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Economic Variables

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There is much to be said about Matthew Desmond’s New York Times essay on how slavery shaped the U.S. economy, which is a very interesting read even if much of its argument is fanciful in its parallelism, e.g.: Antebellum slave overseers developed quantitative tools for measuring slaves’ productivity, modern corporations use quantitative tools for measuring workers’ productivity, ergo . . . ? The difference between slavery and non-slave labor is so radical and so fundamental that comparisons between the two are not very illuminating in most cases.

One or two general points come to mind.

There are many good criticisms to make of the U.S. economy and its work practices. This is not one of them:

Consider worker rights in different capitalist nations. In Iceland, 90 percent of wage and salaried workers belong to trade unions authorized to fight for living wages and fair working conditions. Thirty-four percent of Italian workers are unionized, as are 26 percent of Canadian workers. Only 10 percent of American wage and salaried workers carry union cards.

The median household income in the United States is 25 percent higher than it is in Iceland. Average incomes are higher in the United States than........

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