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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) No, slavery was NOT good for the economy (Read 1,454 times)
TowardLiberty
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No, slavery was NOT good for the economy
Aug 20th, 2019 at 5:34pm
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"There are many errors and ironies in the NY Times attempting to lay the blame for slavery on capitalism. One of them is the following:

The argument of the New Historians of Capitalism is that slavery was productive and efficient, therefore it contributed to capitalist development. But as James Hanley points out, a real measure of its efficiency needs to include the costs and benefits *to the slaves.* Any good economic analysis of its efficiency would do so.

And in fact, many of the 19th century classical liberal defenders of capitalism, like JS Mill, were also radical abolitionists. One might even call them scholar-activists. The idea that united their defense of capitalism and opposition to slavery (and racism more generally) was "analytical egalitarianism.* This is the idea that when we analyze social phenomena, we treat ALL actors as equal. It's an idea, btw, that dates back to at least Adam Smith among classical liberals. *Everyone* counts when we analyze costs and benefits. A perusal of David M. Levy and Sandra J. Peart's work would be helpful here too.

Given that the costs of slavery to the slaves were enormous and the benefits were few, assessing the overall efficiency of slavery has to account for that. Not to mention that we have piles of evidence that free people are more productive than enslaved ones.

It's one thing to argue that the counter-factual of no slavery would have done much more for capitalist development than what is argued slavery did, but as people like Phil Magness and Jason Brennan have pointed out, the calculations of people like Baptist are all wrong and/or made up in the first place. The more careful economic historians have placed the contribution of slave-produced cotton to US GDP at a far lower number, suggesting it was far less important to the development of capitalism than the NY Times writers are claiming. Now add on top of that the costs and benefits *to the slaves* and you have a whole different and far worse picture of what slavery contributed to wealth and efficiency.

That this leftist attack on classical liberal ideas relies on how productive and efficient slavery was, and thereby ignores not only the carefully produced evidence of more serious scholars that denies it, and throws analytical egalitarianism out the window is just.... stunning."

- Steve Horwitz

Slavery is not our finest hour but the left is wrong about it being some miracle economic system and are vastly overstating it's importance for the development of capitalism and the US economy.
« Last Edit: Aug 20th, 2019 at 6:53pm by TowardLiberty »  

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Re: No, slavery was NOT good for the economy
Reply #1 - Aug 20th, 2019 at 5:36pm
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It would have been cheaper to pay people than use slaves?

Assuming so, why did slavery stay legal for so long?

Assuming no, then slavery is a competitive advantage.
  

If you are more fortunate than others, build a longer table, not a taller fence.

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Re: No, slavery was NOT good for the economy
Reply #2 - Aug 20th, 2019 at 5:37pm
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Free labor not good for the economy....What a concept
  

PaleoCon wrote on Jul 17th, 2019 at 10:18am:
No blacks will buy that cap.  Look at the bill! It's all curved like normal people wear. The bill of the hat is supposed to be flat with a shiny goofy looking sticker in the middle of it.

No self respecting thug would be without his sticker!

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Re: No, slavery was NOT good for the economy
Reply #3 - Aug 20th, 2019 at 6:07pm
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I've read that labor shortages in the northern states prompted technical innovation.  They built gadgets and cultivated technical engineering disciplines to get more work done with fewer hands, because they had "fewer hands".  That's why the north industrialized earlier than the south.

I've read similar things about the Greeks -- those parts of ancient Greece that shunned slavery tended to focus on technical advancements, to their great economic benefit.

In that context, slavery was DECIDEDLY bad for the southern economy.
  

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Re: No, slavery was NOT good for the economy
Reply #4 - Aug 20th, 2019 at 6:07pm
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Slavery died over a century ago.  No idea why we live in the past.
  

"Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure (and) which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."

Charles Carroll, signer of the DOI
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forgotten centrist
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Re: No, slavery was NOT good for the economy
Reply #5 - Aug 20th, 2019 at 6:08pm
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The nazis are gone too, but we still talk about them...
  

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TowardLiberty
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Re: No, slavery was NOT good for the economy
Reply #6 - Aug 20th, 2019 at 6:12pm
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Mojo-Jojo wrote on Aug 20th, 2019 at 5:36pm:
It would have been cheaper to pay people than use slaves?


In the short run, no, probably not. But when you consider that free people are more productive, then, yes. Output per head should and would increase in switching to free labor. Everyone wins, even those capitalists who need to hire labor when they did not before.

Ultimately, "cheaper" is beside the point. It leaves out the costs borne by the slaves themselves.

From Horwitz's post: "Given that the costs of slavery to the slaves were enormous and the benefits were few, assessing the overall efficiency of slavery has to account for that."

Quote:
Assuming so, why did slavery stay legal for so long?


Politics. Powerful people wanted it. You could ask the same question about the war on drugs, or our wealth and security destroying foreign policy.

Perhaps people thought it was necessary. Black people are not capable of handling freedom and other similar bigotries were common. No doubt there was a litany of excuses and bad arguments.

Quote:
Assuming no, then slavery is a competitive advantage.


It's at a disadvantage in terms of productivity even if it is "cheaper" in terms of labor costs. Slavery is not the most efficient or productive way to organize an economic system, it only seems that way when you ignore the costs to the slaves and ignore the relative inefficiency of slave labor as compared with free labor.
« Last Edit: Aug 20th, 2019 at 10:54pm by TowardLiberty »  

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Re: No, slavery was NOT good for the economy
Reply #7 - Aug 20th, 2019 at 6:17pm
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forgotten centrist wrote on Aug 20th, 2019 at 6:07pm:
I've read that labor shortages in the northern states prompted technical innovation.  They built gadgets and cultivated technical engineering disciplines to get more work done with fewer hands, because they had "fewer hands".  That's why the north industrialized earlier than the south.

I've read similar things about the Greeks -- those parts of ancient Greece that shunned slavery tended to focus on technical advancements, to their great economic benefit.

In that context, slavery was DECIDEDLY bad for the southern economy.

Another good point.
  

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Re: No, slavery was NOT good for the economy
Reply #8 - Aug 20th, 2019 at 6:19pm
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TowardLiberty wrote on Aug 20th, 2019 at 6:12pm:
Politics. Powerful people wanted it to. You could ask the same question about the war on drugs, or our wealth and security destroying foreign policy.


Or tariffs, or taxes generally, or a whole slew of regulations, or the fed, or bank bailouts.

This point you make answers all of that.  There are countless things that the government does that are not good for the economy as a whole, but are good for a select few who are in control.  They often, either on purpose or by ignorance, will even present these ideas as good for the economy, even when they are not.
  
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TowardLiberty
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Re: No, slavery was NOT good for the economy
Reply #9 - Aug 20th, 2019 at 6:24pm
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Wadsworth wrote on Aug 20th, 2019 at 5:37pm:
Free labor not good for the economy....What a concept

lol okay so if it's so great for the "economy" (which somehow doesn't include the welfare of ALL the people), then maybe we should resurrect the peculiar institution?

Is that where the left wants to go?
  

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