[ExI] Slavery Now and in the Past (was: Health system, again)

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Tue Apr 15 16:01:09 UTC 2008

On Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 2:32 PM, Olga Bourlin <fauxever at sprynet.com> wrote:

>  If you are counting in the opinion of the slaves themselves, perhaps a case
> could be made that slavery was unpopular - but slavery was quite accepted
> and popular by "the majority of [White] Southern population."  (I suppose
> apologists for the Confederacy would like to have one think otherwise ...).

### The way I heard it, crackerjacks hated blacks but didn't really
like slavery. They saw slavery as a form of competition for them,
since slaves supported large landowners who diminished the political
power of white, non-slave-owning farmers. There was definitely
virulent racism but this is not the same as support for slavery.

>  And it wasn't only the "minority of wealthy landowners" who profited from
> slavery- early America's economy grew and prospered greatly from slavery
> (free labor! free labor! how can any economic system beat that?) .

### I doubt that. Slaves are almost exclusively used in agriculture,
therefore their economic impact is only some reduction of food prices,
and in some cases (as in the South), cotton. Sustained economic
growth, however, is more a function of non-agricultural production and
innovation. This is why the thousands of slave- and serf-owning
societies (Vikings, Romans, Egyptian, Greeks, Arabs, almost every
major culture up to the XVIth century) didn't prosper that much, until
capitalism was invented, and as a side effect, ended slavery.
>  In so-called third-world countries where one finds slavery in the world
> these days, one also finds weak and ineffectual governments.  What does this
> say about the role of government?  What does this indicate about leaving
> things to the whimsies of "the people?" (IMHO, without the intervention of
> some sort of human rights legislation, one cannot make a good case for
> leaving things to "human nature" ... can you?)
### First of all, you find absence of capitalism there. The government
will do whatever the power-wielders want it to do. If they can benefit
from slavery, government will support slavery. "The people", or at
least some of them, make up the government, so, just as you can't make
a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you can't wring honest laws out of a
government supported by nasty people.

Abolition of slavery happens only if the society develops the legal
norms of respect for private property, free exchange, which induce
economic growth in excess of what can be achieved by brute
exploitation of slaves and serfs. People's hearts follow the money -
in a capitalist society you can make more money being an honest
merchant or businessman, and this incentive leads humans to reject
slavery, first out of convenience, later just because everybody else
says it's bad.


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