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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

On Slavery being more Moral than Capitalism

"We can have facts without thinking but we cannot have thinking without facts." - John Dewey

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"There is slavery – there are maybe 30 million slaves in the world. But we no longer approve it, regard it as the natural order, or make up stories about how it's better for the slaves. Yet the arguments that were given for slavery – which were not insubstantial – were never answered; they were just rejected as being morally intolerable through a period of growth of moral consciousness. I haven’t heard a sensible answer to the main argument offered by slaveholders in the United States – it was a perfectly sensible argument, and has implications. The basic argument was that slaveholders are more moral than people who live in a market society. To take an anachronistic analogy, if you buy a car and I rent the same car, and we look at those two cars two years from now, yours is going to be in better shape than mine, because you’re going to take care of it; I’m not going to take care of mine. Well, the same is true if you rent people or you buy them. If you buy them, you’re going to take care of them: it’s a capital investment. If you rent people, they’re just tools; you throw them out when you’re done with them — if they can’t survive, who cares, you can throw them out on the dump yard. That’s the difference between a slave society and a market society. In a market society, you rent people; in a slave society, you buy them. So therefore slave societies are more moral than market societies. Well, I’ve never heard an answer to that, and I don’t think that there is an answer. But it’s rejected as morally repugnant — correctly — without following out the implications, that renting people is an atrocity. 1f you follow out that thought, slave owners are right: renting people is indeed a moral atrocity. It’s interesting that 150 years ago, when there was an independent, free, labor-based press, it was just taken for granted — so fully taken for granted, that it was even a slogan for the Republican Party, that wage labor is fundamentally no diffèrent from chattel slavery except that it’s temporary, and has to be overcome."

--- The Science of Language: Interviews with James McGilvray / Noam Chomsky
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