Posts tagged History

Re: Howard Zinn, RIP

Tim Starr: China was vastly better off under Chiang Kai-Shek (before Japan invaded) than under Mao.

Tim, you ignorant fuck.

The “before Japan invaded” is an interesting little clause there. I don’t know whether this is supposed to refer to Japan’s 1931 invasion of Manchuria (in which case we’re only talking about three years total, from Chiang’s capture of Beijing in 1928 to 1931), or the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. In either case, I’m not sure whether mentioning the Japanese invasion here is meant to make it seem as though Chiang and the KMT weren’t responsible for any of the mass murder in China while fighting the Japanese (which is absurd; they personally killed millions of people), or if it’s meant to suggest that the mass killing carried out by the KMT’s forces should be blamed on the Japanese invasion rather than on Chiang’s regime (which, if so, is as ridiculous as blaming the Allied military advance for the Holocaust, or blaming U.S. foreign policy for Castro’s repression).

In any case, let’s take a look at what life was like in “vastly better off” China under Generalissimo Chiang and the KMT:

In many ways, the Nationalists were no different than the warlords. They murdered opponents, assassinated critics, and employed terror as a device of rule. Moreover, the Nationalist soldier, like many warlord soldiers, was considered scum, lower than vermin. They were beaten, mistreated, often fed poorly and ill paid; and if wounded or sick they were left to fend for themselves, often to die slow and miserable deaths. In turn, soldiers often treated civilians no better. Looting, rape, arbitrary murder, was a risk helpless civilians faced from passing soldiers or those occupying or reoccupying their villages and towns.

But killing by the Nationalists was also strategic and ideological. After the initial cooperative period, they especially sought out communists or communist sympathizers for execution. When defeating the communists in a particular region and occupying or reoccupying it, they went so far as to kill anyone they felt had cooperated with the communists or had been tainted by them. In one military drive against the communist in 1934 to 1935, they slaughtered or starved to death perhaps as many as 1,000,000 people.2 Moreover, especially during the 1940s, landlords and former officials who had fled from communists or Japanese would follow in the train of Nationalist soldiers and under military protection murder those peasants who they feared or had a grudge against. While such killing may have numbered a few from village to village, when these victims are added up over all the villages and districts involved for well over a hundred-million people, than hundreds of thousands were probably killed, just from this cause alone.

Then there was the process of conscription. This was a deadly affair in which men were kidnapped for the army, rounded up indiscriminately by press-gangs or army units among those on the roads or in the towns and villages, or otherwise gathered together. Many men, some the very young and old, were killed resisting or trying to escape. Once collected, they would be roped or chained together and marched, with little food or water, long distances to camp. They often died or were killed along the way, sometimes less than 50 percent reaching camp alive. Then recruit camp was no better, with hospitals resembling Nazi concentration camps like Buchenwald.3 Probably 3,081,000 died during the Sino-Japanese War; likely another 1,131,000 during the Civil War–4,212,000 dead in total. Just during conscription.

Although this fantastic total is overwhelming enough, we still must add those that died from famine. Famine was treated as a state of nature for China, something to be expected as an Act of God. But where famine was indeed a natural calamity during these Nationalist years, the greed of Nationalist officials, the continued imposition of impossible taxes, the seizing of all the peasants grain, the refusal to provide aid for political reasons, all contributed massively to the death toll. In Honan Province during the famine of 1942 to 1943, Nationalist officials took grain by force from the starving peasants to sell for their own profit, and officials in a neighboring province refused to release their store of grain because of a “delicate local balance of power.”4 Quite likely the Nationalists overall were responsible for 1,750,000 to 2,500,000 famine deaths.

While these deaths from conscription and famine may seem to be the residual of a thoroughly corrupt and incompetent political system, the Nationalist in fact did kill en masse with cold blooded calculation. Perhaps the most remarkable example of this is their dynamiting of the Yellow River dikes in order to stall a Japanese offensive during the Sino-Japanese War. The resulting, calamitous flood likely drowned or otherwise killed 440,000 people, even possible 893,000 according to a Chinese Social Science Institute.5 The flood having washed out a new channel, leaving the old one for peasants to farm and develop. Indeed, over the following years villages and towns were established in or near the old river bed. Then during the subsequent Civil War, near nine years later, to create a barrier between two communist armies by forcing the river to flood back into its old channel, the Nationalists repaired the dikes. As those peasants downstream tried to build dikes against the coming flood, they were bombed by Nationalist planes.

From the earliest years to their final defeat on the mainland, the Nationalist likely killed from 5,965,000 to 18,522,000 helpless people, probably 10,214,000. This incredible number is over a million greater than all the aforementioned 8,963,000 war dead in all the hundreds of wars and rebellions in China from the beginning of the century to the Nationalist final defeat. It ranks the Nationalists as the fourth greatest demociders of this century, behind the Soviets, Chinese communists, and German Nazis. This democide is even more impressive when it is realized that the Nationalists never controlled all of China, perhaps no more than 50 to 60 percent of the population at its greatest.

— R.J. Rummel, “China’s Democide and War,” Chapter 1 of China’s Bloody Century

Of course he might point out that, while Chiang and his thugs killed 10 million, the Chinese communists and their thugs have killed even more — somewhere around 40-60 million. But if Tim Starr’s notion of “vastly better off” is being starved and tortured and murdered by a regime that killed 10 million in the course of 20 years with effective control over half of China, rather than being starved and tortured murdered by a regime that killed 40-60 million in the course of 60 years of effective control over all of China, then I have to wonder what sort of real difference this is supposed to make for the millions of people dead at Chiang’s hands. In any case, this ridiculous nostalgia for the fourth greatest mass murderer in the history of the world is deeply regrettable.

As for whether Zinn’s stupid comments about the Communist victory in China are some kind of decisive reason for rejecting Zinn’s work out of hand, of course they are not. They are evidence that he was wrong about the Chinese communists. They are not evidence that his work is worthless. Individual claims can be assessed on their merits, and the notion that Zinn’s work as a whole ought to be treated as worthless, or that everything Zinn said ought to be rejected, if he was wrong about one thing — even really wrong about one thing that really mattered — is of course idiotic.

Re: Howard Zinn R.I.P.


I don’t do polemical definitions of “revisionist.” I’m using it in a neutral sense: revisionists are historians who critically re-examine common received wisdom and authoritative accounts about history, and criticize or rejecting the “official” or authoritative understanding of the events.

Whether or not this project is really worthwhile depends on what’s being rejected and what the evidence for the rejecting is. Since I tend to think that official/governmental accounts of history tend to be a pack of distortions, fudging, and self-serving lies, I tend be pretty positive on revisionism, so long as the revisionist in question is herself serious and honest. Zinn’s a good example; I’d also consider somebody like J.R. Hummel or Bob Higgs an example of good honest revisionism. Of course, there are other revisionists out there who are ignorant, stupid or dishonest — take David Irving (please!). But the problem with them isn’t that they’re revisionists. It’s that they’re idiots or charlatans.

Re: Howard Zinn R.I.P.


Well, don’t look so surprised. It’s not exactly unusual for Lew Rockwell to say kind things about anti-war revisionist historians, including those on the populist Left. He’ll typically say kind things about almost anyone who he thinks is on the right side of the war issue.

Re: The Health Care Debate Has Been “Meaningful”? It Just Ain’t So!

John: If it was so that medical care and mutual aid was so easy to come by, then why was their a perception that the poor and elderly were dying sick in the streets?

It depends on what period this “perception” is supposed to apply to.

  1. If you’re referring to the heyday of the mutual aid societies in the late 19th century through the 1910s, the answer is simply that this “perception” exists because statists often promote bogus perceptions of crisis without much supporting data, in order to put over the need for their desired programs with the politicized public. Some actual data on the circumstances faced by the poor and elderly, rather than impressionistic and sensationalistic “perceptions” would be useful here. I have some actual data on how available these arrangements were to ordinary workers, which I present briefly in the article — typically between 20% and 50% of workers in major urban areas in English-speaking countries were covered, and these numbers were rapidly rising in the 1900s, prior to the political campaigns to eradicate the associations and raise medical prices. If you want a fuller presentation of the data, I recommend David Beito’s excellent book, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State, especially Ch. 6, “The ‘Lodge Practice Evil’ Reconsidered.” If you have actual countervailing data that tends to cut against the conclusion I draw, feel free to present it, but if what you’ve got is just ill-specified “perceptions,” well, so what?

  2. If, on the other hand, you’re referring to the decades leading up to the passage of major government entitlement programs for the “poor and elderly” — programs like Social Security (1935) or Medicare (1965), then you need to keep in mind that these programs were introduced and rolled out decades after the non-corporate, grassroots, free-market alternatives that I discuss in the article had been deliberately dismantled by politically-driven campaigns — coordinated mainly by establishment medical guilds, using their power over government licensure of practitioners as their primary means of enforcement — to drive them out. (The blackballing campaigns against lodge-practice doctors in the U.S. ramped up in the mid-1910s and succeeded in forcing dramatic declines in lodge practice starting in the 1920s. See Beito, p. 124 et seq.) So, to the extent that government could point to a crisis of health care accessibility or affordability for the poor and elderly, just before the New Deal and Great Society transfer programs were created, it’s because government was pointing to a situation where the kind of grassroots, consensual social organizations that had made health care accessible to the poor and elderly had already been rubbed out by government in the decades prior. Once again, an example of government breaking your legs, then handing you crutches, and telling you, “See, without me you couldn’t even walk!”

Also, secondarily, because, insofar as there was a genuine crisis, it was, in no small part, the direct result of the non-corporate, grassroots, free-market alternatives that I discuss in the article having been deliberately dismantled in the decades prior. The grassroots voluntary mutual aid associations that I discuss in the article flourished in the late 19th century up until the 1910s; in the 1920s,

By the time that government programs such as Social Security (1935) and Medicare (1965) were being proposed and rolled out, the “lodge practice” arrangements and similar mutual aid associations had already

John: However I am not ready to drink the cool-aid …

I don’t want to be a dick about this, but can you not use that phrase when what you mean is “I don’t accept your delusional beliefs?” It’s an offhand jokey reference where the “punchline” is the murder of 276 children, and the senseless deaths of almost 1,000 people, just 30 years ago. Jokes like that suck.

John: … and say that we need to rid ourselves of the FDA or of medical accreditation. Kevin Trudeau is a salesmen of alternative cures for a variety of ailments [etc., etc.]

The existence of quacks and dangerous drugs today, in spite of already-existing heavy government regulation, seems like an odd argument for relying on government regulation as a means of getting rid of quacks and dangerous drugs.

In any case, the free-market position is not that we need to get rid of drug testing or medical accreditation. The free-market position is that the state should not force any particular scheme for drug safety or efficacy testing, or for medical licensure, on you or me without our consent.

The important thing, from the standpoint of individualist principle, is that, if you want to pay for snake oil without any consideration of demonstrated effects, you should be free to do so. And if I want to spend money only on drugs that scientific research has demonstrated to be safe and effective, or on doctors who have garnered the recognition of their peers as honorable and competent professionals, then I should be free to patronize only those that consensual consumer-protection outfits and professional medical institutions have approved.

In a freed market, there will certainly be both drug testing and medical accreditation; it will simply be drug testing and medical accreditation that relies on informed choice, or education and persuasion, rather than on the force of the law. How do I know that such institutions will exist? Well, of course, because they already exist, or have existed in the past. Before the modern prescriptions system was created in 1951, the role of objective watchdog for drug safety and efficacy in the U.S. was handled by the American Medical Association (which maintained a private drug-testing laboratory and published annual guidebooks of drugs that received their seal of approval). They provided a system of voluntary, independent oversight that worked — until government “fixed” it.

Similarly, nobody that I know of is proposing that existing methods of accrediting doctors or other medical practitioners be abolished. Where would you get such a ludicrous notion? There’s already plenty of non-governmental means of accrediting doctors — among them, well, the doctoral degree in medicine, which is issued by medical schools and still would be issued by medical schools in a freed market, based on standards of training and mastery. Similarly for nursing degrees, certification by professional associations like the AMA, etc. What radical individualists oppose is not accreditation, but state licensure laws, which add an unnecessary layer of politically-directed licensing restrictions on top of already-existing, voluntary professional standards and certifications within the medical profesion. The problem with this is, first, that they are coercive, and hence violate the rights of patients and practitioners; and, second, that the standards for governmental licensure are imposed through political decision-making and legislative fiat, rather than being determined through open debate and consensus over best practices within the health care market.

As a result, they often use the force of the state to shut down debate and impose requirements that have nothing to do with medical fact and everything to do with political pull — as when state licensure laws were used to attack feminist women’s health centers, midwives, or other alternative medicine providers, even without any evidence that any identifiable patients had been harmed or were even dissatisfied with the service. Or, to return to our original topic, when state licensure laws were used to blackball doctors who were providing perfectly adequate care, but who were seen as “underselling” (that is, providing competent care at costs that were affordable by ordinary working people) during the political campaign against lodge practice in th 1910s and 1920s.

John: The truth is that of all the industrialized countries, America is the only one with a private for profit system,

Didn’t you read the article? “America” doesn’t have a private health care system. It has a government-imposed health care system. The market is dominated first, by direct government control, and, second, by the operations of a handful of corporate privateers who depend entirely on a combination of government subsidy and government-imposed barriers to entry for their day-to-day operations and long-term strategy.

A freed market in health care would look completely different from the “system” that you and I face today.

John de Laubenfels: Would you give companies that research and produce new drugs NO protection from competition,

You are correct that I do not believe that protectionism for pharmaceutical corporations is an adequate argument for imposing government-granted monopolies.

If you want to “protect” pharmaceutical companies’ existing business models, do so on your own dime by boycotting competitors and directing your money to first movers. (Hey, it worked for Tolkien.) But I’m not nearly so invested in protecting current business practices in the pharmaceutical industry, and I’d rather that you don’t use government monopoly to force your protections on my pocketbook.

John de Laubenfels: starting the moment someone gets ahold of the new drug, analyzes it, and creates a knockoff? Nothing for all the money the original company has spent doing trials? I don’t think that such a system would be either fair or likely to motivate companies to produce new, life-saving drugs.

On the cost of doing drug trials, of course, in the same sentence where I advocated the abolition of patents I also specifically stated that I supported the abolition of the FDA, which would dramatically reduce the compliance costs involved in developing new drugs and bringing them to market. So I don’t know what you’re referring to here. (Of course, if companies want to do internal testing they can do so, but in voluntary independent oversight systems, the costs of running trials are typically assumed by the independent watchdog organizations themselves, as part of their institutional charter.)

However, if it turns out that it’s no longer profitable for big, for-profit corporations to do medical research, then — horrors! — it may just turn out to be the case that medical research has to be carried on by non-corporate or not-for-profit institutions. But I hear we have some of those. And I’m not typically impressed by broken-window arguments that fail to take any account of the value of the unseen alternative uses to which money might be put, if not for the coercive government intervention.

Re: ParALLax View

Kinsella: The original left-right spectrum is confused and anti-libertarian.

Well, if you’re going to get all originalist on us, Stephan, the original left-right spectrum ran from ultra-royalist mercantilists who believed that the State was the instrument of God on Earth, to radical free marketeers who favored the abolition of State control in the name of the Rights of Man [sic]. (Bastiat sat on the Left; so did Proudhon.) Doesn’t seem especially confused to me; seems like a pretty straightforward spectrum from statists to anti-statists, with a laissez-faire economist and an avowed anarchist holding down the leftward end.

Re: Organization Man


Well, part of the reason that so many native Russian and Ukrainian anarchists were excited about the October Revolution is that they had participated in making it, and figured that the Revolution was a big step towards the realization of power in their lifetimes. In 1917, the issue was not so much that they trusted or were excited about the Bolsheviks or Party communism, but rather because the Bolsheviks were only one of many different factions involved in the October Revolution, and often not the most important. Their enthusiasm about the whole project started dropping off in mid-1918-1921, as the state socialists started seriously putting together their workers’ state, the Bolsheviks started moving to consolidate power within it (with the Civil War serving as the health of their state), and the Bolsheviks formed up the Cheka and the Red Army and put them to work imprisoning and shooting anarchists. Most of the exiles from out of the country started arriving toward the end of that period (e.g. Goldman, Berkman, and most of the other exiles from the Palmer raids arrived in January 1920).

Re: claim they have native american blood


It’s hilarious. The tribe of choice is always Cherokee as though they were the only ones. … As far as AAs making claim, the likelihood is a little greater considering that many runaway slaves were protected by Native Americans.

Well, that, and also because some Indian nations, notably the Cherokee and to a lesser extent the Muscogee, enslaved black folks prior to Emancipation.

The attitude towards slavery varied a lot from nation to nation. (The nation that most famously protected black refugees from slavery — the Seminole — were deeply divided on the question of slavery, and partly as a result of that Seminole bands eventually ended up dividing and fighting on both sides during the U.S. Civil War.)

macon d.:

I’ve read that the Cherokees were considered less “savage” than others,

They were the largest groups in what were called the “Five Civilized Tribes” by white slave-owners. The main reason white slave-owners considered them especially “civilized,” as compared to other American nations, was the fact that the Cherokee also practiced field slavery and settled agriculture, just like the white slave owners.

Re: Labor Unions And Freedom Don’t Mix

You are aware, aren’t you,

  1. … that those same labor laws which provide privileges to NLRB-recognized unions by forcing employers into collective-bargaining also heavily regulate the methods that NLRB-recognized unions can adopt, and the goals that they can achieve? That, for example, under Taft-Hartley, legally-recognized unions are forbidden from striking except under a limited range of government-approved conditions, that they are legally prohibited from establishing union hiring halls or freely negotiating a closed shop contract with employers, that in many states (under so-called “right to work” laws) they are legally prohibited from freely negotiating a union shop contract with employers, that they are legally prohibited from promoting secondary boycotts or engaging in secondary strikes (i.e. boycotts or strikes against a company for doing business with a second company workers have a grievance with; this prohibition effectively bans general strikes and mandates union scabbing), that strikes can be (and have been) broken by the arbitrary fiat of the President of the United States, etc., etc., etc.? In fact, while some factions of the labor movement (especially the AFL and the nascent CIO) actively lobbied for the Wagner Act and the system of state patronage that it created, other, more radical factions of the labor movement were stridently opposed to it, arguing (correctly) that Roosevelt’s plan was an effort to subsidize bureaucratic conservative unionism, and thus to capture and domesticate the labor movement. And predicting (accurately) that the practical consequences of the NLRB system would be to substantially hamstring the labor movement, and to benefit only a few fatcat union bosses, at the expense of rank-and-file workers.

  2. … that for about half of its history (from the founding of the Knights of Labor in 1869 up to the Wagner Act in 1935), the American labor movement operated in a political and legal environment where it had no government recognition, no government privileges, and in fact was repeatedly, violently attacked by injunction-wielding judges, by the police, the military, by the U.S. Marshalls, by President Woodrow Wilson and Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer and a young J. Edgar Hoover, by state militias, private “security” companies, and mobs? That radical unions like the IWW nevertheless managed to organize hundreds of thousands of workers in spite of this unrelenting violence and to win, without any use of government privilege, substantial victories in towns like Lawrence, Massachusetts and Spokane, Washington? I conclude that labor unions can be quite effective when based on free association and without government privilege.

If the conclusion you’re trying to urge here is just that the NLRB and the AFL-CIO are statist, well, sure. Who denies that? Certainly not the NLRB or the AFL-CIO, who candidly declare their allegiance to a big, interventionist government; and certainly not pro-union anarchists, either, who generally refer to establishment unionism as “labor fakirs” deserving nothing but scorn, and advocate for radical unions organized along quite different lines, and with quite different aims.

If, on the other hand, you’re trying to establish some more general conclusion, like (say) “Labor Unions and Freedom Don’t Mix,” or that “the state is the first weapon in the labor union’s arsenal to be wielded against employers and workers alike,” or that “the ultimate dream of the labor unions is to completely replace the existing state, allowing them to force their will on 100% of the people 100% of the time,” i.e., a claim about what labor unions per se do and want, rather than what a temporarily triumphant, government-subsidized faction within the labor movement does and wants, but which other, competing factions within the labor movement have repeatedly condemned, then I can’t say you’ve offered much by way of convincing evidence for that conclusion.

As for Bakunin and his followers, I certainly have my disagreements with Bakuninist collectivism. (That’s why I’m an individualist, or a mutualist, rather than a collectivist.) But you’re distorting their position. Bakunin’s idea of federated labor unions is not a replacement state. He believed that the best arrangement for society was a federated structure of workers’ and community associations. But he also believed in an absolute right to dissociate from any union or other association that one did not want to participate in or cooperate with. Thus: “[W]ithout certain absolutely essential conditions the practical realization of freedom will be forever impossible. These conditions are: . . . The internal reorganization of each country on the basis of the absolute freedom of individuals, of the productive associations, and of the communes. Necessity of recognizing the right of secession: every individual, every association, every commune, every region, every nation has the absolute right to self-determination, to associate or not to associate, to ally themselves with whomever they wish and repudiate their alliances without regard to so-called historic rights or the convenience of their neighbors.” (Revolutionary Catechism, 1866). Etc. Bakunin’s problems, such as they are, lie elsewhere. May I gently suggest that, if you want to find out Mikhail Bakunin’s views, you might be better off reading works by Mikhail Bakunin, rather than summaries of those works by Per Bylund?

As for Joe and his workers, I certainly agree that Joe should not be forced by the government (or by any form of violence) to engage in collective bargaining with the striking workers. However, I think you’re walloping on a strawman, as far as the worker’s demands go (do you know of any strike, even under the existing statist labor bureaucracy, in which workers demanded a 400% wage increase?); and I think you’re also pretty severely overestimating the ease of replacing 25%-40% of the workers on the shop floor all at once, especially if you’re trying to accomplish this without offering substantially higher wages or improved conditions. In real-world labor struggle, being in a position where you can get 25% or more of the workforce ready to just walk off the job often puts you in a very good position for getting substantial concessions from the boss.

Re: August Carnival of Market Anarchy

You say: “Labor Unions, as we know them, are largely the product of politics and pull, and were (at least in theory) implemented as a countervailing force to Big Business.”

Labor unions as we know them are largely the product of politics and pull, but labor unions per se predate the existence of government patronage to unions. In fact, about half the history of the American labor movement (from the founding of the Knights of Labor in 1869 to the passage of the Wagner Act in 1935) was carried out not only without any form of state recognition and privilege, but in fact in the face of massive police, militia and military violence against organizers, strikers, and people who just happened to be in the wrong crowd at the wrong time. During this period, many of the powerful labor unions were much more, not less radical — the Wobblies were resolutely anti-war, pro-immigration, often anarchist, etc. Reason being that the Wagner system was deliberately constructed in order to subsidize bureaucratic conservative unionism as against its radical competitors, and the effects of the World War II command economy, combined with the Taft-Hartley act, was to make heavy-handed government regulation of permissible union goals and union methods the price for the government patronage. (Anti-union libertarians who, rightly, complain about the privileges that government grants to union bosses almost never discuss how closely regulated unions thus “privileged” are.) The purpose was to capture and domesticate a labor movement that the New Dealers viewed as an increasingly dangerous revolutionary force, to convert their bosses into junior partners and their rank-and-file into loyal foot-soldiers in the tripartite planning system of the new corporatist state.

Aahz’s uncritical identification of official, government-recognized unions with “labor unions” just as such, and his erasure of six and a half decades of state-free radical labor organizing, is just vulgar libertarianism running in reverse: the conflation of actually-existing, state-regulated unionism — unions “as we know them” — with unionism per se, followed by an uncritical attack on unions as somehow incompatible with, or unsustainable on, the free market, without stopping to consider whether, just as there might be viable business models for putting capital to use other than corporate capitalism as we know it, there might also be viable organizing models for unionizing workers other than conservative, pro-state unionism as we know it.

Re: You Say You Want a Revolution

TGGP: Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the “country party” of England the Tories and the “court party” the Whigs?

Other way round. The Tories were known as the “Court Party” for their political loyalties to a powerful and interventionist Crown; the Whigs distinguished themselves as the “Country Party” in opposition to the royal court. (Cf. WikiPedia: British Whig Party, etc.)

ajay: I was with you until that point… why shouldn’t slavery have continued in (say) the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia etc? Obviously not on the same scale without the ex-French states of the Deep South, but the “died of strangulation” argument doesn’t really ring true.

Well, a few reasons.

First, it’s not clear that plantation slavery would have remained economically viable without expansion into the Deep South and the old Southwest. In the upper South (Maryland and Virginia especially) unsustainable farming practices had already stripped much of the land, and the slavers’ livelihoods had become substantially dependent on the American slave trade — “selling down” slaves to the Deep South or to the Caribbean — rather than on actual planting. (This is part of the reason why Virginian slavers like Jefferson and George Mason pushed so hard for the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade: not because they wanted to roll back slavery, but rather because they wanted to eliminate foreign competition.) Had it not been for the expansion of U.S. territory, and the slavocracy along with it, into the Gulf states, slavery might well have died out for economic reasons, at least in the upper South.

Second, without the centralized system created by the Constitution there would have been no enforceable federal Fugitive Slave laws. The Southern slavocracy depended on the federally-assured cooperation of the free states, and without those assurances — with freedom beginning not at the Canadian border, but rather at the Mason-Dixon line — individual refugees and coordinated efforts like the Underground Railroad, operating without any fear of slave-catchers or federal judges, would very quickly have made slavery unsustainable even in those states where it would otherwise have remained economically viable.

Third, on a similar note, without Union bayonets and cannon, and without the Slave Power’s expansionist program, there would have been no Seminole Wars, and far more territory outside of the U.S. for fugitive slaves to flee to and establish maroon communities. This threatened to dramatically destabilize the slave system in the Carolinas and Georgia prior to the Seminole Wars, and would have had a profound effect had it not been for the subjugation of Florida by the Federal military.

Note that it’s for precisely these reasons that many radical abolitionists — most famously William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and, early in his career, Frederick Douglass — argued that the Northern states should secede from the Union, and that the Constitutional system of compromise and political centralization was one of the chief bulwarks holding up the slave system in the Southern states.