullification

William J. Watkins, “The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions: Guideposts of Limited Government” (http://www.constitution.org/lrev/kentvirg_watkins.htm)

Clyde Wilson, “Jefferson and Nullification”  (http://www.lewrockwell.com/wilson/wilson33.html)

Clyde Wilson, “Q & A on Nullification and Interposition” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/wilson/wilson32.1.html)

Lecture 3:  The American Secessionist Tradition

Donald Livingston, “The Secession Tradition in America,” in David Gordon, editor, Secession, State and Liberty (http://www.ditext.com/livingston/tradition.html)

Thomas DiLorenzo, “Yankee Confederates: New England Secession Movements Prior to the War between the States” (http://ditext.com/dilorenzo/yankee.html)

Thomas DiLorenzo, “Happy Secession Day” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo103.html)

Lecture 4: Enemies of States Rights and Limited Government

Thomas DiLorenzo, “Doomed from the Start: The Myth of Limited Constitutional Government in America” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo182.html)

Thomas DiLorenzo, “The Founding Father of Constitutional Subversion” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo144.html)

Thomas DiLorenzo, “Lincolnite Totalitarians” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo77.html)

Thomas DiLorenzo, “Jaffa’s Hitlerian Defense of Lincoln” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo20.html)


All readings for this course are free, available online, and provided to students in a fully-hyperlinked syllabus.

Independent Study

Independent study courses are courses that were presented live in the past. These courses are now offered at a discount to anyone who wants to study independently. All courses include lecture recordings, slides, a complete hyper-linked syllabus, automatically-graded quizzes, and a discussion forum. Professors are not available for academic support for these independent study courses.

Sample Certificate of Participation

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Thomas DiLorenzo

Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Author of The Real LincolnLincoln Unmasked, and Hamilton’s Curse. Dr. DiLorenzo is today’s foremost critic of “Lincoln hagiography”.

DiLorenzo is a professor of economics at Loyola University Maryland and a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, he has written for the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, Barron’s, and many other publications.  He is widely published in the academic journals, including the American Economic Review, Economic Inquiry, International Review of Law and Economics, Public Choice, Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, and many others. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech.

Click here to read an interview with Professor DiLorenzo.

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