Why We Couldn't Abolish Slavery Then and Can't Abolish Government NowSubmitted by marlow on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 12:30
By Robert Higgs
Slavery existed for thousands of years, in all sorts of societies and all parts of the world. To imagine human social life without it required an extraordinary effort. Yet, from time to time, eccentrics emerged to oppose it, most of them arguing that slavery is a moral monstrosity and therefore people should get rid of it. Such advocates generally elicited reactions that ranged from gentle amusement to harsh scorn and violent assault.
When people bothered to give reasons for opposing the proposed abolition, they advanced many different ideas. In the first column of the accompanying table, I list ten such ideas that I have encountered in my reading. At one time, countless people found one or more of these reasons an adequate ground on which to oppose the abolition of slavery.
In retrospect, however, these reasons seem shabby – more rationalizations than reasons. They now appear to nearly everyone to be, if not utterly specious, then shaky or, at best, unpersuasive, notwithstanding an occasional grain of truth. No one now dredges up these ideas or their corollaries to support a proposal for reestablishing slavery. Although vestiges of slavery exist in northern Africa and a few other places, the idea that slavery is a defensible social institution is defunct. Reasons that once, not so long ago, seemed to provide compelling grounds for opposing the abolition of slavery now pack no intellectual punch.
Strange to say, however, the same ideas once trotted out to justify opposition to the abolition of slavery are now routinely trotted out to justify opposition to the abolition of government (as we know it). Libertarian anarchists bold enough to have publicly advanced their proposal for abolishing the state will have encountered many, if not all, of the arguments used for centuries to prop up slavery. Thus, we may make a parallel list, as shown in the table's second column.
Read the rest and check out the table at http://www.lewrockwell.com/higgs/higgs128.html