Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What makes a President "The Worst"

So as usual, this is a segment of a conversation I wanted to share. I do not frequently share my opinion on slavery because it is not a position I feel any need to push on people, and too often feel it can come across as mere flamebait. However, in the right context, it seems appropriate to share.

Note, the italics here are quotes from one of a number of posts about this issue in a discussion on slashdot linked above.

Boronx writes:

think Lincoln raped our constitution pretty hard with regard to interpretation the voluntary nature of statehood, state sovereignty, 9th & 10th amendments,

Besides the disaster your interpretation would have created, it's not born out in the Constitution, since Amendments 10 and 9 refer to powers not enumerated in the Constitution, but the power to dispose of US territory is given to Congress in Article 4.

I am not trying to justify slavery, just that had there been any other means to that end would have been preferable.

Of course the South should have pursued other options instead of open hostilities, as a democratic people should have, but a people whose economy rests on the back of slaves can't be democratic.

Also, very little of the civil war had to do with slavery, and much more to do with a federal power grab, to over-simplify the issue.

By federal power grab you mean the attempt to limit the growth of slave states, am I right?

My response:

I hope this isn't a complete butcher, but my understanding of the 9th and 10th amendments were to reiterate that the constitution was a contract that created a federal government whose only powers where those that were explicitly stated in the constitution, and nothing else. If it wasn't a right named as such in the constitution, then that means on whatever that issue was, the federal government had no such power. Further, if it was an issue not addressed by the states, the federal government still did not have the power to come in and have their way.
Of course the South should have pursued other options instead of open hostilities, as a democratic people should have, but a people whose economy rests on the back of slaves can't be democratic.
Not sure what you mean with by 'open hostilities', or at least not which in particular, but in this context I think the important issue was that the north invaded the South, not the other way around. I also don't see how this was a democratic thing at all. The north spent drastically more on the war than the south. The south not only had home field advantage, but while many people volunteered in the revolutionary war, the armies of the north were all conscripted. There were terrible morale issues, and Lincoln didn't care how much was lost for the north to win.

And to look at it a completely different way, I think it is difficult to put slavery into perspective these days. We think about slavery as these plantations with many hundreds of slaves that were abused. That was not the only kind of slavery. I will apologize in advance for not having any references, but to my knowledge, abuse of slaves only took place on plantations with 500 or more slaves. This isn't to say that slavery is right, but look at the times: It was work that guaranteed food and housing. Yes, slaves were less than citizens, but at a tool, property, equipment or farm animal, it would be in the best interest of any slave owner to ensure the best health and well being of slaves. People are expensive to take care of, and good slaves are were expensive. Animals that are intended for food are abused a lot more, but what good is a dog or a horse that you abuse all day? And how bad is a farmer burned if a horse or dog dies?

Let us compare that world, to what was going on in the north, and in the west. In the north, you had factories. There were no safety standards, child labor laws, minimum wage laws, overtime pay, 2 day weekends, medical leave, non-discrimination, or anything else. You lost a finger or hand, you were fired and easily replaced. If you died, there was no liability to the employer. A place to eat, sleep, or bathe came out of your pay if you could afford it, and employers could do whatever they want to get the work done. And there were a plenty of people desperate to work. When it is impossible to make a livable wage, there is no freedom. Meanwhile companies were making big money, but market entrance was prohibitively expensive.

In the mid-west to west, we got the rail roads. More out doors than factory work, but not only was there no room or board, but 6 month accounting cycle, and 6 month pay cycles. You had to work your first year before seeing a pay check. Not only were accidents frequent, but there are many stories of railroads across the country being built without ever having to pay a single person (mostly Chinese) because of planned accidents for workers nearing that first anniversary.

This tells me it was a bad time to be a poor immigrant in the US PERIOD. Didn't matter how you got here. Personally, I think the treatment of the Chinese was the worst of any group of people, but it is really on par with factory work. The reality I see? The slaves got the closest thing to a livable wage of any minority group.
By federal power grab you mean the attempt to limit the growth of slave states, am I right?

I mean the right of the federal government to declare war against a state that no longer wants to be a member of a union that wants to force them to subsidize a struggling industrial revolution going on in another part of the country that produces a drastically more expensive and inferior product than what could be bought it Europe. A more appropriate word for Lincoln that could hold some respect, American Patriot. "A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against the government". Maybe give him that. He just said "Fuck the law, this is what we are doing, and really sucks to be you if you disagree with me". If that is why you think you think he was a great president, then fine. If you think that whatever he took, or what else he may have done, if he is responsible for freeing the slaves, then all else is forgiven, then fine. I am just not going to completely agree. for the sake that too many presidents have followed in his footsteps and taken whatever means necessary to do whatever they felt like in their position of power.

Yay for these guys with all these "great ideas", but just as a political theory, it might be really interesting to see a president that worked as hard to be seen as that guy that brought great honor and respect to the Constitution.

I don't think it is a requirement to be a rebel to be a leader, but I wouldn't be surprised to be wrong.

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