Never mind permanent minority rule, if the Republican Party could really have its way with America? They’d bring back slavery. That’s even more than they already have. In a number of disturbing ways, slavery really never ended in America. It shape shifted. Slavery, at its core, is stolen labor. The whole point of having a slave is they work for free. The slave master gets one hundred percent of the slave’s work output for nada. The only thing the slave master has to cover – to keep that work product coming – is whatever it costs to clothe, house and feed their slave. It’s simple business math: product minus costs equals profits. In America, in the agrarian South, they had three big cash crops: tobacco, sugar cane and cotton. All are labor intensive to farm. From a pure “cost-benefit” point of view, slavery asks “Hey, what if we could get all that farm labor (plus a little extra labor around the house) for nothing?” In a moral world, the response would have been “But, of course, slavery is wrong!” whereas, in America, the response was “Hey, so long as we can get away with it…”.
And that’s what happened. The American South – its business interests – got away with stealing the labor output of virtually all its essential farm labor. Not only did the slave economy not pay for that farm labor, it prevented those workers from ever building up the wealth they would have acquired HAD THEY been fairly paid for their work product. This is why reparations aren’t a “nicety”, they are demanded by any standard of decency.
What if the South hadn’t had the luxury of enslaving its farm work force? What if circumstances had compelled the South to pay a fair wage to every single person previously enslaved? There would never have been a Southern economy and, consequently, no Confederacy. Instead, who knows, a fairly paid work force producing those agricultural products may have been the basis for a worker’s paradise that would have shut Karl Marx’s mouth.
Alas, no such thing happened. Slavery did.
Are white Europeans more racist than anyone else? Hard to say. But they have been more successful than anyone else at spreading their racism across the planet and at profiting from it. The white, land-owning, Christian, European men who founded America’s government had a smashing idea in their collective heads: democratic self government. A hard thing to imagine, but even harder to keep (as Benjamin Franklin noted). What made the idea harder to keep than perhaps it should have been was piss poor execution of this smashing idea. Hey – just because white guys did it doesn’t mean the white guys got it right. In the case of founding America, they got it partially right. Either you mean “all people are created equal under the rule of law” or you mean “All men are created equal” by which you literally mean just “men” and by “men” you mean men who look exactly like you.
Sorry, but we’ll have to split that grade. “A” for the idea, “F” for the execution.
Originalism, you understand, is white men pointing at “All men are created equal” and insisting that THAT is how WE must understand the country today. That is all sorts of nasty-assed, liquid excrement.
This is conservatism’s goal however. The thing conservatives want to conserve is America the way it was. They’re terrified of America the way it’s about to be – where white people are a minority of the population – and, so, are doing everything they can think of (none of it legal, moral or ethical) to hold onto political power for as long as possible – hopefully forever. Conservatives don’t want to share power with the rest of us; in their minds, they’ve already shared too much – and look what it’s brought them!
It’s hard to say if race relations would be different in America had Restoration been allowed to happen in the South. Perversely, having forced Black people into slavery to begin with – the thing that brought the Civil War and the South’s ruin – after the war, white southerners blamed Black people for causing their economic collapse. Bitter at losing a war they maybe could have won, simmering with resentment, they saw everything in “zero sum game” terms. Whatever Black people had was at some white person’s expense. Few things enraged racists as much as Black success and Black wealth – especially if those enraged white people were failing because of their own woeful ignorance, profound laziness and copious inadequacies.
Want to know what really scares a racist more than anything? Having to compete in any way, shape or form.
Let’s go back to slavery. After the Civil War, one couldn’t literally enslave people anymore. Restoration’s failure (thanks, Andrew Johnson – if only he’d been convicted in the Senate!) disrupted the balance of power in the South. Black political power was truncated before it could even take root. Still, Black businesses and communities thrived, in part because of their insularity. That insularity enraged racists. That raged burned out Black Wall Street in Tulsa in June 1921 and Colfax, Louisiana in 1873,. It burned through Wilmington, NC in 1898 and through both Washington, DC and Elaine, AK in 1919. Racism took out the thriving Black community in Ococe, FL in 1920, and took out Rosewood, FL’s Black community in 1923. This was the white South reminding its Black inhabitants that they were nowhere near as free as they thought they were; nowhere near as free as the Constitution was attempting to make them.
Off to the side of this deeply embedded racism, sat “the money”. As Calvin Coolidge put it, “The business of America is business”. Capitalism is neither good nor evil. It’s an idea that can be good or evil. It depends how it’s executed and by whom. Socialized capitalism – like they have in Sweden and Denmark for instance (where wealth is spread as fairly as possible so as to not only reward hard work but to encourage constant innovation – produces a happy, healthy, innovative citizenry. Crony capitalism on the other hand is capitalism corrupted. There’s nothing good or worthwhile about it. Everything crony capitalism touches dies. Especially innovation.
We’ve all known bosses who tried to get us to work for nothing because they were short-sighted, greedy and stupid, and bosses who understood that compensating us fairly would get the best possible work from us – to their ultimate benefit. It’s just a fact: some people can only see value in money. They don’t see value in anything else – like good will or good faith or good relationships – even where their customers are concerned. They want every penny they can get in their pocket and no one else’s. To them, all workers are interchangeable and replaceable. They’re an expense that reduces the business’s profitability. Robots work cheaper (they’re practically slaves by design). That is precisely why so many businesses automate over hiring if possible.
For now however, our captains of industry must hire humans to do as much thankless work as possible for as long as possible for the least amount of pay possible.
It may not be literal slavery, but it can see slavery from its house. Can we call this condition “Slavery Adjacent”?
Republicans despise having a minimum wage because it conflicts with enslaving people. They hate any sort of social safety net because those people-empowering policies conflict with enslaving people. They can’t stand the idea of universal basic income because UBI especially undermines slavery (people can wait for work that suits them rather than take any job because they need the money). Republicans hate social security, medicare, free community college, free pre-school and even food for the hungry because all those things get in the way of re-enslaving Americans by turning America into a giant, corrupt, broken-to-its-core company town..
It’s just a stone cold fact. If we strip away all the pretense in virtually every Republican economic argument, what every Republican is really arguing for is either a return to slavery or a subtle variation on slavery’s theme.
There – I’ve answered my own question. Why do Republicans insist on behaving exactly like slave masters? Because that is what they are in their hearts and aspire to be out here in reality. Just like the Republicans remain hell bent on getting their coup d’etat right, they ache to get slavery right this time.
And they know, these Republicans, that if they score the one (permanent political power), the other (a return to slavery even if not by name) will come right along with it.