AMERICA's Fate If Not For Slavery

At first reading, I mistook the thread “Africa’s Fate If Not For Slavery…” for “AMERICA’S fate if not for Slavery” and it made me wonder: most reasonable people would agree that as foresighted and noble as our Founders were, the institutionalizing of slavery (along with the slaughter of the Native American’s) was the US’s greatest shame. But ethics aside, could the US have survived and prospered without the slave trade? For historians and ethicists, this must seem like a double-edged sword: on one hand, you don’t want to minimize the effect slaves had on early US prosperity, but on the other, you want to present the case that the US could and should have done away with slavery from the outset and still have flourished. Any thoughts GDers?

Hmmmm…I have always assumed that the effect of slavery on the economy was a negative one. That slavery as a system is inherently less efficient than a free market, or a close approximation thereof. So I would guess that we would actually be better off economically if it hadn’t been for slavery.

Not everone had slaves, and before there were slaves in the colonies, there were indentured servants. I think that, without slaves, there would have been a lot more of these quasi-slaves (you work a large percentage of your life to work off the cost of crossing the Atlantic – it sounds like a mortgage, only without the points). The big question is “Could a non-slave economy compete with other colonies?”, and I suspect the answer is “yes”. But you have more profits if your workers are slaves, and you have fewer incentives to treat them well, so the trap of slave-holding is irresistable if there are no laws against it.

This sounds a lot like the situation our illegal immigrants are in.