Scythe Log: 1808 | We live in the greatest era of human history, in arguably the greatest country in the world. There has never been more opportunity for merit to pave the way to success, and never has a pioneering spirit had more fertile ground to sow the seeds of their ambition, nourish the life of their dreams, & yield the fruit of their effort. We live in an era of access, of information, of acceptance, and we’re consistently improving as a society.
Still, it seems not everyone is enjoying, or even aware of, the potential that exists. It seems somehow, some people are trapped, compelled to labor, driven not by desire, but by necessity to employ themselves in in their work, often to the detriment of their well being. It seems like this symptom is particularly present in those who fit into what is categorized as the working class.
It feels like there’s some pernicious, even if less extreme, variety of slavery still alive and well.
But how can you substantiate a feeling, how can you provide evidence to back up a thought like that? In an attempt to corroborate that intuition we’re compelled to look to the past. We’re compelled to understand the legacy of our economy and the history that has contributed to the current framework of America’s brand of capitalism—capitalism which is the vehicle that does seem to deliver so many to the horizons of their ambitions.
In beginning to look to the past we learn that less than 2 centuries ago cotton, a commodity whose production was wholly dependent on chattel slavery, was the single largest source of value in the American economy after subsistence agriculture. We learn that it represented a staggering 5% of the Gross Domestic Product of our Nation—a ratio greater than the entirety of US defense spending in 2018, which was just 3.5% of GDP, some $650 Billion (more than the next 7 countries combined). When we look to the past, we learn that the textile industry was the catalyst to the industrial revolution, and that cotton produced by American slave labor was the fundamental ingredient of the textile industry.
50% of all exports from 1800 to 1860
*****massive export earnings into the united states. representing 50% of all the export earnings of the us in virtually every year from 1800 to 1860, not to mention other exports created through slave labor.
When we look to the past it becomes abundantly clear how essential leveraging slave labor has been to the framework of American capitalism, and when we acknowledge the footprints of slavery’s legacy in American history it’s no longer surprising that the scent of bondage still lingers on the body of our economy today. With ignorance as chains and debt as the whip, the working class are functioning as the slaves of the 21st century—taking the place of what used to be thorough slave labor to continue building the infrastructure of a Nation under those who own, whether through creation or inheritance, the bonds.