The historical roots of fearing a strong national government lay in the South, where plantation owners wanted a strong white-only state militia to put down slave revolts.Their argument against a national government interfering with their "right" to profit from slaves was couched as liberty.

Why the Right Hates Government

The Right's ideological hatred of government originated in the founding era, when the South fought to justify and protect the institution of slavery.

something extreme has surfaced in modern American politics: an ideological hatred of government. From the Tea Party to libertarianism, there is a “principled” rejection – at least rhetorically – of almost everything that government does (outside of national security), and those views are no longer simply fringe. By and large, they have been embraced by the national Republican Party.

There has also been an effort to anchor these angry anti-government positions in the traditions of U.S. history. The Tea Party consciously adopted imagery and symbols from the Revolutionary War era to create an illusion that this contempt of government fits with the First Principles. However, this right-wing revision of U.S. history is wildly askew if not upside-down. The framers of the U.S. Constitution, and even many of their “anti-federalist” critics, were not hostile to an American government. They understood the difference between an English monarchy that denied them representation in Parliament and their own Republic.

But the Tea Partiers are not entirely wrong when they insist that their hatred of “gubmint” has its roots in the founding era. There was an American tradition that involved resisting a strong and effective national government. It was not, however, anchored in the principles of “liberty,” but rather in the practice of slavery.

Two of Virginia’s most noted advocates for “liberty” and “rights” – Patrick Henry and George Mason – tried to rally opposition to the proposed Constitution by stoking the fears of white plantation owners.

... the chief argument advanced by Henry and Mason was that “slavery, the source of Virginia’s tremendous wealth, lay politically unprotected”...

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Replies to This Discussion

Ruth, your link brings to mind a book I am partway through reading: American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (Viking, 2011)  by Colin Woodard.


The author's premise is, there are 11 nations that constitute North America, each with a distinct culture that originates from it's initial colonization, and carries through to the present.  


In the book, what we (or I) think of as "The South" is really 4 or 5 regions, each with its own history and culture.  Map below from that site:

I need to finish the book before I say more- interesting reading, and makes sense.

I would have said "American Right," since Fascism and Nazism are also considered "right wing" but very much believed in a strong central government.

I don't know for a fact why someone in the past may have opposed a "strong national government," but I'm pretty sure that today's Right is not opposed to it because they want to keep their slaves.

The argument from the Right is actually very simple: The powers of government are laid out in the Constitution. The way "we the people" protect ourselves collectively is by holding government to its actual purpose.

Some powers are for the Federal government, some are not. That's why a Republican governor could support universal health care at the State level, but oppose the same kind of legislation at the Federal level.

The Left has used this same argument ("it started to protect slavery") when discussing gun rights. In either case, the alleged motive behind it (from over 100 years ago) does not matter in the least. The only thing that matters is, what does the law say, and what do we want to do with that?


Raymond, I agree with you regarding fine tuning of the discussion.  Re-reading I would have called it something like "Why the American Right hates the US Government" since clearly they are strongly in favor of state and local governments, especially when those are in Republican control.  Like what you say about the State level of health care.  Although I think they want health care to be corporate, and minimal, with no protections, and not universal.

Some of today's American right wing is also theocratic, wanting to insert religion into government and have few individual freedoms, meanwhile proclaiming they are for freedom.  It's confusing.



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