The Confederate statues of Robert E. Lee, Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and others, could be replaced with war memorials for the soldiers of the Confederacy. Many of these statues were erected in the late 1800s and early 1900s to commemorate the soldiers who were then dying off. But instead of just honoring the soldiers, the statues honor the leaders of the Confederacy. The intention of the civic chiefs who put up the statues may have also meant to glorify the Confederacy and denounce the “War of Northern Aggression.”
Those persons in the South who truly seek to honor their ancestors of the Civil War should be satisfied with memorials to the soldiers rather than to the chiefs who sought to preserve slavery. Those opposed to removing the statues say that the removal erases history. But should there be statues of Stalin in Russia because of history? The statues glorify policies, and bad policies should serve as warnings of what not to do.
There is also the question of where to draw the line. It is pointed out that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Perhaps we should heed the commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” But there is a human urge to build monuments to heroes, and Americans have in Washington DC memorials to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and others. The lines are subjective, but a reasonable line is to distinguish those who sought to create a better society, and those who sought to preserve the evil institution of slavery.
Personally, I favor removing statues of president Andrew Jackson, because of his policy of forcibly moving American Indians. But Jackson did many other things, so I won’t campaign to remove statues of him. Some tolerance for objects we dislike is needed for social peace.
Tolerance also has its just limits. I would oppose erecting a statue of Stalin or other totalitarians. The test is a preponderance of evil. But the perception is somewhat subjective. Ultimately, it is the majority within the area who will decide, and the rest of the people should be good sports.
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FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for Progress.org since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.
Foldvary is the author of The Soul of Liberty, Public Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.
Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.