Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cotton Gin and Conscientious Objection

Business and politics are tightly intertwined, and I found myself getting political on my business blog.   As a conscientious objector, my politics are anarchistic, in the academic sense of the word.  over at my business blog, I was expositing on bank-and-IPR-free industrial development when I found myself getting very political...  so I extricated digressions and deposited them here...

On the topic of the cotton gin, I noted:

And the price of cotton dropped dramatically, so now middle class could start to wear it.  Since the USA at the time respected neither property rights nor human rights, disasters followed.  Slavery got a new lease on life as cotton became more profitable for slavers, and more land was put under cotton.  Cotton is notorious land fertility depleter, so slavers needed to move West. This led to conflict with Mexico, and in turn to the USA invasion and seizure of Mexican lands for cotton growers.  As Thoreau lamented, democracy allows for a very few to get the many into war.

That cotton gin that gave slavery a new lease on life, and subsequently brought us the war on Mexico, led to the USA civil war.  According to General Grant:

"The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican War.  Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.  We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times."
(Written in the 1880s as Grant reflected on a war in which he fought in the 1840s.)

So the cotton gin was a good thing showing up at the wrong time and place.  War followed in its wake.

This war was waged subsequent to a regime that protected slavery and disrespected property rights.  None suffered more after this war than the American Indians and citizens of some African heritage. Had we respected property rights, certainly the Chickasaw would have had the option of farming and earning, but since they were the last of the Confederates to surrender n the Civil war, their nation was targeted for particularly robust land loss. As to Americans of some African ancestry, land ownership was threatened by disenfranchised whites.  

In any case, no doubt small farmers would conserve their land better than larger slavers, who had the political clout to simply deplete and steal.  If the state did not violently enforce slavery and land theft, surely results would have been different.  But the fact of the matter is USA had both, so we have to look to other times and places where slavery was not enforced and property rights were respected.  Nothing comes to mind.  

But we do know in history, in the 19th century, some 18 other countries rid themselves of slavery without war.  And in these countries people of African heritage find themselves less constrained in opportunity than in USA. 

As a side note, a point I’ve made before, slaves had more opportunity to be productive in USA as slaves than they ever have been since they were “freed.”  Their experience as slaves, that is within two generations of being slave-born cultural primitives, they were shoulder to shoulder with pioneers of the industrial revolution, contradicts the scientific rascists who tell us people of African heritage are inferior humans.  What took the West thousands of years to develop in terms of culture Africans were able to possess within two generations.

Are Africans, therefore, superhuman?  No, it just shows ideas matter.  If you get the ideas right, they will work for everyone.  The most peaceful, prosperous places on earth are where several languages are spoken at once, law is performance based, and generally unbiased.

Unfortunately, the progressives got the upper hand in the 19th century and Lincoln and his followers tried to rearrange USA by violence.  The contributions of African Americans were circumscribed as a result of the war, and the Indians were the target of the war machine left over from the civil war.  The concentration camps for Indians became the model for Germany within 50 years.

Getting the ideas right matter.

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