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October 5, 2014

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I think you're going too easy on the founders regarding slavery, Jonathan. This is, of course, America's original sin, and the direct result of the failure of the founders to grapple with it properly led directly to the Civil War. It's really hard to imagine that any 18th century solution would have been worse.

The rhetoric of liberty utilized in both official and informal documents by the founders is compromised by this failing. It is why many of the first political Americans were ultimately tragic figures: the system in which they thrived was eventually smashed, due in no small part to the body of writings they left behind, even if it took 175 years.


I'm in hearty agreement with your market analogy, as I'm sure you can imagine. In reference to your small-town example, many market fundamentalists would argue, roughly, that a community should have precisely the market equilibrium of morality. In other words, if (nearly) the whole town preferred segregated shops, then the efficient quantity of minority shoppers and clerks would be zero. This is a compelling argument on the surface, but is ultimately immoral, I think rather obviously.

Thanks, Jonas. Excellent points! I am not an expert on early American history, but if a compromise on slavery had not been reached, would a constitution bringing the nation together have been possible? Probably not. And that means we would have had at least two separate nations moving in different directions, never to unite. Would that ultimately have been a good or bad thing?

Yeah, the counterfactual here is a really tough one, but it's no question that the seeds of the Civil War were sown in the Constitution. That sainted bloody document might as well have been the death warrant for 600,000 people.

I suppose it is possible to imagine a two-state solution in 1793 in which the North outcompetes the South economically over the following 75 years. This, of course, happened in a way. In a two-state world, maybe the North is able to exert a more effective form of political influence over the South with regards to slavery, especially since, in this period, mercantilism is still prevalent.

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