by Kavon Fiennes
Slavery, the forced ownership of one human over another together with forced servitude, with one’s service being the rights of another, has been part of human history for thousands of years and still exists openly in many countries today.
The trans-Atlantic slave trade and Western hemispheric chattel slave system was unique in that humans were bought on one side of the world and shipped en masse to the other side, the New World.
It just so happened, by a quirk of genetics, that slaves brought to the West were enslaved by their fellow African Blacks, who then sold them onto purchasers, who happened to be white, in the very lucrative trade of human commodity for African kingdoms.
Slavery Ended in Liberty
Black enslavers sold their fellow Blacks to whoever came to purchase them in the slave markets. In the Americas, slaves were eventually liberated by white governments, as the ideas of Capitalism and the principles of human liberty began to take root in the Western world.
At that same time when there was spread of human liberty in the West from the early to mid 1800s, there existed persistent slavery, oppression, tyranny and authoritarianism in the rest of the world. That is not debatable. Also let us not forget that this liberty (the fundamental principle of Capitalism is human freedom) began in English speaking countries. That too is not debatable.
A minority of commentators credit slavery for the higher standards of living for the average individual of African ancestry in today’s Americas, including the Caribbean, compared with the average African individual of any nationality currently residing on the continent. These commentator are right, as we in present day Jamaica are better off as the descendants of slaves in the New World, whether we care to believe it or not.
On the other hand, the majority of “learned” and “educated” “experts” have unjustly condemned slavery and have theorized that we have been blighted by the legacy of slavery and colonialism. Just read a couple our revered scholars’ and politicians’ works in “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” and “Capitalism and Slavery”, and you get the picture.
The true legacy of slavery for us Caribbean Nationals, descendants of those forcibly enslaved, sold then hauled in shackles and chains across the vast expanse of water, has been the greater freedom and prosperity we enjoy as citizens of the West.
When we compare our lives to the average descendant of those who were left behind in the land of ancestors, those who escaped enslavement as well as the progeny of enslavers, it is clear that we are better off.
Just look at few examples of what governance and living in Africa over the past 100 years has lead to: An existing permanent slave classes in Mauritania and Mali; Civil wars in places like Nigeria, Mozambique, Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone to name a few. Child Soldiers in the Congo and Uganda. Recurrent ethnic war and genocide in Rwanda. Female genital mutilation in many parts of various countries. Mysticism with human albino sacrifices and cannibalism, honour killings, Sharia Law. State or tribal council sponsored and/or enforced oppression of individuals along gender, ethnic, racial and sexual-orientation lines across many of the continent’s countries; not to mention state corruption at higher levels than what exists in the Caribbean. It is not hard to see that we are very fortunate indeed to be free.
Thankfully, many countries on the continent are forging ahead and their darkest days are hopefully behind them.
Post-colonialism’s Legacy is Keynesianism
Now fast forward from the post emancipation period to the pre-independence era, circa WWII. This was a time when our countries’ founding fathers received “education” in the mother countries of Europe. At that time the Keynesian economic theory began to take root, emanating from London.
We have the prevalent and incorrect philosophies of John Maynard Keynes of that era to thank for our current Central planning-central banking-state agencies-big government-burdensome taxation-government borrowing-government spending-model of economic and governance practices.
Keynes believed and Keynesians believe that it is spending and consumption that drives economic growth, especially government spending. This is simply illogical. It is illusionary. If that were true, the big question is, why don’t the governments of our regions just spend away……just spend our way into prosperity?
Stupid really when we think that spending money makes you prosperous. The results of government spending here in Jamaica have been borne out with the consequent J$1.8 trillion national debt at the end of 2013. The more I, Kavon Fiennes spend, the less I have.
Consumption, when one thinks about it rationally is destructive. The reason is two fold, it destroys my earnings and it destroys a product if I consume it. Likewise, on a side note, hurricanes and war do not spur prosperity because assets are destroyed.
The argument by Keynesians is that it is up to the government to take our money and to direct it into meaningfully use, even if we want to hold onto to it in our bank account. We will be fined or imprisoned if we withhold it from the taxman. This activity by government is always for the common good of society.
Let’s say that Keynes were correct, which he was not, I can’t think of one example where government spending of my tax dollars is efficient. I await some refutation of that statement with evidence. If the government took say $1000 dollars from me via a tax, does it end up spending an equivalent $1000 on the other end? Absolutely not. How long does it take to come out the other end? It does not add up does it?
Additionally, logically and rationally if spending really drove the economy, shouldn’t the efficient spending of dollars by me be better than the government taxing me for it, to then inefficiently appropriating my own dollars it just took away for the betterment of all of us?
It is confusing that we are still on this path, as I previously highlighted a Bank of Jamaica report showing that government spending does help the Jamaican economy.
Reparations are not a Panacea
Our region’s leaders want reparations for the legacy of slavery and colonialism. If we were recently liberated slaves I would tend to agree with them and certainly if we were still colonies of European countries they would bear the ultimate responsibility for our welfare and current plight.
Unfortunately, we chose to leave our colonial masters and go our own way. Even if, God forbid, the current Sir Hilary Beckles-led CARICOM Reparations Committee were successful in their social justice crusade for reparations, our leaders would find a way to waste the money on big programmes, mega-projects, as well as to expand and create new welfare programs to ensure the electorate’s dependence on their handouts.
Reparations will not solve a damn thing, because the lasting legacy of colonialism in present day West Indies is Keynesianism coupled with statism, and that will not be undone without a new crop of regional leaders and intellectuals indoctrinated in Capitalism and conservativism. The way of free markets, free trade, free enterprise and limited government will be our only salvation. That will not happen in our generation.
We need to revisit the legacy of slavery.
Kavon Fiennes is creator of the RightFromYaad blog. He is a 30-something year old ‘Black’, sometimes ‘Brown’, Jamaican. He is a former socialist, nationalist and Democrat, turned Libertarian and semi-conservative since his mid 20′s. He is losing his lingering left-wing views on the way society ought to treat the destitute and elderly.