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Mudsill and Slavery

  1. profile image0
    Sooner28posted 4 years ago

    If you've never had the chance to read John Henry Hammond's famous mudsill speech, here it is:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3439t.html 

    He espouses some very essential criticisms of the capitalist system in defending slavery.  While he does gloss over the injustices plantation owners thrusted upon slaves, his underlying point of being fed and housed was true for some.

    http://library.thinkquest.org/CR0215086/dailylife.htm

    http://library.thinkquest.org/CR0215086/dailylife.htm

    It sounds all too familiar having to work for a number of hours everyday just for survival.

    From the speech: "The Senator from New York said yesterday that the whole world had abolished slavery. Aye, the name, but not the thing; all the powers of the earth cannot abolish that. God only can do it when he repeals the fiat, "the poor ye always have with you;" for the man who lives by daily labor, and scarcely lives at that, and who has to put out his labor in the market, and take the best he can get for it; in short, your whole hireling class of manual laborers and "operatives," as you call them, are essentially slaves. The difference between us is, that our slaves are hired for life and well compensated; there is no starvation, no begging, no want of employment among our people, and not too much employment either. Yours are hired by the day, not cared for, and scantily compensated, which may be proved in the most painful manner, at any hour in any street in any of your large towns. Why, you meet more beggars in one day, in any single street of the city of New York, than you would meet in a lifetime in the whole South. We do not think that whites should be slaves either by law or necessity. "

    I am in no way drawing a complete analogy between actual slavery and wage exploitation; however, there are enough similarities to give one pause, because people imagine our current society in comparison to slavery, when that is a false analogy.  To make the analogy forceful and accurate, the comparison must be based on an economy with no worker protections: no minimum wage, working hours, or safety protections, with children working the same 12-18 hour days.  12-18 hour days, with one day off, were the norm in unregulated capitalism before socialists and liberals fought for the 8 hour work day, minimum wage, and workplace protections.

    Aside from the fact that Hammond lays out a parallel between the way a wage labourer is treated and the way a slave is, another striking feature of his argument is one—whenever socialism is mentioned—conservatives all the live long day continually use to defend capitalism: "In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life."

    We are asked, "Who would do the dirty jobs without the incentive of avoiding starvation to motivate people?"  Threatening people with starvation or capitalist exploitation is no way to defend a position.  True civilization does not need slaves.

  2. John Holden profile image61
    John Holdenposted 4 years ago

    I'm interested to hear how capitalists will refute that, as indeed they will!

    1. profile image0
      Sooner28posted 4 years ago in reply to this

      It depends on the intelligence and/or psychological disposition of the person responding.

      Some people's minds are infinitely small, so they will not be able to form an intelligent response, and thus personally attack me.

      Others will provide typical capitalist defenses about "freedom" and ignore my underlying point.

      A third group will actually respond (assuming anyone besides you responds at all) tongue.

      1. wilderness profile image96
        wildernessposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        I'll bite, in spite of your own attack on anyone that dares to do so.

        The whole post is a little comical.

        "I am in no way drawing a complete analogy between actual slavery and wage exploitation; however, there are enough similarities to give one pause, because people imagine our current society in comparison to slavery, when that is a false analogy" 

        If it's a false analogy don't draw it and don't promote it.  Just leave it alone.

        Last two sentences: "Threatening people with starvation or capitalist exploitation is no way to defend a position.  True civilization does not need slaves."

        Can you spot the irony, particularly coming after the first quote?  If it's a false analogy don't draw it and don't promote it.  Just leave it alone.  And certainly don't repeat it a second time!

        1. John Holden profile image61
          John Holdenposted 4 years ago in reply to this

          Why not read, and quote, the whole paragraph rather than selectively editing it to make it say something that it clearly doesn't?

        2. profile image0
          Sooner28posted 4 years ago in reply to this

          At least I can say you responded tongue, however disingenuous the response was.

          Miff kind of made the point about missing nuance for me.  Since I'm getting multiple responses with some understanding and some not, I'll chalk it up to 50% being me unclear, and the other 50% being a misreading because of ideological bias, which isn't pernicious, just a matter of fact.  I notice at the beginning you misunderstand what I meant by false analogy.  I was referring to people comparing our current society to slavery, and then balking at the comparison.  For the analogy between average worker and slave to increase understanding, free-market capitalism without government regulation must be your comparison point, not the current United States.  So examples of this would be places like Bangladesh, China, or 18th and 19th century United States—specifically with the invention of the assembly line by Henry Ford.

          In any event, I did not say the analogy was absolute.  This is the same strategy used by theists when arguing for design. See Paley's watch example.  I am only arguing for the parts of the analogy that do hold, based on capitalism without worker protections!  You didn't address that point at all.  Consequently, my argument is more modest and not as ambitious as the theists.

          I'll quote myself: "To make the analogy forceful and accurate, the comparison must be based on an economy with no worker protections: no minimum wage, working hours, or safety protections, with children working the same 12-18 hour days.  12-18 hour days, with one day off, were the norm in unregulated capitalism before socialists and liberals fought for the 8 hour work day, minimum wage, and workplace protections."

          The fact that the analogy comes so dangerously close to being parallel is the point I am trying to make, which is what I said here, "I am in no way drawing a complete analogy between actual slavery and wage exploitation; however, there are enough similarities to give one pause.."  This also happens to be part of what you quoted.  If an economic system can draw suck striking parallels with slavery, it is unjustifiable.

          Thus, the specific parts of the analogies with slavery mentioned by Hammond, and the need of the capitalist system to force a group of people to do jobs essential to society by keeping them perpetually near starvation and without workplace protection is true.

          Your objection isn't even relevant to the point I was making.  That's why I included the paragraph you quoted, and yet you still misunderstand me.   As for the second, it is a DISAGREEMENT with slave-like conditions, as was very clear.  Civilization isn't civilized when it coerces people into subjecting themselves to the control of others to avoid hunger.  It was also an allusion to the Oscar Wilde quote, "Civilization requires slaves."

          1. wilderness profile image96
            wildernessposted 4 years ago in reply to this

            I think the biggest disagreement we have in this matter is just what "coercion" means.  As far as I'm concerned that term (in association with slavery) means chains and whips forcing work.  Jobs, with or with govt. rules (of which there are currently an overabundance) never provides that kind of coercion, and saying it's the only way to avoid starvation is nonsense.  One can look elsewhere for work, one can hunt or grow a garden and one can start their own business.  You can even beg on street corners.  These are all very viable options - choices that no "slave" can make, and that no one being "coerced" to work can, either.

            No one is thus "coerced" to work; the word only applies when an emotional rather than factual argument is presented.  It's almost as if you are saying that if you don't provide your food you will starve; therefore all food must be free or it's tantamount to slavery.

            1. profile image0
              Sooner28posted 4 years ago in reply to this

              A slave can escape right?  They had two choices: escape or endure.  I guess they could also rebel, so maybe there was a third option, but doing this would ensure the military was sent in to crush them, so this alternative isn't likely to aid survival.   

              Also, I am flabbergasted you are dismissing the lives people forced to endure before the government stepped in to protect workers.  History has written the horror stories, so I'm not going to rehash them here.  I just don't understand why you are attempting to minimize the desperate conditions people were forced to live under in the past, and in other countries without strong governments.  Some of this stuff is still happening now, and people's response is apathy.

              You're also living far too high in the abstract by giving strange answers such as, "someone can plant a garden if they want to eat without submitting to an employer."  Exactly where will the seeds come from?  How will rent be paid for the land?  One can't simply plant seeds on an isolated island and live like a hermit, or make them appear out of nowhere.  Even if one were able to follow your advice, the person would just end up as a farmer growing more than needed for survival in order to pay rent on the land—and likely a house—and would require hiring other people who are trying to avoid starvation.  This is very much work.  Your examples aren't escaping work at all; they are just different forms of it.  So yes, unless the individual is poor enough for welfare or rich enough for idleness, he will have to work, and most likely for others.  Everyone can't be the boss.  It would be an insurmountable contradiction to capitalism itself!

              I'm not claiming that people shouldn't work and contribute to the greater good of humanity; the point is work for most people is degrading and only ensuring others are getting rich off of the worker's labor.   Labor should be shared by all, so one person isn't living off the backs of others.  Sewage, construction, etc. should be done by all able bodied people in rotations, rather than the majority of the people doing the hardest work all the time, and the minority living off of their fruits.

              1. wilderness profile image96
                wildernessposted 4 years ago in reply to this

                "the point is work for most people is degrading and only ensuring others are getting rich off of the worker's labor"

                Perhaps your last paragraph is even more important.

                Work, whatever it is, isn't degrading if it is supporting yourself and family.  Digging ditches, shoveling manure, sweeping streets; it is all far less degrading than living off the charity of others.  It also does far more than "ensuring" (few jobs ensure that the business owner will become rich) others getting rich; it also houses and feeds the worker. 

                You're entirely correct that labor should be shared by all; each according to their ability.  If all you can do is shovel manure, then shovel manure for someone that will pay you to do it.

                Do the dirty work by rotation, no.  That's silly in the extreme; who does the engineering work while the engineer is taking his turn at digging ditches?  The ditch digger?  It also precludes the possibility of specialization, of becoming very good at any job and that very specialization is a large part of what has made production so high compared to what it was 100 years ago.

                There will always be a minority living off the fruits of other's labor, but it isn't the owner of a company, struggling to make ends meet.  It isn't generally even the owner of lots of stock in a giant corporation although that does happen.  For the most part the minority you speak of consists of those living on charity, whether disabled, elderly, children, or that relatively small portion that just doesn't want to work. 

                And finally, no - most true slaves cannot escape.  A great many tried, and were brought back to be beaten and/or killed, but very few actually escaped.  A worker on a rotten job need merely put one foot in front of the other to "escape".  True, he will wish to eat, but that in no way compares to being chased down by armed men and forcibly returned to a plantation.

                1. profile image0
                  Sooner28posted 4 years ago in reply to this

                  This is an example of a perceptual difference, and I think it's good it is being brought out.

                  You are looking at work through a very narrow lens.  As long as it's legal and ethical, if it feeds your family, then it's dignified.  This is not so, at least not in my opinion.  You could tie a plow to my back and pay me, but the work wouldn't be dignified.  Digging ditches for people to engage in weird rituals for the dead is also not dignified.  I hold humanity to a high standard, and human beings should not be spending massive amounts of their lives doing pointless labor.  People are forced into these jobs because of their need to eat.  If society were different, they could do something that would not only make them happy, but also be useful to everyone.  One big problem is people are being forced to do undignified labor.

                  As for the rotation, I didn't mean it as literal as it came across.  Certain occupations, like engineers or doctors, need to devote a majority of their time to doing those types of work.  Again though, if society was restructured, everyone would have the opportunity to become an engineer or doctor if the intellect and desire was there, so my guess is more people would take advantage, and machines would ultimately end up taking over all the more physically demanding jobs anyway.

                  But until that occurs, for the majority of us, we could alternate.  Or, we could become more involved in our own necessities.  I think the growing a garden idea could be done by all if everyone were educated about agriculture and given the right materials.  Another example would be clothing and housing.  We could go to the factory where the machines are located and make our own clothes, or even build our own houses with the right tools.  A more efficient way of doing this would be to use group rotation, since a house usually can't be built by just one person.  And again, this is only for the able-bodied.  For those physically disabled or old, less physically demanding jobs would be appropriate.

                  Practically speaking, most slaves could not escape, just like practically speaking, most people in the past and now have to work for another in order to survive.  There are the exceptions, but exceptions are for the minority of the people.

                2. gmwilliams profile image82
                  gmwilliamsposted 4 years ago in reply to this

                  The nature of work at this point for many people is to work for others.   Many people do not possess the wherewithal to work for themselves and to develop a brand for themselves.   This involves risk  and sacrifice.   Many people prefer the comfort and safety zone when it comes to work.    They furthermore are afraid of the responsibility that owning one's business entails.   

                  The concept of responsibility also extends to having more responsible positions at work.   Many people carp at being promoted even though it has more monies and perks because it involves MORE RESPONSIBILITY.    Many people complain regarding their so-called slave status at work; however, when the opportunity of promotion either through application, testing, and/or continuing one's education is presented to them, they bark.    They offer all types of excuses as to why they "can't" do this.    Yet these are the same people who are angry at those in the higher positions.    I have seen this and was the subject of this.    People do not want to extend and/or improve themselves at work but they continuously hate their so-called slave status jobs.     

                  Newflash, again folks.   There are jobs that do not require much skill and education hence those jobs are the low paying jobs.   If one does not desire to work at such jobs, he/she can return to school and study an area that is in demand.   He/she can apply for limited promotional opportunities regarding that position.  Or better yet, he/she can institute a way to start his/her business.     If one wants to be in a low paying position, no one is forcing him/her.   There is such a thing as taking responsibility for one's life which includes one's livelihood.

                  1. John Holden profile image61
                    John Holdenposted 4 years ago in reply to this

                    Once again neatly side stepping the point that there aren't enough jobs to go round.

                    But never mind, blame the victim.

  3. innersmiff profile image78
    innersmiffposted 4 years ago

    I am actually confused by the point you're trying to make. As Wilderness asks: are you trying to draw an analogy between free-market capitalism and slavery or not? Is this your underlying point?

    Free-market capitalism is by definition, not slavery. I suppose you could try and explain why it's like slavery - but all I'm getting from it is that, in capitalism, people need to work to be able to eat. This is the case in slavery too. This means that capitalism = slavery? As far as I'm aware, no society has been able to devise a system in which one doesn't need to work in order to eat.

    Since this is a necessity of life, I would prefer to live in a system in which I could choose where I could allocate my time and resources freely rather than have it dictated and confiscated by somebody else. Yeah, it's that bothersome 'freedom' argument again. It's a good point, that's why we bang on about it so much tongue

    1. wilderness profile image96
      wildernessposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      That's about all I got, too - does that mean our "minds are infinitely small" or did we both simply miss the whole point?

      1. innersmiff profile image78
        innersmiffposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        We've been propagandized by our capitalist rulers to not understand nuance, clearly!

        1. wilderness profile image96
          wildernessposted 4 years ago in reply to this

          Clearly.  And the probably lobotomized us as they fit the chains to our ankles in any case. smile

          1. profile image0
            Sooner28posted 4 years ago in reply to this

            You both responded, so obviously I wouldn't think that about you.

    2. profile image0
      Sooner28posted 4 years ago in reply to this

      You've nailed it.  A true free-market capitalism without worker protections has many parallels with the way workers were treated under slavery.   You didn't effectively address that point.

      I'll tell you the same thing I told Wilderness.  The fact that the analogy comes so dangerously close to being parallel is the point I am trying to make.

      1. innersmiff profile image78
        innersmiffposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        Yes, in the capitalist system, there will be those who will attempt to grind as much from the workers as much as possible with disregard to their safety and welfare. However, the inevitable economic growth that comes with the free-market allows more resources to be allocated to address this problem. The more individuals who hold more wealth have more freedom, then, to pick and choose the businesses they would like to work for. Businesses then have to compete with each other over workers, and naturally have to provide a pleasant working environment to attract the best ones. A pleasant working environment is a demand like any other that can be met by the market if given the time. The fact is that in fledgling economies, the demand for basic necessities trumps any other demand, and will therefore be addressed first.

        The natural teething problems, instead of being seized upon as evidence of market failure, need to be worked through and built upon by free individuals. This is exactly what happened with worker safety in the US: work-related accidents were on a steady decrease before the 'great saviour' OSHA was put in place, and since then they have levelled off (as a direct result of OSHA or a more inevitable rate of workplace accidents, who knows?). Things get better. And we are at such an economic standard now that if we suddenly encountered a free-market again, it is very unlikely we would be 'launched back into the dark ages' again, as there is a higher demand for worker welfare then there was back in the industrial revolution. Plus, the added productivity that comes from de-regulation and de-taxing would allow even more resources to be allocated to fulfil this demand.

        Perhaps, if we are to tackle slavery, we should start with the biggest slave-master of them all: the government. The government is the only institution in the developed world that has the legal right to force participation in itself; expressed in many forms across the West, including: the military draft, compulsory voting, compulsory schooling and the filing of tax-returns. Let's tackle what is slavery rather than what is like slavery.

  4. Kathryn L Hill profile image84
    Kathryn L Hillposted 4 years ago

    - it is Marxist philosophy rearing its glorious head once again. Impressed Yet, much?

  5. Kathryn L Hill profile image84
    Kathryn L Hillposted 4 years ago

    The Bourgeoisie, (the minority of the capitalistic owners of the means of production) oppresses the proletariat,( the majority of the population which produces the goods and services.)
                                                       Bourgeoisie:
    "The wealthiest part of the stratum of the middle class that originated during the later part of the middle ages AD 500-1500." They are the members of the "wealthiest part of the social class." etc. (everything in quotes from Wikipedia)
    This stuff is outdated and archaic!
    Come on... It seems like some people have not realized that it is  2013 ! ! !
    We are in a mini dark-age. we will come through this in time... So, take heart, we will bring the whole world with US, not the other way around. This message, I feel, has George Washington smiling.

    1. Josak profile image59
      Josakposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      Not at all the definitions are always relevant, the same classes exist. There is not a single chance in the universe that the world will go with the US given the opinion most of the world holds of it. Certainly it's not what has happened for the last several decades, a process occurring long before this "mini dark age".

      1. Credence2 profile image84
        Credence2posted 4 years ago in reply to this

        I am with you and see the direction that things are going in. The Horatio Alger stuff of fantasy belonged to the "guilded age". For far too many working people, the game is rigged and social mobility is almost just as unlikely here as it was in the days of lords and serfs. The capitalists had to be brought to task in the early part of the last century to prevent them from reducing their workers to a status comparable to slavery. Sure there were the Rockefellers, Carnegies etc that were used as shining examples of the opportunity made possible within a capitalist society, but they were by far the exception rather than the rule.
        While I support capitalism, generally, I want it under great restraint by government to prevent exploitation and abuse, as the same motivations and outrages put upon working people pre 'New Deal' by the owners of the means of production are certainly desired today by their modern counterparts 
        Most interesting......

        With the current political right, bending over backwards (no minimum wage, reducing worker protection and  the thwarting of organized barganing, where are we headed.? While we may want to put a 21st century gloss on it, but the conditions that were spoken to and about in an 19th century obversation is really not so different today if you give the political right what it is ultimately seeking, subjugation of working people in all aspects of their lives and living.

    2. profile image0
      Sooner28posted 4 years ago in reply to this

      Why didn't you address the argument?  It doesn't presuppose Marxism.  A run of the mill socialist could have made it, or maybe even a hardcore liberal.

      1. Kathryn L Hill profile image84
        Kathryn L Hillposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        It is another way to jab Marxism into the consciousness of the citizenry.  Was that not your attempt?
        What Then???

        1. profile image0
          Sooner28posted 4 years ago in reply to this

          My attempt is to give people an alternate perspective that  they would not seek out on their own.

          This doesn't presuppose Marxism, and you still didn't respond to the actual post.

          1. Kathryn L Hill profile image84
            Kathryn L Hillposted 4 years ago in reply to this

            @ Sooner...because it is in the same exact line of reasoning as Marxism. YES? I am just referencing the parallel.

            The truth is, as everyone knows... there is no class system in America and NEVER HAS BEEN! All newly arrived people came and still come with little to NOTHING except their determination to survive.
            NOTHING has changed (totally) YET!
            ( Interesting Side Note: The majority of homeless people in LA lining up for free food in droves and long lines are on substances and are victims of their own substance abuse. I have that information from a man who worked with them until they all starting getting TB recently.)
            Some have not given themselves a break from their own poverty consciousness. Some are temporarily low on funds. Some have been laid off through no fault of their own, or can't find work in the current economy.
            If the American government is NOW, at this point in time, making it difficult for any of us to advance...
            Then WE have to change THAT! ( Getting rid of Fines that are now being disguised as taxes, is a start. Hint, Patient Protection Affordable Care Act.)
            Repeating: There is no slave class, or working poor "class." Some folks settle on and agreed to that means of survival. It is their decision. Some are thankful for anything, as it is better than nothing. Take the little, make it bigger. This is what a free economy and a free people can run with, if the people get up on their own two legs.
            As Al Green sang,
            "Stand Up, you've been given just one day
            No sense wasting your life away."

  6. cheaptrick profile image73
    cheaptrickposted 4 years ago

    "Freedom is just another word
    for nothing left to lose
    Feeling good was good enough for me" Janis Joplin

    Everyone's a slave to something. The only difference is how each of us rationalize it.

    1. Kathryn L Hill profile image84
      Kathryn L Hillposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      This is a weird reference
      I just saw the play Janis Joplin. Oh My Gosh... great music!
      But, endless dialog (really seemed like her.) and ranting about this and that.
      But in reality, she was loose, an addict and miserable.

    2. profile image0
      Sooner28posted 4 years ago in reply to this

      This I can agree with.

 
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