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View Diary: A Libertarian Reads "Atlas Shrugged" - Part 2 (109 comments)

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  •  Slavery versus peonage (2+ / 0-)
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    Tonedevil, Troubadour

    As a practical matter, slavery is a part of capitalism.  You can't draw a hard distinction between a person who is involuntarily made a slave, and a person who "sells" himself to a boss because there is no other available alternative.  This is because we live with the social consequences of our forefathers' decisions.  Serfdom, peonage, sharecropping all can be said to be different from antebellum-style slavery because they are voluntary, but if the causative debts are inherited the children are preordained to be serfs.  That is why the South changed so appallingly little when it was forced to convert from a slavery system to a sharecropping system.  Yet by the classical liberal ideology of the 1870s USA, blacks were now "free".

    And I would argue that when the entire system of serfdom has been rigged to privilege white serfs so they will keep black serfs trapped in place even at their own detriment, then the system will endure even if the debts are not inherited.

    •  Slavery is not part of capitalism (0+ / 0-)

      I think you're stretching those words beyond the point of meaning.

      In post-civil war America, large numbers of black immigrated to the North because it offered better opportunities.  They were not still slaves, even in your sense.  The ones who remaind behind were still slaves in all but name because the old power structure wasn't dismantled after the war, not because the South suddenly became capitalist.

      Sean Wilentz's The Rise Of American Democracy is a very good history of how aristocratic Southern plantation owners used the poor white "peons" to keep slavery in place, to their own detriment.

      Results count for more than intentions do.

      by VA Classical Liberal on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 06:53:21 PM PST

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      •  Capitalism as theory or fact? (1+ / 0-)
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        It is only a theory that human rights exist, unless government has the power to enforce them.  No other institution is required by market forces to do so.  When the government would do nothing, then certainly slavery has been a part of capitalist economies.  The southern colonies were set up by English joint-stock corporations.  They literally were for-profit operations.  Indentured servants (temp slaves) were part of the business model, but when they became part of Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, the model had to be revised, using slaves from the West Indies.  But the West Indies colonies were ALSO created by private corporations.

        So I don't see how you can say slavery is not regionally compatible with capitalism.  Everything that subsequently happened in the South was due to the English corporations being supplanted by local family ownership of slavery, but that was probably due to what current greed-pimps would call a "shorter decision-making loop".  The imposition by those families of the bullshit white supremacist/tribalist ideology of the South, which lives on in the modern Right, was thus an act of self-interest and social engineering that many modern corporations seem to find very much in their pro-GOP interest.  If the original corporations had stayed in control of the South, they would have attempted likewise.

        Hey - Fox is an English corporation!

        •  In theory and in fact. (0+ / 0-)

          Libertarian philosophy condones free trade and condems the use of (non-defensive) force to achieve ones ends.

          Stolen property is not legitametly obtained, so trading in it is not a free trade, even if it is done for a profit.  Since slavery is literally man-stealing (since every man owns himself), slave trading is not capitalism.

          I hope that doesn't sound like a tautology.  That's the thinking.

          Results count for more than intentions do.

          by VA Classical Liberal on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 07:37:21 PM PST

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          •  Capitalism is what it is (0+ / 0-)

            Not what libertarians say it is.  For you to say that half the colonies that founded the USA are not capitalist, or that any businessman or corporation who got rich by doing something awful is not a capitalist, is like a Christian saying that any time other Christians murder people or start wars, they're not really Christians.

            The East India Company, Standard Oil, the slaveowners, the robber barons, the monopolists, and Dick Cheney are part of the story of the lust of capital for power.  They happen over and over again.  Why is that?  Because power is not something created artificially by governments.  It is the asymmetry of leverage in the relationships between rich and poor, boss and job-seeker, man and woman, brainwashing advertiser and brainwashed consumer, superpowers and 3rd world states.  The relationships create power and that power is either regulated or it runs its inevitable course of self-amplification and social destabilization.  

            Your definition of capitalism, without those scoundrels, is as irrelevant as the theory that in perfect markets, profits will always dwindle to zero due to perfect competition.  Well, if profits were always zero, where would capitalism be today?  It is the imperfection that harnesses and amplifies human greed - meaning the hope of getting away with it.

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