Time Magazine: Man of the Millennium

Maynard Handley handleym at ricochet.net
Fri Sep 25 10:05:03 EST 1998


In article <y6u31xr16o.fsf at tweedledumb.cygnus.com>, Craig Burley
<burley at tweedledumb.cygnus.com> wrote:

> postmaster at 127.0.0.1 (Warrl kyree Tale'sedrin) writes:
> 
> > The United States was, among industrialized nations, about the LAST to
> > eliminate slavery.
> 
> I don't have much knowledge about this, so: what nations were
> considered industrialized at that time, and to what extent did
> each undertake the sort of nation-wide building of vast
> infrastructure that the USA undertook (and which apparently
> contributed to its subsequent military might) over the next
> 150 years?
> 
> (It's my impression that it's fairly easy to eliminate slavery,
> especially my legislative fiat, once the major task of building
> is completed, the population is relatively stabilized, and the
> available land relatively well-colonized.  Otherwise I'd assume
> there'd be difficulty convincing people to stay and work on
> building infrastructure or doing the hard work of feeding those
> who did, when freedom permitted them to find their fortunes
> elsewhere.)

I'd say the issue is also one of the nature of the economy.
Slavery became a big deal because of the plantation economy system which
was a way to utilize these tracts of land in the Americas that had been
pinched from the locals. What then happened was that most of the Americas
had their own revolutions from Spain or Portugal. 
However at that point the plantation economy did not stop---large estates
run for the benefit of the few through the labor of many with no choice
continued throughout the Americas. 
So I guess the issue becomes
(a) Europe could abolish slavery because it was not an immediate
substantial threat to their economic system.
(b) The South likewise could not.
(c) The rest of the Americas could claim they had no slavery in some weird
legalistic sense, but only because they were using the locals for labor,
not so much Africans, and because their system was more like serfdom than
slavery, which is a pretty fine distinction.

However I don't see nation building as especially relevant to slavery.
Nation building is basically working hard now to build something
productive for the future. Since there is expected to be a largescale pay
off, you can pay the workers a decent wage right now to do the job. The
plantation economy is more a kind of keeping an inefficient system
sputtering along purely for the benefit of a few people with power. 

Maynard

-- 
My opinion only



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