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The Problem with Juneteenth

Updated: June 19, 2024 at 6:36 pm EST  See Comments

This article was originally published by Connor O’Keeffe at The Mises Institute. 

Today is Juneteenth. One hundred fifty-nine years ago, on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas and declared that all slaves in the state were free. The following year, in 1866, residents of the town where Granger had issued the order celebrated the anniversary as “Jubilee Day.” Eventually, the name changed to Juneteenth, and in 1979, it became a Texas state holiday. Then, in 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

The West’s abolition of chattel slavery was one of the greatest victories for liberty in our civilization’s history. Using an anniversary like today to celebrate the achievement and reflect on why it was necessary in the first place—or how it could have come about better—should be a rare point of unity in today’s politically fractured America.

But in the years since Biden signed the so-called Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, the holiday has become increasingly co-opted by progressives in media, academia, and politics as a way to push for radical policies like collective reparations or the exclusion of white people from celebrations.

Because of that, most of the rhetoric we see from those promoting Juneteenth sidesteps the actual issue of slavery. They do so because adherents of modern progressivism do not actually believe in self-ownership, the antithesis of slavery.

Only libertarians have a consistent commitment to self-ownership. We believe that nobody has the right to another’s labor. Nobody can justly claim ownership over another’s body or the fruits of their labor. Progressives do not believe this.

Modern American progressivism can be defined by its commitment to what are called positive rights. Where negative rights entail an obligation not to do something, like murder or stealing, positive rights refer to the supposed right to be provided with something, like education or healthcare.

The remainder of this article is available in its entirety at SHTF Plan

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