Thomas E. Woods


Thomas E. Woods, author of Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century, discusses the few Leftists and many libertarians working to shift the balance of power away from Washington and toward local control; why it’s still hard to shake the nearly 150-year old misconception that secessionists are slavery sympathizers; why an ignorant population is much more likely to inherit an authoritarian state than a libertarian paradise following a government and economic collapse; and polls that show a large majority of Americans prefer unchecked government secrecy and have no interest in maintaining a free press.

MP3 here. (19:19)

Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse. A senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard and his master’s, M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University.

53 thoughts on “Thomas E. Woods”

  1. Why would you even bother to defend yourself from the charge of slavery-sympathizer in debate with someone who doesn't want to let you break free of him? Throw it right back at him.

    James Bowery, who's a much more rigorous defender of freedom than the Mises boys, has written:

    Slaves want to secede from their “owners” just as others want to—and do—secede from societies they find objectionable. The difference between slaves and others turns solely on whether the individual’s right to secede is realized. All who are denied secession are slaves: their consent is violated.

    1. "…who's a much more rigorous defender of freedom than the Mises boys."

      He, he, thanks for the laugh. I needed it this morning.

  2. "why it’s still hard to shake the nearly 150-year old misconception that secessionists are slavery sympathizers"

    It's because their declarations of independence say secession was about slavery and White supremacy.
    Why can't White Southerners just face up to the truth? Like the Germans have?

    1. Why can't northerners face up to their war crimes and the absurd nonsense that his worship, King Lincoln, and his saintly henchmen were somehow "for the black man?" It can go both ways.

      1. Two-thumbs-up, Mike. Not here to rehash the past; just get annoyed with the Southern-bashers. If blame is to applied, let if fall justly upon all; let none fail to consider the hatreds birthed by Reconstructionists who plundered the South, went home wealthy, and left African-Americans holding the bag.

        Then wrote history books about how virtuous they were.

      2. "Why can't northerners face up to their war crimes?"

        Because as history has shown, the only true war crime is losing. Johny Reb will never hear the end of about he supported slavery while "Blue coats" slaughtering Indians (and southern civilians for that matter) gets a pass.

        Condemning slavery while commiting genocide. Hypocrisy is as American as apple pie.

        1. I suppose no Indians were ever slaughtered in the south? You ever hear of 'the trail of tears' buddy? How about Quantrill's raiders and Andersonville prison for war crimes? To say nothing of the crime of slavery itself, without which there would have been no war. Perhaps you can tell me when exactly the south was ever going to end slavery?

          1. "I suppose no Indians were ever slaughtered in the south?"

            Yes, they were killed with the blessing of DC, but they were never never slaughtered by the CSA. Please name one instance where Confederate soldiers ever harmed American indians.

            "Perhaps you can tell me when exactly the south was ever going to end slavery? "

            It was already ending before the war started.

            Slavery had already been reduced to "horse and buggy whip" status thanks to the likes of Eli Whitney and the beginings of the industrial revolution by 1861. By that time slaves were nothing more that status symbols of the rich.

            Every other nation on earth had ended slavery via legal rulings or industrial development. Not the US, oh no, we need a mountain of corpses to prove the point. You will not question your master in DC.

          2. What revisionist nonsense. Since the CSA only existed for four miserable years and that AFTER the Indians in the south had been removed or killed, your point is quite moot, at best. As for your claim that the south was "ending" slavery, that is just ridiculous. The south never made ANY effort to end slavery, or even to convert it to serfdom. The price of a slave field hand in 1830 was $500.00 By 1860 this had risen to $1,900.00. Far from being a "status symbol" slaves were critical to the economy of the south. Why did the south try so violently to extend slavery into Kansas? Why did the Ozark and Appalachian regions remain loyal to the union? Because slavery was not significant there. The south seceded because of slavery. And only the war made the south end it. The truth hurts.

          3. You've got it reversed, my friend. Slavery was a dying institution when the Constitution was written so the Framers didn't worry about it as much as they should have. But after the invention of the cotton gin, spinning jenny, etc., cotton growing became a huge industry requiring large numbers of slaves in the Southern system of agriculture.

          4. "… the crime of slavery …"

            Well, now, Mr. History. Perhaps you would like to expound upon this tidbit? When did slavery become a "crime" instead of a moral outrage? Was slavery not a tragic – but accepted – part of the Human Experience for as far back as written records & oral accounts recollect?

            Now that doesn't make slavery Right or me Right; but you are trying to frame the deabte within a false paradigm.

          5. Outstanding answer. Thanks for playing. Next time you troll for an argument try using a subject you may actually know something about.

      3. Although we are way off base here, the south was responsible for slavery and this was the root cause of the secession and the war. Everything else is secondary. Southerners DO engage in a lot of self-deception and rationalization about their past.

    2. American like to be lied to, the world knows it, the politicians, businesses, pretend christians know it only the American public doesn't know it.

    3. Less than 5% of white southerners were slaveholders and most were harmed by the practice in having to compete with slave labor. Other nations, notably Britain rid its colonies of slavery without causing the murder of 600,000-plus people and invasion.

      Given that the 'civil war' was in fact a 'war of agression' Booth was correct in calling Lincoln a tyrant. History is always written by the victors no matter that it is based on lies.

      1. There were 4.5 million slaves in the south in 1861 Joe. SOMEBODY sure owned them. SOMEBODY sure made a lot of money off of them. Its a lot like Nazi Germany. Most Germans were not Nazis, but all Nazis were Germans. Likewise, most southerners were not slaveowners, but all slaveowners were southerners. Unlike Britain, it took war to end slavery, because the south had no intention of freeing the slaves.

        1. Would you at least attempt to be a little accurate? "…All slaveowners were southerners." Bullshit. There were some few Union states where slavery was legal and slaves were owned. DE certainly was one of these. "SOMEBODY sure made a lot of money"; yes, and among these were great Yankee shipping families and a good number of them had Quaker investors if not outright owners.

          And never forget, when Fremont claimed control of MO for the Union, among his 1st acts was the Emancipation of all slaves for which Lincoln promptly removed him from command.

      2. I call it the War Necessitated by Southron Arrogance. Mark Twain (whowas actually a Confederate soldier for a couple weeks) blamed it onRomanticism: the “Sir Walter Raleigh Disease.”Racism has always benefited white oligarchs, and hurt lower classwhites, but they stupidly co-operate with their enemies and againsttheir natural allies even today. Not just in the South, either.

  3. The NAZI's exported their NAZI ideology to the USA. Where else in the world are NAZI flags displayed, with pride which is the worst sin.

  4. Tom is right. Americans have become the most idiotic morons anyone could imagine. Their government is exposed by Wikileaks and these stupid-ass fools condemn a man who says, "Hey your government is lying to you" and then proves it.

    My fellow Americans:

    You want totalitarianism, please move the hell to North Korea. What complete morons.

  5. This was a kick-ass interview! Woods is a good man; he's revisionist to the core, and that's why he's worthwhile. No starry-eyed adoration of sacred cows for him, thank you. (I've read one of his books–"The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History"–and I've got to read others.)

    Woods and Horton mention Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. They're both statist, live-on-the-taxpayers'-dime scumbags.

    The U.S. Government is broken. It's lawless at home and abroad. It's controlled by everyone with a big enough checkbook. Israel controls our "Middle East policy." Is the U.S. Government beyond redemption? It may well be.

    Secession? I'm cool with that. If government rests on the consent of the governed, and the "governed" don't consent to be "governed" by the corrupt statists in the District of Corruption–well, what the hell's wrong with that? Splitsville, baby!

  6. "Although we are way off base here, the south was responsible for slavery and this was the root cause of the secession and the war. Everything else is secondary."

    For anyone who gives half a damn about historical facts, it wasn't the impending presidency of the supposedly bleeding-heart-for-the-slaves Abraham Lincoln that sparked southern secession, it was Lincoln's threat to do whatever he could to enforce the Morrill Tariff Act that motivated it. Why southerners should be so upset about the Morrill Tariff Act would perhaps be a nifty research topic for Andy to do in his spare time. He might actually learn something other than what his high school civics teacher bleated at him.

    Merely asserting your assumptions as though they were historical truth isn't enough. Back it the hell up with facts.

    "Southerners DO engage in a lot of self-deception and rationalization about their past."

    I'd say this whole damn country has damn near buried it's entire collective head in self-deception and rationalization, wouldn't you?

    1. When was the south going to end slavery? The south created nine new slave states after the revolutionary war ended. It was trying to make Kansas a slave state when the war began. It engaged in atrocities there (why don't you read up on 'bleeding Kansas' in your spare time.) The north began ending slavery as early as 1777 (Vermont) and ended it entirely in 1804 (New Jersey). The north didn't create one single slave state. All the great abolitionists and abolitionist movements and literature came from the north. The south did everything it could to spread and extend slavery. It never banned it. It made no effort to ever convert slavery to serfdom. Even with Haiti ending slavery in 1803 and the British empire ending it in 1837, stubborn southerners just carried on blindly. Perhaps you can tell me exactly when the south was ever going to end slavery? The truth is the south had no intention of ending slavery and only the war forced them to do so. The economy of the south was totally dependent on the unpaid labor of 4.5 million black slaves. It was a situation the south much liked and much profitted by. Only a war killing 600,000 people forced them to change their ways. Then the spiteful southerners practiced Jim Crow for a hundred years.

    2. "Back it the hell up with facts. "
      The Morrill Tariff Act is a fact, but it doesn't tell me why you think it was the main reason for secession and not the possible abolition of slavery.

  7. Dear Scott:

    In view of the heated discussion in these comments, here's a guest idea for what would be a great interview for your libertarian program…

    James W. Loewen ("Lies My Teacher Told Me") has a new book out entitled "The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The 'Great Truth' about the 'Lost Cause'"

    Here's the product description as posted at

    "Most Americans hold basic misconceptions about the Confederacy, the Civil War, and the actions of subsequent neo-Confederates. For example, two thirds of Americans–including most history teachers–think the Confederate States seceded for "states' rights." This error persists because most have never read the key documents about the Confederacy.

    "These documents have always been there. When South Carolina seceded, it published "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union." The document actually opposes states' rights. Its authors argue that Northern states were ignoring the rights of slave owners as identified by Congress and in the Constitution. Similarly, Mississippi's "Declaration of the Immediate Causes …" says, "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery–the greatest material interest of the world."

    "Later documents in this collection show how neo-Confederates obfuscated this truth, starting around 1890. The evidence also points to the centrality of race in neo-Confederate thought even today and to the continuing importance of neo-Confederate ideas in American political life. The 150th anniversary of secession and civil war provides a moment for all Americans to read these documents, properly set in context by award-winning sociologist and historian James W. Loewen and co-editor, Edward H. Sebesta, to put in perspective the mythology of the Old South."

    1. The idea that the south seceded because of "states rights" is a comforting myth for southerners. In reality they seceded because of slavery. Had there never been any slavery in America, there never would have been any civil war. Every state that seceded was a slave state with a significant slave population. The south needed the unpaid labor of the slaves economically and feared the social cost of freeing the slaves. Southerners prefer romantic fables about Lee and Jackson, rather then the more unpleasant truth.

      1. And you prefer to beat dead horses.

        "Had there never been"; such ringing certainty. Souns like "if a frog had wings it wouldn't bump it's ass".

    2. Well, were the northern states in fact ignoring the rights as they existed at the time of slaveholders? Lincoln should have purchased the freedom of slaves from the small minority of white southerners rather than go to war against all white southerners if this in fact was the motivation for the war.

      1. Maybe those stupid white southerners should have told their plantocracy they were not going to be their cannon fodder. But the truth is the south had no intention of ending slavery.

          1. The south did much, probably most of the killing. In any case the war happened because of slavery and the souths refusal to modify or end it.

          2. The south did not invade the north and, as already noted, Lincoln did not attempt other nonviolent means to end the legal pratice of slavery.

          3. "..the legal practice of slavery.."

            Oh well, that changes everything Joe! It was "legal".

            '…the south did not invade the north..'

            A falsehood. It did so twice in 1862 and in 1863. Where do you think the battle of Gettysburg was fought, Joe?

            "Lincoln did not attempt non-violent means to end slavery…"

            What means would he have employed in South Carolina, (or the rest of the Confederacy) Joe? It seceded from the union, removing itself from his authority. The south never had any intention of ending slavery. Not the slightest. For the roughly 250 years it had slavery, the south did everything in its power to promote slavery, to extend it and to preserve it. There were never any great southern abolitionists or movements. Not one single southern state ever abolished slavery. Not one single southern state ever converted it to serfdom. Perhaps you can tell me Joe, when exactly the south was going to end slavery?

  8. On Long Island we had slaves into the 1820's…Glenn Beck recently lied to his audience when he sd the Confederate Constitution "was all about slavery"..

  9. Small point,but could someone from the North explain why the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to non-Federally occupied land and the Northern states had to wait for an amendment to the Constitution for their slaves to be freed?

    1. Temporary military expediency is the best answer. Lincoln didn't need to add the slaveowners on the border states to the cause of the Confederacy. Of course if the Confederacy REALLY wasn't about slavery, why didn't it issue its own emancipation proclamation? It might have gained foreign recognition from European governments and would have removed an excellent propaganda item from the north. It didn't though, because the entire reason for the Confederacy's existence was to preserve the institution of slavery.

  10. Andy and Joe:

    May I be permitted to slip into your "did not!" "did so!" repartee a source of objectively verifiable fact and history in the form of a book written by the Atlanta bureau chief of that left-wing rag The Wall Street Journal Douglas A. Blackmon (a white son of Mississippi originally). This scrupulously researched book won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction is entitled…

    "Slavery by Another Name: the Re-enslavement of Black People from the Civil War to World War II"

    You can find several excellent video interviews with Mr. Blackmon speaking about the argument and content of his book at this website…

    You both will be happy to learn that big Northern capital (e.g. US Steel and many other corporations) used the South's reinvention of the Slave Codes into the Black Codes to reinstitute and generate hugh profits by exploiting what Blackmon shows conclusively was literally a neo-slavery black labor force from the end of Reconstruction right up to the Second World War when the federal government (FDR) finally directed the FBI to actually investigate decades of slavery cases to give African Americans a reason to fight the Nazis and to blunt Nazi propaganda that "hey look how the US capitalists treat blacks as slaves"– which unfortunately was true.

    So, Joe and Andy, human slavery in the United States is a national shame for which BOTH Northern and Southern white men can share the abundant shame and blame together. Yes, Andy, I agree with you, the Southern power elites took their states out of the Union to continue human slavery, no question about it. BUT let remember that (1) the Northern elites (not talking about abolitionists) didn't care about black slaves anymore than they cared (or care today) about white workers and (2) once that inconvenience of Reconstruction was killed politically in 1876, the Northern white power elites were overjoyed to rejoin forces with their Southern white power elite brothers to reinvent and exploit neo-slavery and begin the revision of history with the States' Rights/"slavery? what slavery?" myth.

    Do please read Blackmon's book. It's great work. Hey, Blackmon would make another great guest for Scott Horton to interview here!

    And don't forget James Loewen's "Neo-Confederate Reader" which I notice you both ignore in your replies to my previous post.


    1. I have no problem reading the literature you mention. But the south is more responsible for slavery then the north. I don't see how anyone can question that. And southerners have not faced up honestly to the past. I'm not trying to beat up on southerners here, but the truth is the truth.

  11. Hi, Andy and all:

    Glad to hear you will be reading the two books I've recommended, namely, Blackmon's "Slavery by Another Name: The Reenslavement of Black American from the Civil War to World War II" and James Loewen's "Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The 'Great Truth' about the 'Lost Cause'". Enjoy (if that's the right word for this topic)!

    I agree, Andy, that "the truth is the truth" and that there are many white male Southerners who are in denial about the Confederacy's devotion to slavery.

    I'm also concerned about how to best change people's minds about emotionally charged issues… a difficult task, you'll agree I'm sure. Confrontatonal argument usually goes no where when one's opponent feels his (or her) very identity is at stake. "The South was wrong and the North was right" as an argument goes no where because (a) it requires your debater to admit he is wrong/bad/evil before he can really consider any of your evidence (not what humans do that well or often) and (b) it's not really accurate because both "the South" and "the North" white cultures were deeply racist then (and I'd argue still are).

    What works better? I'd try Rogerian non-confrontational approach based on searching for valid common ground where both parties can stand and actually hear the evidence they really do share.

    Who was more responsible for human slavery in the United States: the South or the North? Wrong question entirely. Why? Because BOTH the South and the North were responsible for human slavery in the United States. What do both Southern and Northern whites share in common? IMHO– a deeply and profoundly racist history in ALL of US history and regions. Arguing that only the Southern elite used racism for economic gain is not accurate. (I know you are not arguing this, Andy, but several pro-confederates in these comments did… how best to answer them?) Broaden the grounds by looking at the deeply racist nature of US economics and cut their provincial ground away from their argument while staying engaged.

    For example, was New England capital deeply complicit and deeply involved in the slave trade? Check out Thomas Norman De Wolf's book "Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-trading Dynasty in US History" here…

    …and the DVD documentary that showed on PBS last year "Traces of the Trade: a Story from the Deep North" here…

    And here's another great James Loewen book that documents the wide-spread and often violent creation of all-white "sundown towns" (as in no person of color better be found within our city-limits after sundown or else) throughout the North, South, Mid-West, and West from about 1880 to the Second World War in "Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of US Racism" here…

    The way to win an argument with a narrow-minded person trapped inside his own barricaded fear and ignorance is to draw a much larger, truthful and inclusive circle around his smaller provincial fort and then invite him to step outside the palisade and join us. I learned that one by studying how Martin Luther King, Jr. does it in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" without ever once backing down or away from the facts and his principles.

    On a good day, I sometimes succeed in doing the same myself. But I often get myself trapped in my own position, too. Oh well, nothing to do but keep practicing, right?

    Didn't mean to go on for so long. Thanks for listening. Take good care!

    1. Thanks for the information. I believe I struck a nerve. This may explain both the vituperation and irrationality of many of the replies I received.

  12. Hi:

    I couldn't not post this informative essay with sources quoting Confederate officials in their own words describing their "cause" as the preservation of slavery as their "unfree labor" capital. Enjoy.

    "Let’s Not Spin the Civil War"

    Posted on Dec 26, 2010

    By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

    The Civil War is about to loom very large in the popular memory. We would do well to be candid about its causes and not allow the distortions of contemporary politics or long-standing myths to cloud our understanding of why the nation fell apart.

    The coming year will mark the 150th anniversary of the onset of the conflict, which is usually dated to April 12, 1861, when Confederate batteries opened fire at 4:30 a.m. on federal troops occupying Fort Sumter. Union forces surrendered the next day, after 34 hours of shelling.

    The Civil War has forever captured the American imagination (witness the popularity of re-enactments) for the gallantry and heroism of those who fought and died, but also for the sheer carnage and destruction it left in its wake. Anniversaries heighten that engagement, and I still recall the centennial of the war in 1961 as a time when kids with no previous interest in American history were exchanging Civil War trading cards along with baseball cards.

    My neighborhood friend Jon Udis got a subscription to Civil War Times Illustrated, and our regular discussions of sports heroes Bill Russell, Johnny Unitas and Carl Yastrzemski were briefly interrupted by talk about Grant and Lee, Sherman and “Stonewall” Jackson.

    But our conversations, like so many about the war, focused on people and battles, not on why the confrontation happened in the first place. There remains enormous denial over the fact that the central cause of the war was our national disagreement over race and slavery, not states’ rights or anything else.

    When the war started, leaders of the Southern rebellion were entirely straightforward about this. On March 21, 1861, Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy’s vice president, gave what came to be known as the “Cornerstone speech” in which he declared that the “proper status of the Negro in our form of civilization” was “the immediate cause of the late rupture.”

    Thomas Jefferson, Stephens said, had been wrong in believing “that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature.”

    “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea,” Stephens insisted. “Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical and moral truth.”

    Our greatest contemporary historian of the Civil War, James McPherson, has noted that Confederate President Jefferson Davis, a major slaveholder, “justified secession in 1861 as an act of self-defense against the incoming Lincoln administration.” Abraham Lincoln’s policy of excluding slavery from the territories, Davis said, would make “property in slaves so insecure as to be comparatively worthless … thereby annihilating in effect property worth thousands of millions of dollars.”

    South Carolina’s 1860 declaration on the cause of secession mentioned slavery, slaves or slaveholding 18 separate times. And as the historian Douglas Egerton points out in “Year of Meteors,” his superb recent book on how the 1860 election precipitated the Civil War, the South split the Democratic Party and later the country not in the name of states’ rights but because it sought federal government guarantees that slavery would prevail in new states. “Slaveholders,” Egerton notes, “routinely shifted their ideological ground in the name of protecting unfree labor.”

    After the war, in one of the great efforts of spin control in our history, both Davis and Stephens, despite their own words, insisted that the war was not about slavery after all, but about state sovereignty. By then, of course, slavery was “a dead and discredited institution,” McPherson wrote, and “(to) concede that the Confederacy had broken up the United States and launched a war that killed 620,000 Americans in a vain attempt to keep 4 million people in slavery would not confer honor on their lost cause.”

    Why does getting the story right matter? As Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s recent difficulty with the history of the civil rights years demonstrates, there is to this day too much evasion of how integral race, racism and racial conflict are to our national story. We can take pride in our struggles to overcome the legacies of slavery and segregation. But we should not sanitize how contested and bloody the road to justice has been. We will dishonor the Civil War if we refuse to face up to the reason it was fought.


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