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  • Victor C. Bolles

Why Slavery?

On a recent YouTube video of his Triggernometry podcast, Konstantin Kisin asserted that “slaves were probably the first good that human beings ever traded, never had anything to do with racism by the way. Just it was a fact of life that conquered peoples would be subjugated by others and used as labor and would be traded. Native Americans kept slaves and so did everybody else throughout history.”


Such as assertion is unprovable. We do have proof that our primitive ancestors traded goods among the wandering hunter/gatherer clans. We know that people living along the shore traded shells with mountain clans for antlers and other materials. They probably traded other perishable goods such as fish or meat that were consumed leaving little evidence (although modern science is making progress in analyzing the diets of long dead people and animals). Nevertheless, Kisin’s assertion seems plausible.


But why would ancient hunter/gatherers want slaves? First, we need to understand how energy and the power that energy can produce affected the lives of our ancestors. Like the animals around them, our ancient ancestors only had the power of their bodies to provide the energy needed to preserve their lives. Over many millennia they learned to make and use tools to improve the productivity of their body’s limited resources of energy. Eventually, our ancestors learned how to domesticate animals to extend their power beyond that of their bodies in order to plow fields and transport humans. These animals had much more energy and could produce more power than humans and their domestication greatly improved the lives of our ancestors. But domesticating animals is difficult.


In the intermittent conflicts between hunter/gatherer clans over prime hunting grounds or mating with females, the winning clans likely took prisoners as slaves. Humans are easier to domesticate than wild animals and slaves could add additional power for the clan so slave power probably predated horse power. The picture comes into my mind of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a young Conan the Barbarian chained to the Wheel of Painas he trudged around in endless circles.


Slavery stretches back though human history and prehistory. About 40% of the people in “democratic” Athens were slaves. And anywhere from 20% to 30% of Rome’s population were slaves. It is probable that the earliest slaves were employed primarily for their manual labor. Or for sex. The forced marriages (another form of slavery) of the Sabine women to the men of early Rome is a good example. Ultimately in Rome, many slaves were utilized for higher forms of labor and even for intellectual pursuits. Cicero’s slave Tiro was his personal secretary and correspondent.


In the ancient world, all peoples were subject to enslavement. Race was an unknown concept back then, but slaves from different regions were often believed to be better at some tasks than others. And slavery continued to be common across the globe throughout history. There is no doubt in my mind that without the intervention of Western civilization, slavery would continue to be ubiquitous around the world even today.


There are two factors arising from Western civilization that have greatly reduced slavery around the world. It is clear that slavery is incompatible with the bedrock principle of America’s Enlightenment culture, the principle that all men (and women) are created equal. The second factor is good old capitalism. Western philosophy made slavery contemptible and capitalism made slavery uneconomic.


Slave labor is not very productive. Slaves are not highly motivated to achieve superior outcomes. As capitalism made labor more productive, slave labor became an anachronism. Beatings may motivate slaves to pick cotton, but beatings are not a good way to motivate slaves operating complex and expensive industrial machinery.


Enlightenment values and free market capitalism have combined to greatly reduce the number of slaves around the world. But slavery still exists in the modern world. The Global Slavery Index estimates around 40 to 50 million people remain enslaved around the world. Most are women and a large number (about a quarter) are children. Free market capitalism has made slave labor unproductive and unprofitable in all but the most primitive countries. Prison camp slave labor is also endemic in totalitarian states such as China and Russia.


A lot of modern slavery is now in commercial sex trafficking and forced marriages. Many of the unaccompanied children crossing the porous US southern border are destined for sex trafficking and forced labor. But it is clear that if it wasn’t for the evil, capitalistic Western Civilization despised by the progressive left, there would be a lot more enslaved people on this planet.




Even though America fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery in the United States, the vicious racism associated with slavery in America seems unique among the slave holding nations of the world. In ancient societies and around the world today, slavery was just business. Cheap labor and cheap sex. But in America, slavery was accompanied by a great hatred the enslavers had of the enslaved. Frederick Douglass, in the Narrative of his life, described the vicious beatings he was forced to endure as the overseer tried to break his spirit. This hatred continued even after emancipation. This hatred could boil over into race riots of crazed racists burning buildings and killing innocents such as occurred in the Wilmington Massacre of 1898. These riots and lynchings continued into the twentieth century as shown by the riots on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma Alabama in 1965 (described in gory detail by Jonathan Eig in his biography of Martin Luther King).


The vicious hatred exhibited in these racist riots reminded me of the madness surrounding the Salem Witch trials. A madness or mass hysteria unleashed by fear of the unknown. Psychology Today asserts that, “racism (and xenophobia of all kinds) does not have a genetic or evolutionary basis, but is primarily a psychological trait — more specifically, a psychological defense mechanism generated by feelings of insecurity and anxiety.” It is more likely that the shameful immorality of slavery caused the madness of racism amongst white people than racism was the cause of slavery.


This racist madness seems much attenuated in the 21st century over fifty years after the Civil Rights act of 1964. Some deranged individuals continue to be affected by this madness resulting in horrific events such as the 2015 murder of 9 African-Americans at Bible study in the AME Church in Charleston. Most whites have become accustomed to living and working with black people and are confused by the anger of the black community blind to the progress made. Microaggressions are way different than lynchings. Much of this problem is propagated by so-called leaders and politicians who profit from divisiveness.


Humans of all races and ethnicities remain prone to mass hysteria. It is not that whites have less fear and anxiety than before but rather that, as black people have become more familiar and less of an unknown, their fear has been redirected elsewhere. The MAGA-steria rage to offset fear and anxiety has been redirected to immigrants, globalists and far-left progressives who are blamed for the problems afflicting the white working class (increasingly joined by black and Hispanic working class people who share the same anxieties as whites). Woke-steria rage has focused on Western civilization, in general, and Jews, specifically.


America still has problems achieving that noble goal of “all men are created equal.” Many black leaders still blame racism for the disparate outcomes between ethnic groups. But many in the black community are beginning to realize that these disparate outcome are largely the result of factors other than racism, such as crappy schools and broken families. Maybe we should stop fighting amongst ourselves and start trying to fix those schools and mend those families. Then maybe we can finally put racism behind us.

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