Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Bicentennial of the Founding of Galveston This April

This April will mark the 200th anniversary of Jean Laffite's founding of his "commune" in Galveston. Neither the city of Galveston nor the County plan to celebrate this momentous event. But for anyone interested in libertarian self-governance and anarcho-capitalism, this is a momentous occasion.

Site of  Laffite's house at Galveston

Laffite called himself a governor, not a president, and the house in which he lived while he governed was La Maison Rouge -- the Red House -- rather than the White House. And he called his colony  a commune, because he was speaking in French and was influenced by the revolution and Napoleonic law and the like. But it wasn't a commune in the sense of pooled resources. Private property ruled in Laffite's world. When people worked for him, they were either paid an agreed wage or, like his privateers, they received a cut of the profits. And unlike other governments that tax their citizens for the income they make, Laffite never took a dime in tax on those who lived with him in the colony he founded. Instead, he preyed on Spanish vessels and shared the booty with his people.

Laffite was at war with the Spanish Empire and supported those who rebelled against it. But he did not finance his war at the expense of his people. He used that war to fund his government and pay those who lived in his colony for their contribution to the war effort.

Who should pay for waging war? Whoever wants to wage war and finds it profitable.

Arguably, Laffite paying his privateers to wage war against Spain is not so different from the US government paying those in the military for their services. But here is the meaningful difference: when the Federal government pays the military, it uses taxes levied from farmers, factory workers, manufacturers and every other productive individual to fund the war effort. The war effort itself shows no profit and brings in no income.  Our war effort is parasitic of everything that every other citizen does to make a living. But when Laffite paid his privateers, he did it with profits from the war effort. No farmers, shopkeepers or manufacturers were taxed to pay for the venture.

It is true that freedom isn't free. It is true that the best defense is a good offense. But what is not right is to constantly engage in wars that do no one any good, subsidizing them at the public's expense. Let him who profits from war pay for any war he profits from.

This April, think of Jean Laffite's Galveston and why the US government drove him away.


  1. I guess I am getting caught up in political mania, and reading about Laffite is more interesting.

    1. Hi, Julia, I do think that reading about Laffite is more interesting, but there is also a political connection. Instead of worshiping Alexander Hamilton and his pro-debt policies, the way certain factions are doing, we should emulate historical figures who were for a balanced budget and not taxing the people to pay for endless wars.

      I have been spreading this message wherever I can, and now the Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Galveston County is organizing a celebration in April. So it is possible to celebrate good deeds in public office, rather than just protesting the bad ones.