So, my Mom sent me the message below this morning. She is intelligent and well-read, but we all have our off days and today she thought this piece of garbage was worth sharing. My responses to her/it are in blue but I feel like I missed a lot of opportunities. Help?
Update: I think P. did a good job of filling in my blanks. Here’s part of his response:
People were not unshackled from slavery by the free market. If anything, they were enslaved by it running without regard for basic human rights. The author cites that Christian Europe saved folks from slavery, and this is garbage. We all know how the Bible talks about slavery (not only as a whole, but also pertaining to servitude of women to their husbands). So the point that religion (especially Christianity) is a force against slavery is completely idiotic. But back to the main point, the free market did not rescue slaves from their chains – societies and their governments recognized the rights of all people and enacted laws that brought slaves to equal footing with the rest of society. This removed slaves from the category of property or an economics means of production that’s no different from a windmill, cotton gin, or anything else to be owned of economic value. These laws to abolish slavery actually regulated the free market (by outlawing one of its means for production) for the betterment of society as a whole.
Also, I realized an unbiased history of the fall of Roman slavery is hard to find… any recommendations?
What the World Would Be Like Without Capitalism
Some people say that the search for profit is abusive, heartless, evil, and so on. I’m not particularly in love with profit for its own sake (and I certainly don’t think it justifies abuse), but a reflexive condemnation of profit is deeply ignorant.
The truth is, “profit” killed the ancient abomination of human slavery [False]. To eliminate the ability of people to profit would draw slavery back into the world [In a sense, yes, but that’s not the type of slavery he goes on to talk about] . And we obviously don’t want that.Here’s why:
Slavery Was an Economic SystemWhat is not understood is that slavery was the foundation of economics in the old world – such as in Greece and Rome.Slavery was almost entirely about surplus. (Surrounded by creative justifications, of course.) It was a type of enforced thrift.An undeveloped man, left to himself, will spend almost all of what he earns. If he does earn some surplus, he’ll likely spend it on luxuries, frivolities, or worse.Until he develops a strong character, little of his surplus will remain for other uses.A slave, on the other hand, never holds his earnings in his hands and therefore cannot spend them. All surplus is transferred to his or her owner. It was precisely this kind of surplus that made Rome rich.But then Christian Europe came about. Prior to that, I cannot point to a single ancient culture that forbade the practice; it was seen as normal.[He obviously didn’t look very hard, because there are great examples from hundreds of years prior in ancient China and India]So, for Europe to expel the slavery it inherited from Rome was a monumental change.Europeans replaced slavery – slowly and because of their Christian principles, not because of a conscious plan – by doing these things:
- Developing personal thrift. This required a strong focus on building up virtues like temperance (self-control) and patience.
- Replacing the enforced surplus of slavery with profit. That is, by mixing creativity in with their commerce: innovating, inventing, and adapting to get more surplus out of commerce.Under a new system that was eventually tagged capitalism, thrift and creativity generated surplus, and no human beings had to be enslaved.[Ancient Greeks and Romans had profit, so “point” #2 comes out of nowhere. Christians have been huge proponents of slavery (and the bible is fraught with it), so I find it extremely offensive that he’s asserting that “Christian principals” “ended” slavery]
A World Without ProfitOn the other hand, we have recent examples of what happens when a culture forbids profit: the “socialist paradises” of Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, and the enslaved states of Eastern Europe. (Among others.)These examples are bleak indeed, featuring the enslavement of everyone to a ruling party.[Slavery was rampant in Russia CENTURIES before socialism. They called it serfdom but it was slavery. And it was abolished by a Tsar’s imperial command]Profit provides an incentive to work, and when it is gone, not only does work suffer, but those who want to get ahead have no honest way to do it. And that drives them either to despair or to crime.If you eliminate profit – innovative, rewarding commerce – you get slavery. The form of that slavery may vary from one case to another, but it will be slavery of some type.This result is the same, by the way, whether the elimination of profit occurs via communism (make a profit, we shoot you) or fascism (all profit-making is taken over by friends of the state).The core issue is surplus:
- If surplus can be gathered by average people via honest means, slavery can be eliminated.
- If average people are not allowed to create and hold their own surplus (surplus being skimmed off to the state and/or state partners), slavery of one sort or another will be the result.Profit is simply a tool – a way of generating surplus without the enforced thrift of slavery.You cannot get rid of both slavery and profit. You can eliminate whichever one you wish, but you’ll be stuck with the other.
Profit Rests on VirtuesTo live in a civilization that prospers by profit, we need to move beyond gorilla-level instincts like envy. We need to develop self-control, patience, and a focus on more than just material possessions.It’s a shame that the West has turned away from traditional virtues over recent centuries. If the Church that previously taught these virtues was found to be wanting, we should have replaced it with something better, rather than casting everything aside and pretending that virtues were nothing but superstition.If we ever lose enough of our virtues, profit will lose its protections, and the ancient way of slavery will return.[Churches have played an enormous role in slavery so this is all ridiculous. That “Christian principals” ended slavery in ancient Rome is outrageous (and I also think that claiming self-restraint and patience belong to Christianity is offensive).It’s tough to find sources to send you online because the truth is clouded by the centuries and religious groups twisting facts to their own purposes, but from what I know Constantine converted to Christianity and then started passing laws to support/promote his new religion and subjugate other religious groups, like that Christians could not marry Jews, if a Jew circumcised a Christian slave that slave would be freed, then Jews could not own Christian slaves etc. etc.The Christian church owned huge numbers of Roman slaves.And this whole thing of course conveniently ignores all the principled Christians who went on to own slaves in America while they were searching for profits. That little thing.].
What we do matters.Paul Rosenberg