I was pleased to learn that today is the Eighth National Day of the Cowboy. As such, it’s especially appropriate that we take advantage of the opportunity to set the record straight on many things Cowboy and Western.
First of all, the Old West was far more peaceful than is commonly portrayed in movies and the popular culture. As Thomas DiLorenzo points out in his Independent Review article, “The Culture of Violence in the American West: Myth versus Reality,” “some authors assume that the West was very violent and then assert, as Joe Franz does, that ‘American violence today reflects our frontier heritage’”—an argument that has been resurfacing in the past week in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado shootings. Yet DiLorenzo finds: “The civil society of the American West in the nineteenth century was much more peaceful than American cities are today, and the evidence suggests that in fact the Old West was not a very violent place at all.”
Further, in their chapter, “An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West,” in the Independent Institute book Anarchy and the Law, Terry Anderson and P.J. Hill found:
The West during this time often is perceived as a place of great chaos, with little respect for property or life. Our research indicates that this was not the case; property rights were protected and civil order prevailed. Private agencies provided the necessary basis for an orderly society in which property was protected and conflicts were resolved.
Thomas DiLorenzo also details that it was the establishment of a standing army in the aftermath of the Civil War that created the “violent” American West which consisted primarily of violence against Indians. Prior to the Civil War, settlers obtained land through negotiating with Indians. Following the Civil War,
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