On the Relationship Between "Liberalism" and Racism

Liberal ideas can result in racism, but not for the reasons leftist scholars have posited.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Over the last few years, I've noticed that it's increasingly popular among leftist academics to blame the rise of liberalism (individual rights, equality under the law, competitive markets, constitutional limited government, etc.) in the nineteenth century for the rise of racist ideologies in the same time period. In particular, they blame "capitalism," for reasons I find too ahistorical and silly to bother to recount.

Of course, liberals of all parties, from "progressive" liberals to libertarians, are scandalized by such a suggestion. They argue that it was precisely liberal values that fought racism and other forms of inherited privilege, and believe that the leftists' intense hostility to the market economy that arose with liberalism has gotten the better of them.

This may not be an original thought, but I had an epiphany last year while teaching Prigg v. Pennsylvania, a case in which the antebellum Supreme Court upheld the right of private slave catchers to kidnap escaped slaves from free states and take them to the slave South. The epiphany was that the rise of liberalism, especially the natural-rights variety, did help lead to the rise of racism, but not because of "capitalism."

In earlier times, when "might made right," things like slavery needed no justification. "We won the war and captured enemy prisoners and made them slaves" was quite sufficient. But once liberalism took hold, and people broadly accepted the premise that "all men are created equal" and are "endowed by their Creator with certain natural rights," but they still want to maintain, say, African slavery in the American South, they have to create rationales as to why people of African descent aren't really "people" in the same sense that people of European descent are.

The same could be said for Jews in Europe once liberalism got a strong foothold there. Intellectuals could no longer justify hatred of Jews on religious grounds thanks to their belief in freedom of conscience, so they had to either accept Jews as fully equal citizens, or invent racist rationales to explain why Jews were different from those persons entitled to equal rights. In short, if liberalism notions take hold in a society, but large percentages of the population are not willing to abandon prior systems of oppression, the rise of racism will be the natural result as the defenders of oppression seek rationales for refusing to extend rights to minority groups.

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  1. It may well be that as liberalism grew stronger, the perceived need for oppressors to give elaborate rationales for racial oppression grew stronger as well.

    Some defenses of slavery did indeed say that liberalism was OK for whites but didn’t apply to blacks.

    But other, more militant defenders of the Peculiar Institution, like George Fitzhugh, came out and defended slavery by saying liberalism was wrong for everyone, and even poor whites would be better off enslaved.

    Also, there were racist ideas before liberalism flourished. Spain’s “purity of blood” rules which reserved the highest class of rights for white Castilian Gentiles while having fewer rights for people – even solidly Catholic people – with Jewish, black, Indian, heretical, etc. ancestors – would be an example.

    1. I have heard — don’t references or validity, that when Prince Henry of Portugal began exploring the West African coast, and capturing slaves there, the African s fetched a higher market price because, if they escaped, they were more easily spotted and recaotured, as compared to typical slaves of the time who were likely of Slavic origin. And this led the Portuguese to seek approval from the Pope, that the Africans were somehow less human, more appropriately enslaved.

      1. Some unfortunate Papal decrees re Portugal and Spain are discussed in pp. 52-56 of John Francis Maxwell’s *Slavery and the Catholic Church* (London: Barry Rose Publishers, 1975) – though in general the Popes became skeptical of the slave-traffic in Africans and Indians, and IMHO the Spanish and Portugese monarchs were able to get away with it through their “Gallican” control of the Church in their respective domains.

        Here is an argument that the African version of slavery was in violation of Catholic teaching, which of course Catholic monarchs, under Gallicanism, had the power to ignore.


  2. In short, if liberalism notions take hold in a society, but large percentages of the population are not willing to abandon prior systems of oppression, the rise of racism will be the natural result as the defenders of oppression seek rationales for refusing to extend rights to minority groups.

    This sounds plausible to me.

    1. From what I understand, that’s the current mainstream view.

      Fun to see convergent intellectual evolution at work!

      1. If that’s the mainstream view, it has a mainstream problem. Which is the tacit assumption that “prior systems of oppression,” somehow go back to time immemorial. There is no room there for a counter-possibility?that a yet-prior system of non-oppression changed, or evolved, into a system of oppression, raising the question of what accounted for that.

        Nor is that mere speculation. History affords in the example of the Virginia colony something closer to the notion I mention than to anything like a perpetual-previous-oppression model.

        That, anyway, is my two-paragraph summary of a book-length, nuanced, and complicated discussion, to be found in historian Edmund S. Morgan’s book, American Slavery, American Freedom. It’s one of the greater books by one of America’s greater historians. And notably, a scholar whose work is widely accepted as a standard of quality within the history profession?so definitely mainstream.

        1. There is no room there for a counter-possibility?that a yet-prior system of non-oppression changed, or evolved, into a system of oppression, raising the question of what accounted for that.

          That’s a good question, but I don’t see why it rebuts the notion that the oppressive system, however it came to be, hangs on by changing its rationale.

          1. That’s a fair point, bernard11. But I suggest there isn’t anything to be gained by reducing to theory, and then applying to unlike historical cases, some notion of the genesis of racism. Why not just rely on the separate histories of cases found from place to place, and from time to time? With regard to history, what need is there of any theory at all?

            Each place and time has its own story to tell, and it would be surprising if all were alike. They might all be different, and reliance on some over-arching theory would only obscure that. For instance, no one doubts that racism with regard to blacks was (and I suggest, still is) a prominent feature of American culture throughout the land. I don’t think, however, that the history of that racial hostility is alike in Massachusetts, which never tended to idealize racism, and in Virginia, which evolved a system to make idealization of racism into a political principle.

            Those are quite different historical occurrences. My own view is that Bernstein’s attempted theory can’t be squared with the historical record in either case. If we do need an overarching theory of racism, I suggest the field for it would be psychology, not history or politics. A psychological explanation would at least offer the advantage of suggesting why a recurrent theme of racial hostility is to be found in unlike historical, social, and political circumstances.

        2. I think one aspect of this is liberalism was originally more of a sales pitch (and still is in repressive countries).

          So the actual intent of the framers wasn’t to instill equality and universal rights. It was to make sure Jefferson could continue to rape Sally Hemings and his other slaves, which he enjoyed very much and made a dealbreaker along with his fellow slaveholders.

          But they needed to sell the revolution and Constitution to the peasants who owned no slaves, so they used universalist liberal rhetoric they didn’t believe in and then constructed justifications for slavery within it.

          1. Except that your theory is refuted by what Jefferson originally wrote in the Declaration of Independence (included below). I know it’s the standard Progressive reading of history – and has even been pushed by some anarchists/minarchists – but it’s demonstrably wrong.

            “He [King George] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”

            1. It’s just a cheap smear that Esper repeats. The Declaration was just propaganda…yada yada…zzz.

              1. It was. There wasn’t a single person it that room who believed all people were equal.

              2. It was. There wasn’t a single person it that room who believed all people were equal.

              3. It was. There wasn’t a single person it that room who believed all people were equal.

              4. It was. There wasn’t a single person it that room who believed all people were equal.

              5. It was. There wasn’t a single person in that room who thought all people were equal.

        3. There is no room there for a counter-possibility?that a yet-prior system of non-oppression changed, or evolved, into a system of oppression, raising the question of what accounted for that.

          There is room for the possibility, but it doesn’t seem in line with the factual history. Especially since slavery is documented since Greek/Roman/Biblical times, which is pretty much time immemorial.

          1. I was referring to Virginia and Massachusetts only. You do provide, however, other examples to confirm my point that any overarching historical theory regarding slavery will almost certainly be undone by differing historical particulars among the examples.

  3. Excellent point. I think Thomas Sowell made a similar observation (though he didn’t tie it to liberalism) when explaining why American slavery is considered particularly brutal, relative to historical norms.

    1. I’ve often pondered the progression of slavery from ancient times to relatively recent, and the best I could come up with for why New World slavery was so much more vilified than, say, Roman or Greek, was due to the confluence of several factors:

      Easier access to wholesale enslavement of sub-Saharan Africans instead of depending on the spoils of war.

      Black slaves were obviously different from the usual lot collected from war, and easier to demonize as subhuman. This applies to red skin too, although so many died from disease that they didn’t make good slaves. I suppose blacks had been somewhat immunized through sporadic contact with Arabs.

      The rise of nations, as opposed to religious groups, cities, tribes, and other groups, made it harder to justify slaves as spoils of war. Nations were too big to conquer and enslave, and peace ended by mutual agreement instead of outright conquest and occupation.

      But I’ve never seen any really good explanations for the rise of black slavery.

      1. Slavery competing with industrialization meant it was was under threat.
        That pressure lead to increasing instrumentalization of blacks in order to keep up, as well as expanding the number each plantation used.
        So reliance went up among a small subset of Southern landowners, even as revolt became more of a threat. Fear sets in.
        Thus, you get some crazy irrational dehumanizing requirements. And eventually a Civil War.

        1. New World black slavery began long before industrialization.

          1. Portugal imported black slaves to Brazil. Portugal was hardly an industrial power.

          2. Sure, but I’m discussing why American slavery got so uncommonly cruel, even for such systems of bondage.

            From what I understand, that shift is at least correlated with American agricultural industrialization.

            1. “Uncommonly cruel”, compared to what?

              1. Compared to other such systems of bondage, as I said.

        2. I don’t think industrialization had anything to do with slavery in the South becoming more repressive and, as you say, crueler beginning around 1830 or so. It was a reaction to the growing abolitionist movement, encouraged in part by the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 in GB. There were also more slave revolts in that period, most notably the Nat Turner rebellion in 1830, which increased long-held fears.

          The plantation system was still very profitable up until the Civil War. In fact industrialization of the textile industry in GB increased the demand for cotton and so spurred the desire to expand slavery into the territories.

          1. Couldn’t it be both? Increasing social and economic reliance even as the abolitionist/revolt threat grew?

      2. Easier access to wholesale enslavement of sub-Saharan Africans instead of depending on the spoils of war.

        Come on, this goes as far back as the complaint that ‘Caesar feasts on the blood of Gaul’.

        Calling that spoils of war is true in some sense — he did make war on Gaul — but there is less distinction between that and wholesale enslavement than you imply.

  4. A difficulty with this is that these arguments and rationalizations long predates liberalism.

    The universal practice of slavery that existed in antiquity was gradually abolished over the course of the Middle Ages, and a comparatively new intermediate institution, serfdom, arose to replace it, with a significant period of overlap between the two, long before the African and New World slave trade resulted in the re-introduction of slavery in Christian Europe. The medieval Church generally speaking opposed slavery. But for obvious reasons, many rulers found it advantageous, and found arguments and people to justify it.

    These sorts of arguments were already being made a thousand years ago, long before there was anything that could be called “liberalism” in any modern sense.

    1. In an example of this debate, going back thousands of years, in The Republic, Plato makes the case that Greeks should not enslave other Greeks for some of the reasons we are talking about today:

      “How shall we treat our enemies? Shall Hellenes be enslaved? No; for there is too great a risk of the whole race passing under the yoke of the barbarians….. For war is of two kinds,civil and foreign; the first of which is properly termed ‘discord,’ and only the second ‘war;’ and war between Hellenes is in reality civil war?a quarrel in a family, which is ever to be regarded as unpatriotic and unnatural, and ought to be prosecuted with a view to reconciliation in a true Hellenic spirit, as of those who would chasten but not utterly enslave.”

      1. The view of slavery in the Republic is more complex. See, for a start, 547c, where Socrates argues that the advent of slavery within the kallipolis is a primary cause of the degradation of the aristocratic city into oligarchy.

  5. I think there’s a similar process going on with speech. The absolutist nature of the first amendment is colliding with the desire to silence your opposition. Since “they made me feel really, really bad” has found a crack to enforce silence in certain contexts, the value of such has skyrocketted.

    Similarly with EEOC and affirmative action, which, when people started fighting it, “weaponizing” the reasons of the promise of a colorblind society, and it started having trouble in the courts, birthed a new value, diversity, which had the same effect and was much more acceptable.

    Without the absolutist nature of the freedoms being applied, neither diverisity-as-high-value nor swooning histrionics on campus to silence others would exist as downstream “workarounds”.

    1. True, they’d just say, “Yes, we’re discriminating against you on the basis of your race. What of it?”

      But the other thing driving the need for ideological rationalizations for racial discrimination and censorship on campus, is the fact that the discrimination here isn’t against a powerless minority, it’s against the majority.

      You can just go ahead and discriminate or censor, (And even censorship is discrimination, because it doesn’t blindly silence everyone.) minority groups, because if the majority is ok with it, they don’t have the numbers to effectively resist. But if you’re going to act against the interests of the majority, you need a persuasive rationale for why you’re doing it.

      But unless the majority can directly effectuate their will, it isn’t the majority who have to be persuaded. In this case it’s the courts and government. They’ve bought into the “diversity” excuse somewhat, and this motivates them to ignore the mounting complaints from the general population.

      But the arguments are getting more extreme now, because the general population are getting really unhappy being the target of discrimination.

  6. The ‘rise’ is ‘traditional racism’ being forced to become more organized because another powerseeking ideology that managed to avoid getting such a label but is more and more pretty much the same is becoming more popular. When all you have to do to transform from trailer park trash to enlightened being is to switch from hating and scapegoating black women to hating and scapegoating white men its easier to convert a person or society than you might think. Humanity never lost its lust for self interested powerseeking or demonization. Modern social justice is just its latest guise. Deep down very few people actually believe in all the kumbaya nonsense except some deluded white liberals.

    1. Deep down very few people actually believe in all the kumbaya nonsense except some deluded white liberals.

      Cynicism and group telepathy FTW!

  7. Yep. Jefferson. He apparently had remorse for his efforts at rationalizing slavery, because he set his free on his death…

    1. Jefferson clearly grappled with the morality of slavery. His writings are all over the map both for and against, without a clear chronological moral arc.

      Which kind of makes it a bit worse that he sorta knew what he was doing when kept them while he was alive.

      1. Worse for him, anyway. I’d doubt it’s worse for the slaves themselves to have a master who is conflicted about the morality of what he’s doing, than it would be to have a master who doesn’t have any doubts about the morality of slavery.

        1. I mean, if you take a purely utilitarian view of things, yeah. But who does that?

    2. No. He freed his children from Sally Hemmings but most were sold on his death to pay his debts.

      1. I would just like to point out, because most people don’t know this, and that is that Hemmings and Jefferson’s relationship started in France, when she was a free woman. It wasn’t until 1791 that France ended slavery in her colonies, but it was already abolished in the home country.

    3. At the time of his death, he was so in debt, his slaves weren’t actually *his* slaves anymore.

      1. According to what I learned on my tour of Monticello this is accurate. He freed very few slaves?which was different than what Washington did?but the bank challenged even those since the bank was the true owner.

        As for Sally Hemmings, she was taken to France by Mary and she was only 14. Regardless of French law, she was a slave.

        1. As soon as Sally Hemmings set foot on French soil, she was a free woman. The country had abolished slavery following the Revolution in 1789, before she arrived. She may not have known that upon arrival, but as she stayed there for a little over two years and was getting French lessons, and never saw any other slaves, I think its reasonable to assume that she figured it out. My guess is that being only a young girl, she decided to accompany Jefferson back to VA for various reasons. I’ve yet to read a biography of Jefferson that can give any real insight on this.

          1. Let me fix my timeline, France had abolished slavery in her colonies in the Revolution, but on her native soil over a century earlier. Hemmings arrived in 1787, and stayed a little over two year.

          2. Really engaging in conjecture here, but might some form of diplomatic immunity apply to keep anti-slavery laws from applying to envoys from other countries? If dignitaries from Country X keep and travel with slaves, but County Y has a law that says if a slave sets foot in our country, they are immediately freed, no diplomatic exception, then that basically creates a de facto break in relationships between Country X and Country Y, because no envoy from Country X will go to Country Y. Might be the kind of thing that’s excused for all the other reasons diplomatic immunity exists.

            1. You could be correct. I emailed a history professor, Rob McDonald, who wrote a Jefferson biography about this issue. I don’t know they guy, but from his interview on the Ruben Report about “Who was Thomas Jefferson”. I found a couple of his email addresses online and sent a query.

              Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVGXfgY9VFI

              1. Here is the reply I got from Prof. McDonald: (1/2)

                Dear Anthony,

                Thanks for your message and great question about Sally Hemings’s legal status while in France.

                You are right: while in Paris, Hemings was legally free. She certainly knew as much. For one thing, while in Paris Jefferson paid her (and her brother, who was also present) a salary. You are also right that Jefferson could not have compelled her to return with him to Virginia.

                So why return? The quick answer seems to be that Jefferson promised that he would treat her well and that any children they had would be set free once they were ready to leave Monticello. This is the thrust of what she later appears to have told their son, Madison Hemings, who decades later conveyed the story to a reporter from a newspaper in Ohio, where he lived. Her brother, who had trained in France as a chef, was returning as well — although Jefferson promised him his freedom after he taught French cooking to another Monticello slave. All of Sally’s family was back in Virginia, which was clearly as much her home as it was Jefferson’s.

              2. We know very little about the exact nature of her relationship with Jefferson, but we know that she was the half-sister of his late wife, who by all accounts he missed dearly. She was three-fourths white and probably resembled Jefferson’s late wife, who he promised on her deathbed that he would never remarry. It would have been illegal for him to marry Sally, so with her he could keep that promise. Jefferson was never alleged to have had a relationship with any woman other than Sally, with whom he likely had kids for the better part of two decades. Their relationship seems entirely monogamous.

                The best source on Jefferson and Hemings is Annette Gordon-Reed’s book, _The Hemingses of Monticello_, which won the Pulitzer Prize. It goes into depth trying to give answers to the questions you raise.

                I hope this helps. Thanks again for your message. It was fun doing that Rubin Report interview. I probably reached more people in that one hour than I have through all the classes I’ve ever taught and the books and articles I’ve published.

                Best wishes from West Point.


  8. “Intellectuals could no longer justify hatred of Jews on religious grounds thanks to their belief in freedom of conscience, so they had to either accept Jews as fully equal citizens, or invent racist rationales to explain why Jews were different from those persons entitled to equal rights.”

    You’re saying Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, Goebbels, etc., were “Intellectuals”???????????

    WTF Bernstein…you’re losing your marbles.

    1. It’s a pretty petty mind which can’t conceive of any evil intellectual.

      1. You think these guys were some sort of Dr. Evil?!?

        Let’s be perfectly clear here: THEY WERE SICK FUCKS.

        There was NOTHING “intellectual” about their goals, plans, schemes, policies, etc.

        1. Wait, you think being an intellectual and being a “sick fuck” are somehow contradictory? Man, you don’t have much exposure to the range of “intellectual” thought.

        2. You think Dr. Evil was some sort of intellectual?!? Man, have I got a bridge to sell you.

          Yes, if Dr. Evil is your idea of an “intellectual”, then Hitler et al could also be rightly described as intellectuals.

          1. It actually takes an intellectual, like Pol Pot for instance, to plumb the true depths of evil. It takes a lot of rationalizing for a person to overcome the normal human aversion to doing really awful things to other people, and especially to persuade others to go along with them in doing it. And intellectuals are true professionals at rationalizing.

            1. Being an intellectual has no bearing on one’s capacity for evil.

    2. You might want to do become at least vaguely familiar with the history of European anti-Semitism before writing things like this. The Nazis hardly invented racial anti-Semitism, which was in fact propounded by “intellectuals” and indeed had widespread, though hardly universal, support across Europe and especially in the German-speaking world. You could start by looking up the origins of the word “anti-Semitism.”

      1. I’ll respectfully disagree that intellectuals invent anything–especially anti-Semitism–and instead they look for ways to explain things through observation, logic, reasoning, etc.

        Inventing anti-Semitism is just that; bad people with bad intentions looking to rationalize their warped thinking i.e. having the conclusion prior to the reasoning–not coming a conclusion based on observation, logic, reasoning, etc.

        There’s no way you can convince me that anyone who is anti-Semitic is an Intellectual.

        1. Was Marx an intellectual? Because he certainly was anti-Semitic.

        2. Kant was mildly anti-semitic, he was clearly an “intellectual.” Schopenhauer was very anti-semitic, and he was clearly an “intellectual.” Very smart industrialists, like Ford and Edison were anti-semitic.

          Point is, you can still be a smart person or an educated person, and be wrong about things. Happens ALL THE TIME.

        3. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that calling someone an “intellectual” is complimentary, rather than simply descriptive of a recognized social status.

        4. T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound.

    3. What do you think “intellectual” means, apedad?

      Merriam Webster says
      1a : of or relating to the intellect or its use
      b : developed or chiefly guided by the intellect rather than by emotion or experience : rational
      c : requiring use of the intellect
      2a : given to study, reflection, and speculation
      b : engaged in activity requiring the creative use of the intellect

      Where precisely do you see a moral judgement in that definition? Intellect is a tool. And while it is generally true that more of a tool is better than not, any tool can be used for good or evil. That’s as true of intellectualism as anything else.

    4. The Nazis you mention were not the originators of the anti Semitic ideas of the party. They were johnny come latelys. The real driving force behind the genocide were, in fact, highly educated some of who held multiple advance degrees from the best schools in Europe.

      The race scientists were studying eugenics right here in the USA before the Nazi party was even created.

    5. To pile on, what was so shocking about Naziism was how it sprang from an intellectual and philosophical tradition, when reason was supposed to have put us beyond such old savagery.

      It is a lesson we should not forget out of blind revulsion.

      1. And it was backed by the science of it’s day.

        The hardest part of the Holocaust for me to understand is not how deep the evil was, but how quickly it attained that depth.

  9. The mistaken beliefs that humans are naturally circumstantial equal (and, absent injustice and oppression we would all be more or less similarly situated) and that the human personality is infinitely elastic (and there susceptible to wholesale manipulation/improvement) are to blame for the intellectual mindset characteristic of today’s leftist going back to, at least, Rousseau.

    1. I think you ignore the aspirational side. Hopeless acceptance of our fallen state isn’t how you get abolitionism, for instance.

  10. People have been hating on each other, going to war over cultural or skin color differences, since neanderthal times. The Irish and Scottish hate the English. Germans hate the Greeks (Greeks are lazy, so say the Germans). And Spanish. Japanese hate the Chinese. Catholics and Protestants hate muslims. I met a black grad student from Ghana who hated American blacks and thought they were lazy thieves.

    Liberalism did not create racism. In fact quite the opposite. It created a mechanism where better ideas win, rather than guns. Its still racism, liberalism only gave us words. Initially, its true, laws enshrined pre-existing racist beliefs. Over time, better ideas win. Previously oppressed minorities have seen their property and individual rights increase and garnered protections.

    Of course, we could go back the days before capitalism and guarantees of individual rights. It would look a lot like Venezuela, where only like-minded people in the majority have property. Which is great, if you have the right culture and skin color of the majority.

    Before liberalism, all power flowed from the barrel of a gun, usually aimed someone who is obviously and outwardly different. So if you plan to go backwards in time, make sure you have a really huge gun.

    1. +1, bravo, well said.

    2. You oversimplify. Much of the “hate” is an excuse to conquer and take. You find a difference, say those people aren’t worthy, and take.

      Holding yourself above others solidifies your position. Rome wants Gaul, so Rome (Julius specifically) paints them as backward barbarians and conquers them.

      If a people is convinced that “others” are inferior or evil, it makes military adventurism much more palatable to the people.

      1. Oversimplification is expected in a blog post reply. Further, it doesn’t take convincing to make the in-group compete with an out-group, to include the use of violence. In fact, it’s perfectly natural and normal (though perhaps not desired from the standpoint of virtue). Roving bands of chimps beat to death those not from their group, and in psychological experiments, children in a summer camp were convinced with no prodding to compete against another camp’s kids in games that gradually escalated to a point where it had to be called off to prevent violence.

      2. “Much of the hate is an excuse to conquer and take. ”

        I think that the cause and effect are inseparable and indistinguishable here.

        Besides, few people in ancient times needed more than “we are breeding and our kin need their land or resources.” People were “inferior” if and only if you could kill them first.

  11. Another reason for the lack of outrage over Greek and Roman slavery may just be the fog of time. The present day admiration of their cultural and intellectual accomplishments was probable not shared by those they conquered.

    1. The only slaves or ex-slaves who seem to have left records are the house servants, not the ones doing backbreaking labor.

      And in any case the most famous ex-slave author was Epictetus, a philosopher whose worldview precluded whining about his external situation.

      1. Spartacus seems to be pretty well known.

        1. Sure, but the records about him were, as I understand it, written by others, as in by the people who had him and his guys hunted down.

  12. You didn’t figure this out until last year?

    I saw it at least ten years ago. It explains a lot of things: for instance, why American slavery developed into a strict social color bar, which was not found in any of the Latin American societies that practiced slavery. Also the “conquer-or-die” mentality that sprang up among American slavery advocates in the pre-Civil War period.

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