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  1. says

    Saying this to certain of the pigge people would initiate a Dalek-like response directed against you that would begin with robotic, increasingly louder and more frantic repetitions of “exterminate. Exterminate! EX-TERM-IN-ATE!!!!!!!” Then sparks and smoke would shoot out their ears, and they’d chant “freedomfreedomfreedomfreedomfreedom” until their heads exploded and they collapsed into a quivering mass of brainless jello.

  2. anon says

    Not all of the authors of the constitution were slave owners. In fact, some of the authors found slavery abhorrent. Where do you get this shit from?

  3. lorn says

    More specifically it, IMO, had to do with the primacy of property owners. This is usually assumed to be ownership of land but it tended to include other types of property also. Particularly the types of property that worked in synergy with that land, and nothing works better for consistent profit than fertile land and slaves.

  4. Kolohe says

    “nothing works better for consistent profit than fertile land and slaves.”

    Not really. Even Fredrick Douglas noticed how much richer everyone (including The Rich) were in the North compared to the South.

  5. blindrobin says

    Yeeesssssss, reach out and boldly touch that third rail of US history. Freedom, so many things to so many people, the most disturbing being the freedom to oppress others, it’s a very common libertarian trope.

  6. dornierpfeil says

    Not really. Even Fredrick Douglas noticed how much richer everyone (including The Rich) were in the North compared to the South.

    I smell a fallacy.

    First off a rich North does not mean a non-profitable South. The South was quite wealthy. It simply wasn’t equitably distributed but that sin applied every bit as much to the North.

    Secondly, the notion that the only thing the North owed its wealth to was its freedom. ‘The North was rich because it was free, the South was poor because it was not free.’ That is an assertion that would take, and has taken, a lot more than a single sentence to establish. Just for a start the North was rich because it was in the beginning stages of tapping the vast amounts of fossilized energy it had and the South was still essentially depending on human muscle power as it’s principle energy source for accomplishing work. Freedom had little to do with where the accessible coal seams were.

  7. Alex says

    Just for a start the North was rich because it was in the beginning stages of tapping the vast amounts of fossilized energy it had and the South was still essentially depending on human muscle power as it’s principle energy source for accomplishing work.

    Sure, but slavery made that human muscle power artificially cheap for management. Raw human muscle power is (usually) less productive than the machines and factories and fossil fuels that drove economic growth in the north, but slavery made the use of human muscle power artificially cheap. It was still very costly, but the costs were born by the slaves, so the people with decision-making power didn’t give a shitte and went with that, even though it hindered social progress.

    Also, a society in which a large portion of your population is not allowed to innovate (whether through invention or entrepreneurship or whatever) because they’re in chains will be less wealthy than a society that doesn’t keep people in chains. That’s not to say that black people in the North had unfettered economic freedom, but they had it better (or at least less bad) than their counterparts in the South.

    This isn’t rocket science. Systems of exploitation make some resources artificially cheap for those in power (by shifting all of the costs and negative consequences onto the powerless), so the people in charge go with that even though it holds back progress for society.

  8. says

    As Alex says, a system class exploitation defines “efficiency” not so much in terms of overall productivity, as of the efficiency with which the ruling class can extract a surplus. They care more about maximizing their slice than the size of the entire pie.

    There’s no doubt a cooperatively owned cotton plantation in which the laborers had full rights of disposal over their own product would have outproduced a slave plantation several times over. It would have been better for everybody — except the people in white linen suits and crinolines drinking mint juleps on the veranda of the big mansion on the hill.

    Class rule has always been about privilege: i.e. erecting tollgates between production and consumption, so that producers must feed a class of parasitic rentiers in addition to themselves as a condition of being allowed to feed themselves at all. Overall economic outtput takes a back seat to that priority.

  9. Chebag says

    Systems of exploitation make some resources artificially cheap for those in power (by shifting all of the costs and negative consequences onto the powerless), so the people in charge go with that even though it holds back progress for society.

    Wait…are you talking about Comradde and his backslapping coterie of postdoc exploiting “PIs” that blather around the Internet all the time about their wonderful prowess getting ‘grants’ and “GlamourPubs” and all that?

  10. says

    An important point, Comrade. As I’ve written before, when some people say “freedom,” they really mean “privilege.” The founding fathers varied considerably in terms of liberalism to conservatism, even in terms of their era, and they certainly did not transcend their era in all matters. Back when The Atlantic was still good, it ran a good piece pointing out that quite a few writings by the founders speak of the colonists’ freedom in contrast to that of the slaves; certain founders objected that England was treating them as slaves when they were free men; they did not to object to slavery itself. If you read What This Cruel War Was Over and other good Civil War books (or just the Cornerstone speech), you’ll run into the same thing – the Southerners’ entire sense of self and civilization was tied up in a social hierarchy and a sense of superiority to black people specifically. Southern masculinity depended on it. They defined freedom in opposition to their perceived foes (the North) and in contrast to those they perceived as their inferiors (the slaves).

    America was founded through slavery and conquest, and it’s wise not to forget it. Nonetheless, every nation has things to be ashamed of, and the big question is what we’re doing to make America a better country today. I like how E.J. Dionne put it back in 2006:

    …The true genius of America has always been its capacity for self-correction. I’d assert that this is a better argument for patriotism than any effort to pretend that the Almighty has marked us as the world’s first flawless nation.

    One need only point to the uses that Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. made of the core ideas of the Declaration of Independence against slavery and racial injustice to show how the intellectual and moral traditions of the United States operate in favor of continuous reform.

    We can look at the Founding Fathers as hypocrites, and in some cases that’s appropriate. Without whitewashing the past, I’d like to look at America as a country founded with many flaws but also some truly great ideas, capable of honoring its best ideals and getting much, much better. (Let’s just not pretend that everybody wants the same thing, though, or that they ever did.)

  11. says

    More generally, “freedom” has always been bound up in privilege and a loose caste system, and for those things to be supported and encouraged by government power.

  12. dysomniak says

    The most important freedom in America has always been the freedom of the rich and powerful to consolidate their wealth and influence by any means necessary.

  13. says

    Is it acceptable for me to add “… and this is why I always want to punch libertarians in their stupid evil heads!” when they talk about freedom? Or would that be a bad thing?

  14. ik says

    Yes, he did. This type of discussion annoys me a lot.

    Libertarians. There are several types. There are the privileged ones who want to maintain said privilege. There are the infantile ones who don’t like being told what to do, and support the first group.. Then there are the actual interesting ones who want to create a society with more freedom than ours, possibly more freedom than a society with no laws would have. They tend to be pretty privileged, but that’s just the way it is. Most of them are on the right side. I don’t like any of them.

    I’ve sometimes wondered if, in a utopia, there would be some social structure such that all people would at some time in their life be in such a privileged position, which would be paid for by disprivilegement at some other time. Have heard that something vaguely like this exists in the Phillipines.

    Personally, I oppose the general and never-questioned idea that freedom (actual freedom for everyone, not for the masters) is always good. Giving people more choices is not always helping them, for example.

  15. ik says

    Oh, one other thing: Do we ever get to get rid of that whole historical shame thing? I mean, there has to be SOME time at which we can let go of it, when some conditions are achieved/?

  16. Alex says

    Then there are the actual interesting ones who want to create a society with more freedom than ours, possibly more freedom than a society with no laws would have. They tend to be pretty privileged, but that’s just the way it is. Most of them are on the right side. I don’t like any of them.

    Why don’t you like them? I’m not asking why you disagree with them, just why you don’t like them. You just said that they are interesting and are on the right side. Sounds like a likeable bunch to me. I like a lot of people that I disagree with.

    As far as historical shame, different things have different expiration dates. We are still living with the effects of hundreds of years of slavery and ongoing discrimination. OTOH, the misuse of the notion of “freedom” to support slavery is (mostly) gone, though “Heritage, not hate” pigs are still out there. Still, I think it’s pretty clear that the slavery apologists no longer dominate the usage of the word “freedom” in modern contexts. There are problematic usages of the word in today’s contexts, and we need to grapple with that, but I don’t think we need to look back 200 years to find problematic usages of the notion of freedom.

  17. says

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s seems to be a fallacious argument going around in lefties circles that because some people have used the word “freedom” in really dodgy, contradictory ways, that therefore any political stance that is based on being for “freedom” (defined say, as individual rights and autonomy, strong civil liberties, etc.) are automatically wrong. Also the canard that taking a strong individual rights position automatically means worship of “free-market” economics, an ideology based on Ayn Rand, etc. I will point out that such things do not come as a package and to treat them as if they do is to simply argue against a straw man.

    And if you’re going to hold “libertarianism”, broadly defined, as the enemy (and keep in mind that small-”l” libertarianism means *all* anti-authoritarian politics from “free-market” libertarianism to anarchism to libertarian currents in Marxism), then perhaps its about time you stopped shying away from the fact that you are at least to some degree advocating for its opposite – authoritarianism. And while I have a very low opinion of authoritarianism, I at least could have some respect for people who advocate for it openly and *own* it. As opposed to garden variety “libertarianism” bashers who aren’t very honest about the implications of their agenda.

    Oh, and keep in mind that if it’s authoritarianism you want, you’re axiomatically going to end up with a class that’s very “privileged” indeed rather some kind of utopian “equality”. I think history has demonstrated that pretty clearly.

  18. JasonL says

    What a vacuous observation. By all means lets remember how the word has been used historically. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past. If you want to say something meaningful about this, you are kind of on the hook to offer up an analysis of how these historical events translate into our current usage – in what regard do advocates of freedom in 2012 continue the traditions of slave owners? If you aren’t willing to provide that kind of analysis, it almost seems like you are looking for a generic smear you won’t have to defend, doesn’t it?

  19. lunchstealer says

    While some parliamentary chicanery allowed the Fugitive Slave clause to be inserted into the constitution over the objection of certain Northerners, I am not sure that that means that ‘freedom’ is inextricably linked to protection of slaveholders’ property rights at the expense of the rights of the held.

    I’d say we have, as a country, done a pretty good job of extricating liberty, at least, from the freedom of slaveholders. If I read it correctly, it doesn’t prohibit a state from prohibiting slavery and decreeing that all slaves currently held in that state must be set free or removed to a different state. Now, Dred Scott gets involved here, but I’d say that that decision was wrong on any of a number of merits.

    It’s worth considering that justice, which is a term often invoked in the Occupy movement, could be equally inextricably linked in English common law history with brutal suppression of dissent by kings. We come from an imperfect past. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest to libertarians that they should give up the term ‘freedom’ just based on past misuse. Better to recognize the dangers of fetishizing any word, lest you end up being all Yangs vs Comms and throwing Kirk in prison because “That is Yang worship word. You will not speak it!”

  20. ik says

    “Why don’t you like them? I’m not asking why you disagree with them, just why you don’t like them. You just said that they are interesting and are on the right side. Sounds like a likeable bunch to me. I like a lot of people that I disagree with.”

    Mostly because they give ammunition and legitimacy to the bad libertarians and because they perpetuate the myth of freedom as a universal goal and right even when the realize problems with a simplistic approach. I personally am actually an authoritarian, even as I press for a respectful authority.

    “[We have] done a pretty good job of extricating liberty, at least, from the freedom of slaveholders.”
    QFT

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