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Category: Monticello College Comments: 6

The Abomination of Slavery: An American Condition

Dr. Travis Slade co-authored this post with me.  He is co-founder of Monticello College and the founder of Robert Morris Foundation.  He holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Brigham Young University and a Medical Degree from the University of Utah.  He is a partner in a practice operating at the Ogden Regional Medical Center.
It seems we just can’t avoid the temptation of slavery in America.
Since the establishment of European immigrants on the North American eastern seaboard, slavery has plagued the inhabitants of this continent.  Indeed, for centuries before the Anglos arrived, the indigenous peoples of this continent also indulged in this practice. But that is not the focus of this article.
By the middle of the eighteenth century Anglo abolitionists such as William Wilberforce and American slaveholders such as George Washington were clamoring for an end to slavery. They understood better than most the moral and economic decay this institution created in humanity. But black slavery was the economic foundation and bedrock of the American economy, particularly in the south, and the call to end slavery remained unheeded for another hundred years.
Economic prosperity replaced Christianity as the religion of the growing American Democracy, at least according to Tocqueville, and would dominate all other concerns of the fledgling nation founded on Republican principles from the American Civil War to our time.  But it wasn’t until the first quarter of the 20th century (racial slavery having been abolished 40 years earlier), that a new kind of economy based on a new slavery was conceived and birthed on the American continent.
This new economy is unique in several features: it employs an all-encompassing slavery of day-to-day economics that is not limited by race, gender, or age. It is a national slavery-based economic system, that has the sole purpose of expanding its control over individual citizens and reaping pecuniary benefit from every basic human necessity including but not limited to food, water, shelter, energy, medical care, marriage, inheritance, death, and the process of law.
This new slavery and the economy it supports, is founded upon the idea that government must manage our lives by employing a system of quasi-governmental overlords, enlisting the services of national institutions that do the bidding of their master; encouraging our litigious culture and an adulterated health care philosophy (why does the medical world tolerate our self-induced obesity and horde of other self-inflicted, sedentary lifestyle ailments?).
In fact, many like to blame institutions such as the American Medical Association (AMA) for our disastrous condition, when in fact it is actually the cabal of pharmaceutical companies and government regulation, intervention, and special treatment from agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that are the real culprits.
The American Bar Association (ABA) is another suspected perpetrator but in fact it is more likely a semi-willing entity dominated by a national bureaucracy of agents tainted and lubricated by special interest groups rather than the rule of law guarded by an impartial Lady justice.
Tocqueville prophesied this new slavery would be the foundation of a future economy and predicted that every American would be made thralls by the monolithic monstrosities that have come to dominate the landscape of American life.
Let’s look at Tocqueville’s own words more than 170 years ago:
I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.
Above . . . men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.
For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.
The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people
Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people.
Tocqueville then spends several paragraphs discussing the American form of government and its potential weakness to gravitate towards centralization. This tends to dictate every event in life, here he continues:
It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones, if it were possible to be secure of the one without possessing the other. 
Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will.
Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated; whereas that obedience which is exacted on a few important but rare occasions only exhibits servitude at certain intervals and throws the burden of it upon a small number of men. 
It is in vain to summon a people who have been rendered so dependent on the central power to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity.
I add that they will soon become incapable of exercising the great and only privilege which remains to them. The democratic nations that have introduced freedom into their political constitution at the very time when they were augmenting the despotism of their administrative constitution have been led into strange paradoxes.
To manage those minor affairs in which good sense is all that is wanted, the people are held to be unequal to the task; but when the government of the country is at stake, the people are invested with immense powers; they are alternately made the play things of their ruler, and his masters, more than kings and less than men. Democracy in America Volume 2 (1840), Section 4, Chapter 6
How did Alexis De Tocqueville so accurately predict our current situation?  How could he have seen our current economy supported by a national all-encompassing slavery?
Some will say that things are not so bad and that we are not enslaved, and that in fact, we still live in the greatest nation on earth.
That is not in dispute.  We are only trying to make the case that the America in which we live is not the America created by the founders and that compared to that original America (1789 to 1865), our nation today is a despotic empire.
Indeed, we submit that the inalienable rights and liberties we so infrequently discuss anymore, are but a small handful of those we were supposed to have inherited.
Why is this so hard to fathom?  Predictably, our natural human tendencies have led us to this state.  Fredric Bastiat, the profoundly insightful French economic philosopher, wrote in The Law that two powerful human traits influence the majority of humanity, 1) All people desire to progress and, 2) it is a natural tendency to progress at the expense of others.
We must be naïve indeed to think that these two realities do not dominate the world.  And because they do, slavery (the exploitation of one person by another person or entity for purposeful theft and amassing of wealth, self-gratification, and the concentration of power) exists in all of its myriad forms, including enslavement by centralized government.

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Comments (6)

  • Shelley

    grrr….it always frustrates me when answers and information have been available in plain view for so long, but we were not taught where to find them. I did my best to learn all I could in school, but information such as this wasn’t presented to me as an option (even in AP Government :)) To see our country in a situation that could have been remedied or prevented with the simple power of knowledge is frustrating. I am grateful to be exposing myself to the knowledge and to be sharing it with others and I’m grateful for those further along the path of scholarship that share with me and open my eyes.

    November 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm
  • Velinda

    This hits a chord for me. Anyone watching the recent Presidential election process will have realized that all elections from here on out will be decided by entitlement voters. No one can win without winning the entitlement vote. This is done of course, by promising entitlements (and soft immigration policies). So for the price of a vote, people sell their souls to the government. The entitlements they receive in return are the ultimate form of racism for minorities. It is a statement that “You can’t make it on your own. Let us spoon feed you and keep you subservient, so you will always need us,” (since we will always need your vote). Any candidate that does not promise enough entitlements, will not get elected. Period.
    I am personally in favor of humane immigration policies, with some understanding that there do need to be controls. But the trouble with entitlements is, where do they stop? I predict that no one will be able to make a reasonable stand against this. It will just have to run its course, and people will have to endure the collapse. And that is where Monticello College comes in. Perhaps there will be a Statesman or two prepared to step in when that time comes and offer solutions.

    November 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm
  • Gene F. Danforth

    America has changed. The elements workig to aulter our structured system have been working under cover and right before our eyes for decades.
    My dear mother who is gone now taught me to listen intently to a persons words. The words used make up a persons charater or lack.I am old enough to have the memories in order to compare yesteryear to today. There were tough times when growing up. But there was a freedom that our children never knew and our grandchilden will only hear remnants of.
    Who would have ever thought that we would have our bodies invaded by agents in order to travel by air.
    School has changed. Less history on our founding. The picture of George Washington is not seen in many schools. Students read less and less of those who wrote the Constitution. Socialism has crept into our socety, our government, our academia as if it was a gift from God.
    Teach one youth correct principles of government, family, and Gods influece on the founding of our country and they will
    continue long after we are gone. The battle is intensifying and growing in all manner of vile principles against our very Foundation.
    Patriots will win in the end. Ezra Taft Benson assured of that many years a go.

    November 14, 2012 at 10:13 am
  • Marcos Uboldi

    Shannon & Travis,
    Great article!!! I fully agree with your observations and perpspective. I thought that the U.S. would take a while longer to become like my native country Argentina. Unfortunately, the U.S. is a lot closer to Argentina, in regards to politics, than I thought. What they have done in this election is exactly what they have done in Argentina. Namely, build a huge voting mass w/ entitlements and aid, slowly begin to control the media (this has not fully happened yet, but trust me, it will!!), infringe on private property, and so on….basically it is a brand neo-communism. Well let’s continue to fight and educate ourselves to preserve this great land and the bastion of freedom which it represents. A land which I love, as if it were my own…..Long live the Republic!!!!
    Marcos Uboldi

    November 14, 2012 at 10:52 am
  • Karl Humiston

    Twenty years ago, as an volunteer AARP health-care lobbyist with the Oregon legislature, I had a conversation with a top-level state administrator in which I praised the proposal to establish health savings accounts (HSA’s) of a portion of each person’s healthcare dollars which he could draw on for services of his choice (like acupuncture) which are not covered by the regular medical plan. She said, “Oh, I could never support a thing like that. If people can choose how to spend their money, some of them will make mistakes.” I said no more to her.
    Regarding a conversation in the more distant past, we are told, “That Satan…came before me, saying––Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul is not lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” What is striking is that so many spirits followed him, agreeing that people should be compelled to be good, and should be given no choice. That’s what they still vote for today.
    In other words, it is only natural for mankind to avoid the intensity of agency and prefer the shallows, which tendency must be put off through willingness to submit to all things which our creator sees fit to inflict upon us. Not easy. Not new.
    Karl Humiston, San Diego

    November 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm
  • Jackie S.

    I have decided we are heading for another revolution. When you look at what brought us to the first one it looks like history is repeating itself. Then England was abusing our rights and freedoms. This time it is our own government.
    The answer to the problem, of course, lies in our Constitution. I believe we will ultimately overthrow the current government as it is so corrupt I don’t believe it is worth or can be saved. The bottom up solution takes too long and the masses won’t vote the evil out.

    December 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm

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