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    Default So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    Next up, "Firm Masters, Happy Slaves" and "The Upside of Genocide."



    Blood Cotton, How slaves built American capitalism

    Sep 6th 2014 | From the print edition

    Apology: In our review of “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” by Edward Baptist, we said:

    "Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains.”

    There has been widespread criticism of this, and rightly so. Slavery was an evil system, in which the great majority of victims were blacks, and the great majority of whites involved in slavery were willing participants and beneficiaries of that evil. We regret having published this and apologise for having done so. We are therefore withdrawing the review but in the interests of transparency, anybody who wants to see the withdrawn review can click here.
    Last edited by Woodsman; 09-05-14 at 02:53 PM.

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    aaron is offline iTulip High Commissioner, Select Member
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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    http://online.wsj.com/articles/book-...ist-1409952510

    The Wall Street Journal has a different take.

    And, if you read the whole review, it would seem it was the bankers at the time that kept the slave trade going. Same as it ever was.

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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    Quote Originally Posted by aaron View Post

    The Wall Street Journal has a different take.

    Book Review: 'The Half Has Never Been Told' by Edward E. Baptist

    In the 1820s, slave owners held two million slaves worth $1 billion—a third of all U.S. wealth at the time

    Slavery's defenders often portrayed the South's "peculiar institution" as the antithesis of money-grubbing Yankee capitalism, rooted in an idealized agrarian hierarchy of white master and enslaved African that had been ordained for all time by God and natural law. Indeed, they often insisted that it was a supremely charitable endeavor that saved the slave from his own innate barbarism, asserting, for example, that they had to provide for elderly, infirm and immature slaves whether they were productive or not, as if they were members of their own family—albeit of a very inferior sort. As the wealthy South...

    personally speaking - i take offense at the term "money grubbing yankee" - seeing as it werent the yankees that started the trade (and certainly nobody in my family tree had a thing to do with any of it) - it was 'the antithesis' of em (the yankees) - read: their former countrymen on the other side of the pond - with their social-caste - or, pardon me - their social 'class' structure - that 'entitled' them into thinking they were justified in doing so - never mind that it was the 'social norm' of indentured servitude over there in bloody ole england that engendered the entire notion that these same classy types could get away with 'the trade' in the new world

    And, if you read the whole review, it would seem it was the bankers at the time that kept the slave trade going. Same as it ever was.
    guess thats no surprise, eh?

    and wonder what it is, that makes me think that this is just more of 'the 2nd coming of reparations' charade - while the current occupant&co is still around (when they're not running cover for the same bunch in lwr manhattan today)

    if ya can, mr aaron - could you repost the entire article? - would like to read The Rest of The Story on this one (and see what woody thinks/sez about it? ;)
    Last edited by lektrode; 09-06-14 at 02:18 PM.

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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    Book Review: 'The Half Has Never Been Told' by Edward E. Baptist

    In the 1820s, slave owners held two million slaves worth $1 billion—a third of all U.S. wealth at the time.

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    Fergus M. Bordewich

    Sept. 5, 2014 5:28 p.m. ET
    Slavery's defenders often portrayed the South's "peculiar institution" as the antithesis of money-grubbing Yankee capitalism, rooted in an idealized agrarian hierarchy of white master and enslaved African that had been ordained for all time by God and natural law. Indeed, they often insisted that it was a supremely charitable endeavor that saved the slave from his own innate barbarism, asserting, for example, that they had to provide for elderly, infirm and immature slaves whether they were productive or not, as if they were members of their own family—albeit of a very inferior sort. As the wealthy South Carolina planter and politician James H. Hammond condescendingly put it in 1845, in a truculent rebuttal to attacks on slavery made by a British abolitionist: "We must therefore content ourselves with our dear labor under the consoling reflection that what is lost to us is gained to humanity." Abolitionists were contemptuous of such self-serving nonsense, but they too tended to see slavery as an economically inefficient, and morally reprehensible, hangover from the premodern past.
    The Half Has Never Been Told

    By Edward E. Baptist
    Basic, 498 pages, $35





    An African-American soldier out front of Crawford, Frazer & Co. on Atlanta's Whitehall Street during Sherman's occupation of the city in the Fall of 1864.Library of Congress




    In "The Half Has Never Been Told," Edward E. Baptist takes passionate issue with such assumptions. He asserts that slavery was neither inherently inefficient nor a counterpoint to capitalism. Rather, he says, it was woven inextricably into the transnational fabric of early 19th-century capitalism. Banks and financiers fed it with the investment it needed to continue expanding and were rewarded with handsome profits from the labor of enslaved millions. Although crashes, depressions and market fluctuations inevitably affected the slave-based economy, large-scale investors in slavery consistently earned handsome profits, at least in the rich cotton-growing regions of the Deep South.
    The morality of slavery rarely if ever entered into the business equation. As the number of slaves in the U.S. swelled from just under one million at the dawn of the century to about four million at the time of the Civil War, investors consistently demonstrated their confidence in slavery's profitability. As the historian Walter Johnson has eloquently put it, slaves represented "a congealed form of the capital upon which the commercial development of the [Mississippi River] Valley depended. . . . The cords of credit and debt—of advance and obligation—that cinched the Atlantic economy together were anchored with the mutually defining values of land and slaves: without land and slaves, there was no credit, and without slaves, land itself was valueless." The value of the dollar, Mr. Johnson adds, "as often as not . . . turned out to be backed by flesh rather than gold."
    As early as the 1820s, says Mr. Baptist, slave owners commanded the biggest pool of collateral in the United States: two million slaves worth more than $1 billion. "Not only was that almost 20 percent of all the wealth owned by all US citizens," Mr. Baptist writes, "but it was the most liquid part of that wealth, thanks to the efficiency of markets manned by professional slave traders." Slaves were a uniquely flexible commodity: There was a ready market for them everywhere in the South; they could be either sold or leased; they could be moved from place to place under their own power; and unlike tools and buildings, they naturally reproduced, adding to the value of their master's investment.
    As the native Indian tribes were removed from their land—either by treaty or at gunpoint—investment capital gushed in. In just eight years, from 1824 to 1832, the Philadelphia-based Bank of the United States, the banker for the federal government, multiplied the amount of its loans to Mississippi Valley slave owners 16 times over. By 1832, according to Mr. Baptist, at least one-third of all the bank's capital had been allocated to planters, slave traders, merchants and local banks on the "slave frontier" of the southwestern states. The depth of the bank's commitment, in turn, gave European investors the confidence to lavishly inject their own currency into American slavery.
    For example, the Consolidated Association of the Planters of Louisiana—a local bank chartered in 1827—enjoyed a lucrative relationship with Baring Brothers of London, a firm that lobbied successfully to persuade the Louisiana legislature to back the association's bonds with public credit. Thus if the association failed to pay off its bonds, Louisiana's taxpayers would be liable for the debt. Baring would eventually handle some $2.5 million in bond sales for the association, marketing to clients in Britain as well as the European continent.
    Mr. Baptist writes most effectively about the cotton-growing states of the Mississippi River Valley. During the boom years of the 1830s, the region transformed itself from a frontier backwater into the wealthiest and most productive agricultural region in the United States. Andrew Jackson's termination of the Bank of the United States, in 1836, created new opportunities for buccaneer financiers. A multitude of thinly capitalized and virtually unregulated banks flooded the region with unbacked paper money. In Louisiana alone, the number of such "mushroom banks" quadrupled from four to 16 in just a few years, while the total amount of capital authorized by the state legislature exploded from $9 million to $46 million, giving rise to speculation that New Orleans might soon become America's financial capital.
    Remarked one observer in 1835: "People here are run mad with speculation. They do business in . . . a kind of phrenzy." Mr. Baptist notes that since large-scale slave owners commonly included judges, politicians and state officials—that is, the same men who controlled banking policy and debt collection—elite borrowers were rarely foreclosed, even if they fell behind on payments: "As enslavers multiplied their leverage, they multiplied their revenue without increasing their individual risk."
    By 1837, the total amount of bank loans available to southwestern borrowers had grown to $80 million from $40 million in 1832—one-third of the national total, Mr. Baptist says, and more than any other region of the United States. Although investment was also made in infrastructure, such as railroads, Mr. Baptist maintains that the major purpose of the loans was to expand the region's agriculture, which meant borrowing to purchase the "tools of the trade"—slaves and more slaves. Companies like Franklin & Armfield were ready to meet the demand.
    Mr. Baptist's fine-grained profile of Franklin & Armfield is sadly illuminating. The firm rode rising demand to become the biggest slave-trading company in the United States, moving many thousands of "surplus" slaves from the Upper South to the plantations of what was then called the "Southwest." To finance its activities, Franklin & Armfield drew up to $40,000 at a time from the Bank of the United States to buy slaves for the Mississippi Valley markets. According to Mr. Baptist, about 5% of all the commercial credit handled by the bank in 1831-32 passed at some point through the hands of that single slave-trading company.
    Although the vast majority of the company's "human stock" would wind up in the cotton fields, many females, attractive mulattoes in particular, were destined for prostitution. In one of several letters that Mr. Baptist quotes, a company senior partner suggests matter-of-factly that two women he had recently purchased "could soon pay for themselves by keeping a whore house . . . for the Exclusive benefit of the concern and its allied agents."
    Considering his subject matter, Mr. Baptist writes with verve and a good eye for the dramatic. This virtue is also the book's greatest shortcoming, however. In an effort to humanize the often forgotten slaves whose lives were, after all, at the heart of the global economic forces that drove the cotton economy, he resorts too often to novelistic devices that undermine the reader's patience and trust. Describing the execution of a rebellious slave named Amar, Mr. Baptist writes: "In his head, as he slumped and fell, were 50 billion neurons. They held the secrets of turning sugarcane sap into white crystals . . . they held the cunning with which he sought out his lover's desires. . . . The dancing electrons in Amar's brain caressed forty-five years of words, pictures, feelings, the village imam with his old book, his mother calling him from the door of a mud-brick house." Elsewhere Mr. Baptist writes of an unnamed man en route to the slave market in New Orleans: "He heard the women on the other deck crying for a dying baby or sister; heard them fight as the sailors took them into the crew's quarters one by one, to be raped. He saw them drag out men who had gone stiff and grinning. The angel's fingers clawed at him too." Is this slave a real person? A composite? Wholly imagined? Mr. Baptist doesn't tell us.
    Anyone averse to such squishy stuff will find a penetrating discussion of many the same topics in Walter Johnson's often beautifully written (if sometimes confusingly organized) "River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom" (2013). That work places antebellum slave-owning in a broad context of proslavery ideology, Atlantic commodity markets and Southern schemes for global ascendancy. Like Mr. Baptist, Mr. Johnson argues that abstracting slavery from industrial development in the U.S.—or, for that matter, in Britain—is fundamentally ahistorical. Mississippi, he rightly says, does not have to look like Manchester, England, or Lowell, Mass., to make it an engine of capitalism.
    Slavery weathered the Panic of 1837, which ruined many of the "mushroom banks" and debtors who lacked helpful friends in the local courthouse. In the 1850s, the slave-based economy experienced a dramatic resurgence when a new wave of "Negro fever" doubled the price of slaves in relation to that of other goods. On the cusp of the Civil War, slavery showed no sign of dying a natural death, except in parts of Maryland and Delaware. Slavery remained, Mr. Baptist says, "both modernizing and modern" and its growth "muscular, dynamic."
    In his January 1861 State of the Union address, the pro-Southern president, James Buchanan, spent less time addressing the secession crisis in South Carolina than he did expressing his hope of acquiring Cuba for the United States—a longtime goal of slave owners and investors who saw it as the best opportunity for extending the reach of American slavery. Only civil war and hundreds of thousands of lives would finally put an end to the lucrative partnership between the cruel machine of Southern slavery and the roaring engines of capitalism.
    —Mr. Bordewich's most recent book is "America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union."

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    aaron is offline iTulip High Commissioner, Select Member
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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    if ya can, mr aaron - could you repost the entire article? - would like to read The Rest of The Story on this one (and see what woody thinks/sez about it? ;)
    I could read the entire article yesterday, but it is now behind their pay wall. Perhaps they have an algorithm that starts to charge for access to popular articles? The review was so different in the Wall Street journal that it makes me think the other guy did not even read the book.

    Regards

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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    thanks chomsky!

    Quote Originally Posted by aaron View Post
    I could read the entire article yesterday, but it is now behind their pay wall. Perhaps they have an algorithm that starts to charge for access to popular articles? The review was so different in the Wall Street journal that it makes me think the other guy did not even read the book.
    guess thats the 'agenda' part, eh ? - on the part of both articles - the 1st from the more 'liberal' outlet, with the 2nd focusing more on 'the business end' of the topic

    still think this is part of the apparently organized effort (by some in the media) to once again fire up some contrived controversy that will no doubt bubble up, if not boil-over - sometime during the next 2 election cycles...

    and i still say its to divert as much attention as possible from that which is - also getting more apparent by the day -
    no longer even controversial ? (at least to most of the lamerstream media, as they continue to ignore most of it, while you can bet yer last buck that if the 'reparations' story starts to get any traction, it'll likely generate THE BIGGEST HEADLINES OF THE MILLENIUM - as the 'other story' sinks slowly into the western sky)

    and how 'enforcement' - at least whats visible - is summed up by this piece of relative trivia:

    “This historic resolution — the largest such settlement on record — goes far beyond ‘the cost of doing business,’” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

    In the five years since the crisis, government authorities have won nearly $83 billion in credit crisis and mortgage-related settlements from the nation’s six largest banks by assets. Over that same period, the banks have earned more than $320 billion in profits.
    right... and STILL no perp walks - but hey!
    at least he/they'll have 83bil to maybe buy a few more votes with, as the next 'great triangulation' begins in november

    and the 83bil ?
    merely another 'cost of doing biz' -

    thats 'paid for' by ROBBING THE REST OF US OF YIELD ON OUR SAVINGS!

    but gets trumpeted by the lamerstream media as 'fixing the problem' - uh huh - 'the fix is in' alright

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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    in 'related' newz . . . .

    Massa Tom

    by Jay MooreOne of my cherished historical role models growing up in rural Virginia during the 1950s and 60s was the tall, red-haired intellectual and revolutionary, Thomas Jefferson. The vast majority of those I grew up with and went to school with were far from being intellectuals (who were commonly put down as "eggheads" or worse) and were not liberals, much less revolutionaries. Dr. King was widely reviled, and some were outright glad when that "nigger-lover" Kennedy was assassinated.

    On school trips and with family, I made a number of pilgrimages to Jefferson's famous home, Monticello, located on a small mountain overlooking Charlottesville. Like countless other visitors, I marveled at the beauty of the architecture and landscaped setting and was fascinated by the still-working labor-saving gadgetry invented by Jefferson. Jefferson's rather simple, unadorned obelisk of a tomb also impressed me with its inscription listing what he considered his three most important lifetime achievements: authorship of the "Declaration of Independence" and the Virginia "Statute for Religious Freedom" and "father[ing]" of the University of Virginia. All intellectual achievements of the highest liberal order. No mention of his having held the highest political offices in the land.

    As I recall from those days of my youth, the official tours of Monticello halted briefly at the outdoor kitchen where black cooks and their assistants slaved for many long hot hard hours producing the gourmet meals over which Jefferson presided that made Monticello famous far and wide for its southern hospitality. Something might have been said by the tour guide about a "faithful" house servant. Otherwise, scarce mention was made of the numerous enslaved Africans -- the economic foundation upon whose unpaid labors this whole wonderful edifice was built and maintained and which enabled "Massa Tom" the free time to carry out his diverse intellectual and other activities.

    Henry Wiencek in his 2012 well-researched and highly readable book,Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, tears this well-kept quasi-sacred image of Jefferson apart once and for all. It is a book on American history that, as one reviewer urged, every American should read.

    Jefferson was no minor southern slave-owner. During his lifetime, he was the owner of over 600 human beings on his several tobacco and wheat-raising plantations, buying slaves as investments and selling them off when he needed liquidity. Jefferson kept his own hands clean of administering punishment to laggard or refractory slaves. In a show of gentlemanly paternalism, he might reward a few favored slaves with gratuities; he occasionally forgave some who ran away. Yet, he employed an overseer notorious in the neighborhood for his brutality, and this man of the Enlightenment was fine with having the sub-teen boys laboring in his Monticello nail manufactory whipped to keep production up and profits at the high level he thought reasonable to support his extravagant lifestyle.

    Regardless of his accomplishments and his evident sympathies for the (white) yeoman farmers, Jefferson was a life-long ideological racist. He held strong views about the natural inferiority of humans with dark skin color at a time when fellow slave-owner George Washington and some other Founding Fathers north and south had concluded otherwise. Some whom Jefferson held in bondage were his own progeny. Widely rumored in his own lifetime, Jefferson had a slave concubine Sally Hemings, who, in the sick sexual environment of the slave South, was also the half-sister of his dead wife, Martha, whose father had kept a slave concubine on his own Virginia plantation. By Hemings, Jefferson had five or more children, one of whom visitors noted looked remarkably like himself.

    Jefferson was adept at talking the talk about slavery being an unfortunate condition -- although he generally meant "unfortunate" for the whites who owned them -- but he never could walk the walk to do anything about it. While in France during the 1780s as the new nation's first ambassador and attending soirees with admiring French philosophes who wanted to hear all about the new egalitarian republican society -- and some of whom had formed a society for promoting abolition, Société des amis des Noirs -- Jefferson dissembled. He maintained that emancipation of the slaves in Virginia was only a matter of time and suggested that he himself was one of its behind-the-scenes advocates.

    Back home in the U.S., he made the same kind of encouraging responses to American anti-slavery advocates who wrote him appealing to his vanity as the author of the immortal phrases about all men being created equal and soliciting his support. As Wienick shows, at the very same time while he was issuing those disingenuous statements, he was calculating new ways to extract money from slave labor -- which he took as indispensable to his own and his family's present and future happiness.

    Jefferson's attitude towards blacks have often been defended as the flaws of a man of his times. Yet, some other Southern slave owners of the revolutionary generation, including George Washington, were troubled by the blatant contradiction with professed revolutionary values and emancipated all of their slaves. Jefferson freed only a handful. Never once did Jefferson in the powerful political offices he held at the state and national level seize an opportunity to slow down or bring an end to slavery. Indeed, with the presidential Louisiana Purchase of 1803, he opened a vast new territory to slavery's expansion which put into motion the forces that would ultimately tear the nation apart.

    Mostly, this is not new information in Wienick's book. The cover was torn off Jefferson's highly unequal sexual exploitation of Sally Hemings -- implausibly turned by Hollywood into a love story -- by historian Fawn M. Brodie's 1974 psychohistory, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History. Paul Finkelman has thoroughly exposed Jefferson's rank hypocrisy and total do-nothingism on the slavery question in Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson. What Wiencek does in this new book is to pull the evidence all very neatly together. We will never see Jefferson the same again. Wienick has no patience for the contortions other historians have gone through with the Jefferson "paradox" -- lover of liberty, holder of slaves. For him, Jefferson is simply "perverse."

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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem


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    Quote Originally Posted by vt View Post
    Seems like it also existed in Russia back then:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_Russia
    Here I was thinking this was apropos of nothing and then I remembered the old tu quoque line the Sovs used against us back in the day:

    "And you are lynching negros!"

    (Russian: "А у вас негров линчуют", A u vas negrov linchuyut, "And at your place, they are lynching African Americans") and the later "And you are hanging blacks" (Russian: "А у вас негров вешают") are anecdotal counter-argument phrases, which epitomizes the tu quoque arguments used by the Soviet Union in response to allegations that it had violated human rights. Use of the phrase refers to such attempts to deflect criticism, e.g. by referencing racial discrimination and lynching in the United States ... The history of lynchings of African Americans was thus seen as an embarrassing skeleton in the closet for the US which the Soviets frequently used as a stock form of defensive rhetorical ammunition whenever they were reproached for the various failings of the Soviet system, such as their inferior industrial and agricultural production, their human rights abuses and the relatively low standard of living for their workers.
    But then something absolutely poetic happened when I read the next line in the Wiki article:

    The Economist popularized the term "whataboutism" for the repeated usage of this rhetorical tactic by the Soviet Union.
    Brilliant. Great stuff!

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    So we all know "how bad capitalism is" then and even now. There was racial discrimination then and now.

    But when one brings out the fact that communists were also into slavery and are still practicing it, we see all sorts of spin.

    Be careful if you're homosexual:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Russia

    And black:

    http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/01/...people-travel/


    "Russia
    Black visitors will also have to be extra careful when they venture outside of Moscow into the rest of Russia. In a chilling warning, the Russia expert of New Republic, Julie Ioffe, said, “There’s quite a bit of violence against people considered to be Black” in Russia, raising new fears about the safety of Olympic athletes, visitors and media attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Ioffe warned that nowhere in Russia is safe for a person of color to visit, outside of Moscow’s city center.
    During an “Ask Me Anything” discussion on the social media site Reddit, Ioffe was asked by a Black college student whether it is safe for an African-American to study in Russia.
    Here’s her answer:
    “Hmmmm, that’s a tough one. I think that, for the most part, you’d be okay — if you consider people glaring at you and cracking racist jokes okay. (Russians are, er, not the most tolerant bunch.) There’s quite a bit of violence against people considered to be black, which includes, in the Russian mind, people from Central Asia and the Caucasus. My advice is go, but stick to the city center and try to go to a bigger city like Moscow. (St. Pete is crawling with skinheads.) Be extra, extra careful and make sure the American Embassy knows you’re there. They have a special unit to deal with threats to American citizens, so you should report anything that happens immediately.”

    The facts don't discriminate................

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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    Something tells me you're a big fan of muddy waters, vt.



    Here's Professor Baptist with his rebuttal.

    What the Economist Doesn't Get About Slavery—And My Book
    By EDWARD BAPTIST
    September 07, 2014
    http://www.politico.com/magazine/sto...t#.VA4EFnYpC71

    We think of authors as people who lay themselves bare in their books, but perhaps reviewers of books reveal their innermost fears and beliefs as well. That can be true even when—as in the distinguished British periodical the Economist, founded in 1843—the reviewers hide behind anonymity. When Mr./Ms. Anonymous of the Economist reviewed my book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism on Sept. 4, they didn’t much care for it, and that didn’t surprise me. In the last couple of decades, the Economist and its suspender-wearing core readers have usually been reliable allies of market fundamentalism—the idea that everything would be better if measured first and last by its efficiency at producing profit. I, on the other hand, argue in the book that U.S. cotton slavery created—and still taints—the modern capitalist economy which the Economist sometimes seems to prescribe as the cure for all ills. I’d like to think we all agree that slavery was evil. If slavery was profitable—and it was—then it creates an unforgiving paradox for the moral authority of markets—and market fundamentalists. What else, today, might be immoral and yet profitable?

    The review was harsh—even embarrassing—but not, as it turned out, for me. The reviewer proclaimed that slaveowners probably didn’t mistreat their slaves so much, since enslaved people were actually valuable capital. Then the reviewer illustrated that point with a (flippantly captioned) image of actress Lupita Nyong’o, although the brutal treatment of Patsey, her Oscar-winning role in Twelve years a Slave, actually completely disproves their point.

    Almost as soon as the Economist posted the review online, it came in for massive criticism. On Twitter, people ridiculed its claim that by depicting enslaved people as “victims” and their exploitative rapist/torturer enslavers as “villains,” I was somehow abandoning “objectivity” for “advocacy.” Parodies began to collect under the hashtag #economistbookreviews, mockingly suggesting future review titles like “Samantha Power’s Dissection of Kurdish Genocide Would Benefit More from Saddam’s Point of View,” as Paul K. Adler put it. Even the Economist had to concede that the review was a disaster—after less than 24 hours, they took it down, saying: “We regret having published this, and apologize for having done so.”

    But what was the review that the Economist should have written? I don’t mean the one my ego wishes everyone would write. Like lots of other people—maybe even some other historians—sometimes I realize that living in the base of my skull is a little tiny Muhammad Ali c. 1964 who keeps hopping around, waving his gloves in the air and screaming “I AM THE GREATEST.” I’m not talking about the review that would please that guy. I’m talking about the review in which the Economist, had it actually engaged with some of my books key arguments and remained true to its own economic worldview, could have offered a reasoned critique. Using the magazine’s free-market fundamentalist theories about how the global economy works and should work, what would a smart, sensible review look like?

    To do this, let’s put aside the review-as-written’s worn-out paternalist baggage about slaves being “well-treated” because of their value. Let’s ignore the way it cavalierly dismisses more than 2,300 formerly enslaved people’s interviews and autobiographies, which I drew upon for accounts of their own daily lives, as the habit of suggesting African Americans’ historical voices somehow carry less weight than the accounts of those who exploited them is a long-standing pattern among those who minimize slavery’s brutality.
    Instead of simply complaining that I treated all enslavers as “villains,” the reviewer could’ve used the basic microeconomics of supply and demand to critique my portrayal of most enslavers as ruthless exploiters. In the book, I explain that we know now that enslaved people picked cotton more and more rapidly over time. According to survivors of slavery, enslavers accomplished a lot of that increase by implementing a “pushing system” of brutal labor management.

    Time studies did not develop on the assembly line; they were created in the cotton field. Measurement of work output was followed by torture for anyone who failed to meet his or her cotton-picking quota. Quotas rose over time, and so did cotton-picking rates. Improved seeds may have also played an important role in raising output, but ex-slaves who describe the pushing system are clear: It was violent, and it forced them to pick more rapidly.

    Faster picking put more cotton on the world market. The booming factory system of the early industrial revolution relied on one core product: cotton cloth, which it convinced the whole world to wear. But even the mills of Charles Dickens’ Britain couldn’t keep up with all the raw cotton spilling from the baskets of a million slaves. So more cotton picked actually meant lower cotton prices. Lower cotton prices meant enslavers pushed enslaved people to pick even faster, in a quest to get more revenue.

    In a move supported by the same kind of free-trade advocates who founded the Economist itself, Britain reduced and then eliminated import duties on U.S. cotton. This opened market access benefited the planters who had the most to sell—those who could wring the most efficient labor from their slaves.

    As I also show, bankers worked hard to create innovative new financial products, many of them very similar to (for instance) the bonds and derivatives trumpeted by recent market fundamentalists as vital drivers of economic growth. Nineteenth-century financial innovations enabled enslavers to buy more slaves—on credit—to increase their slave labor camps’ capacity even more. But that also meant that slaveowners were deeply in debt, which led them to—you guessed it—push slaves even harder.

    In a sense, then, the Economist was right: enslavers were not simply evil villains. They were also under enormous pressure—the pressure of the free market. (There’s lots of evidence that the experience and culture of slaveholding shaped many of them into deeply evil individuals, but remember, I’m trying to write a review here.) Even the decision-making influence of the long-term investment they’d made in enslaved bodies shrank in comparison to the short-term demands of cotton markets and credit markets. Every piece of information that the market fed them in the form of prices pushed them to push slaves harder.

    I think you see where I’m going. Had the Economist actually engaged the book’s arguments, the reviewer would have had to confront the scary fact that the unrestrained domination of market forces can sometimes amplify existing forms of oppression into something more horrific. No wonder the Economist abandoned its long-standing intellectual commitments in favor of sloppy old paternalism on Sept. 4, because if it hadn’t, Mr./Ms. Anonymous might have had to admit that market fundamentalism doesn’t always provide the best solution for every economic or social problem.
    Last edited by Woodsman; 09-08-14 at 03:36 PM.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    We grew with this during the civil rights era:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifest...VxS_story.html

  13. #13
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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    Quote Originally Posted by vt View Post
    We grew with this during the civil rights era:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifest...VxS_story.html
    Great article, vt! Read every word and enjoyed it immensely. It put a smile on my face to read all those great recollections. Thanks so much for sharing it. I don't know if Miss Nina Simone ever played the Howard, but she shakes this genteel venue to the pillars (circa 1968 London):


  14. #14
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    Default Re: So sorry; we really are as clueless as we seem

    Woodsman,

    Very happy you enjoyed it.

    We were extremely fortunate to see a few of the performers such as James Brown, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, and Temptations.

    With Vista in the early seventies I attended a number of cabarets with the Corvettes, which were the best soul band in a three county area.
    My beard was red

    The music was sublime; the kids and parents were there together dancing with the music.

    I miss those days.

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