Wednesday, November 26, 2008

History Moans

Michael Medved has written a history book, and his latest article is a plug for it. It does happen to be timely as it is apparently about the 10 great lies of American History. Lie Number One deals with our treatment of the Indians; I think he lets us off the hook a little to easily, but his argument at least is within the realm of history.

Lie number two is that our country was built on the backs of slaves.
While slavery represented an undeniable horror in our nation's early history, the slave population never exceeded 20% of the national total (amounting to 12% at the time of the Civil War). This means that at least 80% of the work force remained free laborers.

The claim that our forefathers built America "on the backs of slaves" rests on the idiotic idea that involuntary servitude proved vastly more productive than free labor. In fact, the states dominated by the slave economy counted as the poorest, least developed in the union — providing the North with crushing economic superiority that brought victory in the War Between the States.

Of more than 20 million Africans taken from their homes in chains, at most 3% ever made their way to the territory of the United States (or the British colonies preceding our nation). Americans played no part in establishing the once-universal institution of slavery but played a leading, outsize role in bringing about its abolition.
1. 80% of the work force remaining free laborers only works if you assume the entire American Population to be laborers. I'm sure managing a plantation was a lot of work; but not sure you can equate the two.

2. The claim that America was built on the backs of slaves does not rest on the theory that slaves are more efficient than free workers.

3. The southern states were underdeveloped technologically, but the northern states mills and factories were fed by raw materials extracted, in large part, by slaves picking cotton. The American Economy grew, as a whole, because of cheap materials, and slavery played a big part in keeping those materials cheap, before technological innovation made them less profitable.

4. The American South fought to preserve slavery while the North fought to preserve the Union. The only reason the Union played an outsize role in ending slavery is that we had played an outsize roll in preserving and expanding slavery; we had the most slaves. Once we got rid of slavery (during a bloody war in which Virginians, Georgians, Alabamans, Mississpians and others fought for the right to own human beings), well, our share of slavery had grown so large, and other civilized nations had abandoned the practice, that it was a significant drop in world slavery.

Anyway, just one of those things that gets under my skin. Michael Medved is a Conservative Pundit so his history is meant to prove his ideological points, not to actually determine what actually happened.

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