The economic power of slaves sure sounds familiar

 Measuring the Value of a Slave

[Via Measuring Worth –]

Slavery was an ancient practice on the North American continent. Within the colonies that became the United States, slavery first appeared in Virginia in 1619.1 It was legal in all the British colonies, but it was practiced on a larger scale in what became the US South and the British Islands of the Caribbean. African slavery in the South was largely a response to the greater demand for labor on tobacco, rice, and indigo plantations. Northern farms were generally smaller, family-sized plots of land with the family supplying most of the labor. Before the American Revolution, there was no significant movement for abolition. By the early 1800s, most Northern states had passed laws in favor of abolition, but the acts called for gradual abolition.


Really nice discussion of the value to the Southern economy of slaves. Unfortunately, they were just too valuable to the economic power of a small number of plutocrats for the South to do the right thing.

A similar dynamic takes place today – not over owning people but about owning resources that hurt us all.

90% of people in the South owned no slaves. Only the rich had slaves. Having 1 slave put someone in the top 10%. Holding 4-10 slaves (0.4% of the population) provided the equivalent economic power of a multi-millionaire today.

The 13 slaveholders with 500 or more slaves had the economic power of a billionaire. And one slaveholder had over 1000 slaves.

The total economic worth of all the slaves approached $4 billion. The overall economic costs of the Civil War approached $7 billion.

In very simple terms, the Civil War was fought because the plutocrats – the top 5% – would not give up the economic power that came from slavery. It would have been better for us all to not have fought the war and to have found a way to give the plutocrats their money.

To have been able to find some way to shift their wealth from slaves to something else. Without a war to accomplish that.

Because they lost that economic power anyway in a manner that actually ended up costing almost twice as much as the economic power of the slaves to begin with.

Everyone lost, including the 750,000 men who lost their lives, because of immoral wealth that would not be given up.

The plutocrats, and the overall South, would have been better off if there had been a way to just convert the economic power derived from slavery to something else.

We all would have been better off if some brilliant way to have the Federal government pay for the slaves. Some things were tried but nothing anyone has come up with looks like it would have worked.

So the Civil War happened.

We see a similar dynamic today, with the destructive aspects of the economic power derived from fossil fuels. Held by a small minority.

It would be cheaper for all of humanity to simply buy these plutocrats out and help move us all to more sustainable fuels.

But, I am afraid, like the Civil War, no one is smart enough.

Image: Miran Rijavec