In Frederic Bastiat’s most noble writing, The Law, he professed an admiration for the United States as the most libertarian country. But there were two issues that he could not reconcile with the US and liberty: Slavery and tariffs.
I don’t write against slavery as a mere academic reflection on the past; I’m writing about it because we’ve forgotten how terrible it was and assisted with its return to Libya. The irony is that Americans once sailed their ships to Tripoli in a mad rush to eliminate slavery. Two centuries later they would fly their jets to Tripoli once more and have the known side-effect of ushering in its return.
People wish to live at the expense of others. The left sees this as problematic when the wealthy do it through lobbying and corporate welfare. The right sees this as problematic when the impoverished do it through entitlements and social programs. Libertarians view it as problematic regardless of who is doing it.
People do it, argues Bastiat, because humans have a terrible tendency to take the path of least resistance and this tendency can, at times, even cancel morality. This path of least resistance is the cornerstone of innovation, efficiency, and capitalism. However, it also lends to the plunder, government entitlements, and slavery – people living at the expense of others even in sometimes the most horrifying ways.
The reasons why this happens are largely economic. Free trade frees up capital that can be spent elsewhere. When trade took place over the Nile, the Egyptians were the dominant economic superpower. When it shifted to the Mediterranean, the Greeks, then Romans, then Ottomans, were the dominant economic superpowers. When trade shifted again to the resources of the new world, the North Americans and Western Europeans became the dominant economic superpower.
Each, in turn, had the ability to enslave other human beings. They followed through with this horror. We shouldn’t listen to Black Panther types; it wasn’t genetic superiority that the Africans were able to do this first. It wasn’t genetic superiority that European descendants were able to do this more recently. It was the economic superiority of the region, which was arrived at by factors largely independent of the inhabitants.
The question was put to me recently as to whether or not we ought to have reparations for slavery. Given the ubiquity of slavery, this would be difficult. My ancestry is such that I would have to write a check to myself, and of course, the government would keep a share of such a check for administrative costs.
Within the context of American slavery, and given that the majority of slave traders’ descendants are African, and the slaves were African Americans, we would have to take from members of poor nations to give to members of wealthy nations to execute this concept.
My response is that we ought to take from those responsible for the plunder of other human beings and give to those who were actually enslaved. I am perfectly content to argue that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, David Cameron, and all of their supporters have a moral obligation to relinquish their wealth to the slaves in Libya.
These people committed immorality so great, so unfathomable, that justice demands more than the mere silence we have treated them with, on the matter of our having knowingly partnered with slave-traders and terrorists. Enslavement is not merely something that impacts African descendants to this day. Slave-trading is something we are legitimately guilty of to this day.
I shall end on a low. As you read this, people you likely voted for are living lives of luxury, while they knowingly voted to partner with slave-traders in Libya, and a Libyan slave now sells for $500 CAD.
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