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Thursday, December 21, 2006

America's Servants

Phyllis Schlafley is a woman to admire, except when she is crazy. This thought came to mind as I read her recent column on the injustice of allowing an increase in the number of H-1B visas, the visa which permits high-tech industry to import foreign tech workers at incredibly low wages.

Now, it is certainly the case that industry’s latest attempt to skim the cream of foreign workers from their homelands is unjust, but Schlafley’s reasons for opposing the attempt are nothing short of ludicrous.

She claims that such an expansion amounts to indentured servitude, wage slavery, which is “a form of servitude that offends the free enterprise that made the United States the economic world leader.”

Let us leave aside the argument about whether H-1B visas actually create such indentured servitude, and just look at the history.

The New Deal: FDR's Story

The United States was founded on the backs of slaves and indentured servants. By one estimate, three-fourths of the white population were indentured servants when they arrived in the New World. Indeed, many sailed without a contract – if they couldn’t find work, the ship’s captain could sell them to whomever he pleased. Similarly, from the 17th century through the 1808 federal ban, slaves were sold throughout every one of the original thirteen colonies.

But America did not rise to greatness on contractual and legal slavery alone. We also used drugs to enslave foreigners.

The successful circumnavigation of the globe in 1522 fundamentally changed commerce. By the late 1700's and early 1800’s, global trade had become a real possibility. As it turned out, China had much to sell the West, but the West produced virtually nothing China needed or wanted. As British and American citizens consumed tea in great quantity but failed to produce anything the Chinese wanted, the threatening imbalance of trade between East and West became acute.

Both British and American companies solved the problem by illegally importing opium into the Chinese mainland. Chinese officials had long outlawed the drug because they recognized it as a poison. By the late 1700's, however, Britain had control of India’s poppy fields and her navy made it possible to smuggle tons of the stuff across the Chinese border and into Chinese harbors. American businessmen, having no access to Indian poppies, dealt themselves into the illegal drug trade by encouraging Turkish farmers to plant poppies so they, too, could grab part of the drug business.

China responded by confiscating and destroying the huge opium stocks in British warehouses on Chinese soil. Britain went to war to recover the cost of the lost opium, not once, but twice (1839-1842 and 1856-1860). The resulting British victories not only opened Chinese ports to the Western importation of opium, it also gave American citizen Warren Delano, FDR’s grandfather, the enormous wealth which FDR would use to such excellent effect in his own presidential election campaigns. In short, it is not too incorrect to say that FDR's presidency was made possible in part via drugged Chinese slaves.

A Made Hand

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Even as legal slavery was abolished in the United States, the practice of wage slavery in Northern industrial factories mushroomed. By the time of the Great Depression, it was not at all difficult to find entire towns dedicated to soaking the factory employee. The factory town, occupied solely by factory workers whose every payment found its way back into the factory owners' pocket, is well-known in song and story. The factory might pay their workers a wage, but that wage was quickly swallowed up by rent payments to the company for housing, by food costs in the company store, and by the various fees the company town charged its virtually captive inhabitants.

Ultimately, this need for factory labor, men and women who were unable to produce anything apart from the factory, and would therefore consume all that the factory produced, was the driving force behind the creation of the public school system. Like their late 19th-century forebears, today’s schools are designed and intended to create needy, semi-skilled consumers, not educated, confidant, self-reliant entrepreneurs.

In short, it is a myth that America was built on the back of independent or entrepreneurial individuals. In fact, it was built on the back of various forms of slave labor. That is how it started, that is how it grew to greatness, that is how it maintains its greatness today. We are an economic powerhouse precisely because we have created the perfect society of slaves – men and women who seek happiness by building walls of consumable goods around themselves.

If freedom is money or creature comforts, than America is a free country. If there is something more to freedom than just raw economics, than America is not free. But in either case, we cannot assert that America is built on anything other than slavery and indentured servitude, for that is her history.

1 comment:

jimac2 said...

That is certainly the silliest collection of untruths, illogic and plain stupidity I have ever read.
Quoting Mr. T (the highest intellectual level the article rates), I say about the author: "I pity the fool".