So I often read the writings and scribblings of the nineteenth century abolitionists in America and come away confused by the lack of taking their sophisticated arguments about the ownership of other humans to the obvious conclusion. While they fought mightily against chattel slavery, they tend to give a Gallic shrug to taxation and regulation slavery or not even address the implication of their introspection. The harnessing of individual time, resources and volition in the fields in perpetuity with the deed to their lives held by the plantation owner certainly puts a finer point to slavery but the more ”civilized” variations on human ownership in modern nation-states begs the questions.
Somewhat like being opposed to killing unless it came with government approval from the newest slave masters on the block – the state. War is the health of the state but as the old saw goes, if you kill privately, you will be held to account but if you are conscripted, handed a rifle and play “plink-a-pinko” for the state, you get a free pass; much like the police state in America today where the cops have a literal license to maim and kill and charge the taxpayers for the cleanup.
Whether Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison or other abolitionist worthies from the nineteenth century, with the noble exception of the great Lysander Spooner, none took their umbrage at human ownership by others to its logical conclusion. Most dared not understand the foundational relationship between the state and the institution of slavery. It was the mortar and glue that maintained the depth and breadth of Greco-Roman civilization in the West. The feudal variations may have been the embryonic foundation of the modern slave societies in the West where total ownership was not in the mix but freedom was conditional on the amount of tribute, time and resources was surrendered at gunpoint in the name of civilization. After the West abandoned chattel slavery, the more hidden and tangential forms of slavery started to advance and spread throughout the body politic finding champions and apologists across the political spectrum. Excepting the anarcho-capitalists, rare is the Western political construct that calls for a total abolition of all forms of human slavery
Turning to my trusty Oxford English Dictionary, I find the following happy tribe of definitions:
- A person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.
- A person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation.
- A person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something.
- An ant captured in its pupal state by an ant of another species, for which it becomes a worker.
The last one is especially unnerving because it speaks to the Constitutional implied consent that is the holy writ both Left and Right in America binding the infant with the misfortune of US citizenship to become one of the tax cattle administered by the government and its innumerable regulatory hydras haunting the fruited plain.
Whether the cradle to grave welfare system for the poor, the corporate welfare class or the tens of millions saddled with enormous tax bills and regulatory burdens, American fish swim in a vast ocean festooned with dozens of statist remoras sucking the lifeblood out of them on a daily basis. There is no choice unless one goes underground to conduct daily business.
It could be that the main difference is the plantation dwellers get to apparently vote for selected plantation owners every four years at the highest level and sub-plantation owners at different intervals across the vast tax jurisdiction.
But what did those nineteenth century abolitionists mean then when they were opposed to all forms of slavery but not all?