Frederick Douglass on What He Learned from Adam Smith
By David Henderson
The old doctrine that the slavery of the black, is essential to the freedom of the white race, can maintain itself only in the presence of slavery, where interest and prejudice are the controlling powers, but it stands condemned equally by reason and experience. The statesmanship of to-day condemns and repudiates it as a shallow pretext for oppression. It belongs with the commercial fallacies long ago exposed by Adam Smith. It stands on a level with the contemptible notion, that every crumb of bread that goes into another man’s mouth, is just so much bread taken from mine. Whereas, the rule is in this country of abundant land, the more mouths you have, the more money you can put into your pocket, the more I can put into mine. As with political economy, so with civil and political rights.
This is from the famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, November 17, 1864.
Douglass is taking on the idea that we are in a zero-sum game. If we were, it would be more understandable why some people would want others enslaved. What Douglass understands is that both sides gain from exchange.
HT to David Beito.