“Prejudice is free but discrimination has costs” Thomas Sowell
Two earlier HistoryHalf posts addressed the relationship between slavery and economic progress, or lack thereof, in the United States. One post makes the case that standard textbook portrayals of black slavery as an important underpinning of American economic growth are false. The other post describes the slave system as an economic liability that destined the South to lose the Civil War.
This week’s post is about the continued economic backwardness of the states of the old Confederacy during the Jim Crow era, and the explosion of productivity and profit that the Southern states have enjoyed since the Federal Government brought a forcible end to racial segregation.
“Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands, and at whom it is aimed.” Joseph Stalin
In a previous post I described how left-leaning historians, who resent the backlash against Soviet influence that roiled the nation in the 1940’s and 1950’s, have portrayed Senator Joseph McCarthy as the “villain” who created and drove the whole anti-Communist movement. McCarthy, the textbooks tell us, accused innocent Americans of being Soviet agents. McCarthy, they tell us, destroyed people’s lives and careers with malicious lies. McCarthy, they tell us, invented the whole idea of Communist subversion in the US government.
The truth is very different. Abundant evidence shows that the Soviet Union had an extensive network of agents in the American government in the 40’s and 50’s. And many American politicians crusaded against Communist subversion during this period; McCarthy was not the only one. In fact McCarthy was actually pretty late in joining the movement. Leftist have made McCarthy the face of the anti-Communist movement not because he started it, but because he is easier to demonize than any of the other leaders. And history professors and textbook writers are not above playing fast and loose with the facts when it comes to the man they have chosen as the face of anti-Communism.
“America; where people do not inquire concerning a stranger ‘who is he,’ but ‘what can he do?’” Benjamin Franklin
Last week’s post included quotes from several college history textbooks, all of which claim that America’s fantastic economic growth was achieved, during the nation’s first few decades, by the ruthless exploitation of slave labor. While it is certainly true that slaves were ruthlessly exploited in our nation’s early history; it is not at all true that the slaves, their white exploiters, or the lands they farmed were the real drivers of America’s economic growth.
From the time the nation was founded the real wealth creation happened almost exclusively in the Northern states, where slavery was never very common, and where it was made illegal early. The rapid growth in productivity and prosperity that made America the envy of the rest of the world was made possible by legal and cultural conditions unique to the Northern “free” states. The Southern states lagged behind (as did the rest of the world) because Southern culture was hostile to all the things that made the North thrive. It also happens to be true that many of the North’s leading entrepreneurs were passionate abolitionists.
“Slavery was not a sideshow in American History, it was the main event.” Dr. James Horton, George Mason University.
From the day the America was founded, her economic growth was the envy of the rest of the world. Academics and other liberals are pretty consistent in the explanation they offer for this rapid early growth. The nation’s prosperity, they tell us, was built on the backs of black slaves. American capitalism, they say, is so closely linked to slavery that its achievements should always be viewed with shame. This negative portrayal of American enterprise shows up in textbooks, in classrooms, and even in publicly-funded “educational” broadcasting.
There is another side to the story.