Adam Smith On Slavery,Imperialism

Discussion in 'IntroSpectrum' started by Crates, Jul 31, 2008.

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  1. Crates

    Crates Well-Known Member

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    I've often heard some anti-capitalist equate capitalism with slavery and imperialism as if colonialism is a part of capitalism. But according to this info,Adam Smith the father of capitalism,had various reasons for being against both slavery and colonialism. For those familiar with Smith's teachings how accurate is this info?
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  2. Offbeat

    Offbeat New Member

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    i think in a true, 100% capitalistic society, it's very likely we would all be at the least very impovershed and at worst slaves.

    so i think government control over some aspects of the economy is a good idea. technically, it does go against my conservative principles of the free market but without it we'de essentially have a handful of people in permanent power and everyone else in permanent servitude.

    getting back to the topic...

    i think it's an interesting take but it obviously had its advantages or else i don't think they would do it.

    slavery was probably a disadvantage to some industries, probably in the food & tobacco buisness because they did increase costs and they would probably get a decent chunk of the pay of a slave back through purchase of the owner's products but for the cotton, or fieldwork industry it was probably postive.

    of course just having a slave as a butler wasn't for economic gain but for convinence.
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  3. Crates

    Crates Well-Known Member

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    One thing people have to keep in mind is that in order for capitalism to be effective it must be combined with laws to make it work such as the enforcement of the rule of law and property rights. Capitalism also goes better with a democratic transparent political system that fights corruption. The most successful capitalist countries have these things in common.

    As far a regulations. I have no problem with reasonable regulations that aren't counter productive for the economy.
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  4. McGirth

    McGirth New Member

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    Did Adam Smith believe in free market for every type of good/service imaginable?

    It seems to me that free market does not mean that every 'thing' or even non-thing (like copyrighted material) should be made free market.

    If something does not qualify as property, is does not make sense for it to qualify as free market.

    If anything, Smith's observation on slaves illustrates this point, not only is slavery inhumane and morally wrong from a natural law point of view, but its also economically inefficient to qualify something as 'property' (a human being) that inherently is not property and to therefore subject it to free trade (slave market) as an object (a thing) as opposed to a subject (a person, who may engage in trade of their goods or labor).

    I think we can take the question today, "should this qualify as property or not and therefore be subject to free trade", to other types of goods. For instance, the wireless spectrum, genetic sequences, oil, songs, securities, etc. Basically, anything that is not clear-cut property from an 18th C perspective.

    Also, I wonder if he accounted for things like interactions between capitalism in some states in free trade with other states with state organized economics, Basically, open markets between states. Or even individuals conducting trade through the internet, in spite of the lack of existence of said market, through third party states.

    Was Smith's system meant to be for closed state-systems, or is free-trade within a state meant to interact with states that lack free trade?


    I think its important to work out which types of goods should be subject to the free market (for instance, labor), whereas others perhaps should not be (i.e. oil).
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  5. Crates

    Crates Well-Known Member

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    It can be tricky answering some of those questions because the economies and gov'ts that came in the 20th century didn't exist during Smith's era. There were no communist countries back then for example. I think Smith would recommend for the economic reasons that he's known for for those closed economies to "open up" which has happened a good deal since the collapse of the Soviet Union.


    As far as oil we should look at the results of oil nationalization in various countries. Oil nationalization has been problematic in some countries because it's bread corruption and caused inefficiency problems in some countries like Mexico and Venezuela. Norway seems to have a better situation with their nationalized oil because they were already a developed democracy before finding oil but I've read that even they have a certain amount of privately owned oil companies.
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  6. Offbeat

    Offbeat New Member

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    agreed. but what we have in the us isnt true capitalism.

    thats why it's effective, a 100% capitalistic society would have no rule of law.
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  7. McGirth

    McGirth New Member

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    agreed. i think economists need to dig deep in Smith's ideas to find the underlying principles and reasons for his conclusions about free trade, then apply the underlying logic to today's situation.

    Is the US/western states possible nationalization even comparable to developing states nationalizing? I would think your third example, Norway, is most comparable.


    Some would argue, oil companies and foreign states like Saudi Arabia included, that they should be able to charge whatever they want for oil since they exercise physical control over it. (i.e. they have it in their possession.) Oil should therefore be considered property, just like a chattel, and thus entered into a free market type scenario just like any other property.

    But is oil really pure property that should therefore be subject to the free market completely?

    One argument is that
    It seems almost as if Oil is a basic necessity in a modern economy, much how food/water/shelter are the basics in a very basic society. When oil prices skyrocket, people's lives and the economy is crippled. Pretty much every western democracy has a precedent set for those in need when it comes to food/shelter. For those who cannot provide themselves with these basic things, we provide it for them, so they can get back onto their own two feet. Maybe oil is like food to our modern economy, its a requirement for basic living.
    I'm not sure how strong this argument is though at the individual level, but it does seem strong by analogy at a state wide level (the state NEEDS reasonably priced oil to function).


    A second argument asks 'why should the possessor of the good derive all the benefit from it?'

    If we ask the question, 'why is Oil valuable?',
    the reason is due to industrial processes, largely developed in the US by much intellectual labor, which rendered oil a key ingredient in today's economy. What is oil without the automobile? without planes? without plastics? Its just worthless black goop.

    While state's like Iran/Venezuela derive 99% of the benefit from oil's uses, which were in fact generated by US inventors, the US is basically fitting the total bill for oil, despite being the primary state which rendered oil valuable in the first place, by developing so many useful ways of using the stuff.

    Why should the person who just happens to have been sitting a good, which otherwise would have no value to them, derive all the benefit from such goods?
    Especially when they seem to be deriving much of the benefit through brinksmanship (acting, perhaps fakely so, crazy and irrational, so as to introduce unpredictability into the market and drive up prices).

    This sort of question is posed and answered in 3 other areas of property law already: mining rights, air space, publicity rights.

    1-For airspace, while the traditional definition calls for people owning the air space above their land, regulations make it so air planes can pass in this space, which would otherwise be totally useless to the owner of the land. (i.e. it would not even be used). In the case of airspace, the owner/possessor DOES NOT derive the benefit simply by being the possessor/owner of the land beneath. It would frankly be unjust, not to mention crippling to the economy, to have every land owner be able to hold the airline industry hostage from having planes fly overhead. Maybe oil should be considered similarly to air space.

    2-The exact same thing is often the case for mining rights. Just because you happen to own land, does not necessarily mean you have a right to mine it.

    3-For publicity rights. A photographer takes a picture of a celebrity. They are thus in possession of their work of art, the photograph. But who created the benefit of this work of art? The photographer, or the celebrity, who through the deliberate planning of their public image, created value in the photograph. Its not clear here who should derive the benefit, the photographer who is the possesor, or the celebrity, who crafted their public persona and made their image valuable in the first place. Maybe oil should be considered to a photograph, which its not the people that pump the oil who make it inherently valuable.

    At a theoretical level, it all depends what you think the core idea of property is:
    1-Exclusion (the possessor should retain all the rights, thus Saudi Arabia/Oil companies should derive 100% profits from oil). This is the Libertarian model of property.

    2-Labour (the possessor should have some rights to the fruits, but those who laboured to make oil valuable in the first place, i.e. the US and its citizens, should profit from oil as well and should not be taken to the cleaners, and if they are, well then perhaps things like nationalization/wars become justified). This is Lockean version of property based on labour.
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  8. Attesycle

    Attesycle New Member

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    Hello, New here just wanted to say hi

    hello everybody

    New here, hope im made welcome :)
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  9. Carpe Noctem

    Carpe Noctem Neos Helios

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    You'll be gone soon, spam boy.

    Just let me catch you slippin
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  10. Crates

    Crates Well-Known Member

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    ^
    Na just forgot I had posted this before on here. This was from 2 years ago. Can't remember everything I posted 2 years ago.

    How did Attesycle manage to dig this thread up anyway just to say hi??
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