Types of Slavery

Updated on Juneteenth, 2016

St. George Tucker fought valiantly in the American War of Independence, served in James Madison’s administration, and wrote an excellent treatise on the forms of slavery from a Classical Republican perspective.

Civil Slavery
“Civil liberty ... being no other than natural liberty so far restrained by human laws, and no farther, as is necessary and expedient for the general advantage of the public, whenever that liberty is, by the laws of the state, further restrained than is necessary and expedient for the general advantage, a state of civil slavery commences immediately: this may affect the whole society, and every description of persons in it, and yet the constitution of the state be perfectly free. And this happens whenever the laws of a state respect the form, or energy of the government, more than the happiness of the citizen.”

The concept of "needless burden," implicit in the definition of civil slavery, links the concepts of bureaucracy and corruption.  When bureaucracy achieves vast complexity and obscurantism, it easily becomes a means by which bad actors can engage in corrupt behavior.  Instead of one private individual bribing another to gain a small and specific advantage, a private individual (or cabal of private interests) can bribe a bureaucrat and thereby alter the operation of government to their advantage.  Thus, in arcane passages of the Internal Revenue Code, rules exist that ensure the transfer of the nation's wealth from the poor to the wealthy, and rules exist that subsidize the relocation of American industries to slave-wage nations and rules exist that subsidize the importation of foreign "guest workers" to take jobs from native-born Americans.  The latter is a concept that borrows from the practice in Saudi Arabia -- one of the most brutal slave nations in the world -- where Filipinos and others are lured into the country by the promise of better wages than they can have at home, but are deprived of their liberties.

Political Slavery
“When a nation is, from any external cause, deprived of the right of being governed by its own laws, only, such a nation may be considered as in a state of political slavery. Such is the state of conquered countries, and, generally, of colonies, and other dependent governments.”

Chattel Slavery
Classical Republican philosophy cannot be reconciled with the existence of African slavery, unless we first “degrade” Africans “below the rank of human beings, not only politically, but also physically and morally. . . . The Roman lawyers look upon those only properly as persons, who are free, putting slaves into the rank of goods and chattels; and the policy of our legislature, as well as the practise of slave-holders in America in general, seems conformable to that idea: but surely it is time we should admit the evidence of moral truth, and learn to regard them as our fellow men.”

The philosophy of Neoliberalism holds that labor itself is a commodity, and that powerful economic actors can scour the globe to purchase this commodity at the lowest price.  This is mistakenly viewed as the exercise of "free markets" but is in fact the fruit of civil and political slavery, in which government has become captive to oligarchs, and all citizens are no longer regarded as equals.  

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