Whereas Marx rejected chattel slavery and extrapolated a long historical march to an eventual socialist reordering through revolutionary upheaval, Fitzhugh saw a readily available alternative. “Slavery is a form, and the very best form, of socialism,” he explained. Wage labor, he predicted, would be forever insufficient to meet the needs of the laborer due to deprivation of his products from his skill. Slavery, to Fitzhugh’s convenience, could step in and fill the gap through the paternalistic provision of necessities for the enslaved, allegedly removing the “greed” of wage exploitation from the process.
Since slaves became the charge of the slave master and were placed under his care for food and shelter, Fitzhugh reasoned that “slaves consume more of the results of their own labor than laborers at the North.” Plantation slavery, according to this contorted line of thinking, thereby mitigated the “exploitation” of wage labor capitalism and returned a greater portion of the posited surplus value. In the Marxian counterpart, a socialist state fulfills a similar function.
– Phillip W. Magness, The Anti-Capitalist Ideology of Slavery
Phillip W. Magness is Senior Research Faculty and Director of Research and Education at the American Institute for Economic Research. He is also a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He holds a PhD and MPP from George Mason University’s School of Public Policy, and a BA from the University of St. Thomas (Houston). Prior to joining AIER, Dr. Magness spent over a decade teaching public policy, economics, and international trade at institutions including American University, George Mason University, and Berry College.
Phillip W. Magness at the American Institute for Economic Research: AIER.org