Mimsy Were the Borogoves

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

Slavery is barbarism

Jerry Stratton, May 19, 2021

Frederick Douglass: Slavery is barbarism

This was originally going to be part of Two Weeks and the Madness of Experts, but it kept getting longer. The left often uses opposite words, words and phrases that literally say the opposite of what they mean. One of the worst is that when they talk about freedom, they mean slavery. They desperately want to return to a time when a plantation elite controlled the lives of all the lesser folk; I doubt this is ever more obvious than when they talk about the economic benefits of slavery.

The left keeps claiming that slavery is a wealth creator, despite all of the evidence of history. Why? The more I see the left and progressives cling to the regressive notion that slavery was some kind of net economic positive, despite all of the evidence that slavery impeded economic growth and technological progress, the more sinister it seems. Why is it so important to them that we believe slavery had its good qualities?

I think that the left needs us to think slavery was a net wealth creator because they need us to believe that freedom is not a wealth creator. That freedom is inefficient compared to slavery and the expertise of slave owners. For decades under communism, all the way to the end, they bemoaned the “fact” that the Soviet Union’s planned economy would inevitably overtake the United State’s free market and leave us in the dustbin of history.

The kind of aristocratic government they prefer is a throwback to the barbarism of the past. But when people know that freedom creates wealth, people also know that the left’s barbarism doesn’t work.

Everywhere that there have been relatively free societies next to a slave society, the slave society has been poor and backward compared to their neighbors.

From Sparta—it’s where we got the word spartan to mean lacking comfort—through the American south and even into the present, slavery has impeded progress and wasted wealth.

Even after the Civil War, the one industry in the south that improved the fastest was the one that had previously been most dependent on slave labor: cotton.

As bad as industry was in the south after the war, the cotton industry had been worse under slavery.

Their descent into identity politics and social justice isn’t really a change for the Democratic Party. It’s the same old trickery they pulled in Lincoln’s time. They still think their slavery under a different name is a positive force and segregation a social good, just as they did before the Civil War. Let Lincoln’s “it” in the following quote apply to socialism or segregation, and it still is true today:

You may turn over everything in the Democratic policy from beginning to end, whether in the shape it [slavery] takes on the statute-book, in the shape it takes in the Dred Scott decision, in the shape it takes in conversation, or the shape it takes in short maxim-like arguments—it everywhere carefully excludes the idea that there is anything wrong in it. — Abraham Lincoln (The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858)

The level of ignorance it takes to think slavery—or socialism—creates wealth compared to free economies is breath-taking. To think that anything positive comes from slavery is the height of arrogance. The person who thinks that believes that if they were the slaveowner, their rule would be a good one.

It’s why so many great writers from Wells to Orwell can show the evils of other people’s socialism and yet remain socialist.

The justifications for slavery by Democrats in the era leading up to the Civil War sound a lot like their justifications for socialism: a benevolent elite caring for and making decisions for a working population that isn’t capable of doing it for themselves.

Slavery is wrong

…it has been the rule of civilization and Christianity the world over, that whenever any one man or set of men were incapable of taking care of themselves, they should consent to be governed by those who are capable of managing their affairs for them.

Stephen Douglas would get along very well on the New York Times today.

For the New York Times to write that “we will publish essays demonstrating that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery” says far more about the New York Times and the left than it does about America.

The Democratic Party practically grew out of slavery, so joining with progressives in saying that “nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery” is very self-serving. When you’re exceptionally bad, it helps to believe you are not exceptional. When you’re exceptionally evil, it helps to believe that everyone else is evil, too.

Civilization is held back by slavery, but the modern Democratic Party, like their antebellum forebears, need to believe otherwise. They need us to believe otherwise. If freedom is inferior to slavery, then what can it possibly be superior to? Once you’ve decided that freedom is inferior to slavery, there’s no form of socialism that you can’t support.

You can see their belief in slavery in every so-called right that they claim people have. The left often claims, for example, that everyone has the right to health care. They don’t believe it. They believe that health care can be compelled and denied, just as they believe that the government has the power to compel and deny speech or self defense.

The right to self-defense doesn’t mean that any person can go up to a police officer and say, stop protecting other people, give me that Glock because I have a right to self-defense. The right to self-defense includes the right to choose and pay for the self-defense tool that best fits your needs. It does not include the right to force someone else to protect you.

When the left talks about a right to health care, what they really mean is that the government can deny health care: that someone can go to a doctor and say, stop treating that person and treat me instead. I don’t care if that person needs this medicine, give it to me instead.

When they talk about a right to a living wage, they’re really talking about a right to deny jobs.

It was progressive experts who designed wage laws, in the name of the scientific state, to discourage hiring less-skilled workers. It wasn’t employer racism that drove away entry-level jobs. It was progressive government, and it still drives away entry-level jobs today.

The minimum wage was designed by progressives to identify inferior people and keep them unemployed. Ironically, when progressives enacted these laws, they often literally phrased it as weeding unemployables from the workforce.

Felix Frankfurter… invoked the segregating effects of minimum wage laws to justify his defense of Oregon’s minimum wage law. Frankfurter argued that the states’ police power permitted them to override the individuals right to freely contract in the name of protecting society’s health, welfare, or morals. Because a successful minimum wage sorted “the normal self-supporting worker from the unemployables” (by idling them), it served a compelling state interest in public health. — Thomas C. Leonard (Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era)

Better for being ridden

Slavery is in our best interest, as long as the slave-owner is a progressive expert. Even Jim Crow was a progressive policy.

Jim Crow was needed, [President Woodrow] Wilson said, because without it, black Americans “were a danger to themselves as well as to those whom they had once served.” When President Wilson arrived in Washington, his administration resegregated the federal government, hounding from office large numbers of black federal employees. — Thomas C. Leonard (Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era)

This is why the left uses contradictory constructions that equate freedom with slavery. If some people have a right to health care, other people must be enslaved to provide it—and everyone must be denied the freedom to choose their own health plans. If some people have a right to education, other people must be enslaved to teach them—and everyone must be denied the freedom to choose their own education. If some people have a right to shelter, other people must be enslaved to build it—and everyone must be denied the freedom to choose their own neighborhood or style of home. If some people have a right to food, other people must be enslaved to grow it—and everyone must be denied the freedom to choose the kinds of food they eat. And so the quality of health care declines while costs rise; cities build tenements that trap and kill the poor; children graduate uneducated; people grow fatter and more unhealthy; and Ukrainian farmers die of starvation by the millions.

And the experts are continually surprised by these outcomes.

When people are free to work for themselves and their own improvement, free to choose the education style that fits them, when they are free to choose their own doctors and their own health plans, it works out better for everyone. It progresses the individual and the society the individual is a part of.

The left tries to convince us that slavery creates wealth because they need us to accept slavery rather than progress.

The neocon right takes a lot of grief for believing that everyone wants to be free, and using this as a basis for foreign policy. But while the latter is dangerously misguided, complaining about the former accepts yet another leftist opposite concept. Everyone does want to be free. Where America differs from most of the rest of the world and most times1 is that throughout human history people have been perfectly happy to enslave their neighbor. That’s the brutal barbarism that the left wants to return to.

The left thinks they’re being innovative by arguing that their slavery-by-another-name is good for the enslaved. But even that’s an old story. The argument of the anointed for enslaving us through all ages and lands is that they ride us with rules they don’t follow not because they want to, but because we’re better off for being ridden. It was their argument when they ran the plantations, and it it’s the same argument today as they attempt to remake the entire country into a plantation.

Many of these ideas, and even how they’re phrased, were stolen shamelessly from commenters at the Ace of Spades HQ.

  • This is a good point—and one we do not hit on enough in the debate I think as an overall idea: when people are allowed to work for themselves and their own betterment (money, property), it oddly works out better for everyone—not just them.—Aetius451AD
  • Redundant, but the level of ignorance and lack of analytical capacity it takes to “think” that slavery is a system that creates wealth compared to free economies, or that anything positive or distinctive about the US relates in any way to slavery, is kind of breath-taking.—rhomboid
  • Well, since the Democratic Party grew out of slavery, Ms. Gay is just keeping the faith. Keep digging, kiddo, you’ll find that pony someday!—Hierominous Botch

In response to The new barbarism: A return to feudalism: The progressive left seems to have no concept of what civilization is, and of what undergirds civilization.

  1. Except for one teacher in Israel over 2,000 years ago who advised us to do unto others as we would have done unto us, and possibly a Chinese philosopher 2,500 years ago who advised the ideal monarch to end his self interest and not set the standard for good and evil from his own subjective values.

    These teachings are rare, and the few who espouse them stand out in history because of how different they are.

  1. <- Power Play 2020