Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Was America 'made possible by stealing Indian land and the labor of slaves?'

Yesterday, I highlighted an op-ed by Frayda Levin, an Americans for Prosperity board member, titled I'm A Proud Koch Brothers Insider. In the comments section, a critical correspondent with the screen name “Get Real” posted a hodgepodge of charges against capitalism and Americanism.

Starting today, I’ll post my rebuttals to several myths advanced in the comments. If we pro-liberty activists are to successfully defend liberty, we must be able to defend the history of capitalism and the American Founding. This entails getting history right. For a deep, integrated history of capitalism, I recommend The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein. In the meantime . . .

“America's early history was made possible by stealing Indian land and the labor of slaves.”Get Real

My Reply:

Think about what you’re saying, here. “Predation and slavery are good, because they lead to prosperity.”

Of course, that’s nonsense.

Slaves produce far below their potential because they are forbidden to get an education, maximize their talents, act on their own judgement, pursue their own goals and values, and keep what they earn. If slavery—which America inherited from past history—was the source of prosperity, human history would have been one long economic boom prior to the liberty of capitalism and the industrial revolution, which eventually eliminated the practice. That was not the case. Slavery held this country back. The innovative chemist and agricultural giant George Washington Carver—a former slave—achieved more as a single free man than any number of plantation slaves ever could. How many Carvers—and ambitious black men and women generally—failed to flourish because they were locked up in the slave system? How much better off would America be today had this country’s Founding ideals been spread to everyone at its beginning? The loss to this country in terms of today’s prosperity because of the existence of slavery is incalculable.

To say that this country was "built on the backs of slaves" is a grave insult to the memory of the slaves. This country was built on liberty, property rights, and individualism. Granted, not everyone was free. It was only to the extent that people were free, not enslaved, that this country prospered.

As to “stealing Indian land,” North America was a mostly open, uninhabited continent—punctuated by pockets of primitive tribes. The idea that the indians owned the continent to the exclusion of the rest of the world is a purely racist concept. European settlers had as much right to settle in North America as the American Indians had before them and as new immigrants have today. Injustices were committed against the Indians, including stealing land they actually settled, and we shouldn’t minimize that. But the reverse was also true. There were also injustices by Indians against the settlers.

Related Reading:

The Enemies of Christopher Columbus: Answers to Critical Questions About the Spread of Western Civilization—Thomas A. Bowden


Mike Kevitt said...

So the slave OWNERS had nothing to do with the prosperity of the United States.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

A net drag on prosperity, for the reasons cited above.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Kevitt said...

Thanks. I still ask, was the cost of the Civil War, stacked up to the net drag of the slave owners, relevant, in view of the moral factor? My answer is, no. If the cost of the Civil War was greater than the net drag (up to that point, or to any point), it was still worth it.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

I agree.

The slave states were ready to shred the union to protect an institution totally contrary to the foundation of the union, the Declaration of Independence. If they had been allowed to secede, it would have been the end of the United states.

Remember that the constitution was created by "We the People," not "We the States." It was the people who ratified it. If the Founding meant anything, secession by the South could not be allowed. Given the South's intransigence, the War was necessary.