Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Brief Note on Slavery

I will write on this at length later, but there is something I read repeatedly in left-wing, and especially communist/socialist, web sites, and it puzzles me to no end. They speak of "the slave trade" as a specific ill of industrialization and capitalism. Yet, slavery was hardly a creation of the 18th or 19th century, slaves had existed ever since settled agriculture made it sensible to enslave rather than exterminate those defeated in combat. (See "More Thoughts on Slavery".) Even massive slave markets, an organized slave trade and all the rest existed in quite developed forms long before capitalism. Nor is it unique to the west. Slavery was practiced by most cultures, and slave markets, slave traders, large scale commerce in slaves, existed on several continents. If anything, the end of slavery, the choice to not just speak about the dignity of man, but to actually act on it, came from industrialization and capitalism. After all, the evil, capitalist, imperial power England spent a large amount of money and dedicated a lot of its naval power to ending slavery around the world, when most of the rest of mankind did not care. I am sure some communist will tell me this is because they wanted to make those slaves proletariat workers in sweat shops or some other nonsense, but, if that is the case, then why do the same people claim capitalism created slavery? Either capitalism is hostile to slavery or friendly, you cant have it both ways.

But, as I said, a lot to be said about the relationship of slavery and economics (eg the hostility of the industrial, capitalist north in the US to slavery in the semi-feudal, agrarian south), and I hope to write a much longer essay in the near future.

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