Subject: Re: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Ben Tilly" <btilly@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 21:57:58 -0700

 Fri, 12 May 2006 21:57:58 -0700
On 5/12/06, Thomas Lord <lord@emf.net> wrote:
> Ben Tilly wrote:
> > On 5/12/06, Thomas Lord <lord@emf.net> wrote:
> >>
> >> (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.
> >
> The economic argument I'm referring to basically amounts to the
> North having a doctrine of pre-emption (on purpose or, really,
> by luck+market-forces).   In the face of a currently vulnerable
> force that will, if unchecked, overtake you -- attack.

I can't make sense of what you're saying.  Unless you're saying that
the South was in a bad economic position because they were not
properly accounting for the fact that the North was going to invade
them.  This is not how I think about economics.

[...]
> >> 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.
> >
> Not in the emerging continental and global market.   Locally, perhaps,
> if there were any such thing.

Cotton was one of the major DRIVERS for the emerging continental and
global market.  It turns out that this market could change that
dependency fairly easily, but that fact was not entirely obvious.

> >> 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.
> >
> You ought to read Malcom X on the topic of field niggers vs. house niggers.
> It wasn't so simple as you assume.

Of course nothing is as simple as it seems.  In fact in other
countries, slaves have sometimes wound up running the government.
(Look up the history of eunuchs in Muslim countries.)

However the basic point is perfectly valid.  While some slaves can be
relied on to actively cooperate, the bulk cannot be trusted.
(Stephen's point about efficiency wages also applies.  The harder it
is to measure how hard you're working, the harder it is to force you
to work harder.)

[...]
> >> 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.
>
> Go back and read that article I pointed out more deeply, please.
> Especially the stuff about financial markets.

I did and it supports my point.  The South didn't develop extensive
banking systems because they were not engaged in activities that
required them.  But somehow the South's cotton comprised about half of
all US exports by dollar value.  That's not even counting the cotton
that was exported to the North and consumed there.

Given the advantages of history, it is obvious that industrialization
was going to improve faster than agriculture (powered by slaves or
not).  So the North was in a better long-term future.  But the South
was coping just fine with the economic realities of the day.

[...]
> >> Freedom pays,
> >
> > Sorry, but other people's freedom doesn't necessarily pay you.
> >
> Who said anything about me?

Let me say what I intended in a longer way then.

When you value the opinions of those who might or might not be free,
then freedom clearly is worthwhile.  However it does not always pay
for the person who stands to own someone else.

Cheers,
Ben