The best of slavery, and the worst of abolitionism

Let us compare the best of slavery with the worst of abolitionism.

In the West Indies, free blacks were apt to be re-enslaved: If found with no visible means of support, would be sent to the workhouse, on the assumption that otherwise they would be stealing or starving or very likely both.

The workhouse would then attempt to find owners for them, but often these were blacks with problems. The workhouse would find if they had a former owner, and twist his arm to take them back. If no one suitable wanted them, the workhouse would support them indefinitely on public and private charity.

So the workhouses in the West Indies, or at least some of them, were operating like a no kill pet shelter. Obviously the people operating these believed they were doing good, and had plausible reason to believe they were doing good. The benefactors could see their beneficiaries and look them in the eye. They might well wind up owning a couple of their beneficiaries, as someone operating a no kill pet shelter often winds up with more than his fair share of problem pets.

Let us compare with the holier than thou abolitionists who caused a civil war that killed a large part of the white male population, burned cities to the ground, and created artificial famine.

After the slaves were freed, a significant proportion died, being generally incompetent to look after themselves. The abolitionists, having denied that blacks needed a paternalistic welfare state, were disinclined to provide one, even as the death rate among their supposed beneficiaries rose to quite alarming levels.

After the civil war and abolition, black productivity as freemen was markedly lower than black productivity as slaves, leading to markedly lower material living standards. In part this must have been because of “slave driving” – that slaves were forced to work considerably harder than they would have otherwise been inclined to work, but in part it was because the employer could not trust a black employee to behave well, whereas he could make sure a slave behaved well.

20 Responses to “The best of slavery, and the worst of abolitionism”

  1. Zach says:

    Quite the exquisite title.

  2. Ex-pat in Oz says:

    Fast forward to 21st century– tasks relying primarily on physical exertion are disappearing, thus depriving some whites and most blacks of even the prospect of honourable labour. I’m pretty confident most whites thus displaced can adapt– but blacks?

    The gulf will only widen and the progs will only grow more hysterical.

    Even “well meaning” lefty whites are starting to recoil.


  3. cassander says:

    Whether or not freed slaves were “richer” than they were while enslaved is at best highly debatable. And even were they unambiguously worse off, it would be extremely difficult to determine how much of that was a consequence of worse management and how much was a consequence of the general destruction of the southern economy.

    • >extremely difficult to determine how much of that was a consequence of worse management and how much was a consequence of the general destruction of the southern economy.

      Compare living standard drop of whites to living standard drop of slaves. Compare to other economic events. Did emancipation and civil war hit poor blacks especially hard compared to the usual distribution? Then slavery was superior, at least in terms of standard of living.

      Also, note that we have other examples of similar events with similar results: congo, rhodesia, south africa, haiti, etc

      We probably have enough evidence to make a conclusion if one is not being deliberately obtuse.

      • cassander says:

        Except the whites probably owned their own land at considerably greater rates than the blacks, making direct comparison very difficult. And even if emancipation was very hard on blacks, it still might have been a net plus after a few years. Like I said, hard to know for sure.

        • jim says:

          Suppose that the only reason that emancipation sucked was that the war wrecked the Southern economy. Still shows that the abolitionists did not care much for their supposed beneficiaries.

          Immediately after the war, the North attempted to set up social institutions in which black majorities elected black governments. This had pretty much the disastrous consequences one sees in Detroit, though all the bad stuff happening suddenly at once, and no gigantic flood of federal assistance coming in to offset the damage, provoked a white counter reaction, the KKK. Black majority rule was the obvious and total disaster that one would expect.

  4. Red says:

    I’ve always wondered if the starvation of the south was designed to kill off the more worthless blacks. Puritans at one practiced very hash breeding when it comes to lazy or non functional people.

  5. bub says:

    I have a suggestion for cheap no-kill pet shelters in the US.

    Deport them to the Congo. Pay somebody there $200/year for their food and shelter. You can eliminate the entire American underclass, with the cost averaging about $100 per year per person.

    • peppermint says:

      there were, and can be again, huge public housing projects.

      Undisciplined Blacks pissed in the stairwells.

      The solution is to impose harsh discipline with cameras everywhere, force them to keep the place clean in exchange for their EBT, and let the smarter ones have management positions with the additional right to have one child.

    • jim says:

      A bargain

  6. Dave says:

    My older brother is the perfect example of a natural slave (he’s white). Always goofing off in school, borrowing money to get into some new profession, then getting bored with it and wanting to borrow more money to invest in something else. Got a big inheritance and seven months later he was broke and in jail; he ended up serving four years on drug charges.

    Luckily, he was cute and gay, so he always got a lot of help from the San Francisco elite. He eventually settled in with a much older man (I’ve met him, a very nice guy); they’ve been together about 25 years now. He always talked like “we bought this house”, “we started this business”, etc., though he obviously didn’t contribute a dime.

    Then our aunt died, and he was eager to ditch his old master and buy a house in some other state. Oops, auntie changed her will back in the 80s, and his share is to be locked in a trust until he dies. He only gets to collect the interest, which is damn near zero these days. Since then he’s been begging, threatening, and lawyering for a cash settlement so he can blow it all and OD himself in a gutter.

    After the current welfare state experiment ends, we’ll need some sort of legal framework whereby responsible slaves can be emancipated and dissolute free persons of any race can be enslaved.

    • spandrell says:

      Yes, problem is that we need objective measures of responsibility, and a way of deciding on them without emotional baggage. And that is very, very hard.

      Also an inseparable part of slavery is that you are allowed to beat them, abuse them or eventually kill them if you please. In some cases the beating is done by sheer viciousness of the owner, but in other cases it’s the only way to get anything productive out of the slave.

      Also the non-kill pet shelter model requires quite high margins for the owner. Else, the incentives are to avoid taking slaves. What if you get a bunch of utterly useless ones, which you can’t get rid off? In most places useless slaves were summarily killed or unloaded to someone else.

      • jim says:

        In most places useless slaves were summarily killed or unloaded to someone else.

        In the West Indies, I am pretty sure that everyone would deny that such behavior was normal or common. Maybe they were kidding themselves, and in practice politely ignored such behavior, but certainly such behavior would have been perceived as disgraceful.

      • B says:

        You are not allowed to do whatever you want to slaves according to Torah.

    • Korth says:

      The Romans had such a legal framework, at least until the late republican period. Fathers had absolute authority over their household; slaves could be manumitted, and indolent sons could be killed or sold into slavery.

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