A Southern slave owner vs the modern democratic state

HIDESIGHT Which is more rapacious? The answer is clear cut.


Here’s a question that came up over Christmas: who took the most – a Southern slave owner or the modern democratic state?

The modern democratic state. It’s far more rapacious.

The New Zealand government spends a third of all that we produce. A slave owner took only 10%. The governments we elect are three times more rapacious than slave owners.

Of course, we produce more and so there is a greater surplus over and above what we need to survive and reproduce. The slaves needed 90% of what they produced just to feed and house themselves.

Still, the point remains: The slave worked nine days out of 10 for himself. And one for his owner.

We work two days out of three for ourselves. And one day for the government.

We give up far more of what we produce than slaves did.

Slave owners also knew something our government doesn’t. They looked to the long term and allowed their slaves to keep enough to have the large families they wanted. Our governments don’t.  

Many New Zealand families can’t afford the number of children they would like. That’s because they are having to work one day in three for the government. The result is a fertility rate that hovers around the replacement rate.

Our government keeps New Zealand working families too poor to have all the children they would like.  

The extra child means a bigger car and mum not returning to work. The cost is too great. After taxes, too many families can’t afford the extra child that they would dearly love.

Of course, a chunk of our taxes is paid to families who don’t work to have children. That never happened on the plantation. Even the very fecund had to work.

Slaves had children, and lots of them. Slaves numbered 1.1 million in 1810. They numbered four million by 1860. That quadrupling of slave numbers in two generations was achieved entirely through natural reproduction.

The importation of slaves had been declared illegal in 1807 and the quadrupling was an astonishing rate of natural increase.

As an aside, less than 5% of the slaves shipped across the Atlantic went to the US. The estimate is 500,000. Four million went to Brazil, 2.5 million to the Spanish empire, two million to the British West Indies, 1.6 million to the Dutch West Indies and 500,000 to French West Indies.

The American south was relatively small beer in the slavery trade.

As another aside: more slaves were shipped to Arab countries than to the New World. About 18 million Africans were delivered into the Islamic trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trades between 650 and 1905.

Few survived. That slave trade is largely forgotten about because there are no descendants to remind us.

Of course, this government can’t buy and sell us as slave owners could do with their slaves. It’s perhaps just as well. Slaves were valuable. A fit 25-year-old male sold for $800 in 1850. The average price for a slave that year was $500.

That was a lot of money in the south in those days. Five hundred dollars would buy an average house.

Or consider this comparison: the GDP per capita for the south was $130 in 1850. So in economic status that $500 translates to $NZ180,000 today.

Slaves were a valuable commodity. The government would need only sell the people of Hamilton and Dunedin to clear net debt. But don’t mention that equation to the Left: they will fire up, accusing John Key of planning the sale.

Login in or Register to view & post comments