“It’s the Economy, stupid!” — the real benefits of Slavery
I was unpersuaded at first. The thoughtful and carefully researched 1619 series in the New York Times on how slavery and racism are in fact responsible for American greatness was still in its early stage. But now I am convinced. What an insight! To see that without slavery, the US would be just another tinpot third-world state as poor as Peru or Venezuela, but without their fascinating cultural legacies.
Now it all seems so clear. The slave states were largely rural, of course, but how much of Western success depends on its farms and their human labor. And see now the problems that have arisen as sturdy yeopersons have been almost replaced by machines. In the US, the North did begin to industrialize after a while, but it was just imitating Britain and Germany, and without the vast wealth transferred to northern industrialists from Southern slave plantations, surely little could have been accomplished. Canada’s success cannot be directly attributed to slave labor, but her parasitic relationship to the United States hardly needs to be spelled out.
The Civil War was, of course, a terrible mistake. The cost was excessive, and by abolishing slavery it greatly retarded America’s advance. How much more prosperous we would have been with a strong slave economy!
And we can see for ourselves how well those other slave nations have done. Saudi Arabia, for example, surely would not be wealthy were it not for its wise toleration of slavery in years past. And many nations in Africa have boomed on the backs of their slaves. Russia’s meteoric economic growth undoubtedly depended and still depends on her slaves, first called “serfs” and more recently gulag residents. The custom may be dying out now, which perhaps accounts for Russia’s recent economic decline.
Japan is something of an exception. Future historians will need to help us understand how that prosperous nation managed to succeed without a serious slave market. Britain, of course, did not hold slaves but profited mightily from her holdings in the Caribbean. No doubt the industrial revolution would never have happened without takings from the slave trade and the growing of tobacco and cotton by captive labor. It is surely no coincidence that James Watt’s steam engine was announced in 1776.
Germany’s industrial success in the 19th and early 20th centuries is remarkable since we have little evidence of much slaveholding. But when her industries began to flag after WW I, it was only a few years before a farsighted leader sought to introduce slavery there also. His success might have been great, but his modernizing efforts were rudely interrupted by the Allies who seemed to have forgotten the great benefits that slavery could bring.
Or perhaps they were just jealous.