Slavery Did Not Benefit “Whites”BY HARRY BINSWANGER | DEC 5, 2022The truth is that, aside from the plantation owners (a tiny minority), the white population of the South was hurt by slavery—kept poor by it—rather than enriched.

The notion of “white privilege” is collectivist. It’s Marxism seen through a racial lens.

You don’t need Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy to know that crimes are not racially shared, that there is no collective guilt. The fact that a group of people with white skin enslaved a group of people with dark skin does not mean that everyone with a white skin bears guilt for the crime. The same applies to the “Jim Crow” laws that used to exist in the Southern states: guilt for this rights violation does not attach to skin color.

But it seems that you do need Rand’s Objectivism, or at least quite an advanced understanding of capitalism, to realize the error and the insult to blacks in the idea that whites gained financially from slavery, as the term “white privilege” implies.

The truth is that, aside from the plantation owners (a tiny minority), the white population of the South was hurt by slavery—kept poor by it—rather than enriched.

Only racists, who believe that African-Americans are sub-human, could imagine that treating them like beasts of burden would be the path to riches. If you recognize that the enslaved people were human beings, with the rational faculty, you understand that slavery and discrimination were not only viciously evil but also socially and economically destructive. The forcible suppression of blacks was deliberately directed toward thwarting and paralyzing their minds—their deepest essence and most economically valuable asset.

In the words of Spinoza, “Nothing is more valuable to man than [another] man who lives by reason.”

Not just basic human decency, not just the understanding of individual rights, but also the profit-motive demands that you treat every member of every race as the rational beings they are.

Slavery sets the slave’s mind against you. Respecting a man’s individual rights and paying him for his services puts a free man’s mind on your side.

Or do the pushers of the slogan “white privilege” secretly believe that only whites can think rationally?!

The same anti-black, racist premise is behind the idea that capitalism is consistent with racial bigotry. The vile insult to those suffering from the bigotry is the ugly assumption that the members of the victimized race could not, in fact, perform as well as the members of the “privileged” race.

In concrete terms, the charge of “white privilege” assumes that it made economic sense for Southern businesses to give preference to whites over blacks. This assumes the inferiority of the black race! Otherwise, not hiring blacks and not selling to them would spell economic suicide.

On a free, capitalist market, the price of a man’s labor (his wages), like the price of any other factors of production, is set by the man’s contribution to production, not by non-economic considerations like his shoe size, the number of syllables in his first name, or his skin color.

Sure, in backward areas, like the 19th century Deep South, there would initially have been, from rednecks, resistance to doing business with blacks and general resistance to dropping racial prejudice. The Archie Bunkers have always looked with horror at competition from members of other groups (Jews, Irish, Italians, women, etc.). But as individual members of a group perform well, as they advance in wealth and form friendships, and marriages, with the more reasonable individuals of other groups, the old collectivist prejudices become less and less tenable—because they are false.

Capitalism sets the profit motive against irrationality. And racism is the height—or lowest depth—of irrationality.

To see why racism is anti-capitalist, consider the analogy to a Luddite prejudice against machinery. What would happen, under capitalism, to business owners who discriminated against machinery? Suppose the vast majority of businessmen thought machines were instruments of the devil; suppose they would not buy machines at all. How would these superstitious businessmen compete against a lone rational businessman who was not prejudiced against machines and gladly used them to save time and money? They couldn’t compete. The price of prejudice against machines would be: inability to cut costs, thus cut prices, thus maintain sales, thus stay in business. The same is true for prejudice against men.

It’s simple. Irrationality doesn’t pay. Racism is grossly irrational. Therefore, racism doesn’t pay.

Do the chanters of “white privilege,” then, think that it is rational to view blacks as inferior?

Originally appeared on (HBL)–a private email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues. A free trial is available at

Cotton Gin, Slavery, and America’s Corporatists

In 1776, America’s Founding Fathers signed a world-changing document recognizing that all men are created equal. Yet, millions of Black Americans were not afforded freedom.

Despite passionate opposition against slavery and the gradual outlawing of this evil, the Deep South’s world-supplying cotton industry and Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin ushered a systematic dependency on slave labor.

The extreme wealth derived from this one sector of the American economy justified personal greed over humanity and the intrinsic dignity of every individual. It was this course that decoupled our nation from its Constitutional mooring. Returning to our mission statement would take a painful correction at the expense of over 600,000 American lives and the destruction of the southern economy that would take generations to rebuild.

Our nation is yet again seeing the consequences of unfettered greed through American corporations aligning themselves with Communist China. They jockey for access, calculate stock values, and place personal wealth and power over our country’s core foundation of freedom and equality. The 1800 empathy-free plantation owners have been replaced by 2022 woke corporatists who collaborate behind closed boardroom doors in the name of profit.

The 1794 Cotton Gin is our generation’s Communist China, and today’s corporations represent American Greed 101. The disconnect between these corporatists and our American values is on full display in their sprint to sponsor the 2022 Winter Olympics Games in Beijing, China.

The presence of inhumanity in China is undeniable. Uyghur, Christians, and other minority groups are punished and tortured for worshiping their faith. Millions are placed in slave labor concentration camps as child labor, organ harvesting, rape, forced abortion, and sterilization of women proceed unabated.

Yet, Atlanta-based social justice warrior CoCa-Cola opted to pay China to advertise their products and run their Olympics advertisements exclusively to a Chinese audience and exclusively in the Chinese language. Where was Coca-Cola’s duty when faced with the reality of slavery, rape, torture, and death of minorities at the hands of Communist China? It appears that when granted the option of wealth, modern-day slavery is not a red line.

In 2020, several American companies pressured Congress to water down The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, bipartisan legislation banning products manufactured through forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region from being imported to the U.S.

The true heart of the American Corporatist can also be seen in the words of Billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya, a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors. He expressed what he called “a very hard, ugly truth” about China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority-Muslim population in the Xinjiang autonomous region. “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs,” he said.

As we emerge and recalculate after two years of retrospect, we have an opportunity to evaluate institutions once trusted, revered, and respected. Should that trust continue? The enticement of Communist China has proven too powerful for America’s corporate class.

As they use their CCP Olympic sponsor platform to promote their products, they promote divisiveness in their own country, cover for the human rights abuses of millions, and give legitimacy to the CCP.

In the United States of America, we stand for freedom. Our domestic companies should too, or we should not stand with them.

Burgess Owens

The Truth About Slavery

Was slavery a wrong or an inherited institution?

Did slavery originate in the English colonies in North America in the 17th century or do its origins go back before the time of recorded history?

Is slavery racist or is it based on economic motive?

If a person wants understanding, these are important questions.

But if a person wants to engage others in emotion for the purpose of gaining preferment and its rewards, money and power, or simply to enjoy the self-righteousness of moral denunciation of one’s fellows, these questions are in the way. The fact that these questions are never asked and are not a part of black studies programs in universities or the New York Times’ fake history project–the 1619 Project–is conclusive evidence that today slavery is an emotive word used to demonize white people and to bring preferment to black people.

Slavery is presented to American school children as something that white people did to black people. Therefore, white people are racists and must pay in some way for the slavery of black people that ended in the US 156 years ago.

There are so many unasked questions. For example, how did the blacks brought to North America become slaves? Who enslaved them? The answer, which explodes the narrative, is that blacks were enslaved by other blacks.

The main source of slaves for the slave trade was the black Kingdom of Dahomey. Dahomey engaged in slave wars with other black kingdoms or tribes and became the dominant power.

As Encyclopedia Britannica says, “Dahomey was organized for war, not only to expand its boundaries but also to take captives as slaves. Slaves were either sold to the Europeans [or Muslims] in exchange for weapons or kept to work the royal plantations that supplied food for the army and court.”

The socialist Karl Polanyi wrote the classic work: Dahomey and the Slave Trade published in 1966. The book does not fit our woke time and the black studies agenda, and it is no longer available in print.

Today Dahomey is known as Benin. On the beach at Ouidah there is a contemporary monument, the Gate of no Return, commemorating the lives of the Africans captured by the black Kingdom of Dahomey and sold to Arabs and Europeans as slaves or traded for firearms.

In other words, the origin of black slaves was black slave traders.

Why did European sea captains bring black slaves to North America? The answer is that there was fertile land capable of producing profitable crops and no labor force. Those who held land grants or charters from the English king needed labor to make the land usable. There was no other work force.

Slaves were brought to the US not because of racism but for economic motives. Black Africans sold other black Africans to merchants for firearms that established Dahomey’s dominance. The merchants sold the slaves as a labor force to those who held land that originated in land grants or charters from the English monarch and had no one to work it. Slavery was established as the agricultural labor force long before the United States existed.

This brings us back to the opening question of this essay. Was slavery a wrong or an inherited institution? Whether or not something is wrong depends on the morality of the time. At the time the black Kingdom of Dahomey and the other blacks with whom Dahomey engaged in slave wars did not consider slavery wrong. Neither did the Arabs who for centuries had raided European coastal towns for white slaves. Neither did the Europeans who brought the purchased slaves to North America. Neither did the colonists who purchased a labor force. Neither did the original slaves, captives who themselves had fought in slave wars.

Slavery had been a fact of life for millenniums. Long before white peoples had black slaves, they had white slaves, and were themselves slaves owned by Arabs. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries North Americans were enslaved when US merchant ships were captured by North African provinces of the Ottoman Empire. For some years the US Congress paid large sums to ransom Americans enslaved in Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. President Thomas Jefferson tired of it and sent US Naval forces that captured Tripoli and broke up the practice of enslaving captured American merchant ship crews—thus in the US Marines anthem—“to the shores of Tripoli.”

Slavery was everywhere. It was an inherited institution. In the African slave wars, a man could begin the battle a free person and if defeated find himself a slave. A person born to slave parents knew no other life. In North America where slaves comprised the agricultural labor force, everyone was born into a society in which slavery was an established institution. It was the result of a choice made in a distant time when there was no alternative labor force.

The American and French revolutions, as they are called, resulted in an idealism of the free autonomous person, and those affected by this ideal turned on slavery as wrong, as it seems to be under this ideal of Western Civilization. However, it was not wrong in black Dahomey.

How one disposes of an entire labor institution and replaces it was never described by those who wanted an end to slavery in the 19th century. Landowners owned the land and the labor. To require them to free their slaves would be to deprive them of a large part of their capital. If they freed their work force, they would have to hire them back with wages, but after such a capital loss where would the wages come from? Would taxpayers fund a government program to compensate owners for freeing their slaves? These are major questions during a time period when many other major questions took precedence. To reconfigure a country’s established institutions is an extraordinary undertaking. The Communists attempted it in the 20th century, and did not meet with success.

Mechanization has replaced the bulk of the agricultural work force, but it wasn’t an available alternative at the time. If it had been, what would have provided the livelihood for the freed slaves? In the end it was sharecropping, which kept the former slaves tied to the land as they had been as slaves and as medieval serfs had been tied to the land. Instead of wages, sharecroppers shared in the ownership of the crop and the proceeds from the sale.

In the US the heavy immigration would have eventually produced a free labor force except for the fact that until the frontier was closed at the end of the 19th century, immigrants could move west and claim land they occupied. Most preferred working their own place to working as labor for another person.

Jobs offshoring has eliminated most of the American manufacturing labor force, and those who had manufacturing jobs find themselves today with diminished living standards. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots are eliminating much of the rest of human employment. The question of human employment in a world of automation and AI remains an evaded question, just as abolitionists evaded the question of the fate of freed slaves. President Lincoln wanted to send them back to Africa or to a Central or South American destination.

If slavery was such an evil, why did Congress resurrect slavery with the 16th Amendment in 1909 and the states ratify it in 1913? To understand what I mean, ask yourself what is the definition of a slave? A slave is a person who does not own his own labor or the products of his labor. If you are subject to an income tax, you do not own your own labor.

Part of a slave’s work goes to his own maintenance. Otherwise, if he is not fed, clothed, housed, and his health attended to, his owner loses his labor. The rest of his labor could be appropriated by his owner to cover the cost of the slave’s purchase and to turn a profit. For a 19th century slave in the US the tax rate was approximately 50%. For a medieval serf, the tax rate was lower as he had less technology and therefore was less productive. A medieval serf could not reproduce if his tax rate exceeded 30%, or such was the view years ago when I studied the medieval economy. Unlike a slave, a serf was not bought and sold. He was attached to the land. Like a slave, he was taxed in terms of his labor. The lord of the manor had use rights in the serfs’ labor, and the serfs had use rights in the land.

Formerly serfs were free farmers. After the collapse of Roman power, they had no protection against Viking, Saracen, and Magyar raiders. To survive they provided labor to a chieftain who constructed a walled tower and maintained fighting men. In the event of raids, serfs had a redoubt to which to flee for protection. In effect, serfs paid a defense tax. They exchanged a percentage of their labor for protection. Serfdom became an established institution and continued long after the raids had stopped. In England serfdom was ended by the Enclosures which stripped serfs of their use rights in land and created a free labor market.

Consider the US income tax. When President Reagan was elected the tax rate on investment income was 70%. The top tax rate on wages and salaries was 50%. In other words, the privileged (mainly white) rich were taxed at the same rate as 19th century black slaves.

How is an American on whose labor the government has a claim a free man? Clearly, he is not a free man. We can say that there is a difference between a present day American and a slave, because the government only owns a percentage of his labor and not the person himself–unless the person does not pay his taxes, in which case he can be imprisoned and his labor hired out to private companies who pay the prison for the use of the prisoner’s labor.

The extraordinary failure to ask the relevant questions discussed in this essay has caused a racial division in the US infused with hatred. This hatred is cultivated every day by an irresponsible media, by the Democrat Party, by the universities, by the NY Times 1619 Project, and by the critical race theory taught in public schools. Now that all this hate has been created, how do we get rid of it? With misinformation passing as scholarly fact, how do we recover truth and escape the lies that are destroying us.

Paul Craig Roberts, UNZ Review

The Truth About the Three-Fifths Compromise

The Constitution’s Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted three-fifths of a state’s slave population for purposes of taxation and the apportionment of representatives and presidential electors, was repealed by the Reconstruction Amendments over 160 years ago. Yet it still stirs strong political passions that are unfortunately not matched by knowledge of its genesis, content, or effects.

A few weeks ago, Justin Lafferty, a member of the Tennessee House of Representative, stated that the three-fifths compromise was part of an abolitionist movement to end slavery. Other commentators have denounced the compromise, arguing instead that it was wrong because it denigrated slaves as three-fifths of a person. Both perspectives illustrate the distortions that inevitably occur when history becomes a casualty of our culture wars.

The three-fifths compromise reveals the intricacies of history and the care necessary when critiquing the actions of our forebears. Correctly understood, it reveals that historical events are themselves dependent on their own past and have unforeseen future consequences. And it also shows the importance of considering history counterfactually: there is indeed an argument that the three-fifths compromise ultimately helped end slavery, even if had nothing to do with the abolition movement, because the compromise was necessary to the creation of the union. History can ask normative questions, but only if it is not turned into a simple-minded morality play, where it is assumed that even the best of actors of the past acted only under our current constraints.

The Three-Fifths Clause and the Constitutional Baseline

The Clause provided:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons 

Note that the text of the Clause is itself complex. On the one hand, it gave the southern states more representatives than if only free persons were counted, but it also made them liable for more direct taxes which are proportioned according to representation. These states must take the bitter as well as the sweet. Moreover, the Clause consciously avoids mentioning slavery. This omission increasingly annoyed southern states, which dared to celebrate the institution when they wrote the Confederate Constitution.

But most importantly, understanding its text on representation dispels a misconception. It would have been worse for the opponents of slavery if slaves had been counted fully in the enumeration. A full count would have yielded slave-holding states more members in Congress and more presidential electoral votes. The great evil at the time of the Constitution was slavery itself and the inextricably linked fact that slaves did not have the franchise. The three-fifths clause added to this wrong by giving the southern states more power than if slaves had not been counted at all, but the discounting the enslaved population reduced the power of these states compared to full counting.

The harder question is whether this perspective furnishes the right baseline. Did the three-fifths compromise replace a result that would have been worse for ending slavery? This question forces us to consider how such an unusual fraction of three-fifths came to be included in the Constitution.

The first time that three-fifths appears was in an attempt to amend the Articles of Confederation, which regulated the relations among the states before the Constitution. The states had trouble raising money and some representatives, including James Madison, tried to create more authority in the continental Congress to impose taxes. The three-fifths provision in that amendment formulated an apportionment among the states for taxes. Slaves were an important source of wealth and thus the view was that some portion of that productive power should be included in the proportion of taxable economic activity. The reason that slaves were not fully counted for the purpose of taxation provides a window into one of the many evils of slavery: Self-ownership is far more conductive to productivity than slavery. The amendment was defeated for other reasons, but the principle of including a discounted proportion remained available for future use.

The consequences of the compromise underscore a historical reality that should be emphasized in every history course: decisions have profound results that no one intended at the time.

At the Philadelphia Convention, James Wilson of Pennsylvania, one of the most important architects of the Constitution, proposed that the proportion be used as a basis of apportionment. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina seconded the motion. Thus, its genesis shows it was a compromise with an opponent of slavery joining a defender to propose it. Abolition was not a possible proposal if the Constitution were to be ratified. As William Ewald, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and biographer of Wilson puts it, “the Convention would have come to a rapid end if [Wilson] had pushed for abolition.”

The Convention then defeated a proposal put forward by southern delegates to count the slaves fully for the purpose of apportionment. This motion reveals a kernel of truth in the Tennessee Representative’s position: The three-fifths proposal prevailed over one that would have given more power to the southern states.

The Compromise and Its Consequences

Wilson knew better than we do what deals had to be done for the union to be founded. To think otherwise is to engage in a kind of condescension toward the past. The greatest statesmen of any era understand the constraints under which they operate. Sadly, there was no way the Constitution could both have abolished slavery and created a union of the thirteen states.

We can consider whether it would have been better, in principle, not to have created the union at all—not to have made these compromises—by looking at future history counterfactually in a way that the Founders could not do.

If the northern and southern states had not been able to forge a union because of a failure to compromise, the most likely alternative would have been two regional compacts that resembled the Constitution in giving stronger powers than those of the Articles of Confederation to a central government. As Akhil Amar has explained, there was a geopolitical necessity to such a strengthening of government. The states needed a more effective constitutive mechanism to defend themselves against foreign powers.

But sectional compacts would have entrenched slavery for much longer. The South would not have faced the abolitionist pressures from the North. And of course, they would not have seceded from the larger union, triggering the civil war that ended slavery. More subtly, the Constitution’s creation of a commercial republic engendered a political climate that valorized free labor—an ideal that was in fundamental tension with slavery.

Another irony of the three-fifths clause is that it made possible Jefferson’s election—the so-called Revolution of 1800. That consequence was widely understood at the time when the extra electoral votes that he gained as a result of the three-fifths clause were termed the “slave power,” by those most opposed to slavery in the North. John Adams would have triumphed if the Southern states had not been able to count their enslaved populations, even at discounted rates.

While I am not by any means a partisan of Jefferson, the general view is that his victory in 1800 was one for democracy over elitism, for freedom (for those who were not slaves—and it should be noted that abolition was not yet part of the national political debate) over the tyrannical Alien and Sedition Acts. It probably also was essential to the Louisiana purchase that was the first step to the United States becoming a continental power, both because Jefferson was a more flexible negotiator than Adams and because as President, he was willing to put aside constitutional scruples over the federal authority to do so that his party would have strongly pressed had it been in opposition.

Thus, the unintended consequences of the three-fifths compromise democratized the nation’s political culture and expanded its boundaries. This sequence of events underscores a historical reality that should be emphasized in every history course: decisions have profound results that no one intended at the time. Like the effect of the three-fifths compromise on slavery, it is more proof of Kant’s dictum that “out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.”

The Danger of Critical Race Theory

Rep. Lafferty’s remarks came in an attack on critical race theory. Supporters of that theory seized on his error to suggest that they showed why critical race theory is needed. But the incident shows nothing of the kind. First, his critics often got their understanding of the three-fifths compromise wrong, not recognizing that fully counting the slaves would have been worse for the cause of ending slavery. Second, while Lafferty was not correct in connecting the clause with abolitionism, the three-fifths compromise was likely one of the compromises needed to create the union, which likely ended slavery faster than the plausible alternatives. Critical race theory, which sees American history as a simple tale of racial subordination, would suppress such analysis. Third, even the three-fifths compromise is far more complex in its effects than can be captured through the prism of race. Critical race theory, like Marxist theories of history, is terribly reductionist. Party lines in history always lead to a flattening of a past’s many dimensions.

John O. McGinnis

Reparations: The Demand from Unclean Hands

U.S. House of Representatives has taken up H.R. 40 – Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act which begs some hard questions three generations after slavery was abolished.

Slavery is not the only springboard for the debate. The history of the Democrat Party, their role in slavery and how they hold a great deal of responsibility for the plight of the African slave during and after slavery cannot be overstated as they now lead Commission discussions with unclean hands, the political descendants of slavery itself.

For the record, the sin of slavery in the U.S. was an industry of the South led by Southern Democrats. The Union Army (from the North) beat the Confederacy in the Civil War giving way to the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction. Democrat President Andrew Johnson refused to comply with the planned reparations in which Union General Sherman’s Special Fields Order 15 (“forty acres and a mule”) provided 400,000 acres to the emancipated slaves, and Southern Democrats imposed a literal hell on the freed African slaves through Black Codes and Jim Crow laws. Let the record reflect these truths.

Further, the Democrats bargained with Republicans over the presidency in 1877 which could not be decided by the Electoral College. Democrats bargained to keep their foot on the necks of the freed slaves who thrived after slavery until the end of Reconstruction in 1877. They bargained to remove federal troops from their states (which included the polling stations) and ended any political representation the freed slaves had garnered during Reconstruction. The Southern Democrats robbed the freed slaves of restorative justice after slavery and to the freedom Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party birthed.

Slavery was not a part of the founding principles of our nation. Before the Civil War, there were 19 free states and 15 slave states. At the hands of Republicans, slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and was ratified in 1865.

This truth of the U.S. Constitution as it relates to slavery is important to appreciate because those who seek to denigrate the United States as a racist country use the Three-Fifths Clause of the U.S. Constitution to impugn her.

Notwithstanding that some Founding Fathers owned slaves, the Three-Fifths Clause (1787) is the by-product of abolitionists fighting against slave owners who wanted to have a majority representation in Congress by counting the slaves. Rejecting that approach, the bargain was to count each slave as three-fifths thus holding the South at bay from having majority control in the House. The lie that the slave was not considered human can only be attributed to those who dared traffic in slavery and not to the whole of the nation.

If “reparations” is a check, which is the historic application, there are hard questions for those who support reparations for black Americans:

The Democrats were the ones who enslaved Africans. It was not a national policy. Why should anyone other than the descendants of slave-owning Democrats pay reparations? Is this an invoice best sent to the Democrat National Committee?

Blacks owned slaves too. Black plantation owners like Cecile Richards and Antoine Dubuclet of Louisiana to name a few. Surely, they have descendants too. Why should the descendants of blacks who owned slaves get reparations, or are they excluded?

The “Five Civilized Tribes” owned African slaves. These tribes included the Cherokee, Chickasaw. Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. The Thirteenth Amendment did not free their slaves, only the Treaties of 1866 did so after the war. How do we handle this hidden history?

White Union soldiers fought to end slavery. Should their descendants be required to pay the price for something they died to abolish?

If elected officials would stop doling out “feel-good” checks and start holding all Americans accountable to accessing the American Dream, the years of debate on reparations would have no place. Opportunity is priceless and is the best form of reparation. Opportunity can start afresh in America with enacting School Choice and ensuring equal access to capital for all Americans. If you want to make a difference, these are better starting points. Call them reparations if you like.

Marc Little,