The Abomination of Slavery: An American Conditionwebdev
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.