Thursday, February 07, 2013

Past keeping faith with future... and day with night

== Why the U.S. Civil War -relates to Sci Fi  ==

BurnsCivilWarEach night in November we watched Ken Burns's CIVIL WAR documentary with our 16 year old. A terrific work of high-class, dramatic and enriching media, very highly recommended. Still, I felt the documentary was a bit light on the underlying causes of a national trauma that is resonating within and among Americans.

Oh, sure, slavery was central. Those who try to minimize that or make other excuses ought to read the actual documents and declarations of secession published by South Carolina and other rebel states. South Carolina's declaration used the word "slavery" proudly, dozens of times. Those declarations presented "grievances" which pretty much consisted of hating northern states for not shutting down abolitionist newspapers. That truly was about it, in almost every secession declaration: "you Yankees allow freedom of the press so folks can say mean things about us. In that case, we spurn the oaths we swore. Goodbye."

"States' Rights" were scarcely mentioned -- indeed, the south had pretty much owned and operated the US Federal Government for thirty years till Lincoln's election ended that long run.

I have long held that the Civil War did not start with the firing on Fort Sumter.  It began in 1852 with the passage - and brutal enforcement - of the Fugitive Slave Act, which led to invasion and outright raids of northern states by squadrons of irregular southern cavalry, committing outrages and depredations from Illinois to Pennsylvania, supported first by southern-appointed U.S. Marshals and later - when locals began resisting - by federal troops.  These slave-catcher raids, smashing into homes, terrorizing neighbors and dragging off friends you knew since childhood, were the prime provocation that radicalized northerners into re-starting their dormant militias. It is what drove many of them to support Lincoln. Nothing like it happened in the south until Sherman.

But slavery is gone.  So why are we still blatantly fighting the same Civil War, 150 years later? Across pretty much the same geographical and cultural divide? Can it be something deeper and psychological?  A current that flows through impenetrable veins, that made slavery a poisonous side effect and not a primary cause?

GettysburgA hint can be found in Ted Turner's excellent 1993 Civil War film, "Gettysburg," based upon the 1974 novel, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. (Don't bother with its putrid film prequel "Gods and Generals.")  In "Gettysburg" a British military observer, sympathetic to the Confederate cause, comments to General Longstreet that both sides spoke the same language, sang the same songs... but had different dreams.

This resonates with what Mark Twain said -- blaming the war on the addictive quasi fantasy novels of Sir Walter Scott and the streak of romanticism that wove through Southern sensibilities. Indeed, Sam Houston is quoted in the Ken Burns documentary, predicting that hot southern blood would be overcome by northern coolness and ponderous momentum of will.

A hundred years ago, in the time of Spengler, Spencer, Wells and Stapledon, this notion of national character was taken seriously.  That the pragmatic cynicism of the French and British contrasted against the Romanticism of Germany and Russia.  And yes, Nazism was the most thoroughly Romantic movement ever conceived.  It is one reason why I am chilled by Tolkien, though I respect him.  It is why I find deeply disturbing the utter-romantic visions of George Lucas.

This is not unfamiliar territory for me! I have a romantic soul - sired by generations of poets - that has been harnessed by discipline in science. Hence, I know what both science and romance are good for. Romance is for the evening, when the day's work of contributing to civilization is done.  When all the drudgery of adult endeavors -- cooperation and competition and accountability and all of that -- can be put aside. The stars come out, a chill breeze blows, and the snapping of a twig out there can suddenly send chills up your spine!

Romance renounces accountability and so-called "objective reality!" It sees no need for them. And when that mind-set ruled our daylight hours, warping politics and business and the way we perceived our real-life neighbors... horror ensued.  In almost every other culture and society, the romantic tendency to view our own worldview as perfect and the enemy as subhuman reigned.  Until the Enlightenment came to show us - oh so painfully and gradually - how to utter the great words of science and decency: "I suppose I might be wrong. Let's find out."

KillerAngelsBut that way of thinking is for the things we do in sunlight. Cool science is for day, when a civilization must be built by negotiation and practical arts and compromise and fact-checking and the banishment of rage. When matters are decided that might decide or alter life... or death.

Romanticism must never again be allowed anywhere near the world of policy! Despite the Riefenstahlian machinations of Rupert Murdoch and Rush Limbaugh. Or Vladimir Putin or Al Qaeda. Or the residual torches of recidivist leftism that keep trying to warp the liberal mindset. Romance ruled our forebears and made ten thousand years of living nightmare! Good-riddance in the daylight of grownup activities.  

Justice, science and saving the world - these pursuits can't afford delusion, no matter how vivid and tantalizing it may be..

But oh, how horrible it would be to live - as human beings - without any romance at all!  The shiver of something unknown.  The brush at the cheek.  The thrill of obsession. The itch that must be scratched.  The itch - the compulsion - to howl! We pay our dues by day, striving to make a civilization without fear or want or much pain. But it will all be for naught if -  at the end of each day - we cannot welcome back night!

I thought of this a few weeks ago, while visiting my home town of Los Angeles to help dedicate a square in honor of LA's greatest literary son, Ray Bradbury.  I pondered how Ray was the truest romantic of all. How he plumbed the darkest corners of the human soul.

But Ray also despised pessimism. He was grateful to a civilization that had been good to him, that gave him readers and audiences and a chance to play pundit during moon landings... and to see four healthy daughters grow up into bold, unlimited women. And he knew that ingratitude is one of the lowest and crappiest human traits.

How to reconcile those two apparent contradictions? Honest gratitude... with a soul that screams at both terror and infinity? It's simple. Division of labor.  Be willing to be many.

Darkness is to be shivered at voluptuously...

... and shivers make the darkness ours.  They push aside the Gernsback Continuum of day, which strives to make a future for our children, warm and safe and lacking something.

Those shivers give us the moment. Something for ourselves, after we have paid our dues to posterity. They take us back to wallow in past eras and ways, when light did not fill the world but flickered bravely against a chill wind and looming darkness.  Opposing all odds, we flickered, when courage was our only weapon in the wild and vivid night. The same realm we still go to in our dreams, after dusk, when duty's put aside.

Oh, if we make a better, saner world... as in Star Trek... I hope we never lose that driving need, that penchant and longing!

For telling ghost stories by the campfire. And wolf-calling at the wild moon.

36 comments:

Dennis Jernberg said...

Romanticism vs. Enlightenment happens to be one subject I've been thinking about pretty intensely for years, and I've come to the conclusion that they're complements, each incomplete without the other. But then, I'm a dialectician.

Go too far in the Romantic direction and you get the Nazi horrors, of course (after reading Camille Paglia, I became convinced Hitler is the supreme Decadent); go too far in the Enlightenment direction and you get the cold-blooded technocracy of Robespierre, Bismarck, and Stalin. In terms of American history, the Southern romantics have the Northern eugenicists and robber barons as their opposite number, which is why the GOP alliance between their respective successors (the TEA Party Dixiecrats and the Wall Street corporatists) is doomed. But Western Populism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries balanced both: whereas Southerners were passionate for their causes to the point of terrorism and the Puritan North enshrined the dictatorship of experts, the new Western states established constitutions which allowed citizens to passionately champion their causes through the orderly and civilized process we call democracy. This balance, in fact, is what I consider the true genius of democratic Athens, which is why it has been so influential far beyond the West.

(One of these days I'll have to start writing that book I've been wanting to about that...)

Tony Fisk said...

It is ironic, in this description, that one of the oldest sciences is the study of the night.

"And it came to pass that the world changed, and the minds of men grew strange and wayward.
No more did they wonder at those bright points shining in the evening heavens.
Instead they grew ever more fearful of the dark spaces in between.

So it was that, forgetting what they knew, the people populated the void with dragons. And called upon their gods for salvation from what lay outside the flickering lights of their hearth fires.
And the priests of these gods looked upon their work, and saw that it was good."


I think the best fantasy (ie romantic speculations) plays a balancing act between reason and belief. Pratchett's 'Hogfather' has a brilliant passage where Death extols on what imagination is.

WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HAD NOT SAVED [THE HOGFATHER]? ... THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN...A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD
...All right' said Susan. 'I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need ... fantasies to make life bearable.'
REALLY? AS IF IT WERE SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
'Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little-'
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START BY BELIEVING THE LITTLE LIES.
'So we can believe the big ones?'
YES. MERCY. JUSTICE. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

David Brin said...

Dennis Jernberg you are indeed a dialectician! Do consider that two kinds of thing - even in opposition - can sometimes add up to some vector other than zero. The Positive Sum game is something Marx nor Hegel ever contemplated but it is the root of the enlightenment.

See my lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000, "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition." http://www.amazon.com/Disputation-Arenas-ebook/dp/B005AK2R74/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=contbrin-20

Tony, fun quotes. What was the first one from?

zoukboy said...

Great post!

The Ken Burns series is fine as film art but as history it leaves a lot to be desired.

I have also said for decades that the Civil War didn't begin at Ft. Sumter (that particular event was a propaganda victory for Lincoln, who picked the site and then very skillfully manipulated SC secessionists into initiating hostilities). I date it to 1856, when Kansas had two competing state legislatures - one pro-slave and legal, the other free-state and illegal. "Border ruffians" from my home state of Missouri invaded, led by a sitting US Senator named David Atchison, to throw the election to the pro-slavery side. In addition, several southern states, SC most notably, sent their militias into Kansas to fight the free state forces. The battle of Lecompton in 1856 was the first "official" exchange of hostilities in that conflict, but was preceded by several more minor incidents, including John Brown's terrorist atrocity at the Pottawatomie Massacre.

I had not heard about southern fugitive slave posses operating in the North.

locumranch said...

Always felt that the US Civil War sprang from technological schism & the Industrial Revolution.

The Northern States embraced the Industrial Revolution & a factory economy based on steam power, manufacturing & textiles; the Southern States clung to a regressive agrarian (pastoral) economy based on (and powered by) flora, fauna, livestock, & slaves; and high-sounding issues like romanticism, idealism, morality & the abolition of slavery had very little to do with either its onset or outcome.

1820 to 1840: The Industrial Revolution came to the North.

1840 to 1860: The Agrarian South took a stand against technological progress.

1860 to 1866: The South was crushed by Northern manufacturing techniques capable of producing an ever increasing amount of war paraphernalia in the form of boots, textiles, wagons, canteens, powder & firearms (etc), while the non-industrialized South had to either rely on its artisans (craftsmen) or purchase arms, textiles & mechanical supplies from overseas sources.

In this battle of economies, it was no contest. Both the onset & outcome of the Civil War were inevitable from the get-go; and the most efficient culture won.

The hunting & gathering culture (IE. Native Americans) were the first to fall, out-classed by the agrarians (represented by the South). Then, the agrarians were out-classed, defeated & displaced by (the Yankee) industrial men.

What follows us -- the Damn Yankees -- still remains to be seen. Perhaps some sort of despicable post-industrial consumer culture like 'The Riders of the Purple Wage'. Or, maybe a labor-free society based on the industry of self-replicating nanites.

Then, those Damn Yankees will suffer ignominious defeat, retreat to obsolete trailer parks, wave their politically-incorrect flag & cry "The North shall rise again".

Best.

Tony Fisk said...

My first quote was an original, arising from the Bush Admin's dark side treatment of the space program (remember George Deutsch? The pre-emptive removal of references to Earth from NASA's mission statement?)

Anyway, it's been a while since I saw Burns' series, but I seem to recall it mentioning that slavery was *not* a primary reason for the war. At least, not initially.

Tim H. said...

Economic advancement for southern culture was based on the acquistion of slaves and land, 'twas money that was the incentive to secede. Kinda' ignorant, short-sighted money, considering that without secession, the most Lincoln might've done is to restrict slavery to where it already existed, and mechanization would soon eliminate the economic basis for the peculiar institution. We should be thankful, a little, to the hot-headed southerners for giving the nation a clean break. Now, if only there was a way to escape the current unpleasantness without violence...

combinatorialimplosion said...

I would further add that the very passage of the Fugitive Slave Act provides the smoking gun that against the revisionist claims that "States Rights" was the aim of the Confederacy. Use of Federal law to trump the wishes of the presumably sovereign (northern) states ought to have been anathema to someone who really believed in States Rights as an organizing principle of Constitutional government. Since it was at the insistence of the soon-to-be-Confederates that this was passed, this leaves little choice but to conclude that their purported interest in States Rights was as a means to an end, that end being the perpetuation of slavery, rather than an end in itself. As so often happens, actions are a better indicator of people's actual beliefs than words.

adiffer said...

(side note: Yet another amateur helping the professionals and the pros seem to appreciate it.)

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424127887324900204578286272195339456-lMyQjAxMTAzMDAwNzEwNDcyWj.html

adiffer said...

Robespierre and Stalin ruled in the tradition of the Enlightenment?! News to me.

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” ― Friedrich von Hayek

That quote could easily be applied to the whole Enlightenment movement. Having enough humility to recognize the limits of our ability to design is important, but it is coupled to a curiosity to expand to those limits and test them anyway. We can't know that we know our limits after all.

David Brin said...

adiffer that's a terrific Age of Amateurs article. and ditto your enlightenment defense!

Locumranch you are right but only partly - and thus wrong. The essential difference is snow. Where snow sits on the ground for at least a week or two each year, the weeds and insects are killed and a farmer can impose his will on his land in the spring. In the south, small farmers could never rise above poverty by dint of their own labors, which were spent battling nature just to keep the land cleared for crops.

The aristocrats could, however, clear vast acreage with slaves. That meant they could re-create a feudal social structure and keep poor whites dependent upon them. That narrow oligarchy controlled the church pulpits and the newspapers and thus the fox-newsed millions of poor whites to be willing to fight and die for their feudal oppressors.

The north in contrast was welcoming to immigrants who could become self-sufficient and prosperous from farming. THAT was vastly more significant than the industrial revolution, which grew around the norhtern seaports but also around prosperous farming towns.

It is utter malarkey to claim slavery had nothing to do with the civil war. ALL of the major secession documents spoke about almost nothing else. Lincoln's election was cause for war ONLY because of that issue. The southern states had no other grievances.

And Lincoln would never have been elected but for the radicalization of the north that began with slave-catcher raiding platoons roaming all over, committing depredations at will.

Combinatorial: The biggest complaint in the secession docs is that northern states ALLOWED abolitionist organizations and papers to exist... at all. Read them!

It is precisely the same war again, same mentalities and the same quasi feudal lords using controlled propaganda to get millions of poor whites to side with their oppressors and lord-owners against a modern civilization that drags them, kicking and screaming, ever step toward a better world.

adiffer said...

The North also had the tremendous advantage of a giant, interconnected river system that enabled cheap transport of all that the farmers produced. Getting things to New York took awhile at first, but they solved that with canal digging that took giant sums of money to accomplish. That wealth came originally from the productivity of the land. Part of the river system flowed through the south to New Orleans, but much of the south was disconnected from it.

River systems coupled to fertile land are traditional sources of wealth if the people farming them can unite enough to form a single market. North America is blessed with the biggest, bestest interconnected system on Earth, but the northern sections of the greater Mississippi River Basin are doubly blessed. Ignore the people and political boundaries for awhile and then look at a river map of North America and see how connected they are. Draw the Mason-Dixon line and see who gets the riches.

The American mid-west is the core of our wealth. Once we secured New Orleans as an alternate year-round port, it is easy to argue that our growth could only be stopped by us.

Dennis Jernberg said...

Interesting that geographical differences like the North's snow and rivers (including an artificial one, the Erie Canal) heavily influenced the cultures and economies of North and South and even the outcome of the Civil War. (And I've long held @locumranch's position that the ultimate issue involved technological and economic development: industrial capitalism defeated slave-based agricultural feudalism.) I didn't know about the Southern vigilantes unleashed by the Fugitive Slave Act either, something to be reminded of.

As for my dialectical outlook, one of my major influences is Edward de Bono.

@adiffer: Yes, Robespierre and the Jacobins claimed they were creating an ideal government inspired by their Enlightenment philosophe contemporaries, and Stalin claimed his dictatorship was the culmination of the entire Enlightenment. And even though Stalin was the Slavophile to Lenin and Trotsky's Westernizers, he was the master of technocracy who climbed to power through bureaucratic manipulation. His rationalism without humanity heavily influenced Ayn Rand, self-described savior of the Enlightenment, who was in many ways his mirror image.

Ian said...

There are a couple of key misunderstandings in the argument over whether the American civil war was "about slavery".

- Lincoln was not an advocate of abolition in the short term and neither were most northerners. Many did though feel that the south should follow the same gradual path to abolition that had been applied in the North.

They viewed slavery as immoral but not so immoral that they were prepared to fight a war to end it.

- As Tim h. pointed out social advancement in the south depended on the acquisition of land and slaves. The Mexican War was viewed widely in both the North and the South as a war to add new territory to the Union in which new slave states could be established.

The admission of California as a single free state largely frustrated that objective.

Hence a series of plans to expand further - either into northern Mexico or into other parts of the Caribbean and Central America. There was, for example, a serious plan for the US to buy Cuba from the Spanish.

Add to this that southern wealth was based on cotton monoculture which tended to rapidly deplete the soil. Wealthy southerners saw the need for new plantation land for themselves - and alos the need for new land for the poorer southern whites to settle on to keep them off their backs. (The 1840's and 1850's saw a lot of political conflict within the south firstly over manhood suffrage and secondly over apportionment. (Just as in the US Constitution at that time, Southern states apportioned seats in the state houses based on population including slaves. A seat in a slaveholding area might have half or fewer the number of actual voters as a seat in an area with few slaves.)

- Dred Scott and the Fugitive Slave Act effectively federalized slavery, giving southerners the right to settle with their salves anywhere in the north and forcing northern states to return alleged escaped slaves to the south.

- Lincoln and the Republicans were opposed to slavery in principle but unwilling to fight a war to end it. What they were determined about was that they weren't going to fight a war to entrench and expand it either - nor were they going to pay for such an expansion through their taxes. The southerners for their part, saw expansion as essential to maintaining the status quo.

- So both sides saw their actions as defensive. Lincoln was convinced he was fighting a "slave power' that if left unchecked would extend slavery throughout the US and ultimately reduce poor whites to a status similar to that of slaves.

Jefferson Davis et al were convinced that opposing the expansion of slavery was part of a scheme to ultimately admit enough new free states to permit the passage of an abolition amendment to the constitution.


- As often happens in wars, bothj sides overestimated both the capacity and the ambition of their opponents.

Ian said...

Does anyone know of any good sources on what actual percentage of southerners supported secession?

Sam Houston and Andrew Johnson are prime examples of prominent pro-union southerners.

You also have West Virginia as the prime example of an area within the south with a pro-union majority.

There was also an active pro-union resistance movement in the south during the war itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Strings#Red_String_Conspiracy

locumranch said...

As the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) only applied to slavery in the Confederate States, the Civil War was only "about Slavery" in retrospect.

(1) It was the Industrial Revolution that eliminated slavery as an American economic need, buoyed by machines "that could do the work of 5 men".

inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blmccormick.htm

(2) Next came dirty politics. The '3/5th Compromise' had given the South a virtual monopoly on Federal authority since the Philadelphia convention, and the North was desperate to break this constitutional stranglehold.

(3) Abolition provided the perfect excuse. Placing all moral argument aside, it was the WMD (or Trojan Horse) of its time because it voided the 3/5th Compromise, giving rise to the Wilmot Proviso, the (tit-for-tat) Fugitive Slave Act & the 1850 Compromise.

Even so, the South had no reason to secede from the Union because it (the South) still controlled the Fed until continued US expansion finally overturned the southern federal monopoly. It would then follow that the Civil War was about political & economic power rather than morality.

Morality is simply the name we give our rationalizations.

Best.

Randy Winn said...

"...the Civil War was only "about Slavery" in retrospect."

The authors of the South Carolina Declaration of Secession stated otherwise at the outset.

So did the authors of the other Acts of Secession but what did they know? The Secret Masters of the Fed are subtle!

Randy Winn said...

...but to get back to the top post: what is romance anyway?

We often write as if we think rationally, and often we do. Sort of. We know darn well that at the level of code, our thinking processes are not at all like whatever happens on computer chips. The rationality we generate and find so very very useful is only facially similar to that of the computer programmer, which may be why it is so easy to con people with sunk cost fallacies and the like.

Romance may be in some way as helpful to healthy human functioning as sleep. To the extent that romance is a form of dreaming while awake, it may have some function other than making us happy or inspiring us ... or perhaps those functions are sufficient.

Robert said...

Well, Randy, it only goes to show the hypocrisy of South Carolina and the Southern States seeing that they frequently violated the sovereignty of their Northern Brethren. So they claim "State Rights" when they didn't give a damn about any other state's rights... but their own.

Rob H.

Ian said...

Technology, in the form of the cotton gin, and the spinning jenny actually strengthened and prolonged slavery in the US.

(The other big factor was mercantilism, specifically British laws that forced Indians to buy British woven goods despite the fact that they were actually more expensive than competing Indian goods.)

If slavery was so economically unviable, why were Southerners so determined to extend it? Why were there repeated attempts to reopen the slave trade to bring in additional slaves from Cuba and Brazil?

(And let's note that around one quarter of slaves were personal servants or artisans. There was no shortage of demand for cheap labor.)

Technology is a wonderful blessing - on average and in the long term - but in the specific example of slaverery in the US technology (including too the steam ships that cut freight costs and helped make US cotton competitive against wool and Egyptian cotton in Europe) technology actually supported the expansion of slavery.

Paul451 said...

locumranch,
"the Civil War was only "about Slavery" in retrospect. [...] the North was desperate to break this constitutional stranglehold. [...] the Civil War was about political & economic power"

However, the distinction you make between the North and South is the divide between Free and Slave States. Ie, the very allegiances in the power struggle are defined by slavery (and its absence.)

Jumper said...

Great article and comments. Thanks, Ian, for the Red Strings. I may have to start up our own modern branch here in NC.
The Fugitive Slave Act was indeed a huge insult to the North. Insult in the medical sense of actual damage.

For some edifying Wikipedia reading, the article on King Cotton is worth reading, and so is Bleeding Kansas.

My sense of Lincoln was that he surely was a strong emancipationist but was also a "self-compromiser" to allow for the gentler fruits of managed change as opposed to drastic.

Tim H. said...

Imagine a vintage 1855 plantation, staffed in the typical fashion, brought into the present. How quickly would the owner realize his establishment's only economically viable recourse was to become a museum? And why wouldn't the slavers wish to purchase less expensive servants? The U. S. ban on importation of slaves raised the value of those already here.

Tim H. said...

Sorry, feeling a little testy. Of course mid 19th century tech prolonged slavery, but in the lifetimes of those present, unless Woodrow Wilson Smith is lurking, agricultural technology has devalued slave holding where it has penetrated.

matthew said...

Who are the modern day heirs to Sir Walter Scott? Who are pumping out propaganda, glorifying romanticism and feudalism? Our host has pointed out how Star Wars sends a romantic message of trust in feelings and inherited right to rule. I'll point out another-Disney's evil empire of princesses and little pink ponies. Remember that Uncle Walt was a feverant anti-communist, and wonder why the symbol of the company he built is a castle. Oh, and who just bought the star wars franchise?...

Jumper said...

Moral: don't trust Walters. They break bad.

Randy Winn said...

Regrettably, slavery in the modern era is not uncommon. Under the gentler name of "human trafficking" slaves are used in the United States for things such as field work, kitchen work and sex work. to distinguish between human trafficking and merely sharp labor practices, you may find interesting "Human Trafficking: What Judges Need to Know" by The National Judicial College.

David Brin said...

Thanks to Fox News and its expert commentators, millions of Americans now understand the real, hidden reason why Germany's solar-energy industry is so much further along than ours. Turns out it has nothing to do with the fact that Germany's government has long supported the industry far more generously, with policies like feed-in tariffs that stimulate investment in green technologies. No, the real reason is much simpler, explained a trio of journalists on Fox & Friends: It's always sunny in Germany!

http://mobile.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/02/07/fox_news_expert_on_solar_energy_germany_gets_a_lot_more_sun_than_we_do_video.html?original_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com

locumranch said...

You are mistaken if you believe that the Civil War eliminated the practice of slavery within the US. It merely eliminated the legal & constitutional basis for slavery within US borders which (in turn) eliminated the South's constitutional monopoly over the Fed.

As Randy says, Slavery continues to exist -- and has become increasingly common -- in the modern era because we have kept the animal but changed the name of the beast.

The practice continued for a century under the name of share-cropping, the company store & chain gangs, and now continues on under the guise of usury, financial servitude, illegal immigration and the US penal system wherein individuals are expected to labour for substandard wages under increasingly suboptimal legal protections.

This is why Republican policies (as DB pointed out) tend to favour a type of illegal immigration (human trafficking) that allows industry and/or employers to underpay & mistreat its foreign workers under the threat of deportation while simultaneously driving down wages & benefits for legal workers via the supply & demand curve.

Where is your great moral victory now?

Best

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jumper said...

So until the last pimp is dead, there is no reason to say things have improved anywhere? Riight.

There was no Fed, nor anything similar. The Bank of the U.S. was long gone. The Civil War was in the middle of the "free banking era."

Ian said...

Wait, wait, wait...

Slavery was doomed even before the civil war because of technological and economic factors

AND

Slavery survived the civil war and persisted right up to the present day.


Pick one.

Anyone who wants to argue that the modern day worker in the developed world is equivalent to a slave is should swap places with a Dalit quarry worker in India for a day.

David Brin said...

onward

Randy Winn said...

@Ian - I don't follow locum's "logic" either, but I hope you are not dismissing human trafficking in the USA as mere "day labor". The dalits are no evidence to the contrary; the National Judicial College link I provided gives the legal and factual distinctions between mere sharp contracting and actual slavery.

We (speaking collectively) have some successful prosecutions behind us and a great many more to come; what is most relevant is that advances in technology have not eliminated the financial advantages of using slave labor ... disposable humans ... in some industries even in the most advanced nations. This is a bad thing and should not be ignored.

Paul451 said...

Jumper,
"There was no Fed, nor anything similar. The Bank of the U.S. was long gone. The Civil War was in the middle of the "free banking era." "

Minor point. I think locumranch was using the abbreviation "Fed" for "Federal Government", not "Federal Reserve Bank" when he spoke of the South losing "control of the Fed".

(717 eGullic: Boeing's short-lived electric sea-plane.)

nicoletedesco said...

One correction to this blog post: I would say that the Civil War did not start in the 1850s, but in 1816 with the Battle of Negro Fort. I find the analysis of the participants and motivations of that event particularly enlightening. My next study in history is to answer the questions,

Why DID the U.S. include the slave colonies?
Why did Canadians fail to join?
Why did the native Americans nations fail to join?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Negro_Fort

In the case of Negro Fort, I would lay the blame on the rabble-rouser southerner Andrew Jackson, with John Quincy Adams conceding the necessary evil for the sake of keeping the union together. (See also, JQA position on slavery https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Quincy_Adams.) I see BONF as a "win" for the southerners in the U.S. political system, a win they later had to achieve through violent means since union politicians were no longer putting up with their bull.

The Fugitive Slave Act was an act of rebellion alright, to achieve what they achieved at Negro Fort because the north was no longer going to go along for the antics of people like Andrew Jackson. One can imagine the kind of dilemma JQA may have felt he was in when he supported the raid on Negro Fort.

Other than that, thank you for that blog post! I like it.