That's a big healthy serving of presentism and historian's fallacy! Kee-rist
Man, this discourse confuses the hell out of me--not this thread specifically as much as in general.
A lot of the time it seems like the moral and economic questions about the Civil War are presented as one and the same, and same with the Revolutionary War. It's disingenuous to claim they are. Large-scale conflicts may be partly started over moral issues, but they persist for other reasons.
It's like claiming WWI was about the murder of Franz Ferdinand. It's not even about alliances that predestined everything. Austro-Hungary and Germany and Russia acted like empire legitimized visiting misery on populations, apparently ignorant of huge social changes kicked in motion by technological and economic developments. Rather a lot of people disagreed with empire as a concept. It was about acquisitive dicks trying to take people's stuff, or keep it once they'd taken it already, to which the final answer is always from the mouth of a cannon.
And civil conflicts follow revolutions, or any kind of upset that leaves a major power vacuum, like ducklings follow their mummy. They happen because there are
power vacuums, because people have ideas about the status quo, opportunists want a piece of the action, factions spring up to protect their own interests, old rivalries that were suppressed pop back up, etc etc.
So to me "it was about slavery" or "it wasn't about slavery" are so nebulous and problematic to found arguments on as to be worthless. Added to that, Paul clearly has not a damned clue about the lay of the land at the time.
First, he's mistaking economic liberalism with social liberalism. Social liberalism says all humans are born naturally free and equal. Economic liberalism means the government exercises no controls over the market--laissez-faire
("let [the market] be") policy. Laissez-faire economics was passionately defended as the natural order, such that price controls on bread were decried as an affront to the will of God (seriously), and that food couldn't simply be given to the Irish because the merchants had a divine right
to price gouge the starving
. Bailouts as an idea were completely alien to conventional wisdom.
Then there's his clear lack of understanding about the nature of slavery! Slavery and especially plantation slavery are economically the equivalent of eating your own fingers and toes: stupid, shortsighted, and self-sabotaging. Yep, slavery isn't just morally awful, it's basically one of the worst business models ever conceived! Next to just burning money or throwing it into a really deep hole in the earth filled with fucking poison gas.
For example, the slave-holder has to take on all the expenses associated with the labourers' cost of living. That's housing, food, clothing, fuel, education and healthcare. Morons tried to cut out the last two completely. The American system, unlike other systems of slavery, did not educate slaves. They didn't think to create bonded labour that was also skilled labour, especially not generational skilled labour, so families got broken up and sold as individuals instead of passing trades and expertise down as even feudal-era serfs did. There was an attitude that slaves would always be available, which in Haiti led to horrific conditions and life expectancies of about four months. And inevitable bloody revolts that the sugar industry absolutely had coming. So slaves were treated as disposable.
That's stupid, because the cost of labour through purchase is really high. The value in 1820 of 250 prime field hands was 300,000-odd pounds, which doesn't sound like much until you convert it to modern value, which is about $80 million. Comparison: house servants got paid a pound or two a year. Some slave-holders bought labour cheaper and attempted to condition them, but they didn't know what they were doing because some people are just not gonna be awesome at backbreaking physical labour. This wasn't career training, nothing about this is sophisticated or labour-saving.
Also, the system that relies on slaves has no goddamn infrastructure
Banking regulations? Pfff. Banks failed constantly, so people didn't keep money in accounts like they do now. Rather, the wealthy pooled steady trickles of income from multiple sources, like trusts and investments. But
that meant raising capital took time, so cyclical debt was common--household and business expenses are held in accounts and paid off when income arrives from one source or other. There wasn't just a pool of free money to play with, so instead there were constant loans taken out or in repayment.
Capital loans for machinery and training? Madness! Machinery was really, really expensive and required skilled labour to service it. Premises? Factories and storehouses have different requirements than a plantation--if you're producing or processing something, you need efficient storage and transportation, namely good roads. And where was the labour going to come from? There were no public schools, and urbanization was limited, so where precisely were you going to find this labour base and where would they live? Who would supply food, clothing, housing, fuel, etc?
So, in addition to lacking the will, the American government didn't have the money. Even if the government gave the dollar-for-dollar value of the slaves (unlikely), that's not going to be enough to turn around a plantation economy. You're talking about massive investment in service of massive reorganization, and who would do it? With what capital?
A factory owner who employs workers and mechanization does not need to pay a living wage because that system presumes the whole family would work anyway. That means the large sums of money moving around the plantations were not actually liquid, while the factories were more liquid just because they had to have cash to pay the workers. Free workers can move, labour can be skilled, and the burden on the employer is way less. There was no possibility that a plantation economy could compete with that, it's just a stupid model with the added value of being evil.
I suppose I just don't understand why this is a thing, why people argue that it wasn't so bad or that it was about a way of life. Why contest that
of all things? Awful policies are pursued for reasons of economics throughout history. But the sins of the father are not borne by the sons. As such, the actions of jerks in the past are not the fault of the present, and defending them is pointless.
Exciting historical example: my very own ancestors were Polish nobility going back centuries. I have a family coat of arms and everything, and if the Russians hadn't seized the family property I'd be considered szlachta
(something like count/countess). In with the Nazi-killing and resisting various Russian incursions and birthing a legendary trans-national heroine
, there were periods where the Polish gentry owned lands in Ukrainian territories. Feudalism or post-feudalism, guess how they treated the Ukrainian people living on those lands?
If you said 'like total subhuman crap,' you get a cookie. Even my father remembers his great aunts and uncles spewing garbage about the terrible Ukrainian character--dishonest, lazy, etc, all the usual crap you'd expect from an embittered group of diminished nobs. Later, the Nazis exploited Ukrainian resentment and used Ukrainian forces to do a lot of dirty work during the war. Dirty is dirty--it was wrong when my ancestors did it, and it was wrong when committed against them. There's no justifying any of it. A powerful group abused a weaker group with no ability to defend itself, thus engendering a deep resentment that blossomed into war crimes when the weaker group became more powerful. If ever there was a validation of Seneca the Younger's bit about perfect prudence and perfect virtue being indistinguishable, it's right there, and I can only hope that vice and stupidity are not genetic.