THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The "New" Slavery, Part V: Ending Slavery

As we mentioned previously in this short series, William Cobbett, "the Poor Man's Friend," linked slavery to the condition of propertylessness. This, Cobbett claimed, is true whether one is legally a slave, or is nominally a free man or woman who lacks ownership. Without direct ownership of the means of production recognized as a natural right inhering in every human being, "you may call yourself what you will, but you are a slave." Was this just some early 19th century "radical" mouthing off and venting his considerable spleen at the establishment? Or is there substance behind the rant?

Aristotle seems to have agreed with Cobbett's assessment — as did the fathers of the "distributist" movement, G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, who regarded Cobbett as the "Apostle of Distributism." As a matter of fact (if you haven't figured it out already), we, too, believe that Cobbett's analysis is correct. The problem becomes what to do about it.

Again, Cobbett's prescription is, all things considered, pretty much what needs to be done. First, don't be dependent on anyone else for your income, but own a meaningful private property stake of some kind of capital. Second, stay off the welfare rolls, thereby avoiding becoming a slave of the State. Third and finally, live within your means, not becoming a slave of the moneylenders. As Cobbett explained in Advice to Young Men,

The great source of independence, the French express in a precept of three words, 'Vivre de peu,' which I have always very much admired. 'To live upon little' is the great security against slavery; and this precept extends to dress and other things besides food and drink. When DOCTOR JOHNSON wrote his Dictionary, he put in the word pensioner thus: 'PENSIONER — A slave of the state.' After this he himself became a pensioner! And thus, agreeably to his own definition, he lived and died 'a slave of state!' What must this man of great genius, and of great industry too, have felt at receiving this pension! Could he be so callous as not to feel a pang upon seeing his own name placed before his own degrading definition? And what could induce him to submit to this? His wants, his artificial wants, his habit of indulging in the pleasures of the table; his disregard of the precept 'Vivre de peu.' This was the cause; and, be it observed, that indulgences of this sort, while they tend to make men poor and expose them to commit mean acts, tend also to enfeeble the body, and more especially to cloud and to weaken the mind. (Letter I, To A Youth)
This, of course, is something of a contrast to Dr. Kevin Bales's prescription of how to end slavery in the modern world, described in his book, Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2008). Dr. Bales's six-point plan is, all things considered, as good a program that can be developed from within the existing economic and political framework: 1) protecting, 2) arming and 3) cloning the liberators, 4) enacting and 5) enforcing effective antislavery legislation, and 6) helping freed slaves heal.

With all due respect, however (and we mean that — Dr. Bales has done incredible work), the plan does not address the underlying causes of slavery that we have examined in this short series. Dr. Bales appears to take our existing political and, especially, economic institutions for granted.

If someone wanted to help advance Dr. Bales's crusade and quickly bring an end to slavery throughout the world, he or she could do no better than to introduce him to the potential of Capital Homesteading to do that very thing by promoting widespread direct ownership of the means of production.

This does not mean in any way that Dr. Bales's six-point plan isn't essential or would not be effective — but it relies on having other things in place to be able to work to achieve the desired goal. The most important of these "other things" is (as you might expect) access to the means of acquiring and possessing private property in the means of production.

This is what Capital Homesteading is designed to do, and to free humanity not only from the slavery of past savings, but effective "real" slavery, whatever you might want to call it.