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We are refered to this

By our Bloke who insists on just printing more money and indexing everything:

There’s a final observation from Allen’s paper that’s worth pointing out. Allen finds that the $1.90/day (PPP) line is lower than the level of consumption of enslaved people in the United States in the 19th century. In other words, the poverty threshold the World Bank uses, and which underpins the progress narrative, is below the level of enslavement. It is striking that anyone would accept this as a reasonable benchmark for “progress” in a civilized society.

Well, yes, it was. It’s an argument that Jefferson Davis and other apologists used. “The Great Natural Increase”. There were some 400,000 enslaved Africans landed in what was to become the US. That became many millions and then many tens of millions. Given basic Malthusian observations that means that the living standards of those slaves – for all the horror of their being slaves – must have been considerably above subsistence poverty levels.

David Starkey – intemperately – used this argument on TV and got canceled as a result. It is still true tho’ – as Jason Hickel reminds us.

10 thoughts on “We are refered to this”

  1. In other words, had the wicked whites just restricted themselves to indenturing white paupers and convicts to supply their labour force, the surplus black population of Africa would have had no descendants.

  2. @Bb: the assumption was at one time that there were limits on the use of whites set by the weather and tropical diseases. (You’ll remember comparable arguments being made in Queensland’s history.)

    What I don’t know is whether the tropical disease problem in the Old South and the Deep South was caused, at least in part, by importing Africans.

  3. dearieme. I was glancing through O’Neill’s ‘Plagues and Peoples’ while I was in Western Australia ( well yes. Taking about half a century to getting around to reading a book IS pretty standard for me) and he did imply that at least yellow fever was an African import.

    Dunno about malaria. This was prevalent in Europe and Africa. But if it didn’t arrive with Europeans, it’d certainly have come with the Africans.

    Of course he claimed that the general run of European diseases was also extremely lethal to the Injuns. So the Spanish needed to import some other source of labour. I understand that the crucial fact here was that Africans were not Christians, so they could be enslaved.

  4. Bb

    Also the locals and indemtured Britsweren’t physicaly strong or hardy enough for the hard work in extreme heat demanded. This is why Africans were especially imported for the sugar plantations as they could be relied upon not to fall into the crusher or suddenly drop dead.

    I’ve just been reading about the army in the 18th Century. Deployments to the East and West Indies meant that 1/6th of the strength was guaranteed to die, not including those incapacitated. One regiment returned from St Lucia ( or St Kitts, I forget which ) and left 750 out of 900 buried behind.

  5. Otto

    The whites seemed perfectly capable of cutting sugar cane in North Queensland. Of course this was after the importing of Pacific Islanders to do this was banned. (As you’ve guessed, I’ve never cut cane in my life!!)

    One may also note that mechanical cane harvesting was pioneered in Oz.

    So I’d argue that whites MIGHT have been able to handle work in the Tropics. Although I’d certainly agree that the Africans’d handle it better.

    But I’d definitely agree that they couldn’t stand the tropical diseases anywhere near as well as the blacks. I’ve amused myself by reading some of Fortescue’s History of the British Army, and I agree that the casualty rate of the British regiments in the West Indies was colossal. The figures you quote for that regiment in St Lucia or whatever were pretty standard.

  6. The slaveowners had a vested interest in keeping their slaves adequately, albeit cheaply, fed – so significantly above starvation levels – and in adequate health. So their consumption levels would be above the “extreme poverty” line.
    Why should anyone be surprised?

  7. Can I commend our blogger for taking what he dishes out?

    Isn’t the point that if slavery was such an improvement, Africans should have been presenting themselves voluntarily to slavers? If slavery was so much better than living in Africa, why did slavers even need chains?

  8. Are you saying capitalism failed at efficiency (i.e., failed to sell slavery as better than freedom to live as your ancestors), and so just used coercion instead?

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