CAPITALISM AND SLAVERY

As Americans become more aware of the history of slavery, it’s essential that we understand the root of the problem. Modern slavery did not start on a happy plantation that was “Gone With the Wind”, but by the French, Dutch and British East India Trading Companies; corporation which from their beginnings were not just concerned with protecting the assets of their investors while they were engaged in both trade and politics, but were bent on ruling the world. They were using slave labor, transporting enslaved people throughout the East, and expanded into the America’s as demand for slaves increased.

In the 18th Century a man’s worth was judged by how many people he could command. The land-owning aristocrat with servants and tenants is obviously a man of worth and commands many people. With the Division of Labor and the first factories, mass production created cheap commodities and the common laborer was able to become a consumer of these commodities. Therefore, the common laborer suddenly had “hundreds of factory workers at his command” by virtue of his having any commodity that took hundreds of people to produce it. Adam Smith in THE WEALTH OF NATIONS in 1776 said that the “ savage and barbarian” is “worse off than the poorest man in England”. The “savage and barbarian” had no commodities, hence no people at his command, therefore no worth.

Adam Smith goes on in this twisted logic to say that “the profits available from using Negro slaves on the sugar colonies were such as to justify their use.” Once the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow justified the use of slaves in the pursuit of profit, the game was over. Adam Smith is famous for encouraging regulation in order to protect the buying power of the poor downtrodden classes. The Negro was somehow not part of any class. Smith’s blindsided ignorance is astonishing. As the Protestant Ethic merged seamlessly with the Bible of Capitalism, the stage was set for Christianity to embrace an Ethic that dehumanized an entire race in pursuit of an Ethic that turned Ethics on its head.