• Tom Cleary

Privatize the Statues

The controversy over statues to Confederate leaders or anyone else for that matter is or should be an easy one for Christians to solve. It is an even easier controversy to solve for an anarchist, of any persuasion. Privatize them. All of them. There wasn’t that easy? But, wait. Don’t we want to memorialize our heroes? Shouldn’t we be able to make permanent our adoration of these historical figures? Well, my solution does not stop anyone from doing this. My solution just removes the whole issue from the political equation, which would, I think, represent a significant improvement in the situation.

First, as Christians, we should be leery of all statuary in the first place. I am not an iconoclast, I am not saying that religious figures and statues are always a negative thing. Very often they can help focus our devotion and strengthen our faith as well as give us comfort. Too much of anything can be a negative but as with all things moderation in this can be healthy. What Christians should be very leery of is state sponsored iconography. This strikes me a blasphemous. I mean, the existence of the state and the worship and obeisance it commands is blasphemous and a clear violation of the 1st. Commandment. State sponsored statues and “art” is nothing but a reinforcement of this idea.

Let’s take just one famous example; look at the inscription atop the Lincoln Memorial. It starts “In this temple…” Really, a temple? That should completely offend the Christian conscience. The government confers upon itself an ethereal status with every statue and monument; from the Washington Monument to Mount Rushmore. A status that belongs to a sovereign. However, for Christians, there can be only ONE sovereign and that is God. The inscription we should emblazon everywhere we can but most certainly upon our hearts is that “There is No King but Christ”. I would offer a caution to putting up a statue of a governmental figure even in your back yard, but that would be preferable to using expropriated wealth to put in place such awful imagery.

This brings us to my proposed solution. If we privatize memorials and the whole “memorialization industry”, we remove the real source of conflict from this issue. Politics, is of course, a zero-sum game. For every winner there is a loser. It is the complete opposite of a market transaction, which produces two winners. The minority will always push back about an honor given to so and so or a memorial for such and such an event. I cannot disagree. I may disagree with the specifics of a particular figure or historical event being held up (I am assuming most of these are held up to a positive light), but I am not prepared to force anyone into valuing the same historical figures and events as I.

So, if an individual or group wants to memorialize a particular figure, they are allowed to do so; on their own property, with their own funds. If you want a statue of Robert E. Lee, or Nathan Bedford Forest (a Confederate general and founder of the KKK), then go ahead. Hell, put up a statue to Hitler if that floats your boat. Just don’t expect to get invited to too many neighborhood potlucks. We would, as Christians rightly reject such symbols, but we should never try to enforce our view of the Christian good upon anyone. Frankly, we don’t need to, the power of the Gospel is enough.

How should we deal with the statues and memorials that the government owns now? There has been a lot of discussion amongst libertarians over the years about how to privatize state assets. You could sell them, but that might just give the state a reward for having expropriated the wealth in the first place. Murray Rothbard suggested allowing people to homestead the property as is explained in Section VI, here. The state could simply give them away to interested parties or museums (privately run of course). An exhibit of why and how these statues came to be in the first place would be informative. Most of them arose during the Jim Crow era as symbols of white supremacy as well as to further the Myth of the Lost Cause. Use these statues to teach a lesson about the misuse of history for present-day political purposes. I tend to prefer the homesteading option, but the specifics are not as important as getting them off the government books and into the hands of private citizens. This removes this issue from public debate and will immediately cool tensions. By the way, we should remove ALL government owned statues, not just Confederate ones. Let the voluntary marketplace determine the right type, subject matter and form of historical memorials, so as not to burden the body politic with such an emotional issue.

It will serve an additional purpose of unmasking some of the true intentions of the “woke” left and the reactionary right. The left will clearly not be satisfied with moving these images into private hands. They will want them destroyed and this will further underline their innate hostility to private property and freedom of expression. The right will want to keep them in state hands, in spite of a nominal adherence to limited government principles, because they are all about the glorification of the NATION and the awful notion of some organic entity that is greater than the individuals that comprise it. In this way, they too will expose themselves as inimical to free speech as they want to mandate expression via the government.

So, for reasons of Christian conscience as well as practical political considerations and the added benefits of showing the world what both right and left are all about this is a plan that makes sense. We will not violate anyone’s deeply held beliefs; memorialize whomever you choose, just do it on your own dime and with your own time.

Praise Be to God


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