A Nation of Slaveholders

With the northern victory in the Civil War, and the subsequent passage of the 13th amendment, slavery was formally ended in this country.  Specifically, the 13th amendment stated:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for
crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist
within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, over a century later, slavery has returned to the United States.  Today, through the exercise of political power and the redistribution of wealth that should never have been Constitutional, 55% of Americans hold the other 45% in bondage, living off the product of their efforts just as surely as the white plantation owners of the Old South lived off the sweat of their African slaves.  The basis for this new servitude, however,  is not race, or religion, or national origin, but productivity. (via TJIC)

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Slightly over half of all Americans - 52.6 percent - now receive
significant income from government programs, according to an analysis
by Gary Shilling, an economist in Springfield, N.J. That's up from 49.4
percent in 2000 and far above the 28.3 percent of Americans in 1950. If
the trend continues, the percentage could rise within ten years to pass
55 percent, where it stood in 1980 on the eve of President's Reagan's
move to scale back the size of government.

Meanwhile, Ari Fleischer writes in today's WSJ (sub req) that the
top 1% of income earners pay 37% of total income taxes, the top 10% of
income earners pay 71% of total income taxes, and the top 40% of income
earners pay 99% of total income taxes.

The latter analysis is a bit off because it does not include payroll taxes, but if you include these taxes you still have under 50% of Americans paying virtually all the taxes (table at top of this page includes payroll taxes

The second greatest failing of the Constitution as originally drafted (the first being legality of slavery) is the lack of clear protections for property and commerce.  As a result, the only protection we have against full confiscation of everything we own is the whim of the electorate.  Now that a clear majority of voters are on the receiving end of money confiscated from a minority of voters, how good is this last protection? 

We have become a nation of slaveholders, with the majority holding the productive minority in bondage.  Inserting government in the middle of this process as an agent, so the recipients of this slave labor don't have to get their own hands dirty, does not change the nature of the relationship one bit.  It just pretties things up for our conscience.

Update:  Is the word "slavery" over the top?  Maybe, and I guess I could be accused of trivializing the true horrors of African slavery in the 19th century.  So substitute the word "serfdom" for "slavery". 

  • dearieme

    No. It's very unhealthy but it isn't slavery. Nor even close.

  • Garble

    Comparing taxes to slavery is silly and offensive. Do you really think that having to pay even 99% of your income in taxes is in some way equivalent to having your children taken and sold?

  • Global Warming

    Even if it is an exaggeration, it is an instructive one. First, as to selling children, we are indeed selling the future earnings of our children for consumption today through government debt. Second, the fundamental principle of slavery is control. The 55% to 45% comparison emphasizes that the electorate is exercising compulsion on a minority. If such is wrong when based on color, such is also wrong when based on economic means.

    There is nothing in this post that says that slavery is OK. It merely points out the similarities between the threat to liberty posed by slavery and the threat to liberty posed by redistributionist taxation. Such a comparison is only offensive if you think that redistributionist taxation should be affirmed.

    One other similarity worth thinking about is the moral depravity of both. Slavery resulted not only in horrors imposed upon the slaves, but also in moral failings inculcated into the slaveholders. I wonder, what moral failings arise from receiving significant income from redistribution rather than one's own labor?

  • tribal elder

    We're chattel to the tax authorities. Incarcerate the tax non-payer; make his children wards of the State. Not quite selling them, but the State will exercise dominion and control over them, to the children's detriment.

    Taxation is ultimately backed up with civil coercion, confiscation, apprehension (with use of DEADLY force a possibility) and incarceration.

  • garble

    I'm not saying that this point endorses slavery. I know that it doesn't. I don't think warren endorses slavery. I don't think warren is a racist. I also agree with the idea that half the population shouldn't be on the dole. I agree with most of what warren writes. I've never met him but I like him based on his writing. My family has gone to one of the camps he manages on vacation partially because of this blog. (LOVED IT)

    I'm saying that the comparison between taxation and slavery is silly because of how broad the difference is. I'm also saying that it's offensive because it implies a moral equivilance between a partial loss of property (with due process etc.) and complete loss of liberty. This is further compounded by the fact that the decedents of slaves (or people who look them) are still not fully integrated into the economic life of the united state.

    A note to tribal elder, I don't think the word chattel means what you think it means. Also there’s a substantial difference between your children being a ward of the state and your children being sold as property.

    Taxation might be easier to stomach if you thought of it as an implied contract. You're perfectly free not to pay taxes. All you have to do is renounce your citizenship and leave the country. I'll admit that this is not a great option, but the option exists. Perhaps you'd like Canada or Mexico better?

  • eddie

    a partial loss of property (with due process etc.)

    What due process? The majority, through their elected representatives, voted to take away my property and give it to someone else. Is that what you call due process?

    If so, it's the same due process that allowed people to be held in bondage.

  • Frank N Stein

    Being forced to work on another's land vs. being forced to give up the property (money) gained from your labor but being able to work where you want. Not the same thing, as pointed out by the pedantic comments. It is still valid to subsume both situations under the concept of slavery, as they both involve using force to take a person's labor value.

    In more recent times, the military draft was an example of the first kind of slavery, or should we quibble over irrelevant details like the lack of cotton fields in Vietnam?

    It is of course possible to leave the country, just as it was possible for a southern slave to flee to the north. There are few things sillier than pretending that being born in a certain geographical region entails that one has figuratively signed an implied contract, allowing a minority to engage in rights violations against others.

  • septagon49

    The Founding Fathers thought they placed enough safe guards into the Constitution to prevent the kind of oppressive taxation and leviathan government we have today. These include:
    1. Article I section 8
    2. The Necessary and Proper clause
    3. The V amendment
    4. The IX amendment
    5. The X amendment
    6. The Commerce clause

    After the Civil War the XIV amendment was suppose to enforce the same restrictions onto the states as well. Worshipper of the "State" sacrificed individual rights on the altar of collectivism to twist each on of these restrictions into its exact opposite. Add to this the one amendment that actually expands the power of government, ie XVI, and we find ourselves well on the way to serfdom. Today we have legalized theft which punishes the productive and rewards slothful.

  • Garble

    Being forced to work on another's land vs. being forced to give up the property (money) gained from your labor but being able to work where you want. Not the same thing, as pointed out by the pedantic comments. It is still valid to subsume both situations under the concept of slavery, as they both involve using force to take a person's labor value.

    The thing that you're missing is that slaves weren't just denied the fruit their labor. They were denied all human rights.

  • Global Warming

    And the point is not that the two are the same. Garble has hit on the difference. But the similarity should be remembered... The process, the mechanism of state, the force threatened, and the unilateral nature of the rule, are the same. And, to conclude, that the moral outrage at taxation should be exhibited in the same way that moral outrage against slavery is exhibited. As noted, they are not identical, but are of the same genus if not the same species.

  • Global Warming

    And the point is not that the two are the same. Garble has hit on the difference. But the similarity should be remembered... The process, the mechanism of state, the force threatened, and the unilateral nature of the rule, are the same. And, to conclude, that the moral outrage at taxation should be exhibited in the same way that moral outrage against slavery is exhibited. As noted, they are not identical, but are of the same genus if not the same species.

  • Noumenon

    Would the Negroes even have minded being slaves if they got to keep 75% of the entire national income after the slaveowners' portion was taken out?

    (Here's my calculation: The top 50% makes 88% of national income and pays 92% of federal taxes, federal taxes take approximately 1/6 of GDP, therefore the top 50% is giving a maximum of 15% of national income to the bottom 50%, leaving them with 73%.)

    If the American South had its income distributed that way, would you believe the nominal "slaveowners" were really in charge? Or would you think their legal claim on some of the slaves' income was just a sop to keep them from causing social unrest about not being in charge any more?

  • John III

    Im a little late to the party ( I linked in from a new article), but I just wanted to point out. YES, you can renounce your citizenship and leave the US, BUT The IRS deems you a resident for the next 10 years in regards to any income you may earn abroad. So you cant really escape unless you leave no family or property behind, nor plan to visit at any future time. Further, if You own property, even rental property, or a business in the US, they will still deam you a resident for tax purposes, until 10 years after the sale of said.

    The Kicker is that (in the case of canada at any rate) they will immediatly Cut off all benefits, including healthcare, when you renouce your citizenship, treating you as a nonresident, but they will still nail you as a resident for taxes. This can catch you even if you move from one province to another, since you are required to live in a province for 1 year to be deamed a resident for benefits, but not living in a province for the previous 33 months cancels benefits . Joy to the modern state!