Of Slaves and Slaveholders

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November 12, 2012 by Anders Ingemarson

In 1865, the 13th Amendment officially ended the institution of race-based slavery in our country. It took another 100 years for deeply held prejudices to dissipate and for state and local segregation laws to be repealed. Today the overwhelming majority of us agree that skin color is of no importance in human relationships.

Yet, last week’s election reminded us once again that slavery is not only alive and well but growing, that ours is again increasingly a nation of slaves and slaveholders.

Let’s pay a visit to the plantation anno 2012 to find out who is wielding the whip and who is being lashed.

We see a group of retired government employees whose pension plan has run out of money because it has overextended its promises. They are supporting a tax payer bailout of their pension plan. A slave is laboring nearby to pay the taxes needed to foot the bill.

We encounter a group of union bosses whose members are losing jobs due to foreign competition. Their whip made of trade barriers maintains jobs by force on U.S. soil. Their Uncle Tom is on his knees trying to defend himself from paying higher prices because of tariffs, and from funding export subsidies through taxation.

We overhear a conversation between people who don’t have health insurance; college students, men and women on welfare, and people without work are among them. They’re slave owners using the whip of government healthcare to beat into submission a woman who is forced to pay their medical costs and a doctor who tries to practice medicine using his best judgment in the face of regulatory decree.

Over there, a pack with the American flag as their whip. They’re hunting down an “illegal” immigrant branded as such for his desire to improve his lot in life, to get a job and support his family, something that would be lauded had he been born on the right side of the border.

Next, we meet a clergyman and members of his congregation, slaveholders trying to prevent a woman who has made the difficult decision to end a pregnancy by having an abortion. They are flogging her in the name of the “Right to Life” of potential human beings – fertilized eggs, embryos, zygots – disregarding or oblivious to the fact that rights only apply to actual human beings.

But wait, the reverend and his flock have a second whip. They’re using it to beat the life out of stem cell research. Two of their slaves are cowering nearby: a scientist looking for a cure to a devastating illness, and a man on his deathbed denied his right to take a calculated risk on an experimental treatment as his last lease on life.

Here comes the plantation foreman with his supervisors in tow, all with their cat o’nine tails. They’re environmentalists crusading for wider powers for the EPA in the name of “saving the planet”. They’re forcing one slave to pay more at the pump, another to recycle, a third to deal with myriads of regulations to run her business. And they’re inducing guilt in all of them for enjoying the blessings of an industrial society. Just to mention a few of the tails on their whips.

Finally, we’re witnessing the sad spectacle of a slave engaged in self-punishment. He’s a businessman who just voted to increase taxes on the rich, choosing temporary relief from guilt for being productive and having earned his wealth, rather than throwing off his shackles and defending his deserved riches.

Today’s slavery is not about the sacrifice of blacks to whites. It is about the sacrifice of the individual to the group, to the collective. The collective comes in many shapes and forms as our visit to the plantation showed. What they all have in common is that they wield the whip of force over their victims, sacrificing the individual to the interests of their respective groups.

The 19th century abolitionists were successful because they were morally certain their cause was just. They knew that each individual, regardless of skin color, had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Their moral certainty swayed the public sentiment little by little, including the sentiments of one Abraham Lincoln, eventually ending race-based slavery.

Our abolitionist battle is to end slavery of the individual to the group, to end the sacrifice of the individual to the collective. To win, each of us has to have the same moral certainty in the sanctity of the individual as our forebearers had. Each of us has to acquire the unshakeable knowledge that individualism, individual rights, laissez-faire capitalism, and the separation of state and the economy, are morally right, and that all forms of collectivism are morally wrong.

The core of the 19th century abolitionist movement was not large; at its height in the 1840’s it is estimated to have consisted of some 3,000 activists. Adjusted for population growth, it translates to about 50,000 individuals today. That’s all we need. 50,000 activists with the moral certainty that individualism is right and all forms of collectivism are wrong. 50,000 activists that write, give talks, educate, raise money, sway public opinion, and push elected representatives in the right direction. 50,000 of us creating the ripples that eventually will turn the tide.

It took the abolitionists 78 years to end race based slavery if we count the 1787 Constitutional Convention as the starting point and the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865 as the end. Add another 100 years to account for the repeal of all federal, state and local segregation laws. It is impossible to say when we’ll see victory, but the undercurrent is getting swifter, and the ripples are starting to show on the surface. We have all the intellectual ammunition we need for our battle. We just have to use it. Some of us may not see victory in our lifetime. This must not discourage us because, in Ayn Rand’s words, “Those who fight for the future live in it today”. I know I’m in. I hope you are too. Together we can end slavery once and for all.

Fire away!

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