Subject: Re: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Ben Tilly" <>
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 20:35:16 -0700

 Fri, 12 May 2006 20:35:16 -0700
On 5/12/06, Thomas Lord <> wrote:
> Stephen will probably rip me to shreads for this but what the hell,
> I'll give it a shot.   Hope you have some grains of salt handy.

/me grabs a saltshaker.

> Ben Tilly wrote:
> > In that case, the South must have been stupid to not voluntarily give
> > up all their slaves!
> And so they were.   And so they came to rather painfully
> realize.   And if you find old enough member of old families
> down yonder, you can often enough hear the family tales
> reflective of that embarrassment and perceive the generational
> shift it caused.

They're not proud of their background.  That's different from saying
that it made no economic sense to do what they did.  Similarly I've
been in a museum in Salem, MA that documented its shipping, mentions
the famous shipping triangle upon which Salem's fortunes were built,
and curiously manages to omit what cargo was carried on the leg from
Africa to the Caribbean.

> Yup.  Stupid is as stupid does, pride notwithstanding.

Stupid has not been established to my satisfaction.

> > My impression says that the starving Irish went to the North, not the
> > South.  Therefore they would not have been an economic factor in the
> > South.
> >
> > confirms that impression.
> >
> Precisely.   See:
> (The South was utterly unprepared and disinclined to cope
> with early industrial modernization.  Advantage: North.)

Military advantage, North.  But had there not been a war, the South
was in a very good economic position.  Does not economic theory say
that one is better off in specializing at what one is good at and then
trading for other resources?  The South was the best in the world at
producing cotton.  They did not industrialize because it made no
economic SENSE for them to industrialize.

> > This is exactly backwards from my understanding of the economic
> > effects of the cotton gin.  The cotton gin, by removing the most
> > labour-intensive part of producing cotton made the potential profit of
> > growing it much higher.  Which increased the value of the
> > complementary job of actually PICKING the cotton.  Therefore it made
> > slavery more profitable and sustained it.
> I think you've won the point there except in the weak sense that the gin
> was a precursor to industrialization to come.

Very weak sense.  My point is that slavery was not abolished for
economic reasons, and in fact made a great deal of economic sense.

> > I agree that we have no need for slavery.  I also agree that employers
> > are happy to alter the employer/employee bargain as far in their own
> > favour as possible.  However I still don't see how banning slavery was
> > an economic win for anyone other than the slaves.  (And free workers
> > who were trying to compete with slaves.)
> And those who were building more modern forms of commerce and
> industry on the backs of "free" (albeit systematically oppressed) workers.

This I don't see.  Sorry.

> Suppose that slavery had expanded, unchecked -- what would that have
> done to business in the North?

First of all it wasn't going to expand.  Northern states had long
before voted on the issue, and strongly did not want slavery there.
But even if it did, the presence of slavery would not make slaves make
economic sense in all lines of business.  Slaves will sometimes
forcibly protest their status.  A riot in an open field can be brought
under control fairly easily with minimal property damage.  A riot
inside a factory is a different story.

There is a REASON that the North voluntarily gave up slavery a century
prior to making the South do so.

> > I'm trying to find the estimated value of slaves at the time of the
> > Emancipation Proclamation.  I didn't find that,
> See the article I cited above.

Thanks.  2.7-3.5 billion dollars in 1960.  Using the same inflation
figure that the previous study I cited had, that's over 10 trillion
dollars in today's currency.

When a free market estimates the value of a resource at over 10
trillion dollars (and economic historians studying the period agree
with the valuations that existed at the time), then I think it is
fairly safe to say that that resource has economic value.  And if
slavery has positive economic value, then it makes economic sense for
those who would engage in it.

> > This strongly suggests to me that slavery was economically worthwhile
> > for the slaveowners.  (Until, that is, Union soldiers showed up.  But
> > then the slaves became sharecroppers, and the overall improvement was
> > minimal.)
> >
> The slave owners under-appreciated that they lived in a larger market
> that was changing in ways they weren't coping with.   Not even
> not coping with, but worse:  they depended on these new markets yet
> had an internal economic system that threatened it.   Losers.

On the whole they were coping just fine with the economics.  The
military aspects of the change were a different story.  But the
economics were fine.

> Freedom pays,

Sorry, but other people's freedom doesn't necessarily pay you.