Jeff Riggenbach, with the precision of a neurosurgeon, tells us who is on the Left and who is on the Right, and why it all matters. His book, from 2009,  is Why American History is Not What They Say: an Introduction to Revisionism.  Revisionism is the editing of history according to more recently found knowledge, or a reassessment of the knowledge previously interpreted. Riggenbach tells us that most historical accounts are apologetics for the corporate-capitalist ruling power of the status-quo by authors that are nothing more than “court historians”. For this reason, he seeks, and wants you to seek, an analysis of past events that does not hold as its first premise the necessity of highly centralized, taxgathering, ever-warmongering nation-states.

The mainstream historians, or court historians, he says are on the Right, because they cannot help but write with that premise in the back of their minds. The furthest Right you can be is to support total centralization of power, and the furthest Left you can be is to support total decentralization of, or liberation from, power. On the far Right you have state socialists’ regimes like Mao’s, Stalin’s, Fidel’s and Kim Jong-il’s. Also, fascist regimes like Hitler’s and Mussolini’s. On the far Left you have the anarchic Native Americans, Inuit, early Irish, early Icelanders, and the customary law of the Afar & Oromo & Somali of the Horn of Africa. *

So who is on the Left and the Right today? He says most Democrats and Republicans are both on the Right. The rhetoric of Democrats is “liberal”, but in fact both Democrats and Republicans are conservative. They are conserving the centralized power from the days of the absolute monarchies and aristocracy of the ancien regime. They have more in common with state socialists and fascists (who also model their politics after the ancien regime). This is not supposed to be hyperbole or any stretching of the facts. He is noting that the uniting factor of these parties is that they want to consolidate ruling power. Who then is on the Left? An alliance that is difficult to make sense of, unless you read his book. The Progressives of the early 20th century, The New Left of the mid 20th Century, and The Libertarians from the 1960’s until now.

What unites The Progressives, The New Left, and The Libertarians,who surely have at times diametrically opposed economic views? War. More specifically, they are all anti-war, or positively pro-peace. They stand against the imperialistic leviathan that is the United States’ federal government, and slice off its overreaching tentacles from the Philippines, the Caribbean, Central America, the Middle East and nigh the entire globe, with their revisionist books.

Who are these authors that dissent from the hagiographical zeitgeist of the court historians? Harry Elmer Barnes, Charles Beard, Gore Vidal, Howard Zinn, John Dos Passos, James J. Martin, Murray Rothbard, William Appleman Williams, Thomas DiLorenzo and Thomas Woods Jr.

Who should read Why American History is Not What They Say: an Introduction to Revisionismby Jeff Riggenbach? You, and anyone else that does not believe their grade school history books are the inerrant words of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and protected by angels from even grammatical mistakes. At just over 200 pages, it is brief enough for light coffeeshop reading, and delicious enough where you will sacrifice some precious sleeping hours just to finish this midnight snack and reread passages that shock you enough to want to continue the revisionist legacy. While you are at it, read the works of the authors listed above;

History of the United States – Beard

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace – Barnes

A People’s History of the United States – Zinn

The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History – Woods Jr.

Lincoln: A Novel (The American Chronicle Series) – Vidal

The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War – DiLorenzo

Men Against the State: The Expositors of Individualist Anarchism, 1827-1908 – Martin

Post Scriptum:

* He does not use these examples but I think they help frame your mind.

Jeff Riggenbach has a wonderful audio series on mises.org and youtube where you can learn of revisionist history without purchasing any books, and whilst doing other tasks around your home or on your way to work. click here for revisionism on audio

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