Paul Graham at RailsConf

Paul Graham spoke at RailsConf on The Power of the Marginal.

I must admit I was not particularly impressed.

One thing that particularly annoyed me was this, in a bit about the "Great American Novel", written by committee:

As everyone knows, America plus tragedy equals the Civil War, so that's what it would have to be about. Better stick to the standard cartoon version that the Civil War was about slavery; people would be confused otherwise; plus you can show a lot of strength and diversity.

I am continually surprised that smart people fall for this Confederate-sympathizer "Doomed Cause" claptrap. I think it's especially popular with libertarian types, because it allows them to feel counter-cultural and vaguely superior to all those dolts who believe the "cartoon version" that the Civil War was about slavery.

Consider this analysis of the differences between the US constitution and the Confederate constitution. Nearly every substantive difference deals with cementing the institution of slavery and an inalienable right.

Certainly, the causes of the Civil War were complicated. The opposition to slavery in the North was for economic and political as well as moral reasons. A series of increasingly strained compromises managed to hold the Union together for a while. Understanding why those compromises failed is important.

But to say that the Civil War wasn't about slavery is negligent in the extreme, and in its more virulent forms, neo-Confederate or even racist. Lending support to the false idea that the civil war wasn't about slavery is foolish. Delivering it with such a sense of superiority is dangerous.

More Reading:

Blogcritics: Blogger denies slavery cause of Civil War

The Constitution of the Confederate States of America

Wikipedia: Origins of the American Civil War