Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

2018 in Photos

Jerry Stratton, January 17, 2018

January 17, 2018: Slavery does not create wealth
Frederick Douglass: Slavery is barbarism

Last night I saw the strangest meme, a backhanded compliment to slavery:

You have to first of all understand nothing about the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade.

You have to not understand anything about the systematic theft of African bodies and lives. And you have to not understand how that theft built the wealth we have today in Europe and the US.

The emphasis is mine, and the problem with that part of this meme is that it makes the unwarranted assumption that, as evil as it is, slavery is useful for something. That slavery is more effective than freedom at creating wealth. But history says that it isn’t—and former slaves agree. In fact, slavery kills wealth, and what wealth it seems to create is a hollow shell that crumbles once it is no longer propped up by the state. This was true in Sparta—it is why we use the adjective “Spartan” to mean living in minimal wealth—and it was true in the American South. That’s why the Confederacy was at such a disadvantage during the war: because the North was so much better at wealth creation, and had been since the North abandoned slavery. Because the North abandoned slavery earlier, they were ahead of the South in wealth creation, which meant the ability to wage more effective war.

Throughout history, the slave trade has retarded wealth growth everywhere it has been used, from Sparta to the American South. That was one of the things that (somewhat paradoxically) most disappointed Frederick Douglass when he escaped to the North: he had assumed that even though slavery was evil, at least his suffering had enhanced the lives of slaveowners. Instead he found that even many former slaves in the North lived in greater luxury than slaveowners in the South.

  1. <- 2017 in Photos