Was American Independence Worth It?
His initial premise:
Most libertarians interpret the Revolutionary War as a libertarian crusade. But when you ask about specific libertarian policy changes that came about because of the Revolution, it’s hard to get a decent answer.
In fact, with 20/20 hindsight, independence had two massive anti-libertarian consequences: It removed the last real check on American aggression against the Indians, and allowed American slavery to avoid earlier – and peaceful – abolition.
Today’s follow-up questions whether we’re really paying lower taxes as a result of the war. Megan McArdle chimes in wondering if the Brits would have abolished slavery so early were it not for American independence.
While those empirical questions are interesting, they rather miss the point. The chief goal of libertarianism is not low taxes or any specific public policy outcome but rather liberty. Winning the war gave us, as Abraham Lincoln proclaimed four score and seven years later, “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
As a consequence of the war, we gained our independence from the British crown, free to decide our own public policy. To ask whether it was “worth it” because things could have gone better is rather like asking whether growing up and leaving one’s parents’ home is “worth it” given that it means having to get a job, pay bills, and wash your own clothes. For those who enjoy liberty, it’s not even a close call.