I appreciated Ben Domenech’s takedown of Michael Gerson’s recent efforts at policing the borders of the Republican mainstream, which, according to Gerson, cannot include Sen. Rand Paul.

In defending Paul against the smear that he’s some sort of neo-Confederate, Domenech points out that the actual Confederacy, however briefly it existed, was no friend of liberty, at least as today’s liberty movement defines it:

Gerson’s depiction of the libertarian view of the Confederacy is simply fraudulent. … Paleoconservatives may find much worthy of defense in the Confederate state, but consider: The Confederate Constitution amended the US Constitution to better facilitate technocratic rule. The Confederacy was the first to introduce mass conscription. The Confederacy staged a series of repressions and massacres against local autonomy (east Tennessee, central Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, western North Carolina, etc.). The Confederacy imposed an internal-passport regime for civilian travel later echoed by European autocracies. The Confederate state took over most of its own economy by war’s end. And the Wilsonian “progressives” contained a surprising number of Confederate sympathizers who saw it as a noble experiment and set about applying its principles in the form of the segregating the federal government, fomenting the Klan, and more. …

[F]or those who actually study history, the idea that the Confederacy was a liberty-oriented alternative to Lincoln and the Union is absurd – in many ways, its worst aspects were the forerunner of the modern technocratic top-down state.

This is all to the good. However, if I may, I think Domenech is a bit too harsh on Gerson. This revisionist, they-were-actually-the-opposite-of-what-you think appraisal of Southern ideologues will strike some as counterintuitive because it’s all too easy to confirm the stereotype that apparently exists in Gerson’s mind. (This is why it’s typically been left-liberals who snicker ironically at the antilibertarian legacy of the Confederacy.)

Here, for instance, is Randall G. Holcombe, writing for the Mises Institute in praise of the Confederate Constitution’s signal improvements on the Federal Constitution, with the latter’s “General Welfare” invitation to crony capitalism and pork-barrel spending:

Special interests have long used the democratic political process to produce legislation for their own private benefit, and the U.S. Constitution contains flaws that make this easier. One attempt to remedy these flaws was the Confederate Constitution. …

The people who wrote the Southern Constitution had lived under the federal one. They knew its strengths, which they tried to copy, and its weaknesses, which they tried to eliminate.

One grave weakness in the U.S. Constitution is the “general welfare” clause, which the Confederate Constitution eliminated.

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to “lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”

The Confederate Constitution gave Congress the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, for revenue necessary to pay the debts,  provide for the common defense, and carry on the Government of the Confederate States…”

The Southern drafters thought the general welfare clause was an open door for any type of government intervention. They were, of course, right.

Domenech writes, further, that he hears “far more defenses of the South’s approach from Pat Buchanan sympathizers than from libertarians.” I’m not sure why this would be so, as the Confederate Constitution prohibited protective tariffs—putting it squarely at odds with the central feature of Buchananomics.

Listen: I’m as turned off as Domenech is by the pseudo-enlightened exclusionary tactics that Washington establishmentarians are employing against Paul. I’m equally turned off, though, by this “It’s the liberals who are racist Nazi totalitarian Klansmen” game that has become the hallmark of the Obama-era right. One need not make the case that the Confederacy was in truth a species of the left to defend Rand Paul against the ludicrous charge that he sympathizes with the Confederacy.