America’s historical bias for property rights of individuals and corporations was influenced by centuries of institutional support for slavery from multiple factions. This bias has led to the gutting of our industrial base that now promises to lower the living standard of every American and, more importantly, threatens to destroy our national sovereignty.
Our 370 year struggle against slavery demonstrates the severity of misjudgment that America’s courts and legislatures have been capable of, and the extremes to which government and business leadership has denied universal freedoms in the pursuit of profits. The denial of individual freedoms over the course of American slavery is now being paralleled by the denial of individual economic freedoms resulting from corporate globalization profiteering and forebodes a loss of national sovereignty that could result from the pursuit of profiteering in the coming manipulations of carbon cap and trade.
America’s struggle against slavery pitted the property rights of individuals pursuing financial gain with the universal rights of freedom for all Americans. From the 1500s, when European governments and businesses conspired to enslave Africans as property to be transferred across international boundaries for financial gain until modern times, our courts, legislatures, and businesses have been forced by the American people to slowly progress toward a greater acknowledgement of the equality of mankind.
In a continuation of the history of slavery, seventeenth century EurAmerican governments and businesses were lured by greed to pursue international slave trade. By 1641, in the midst of multinational corporations establishing charter colonies to exploit the Americas, the Massachusetts legislature enacted the first colonial law establishing slaves as property, and Virginia courts followed suit two years later by declaring children of slaves to also be property.
By 1730, England aggressively entered the slave trade selling to thriving slave traders in New York, Massachusetts and South Carolina. Yet the corrupted idea that humans should be property of other humans was not universally accepted by all colonies. As early as 1676, enlightened Quakers prohibited slavery in western New Jersey. With their influence, in 1780, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania compromised a gradual taking of “private property” from slave owners with their understanding that all men of differing complexions have the mercy of universal civilization under the hand of the almighty, by passing the Gradual Emancipation Act which gave freedom to all Pennsylvania slaves over a seven year period. Knowing that their ability to cash in from the sale of slaves was about to end, slave owners starting crossing the border to sell their “property” in slave states. In 1788, the Pennsylvania Quakers once again stood forward in history to stop cross border selling of “slave property” by forbidding removal of blacks from the state.
The 1791 invention of the cotton gin made slavery a much greater financial temptation and aligned state governments and businesses according to slavery’s financial benefits, with states taking sides up until the Supreme Court declared in the 1857 Dred Scott decision that even free blacks could never be citizens of the United States.
Dred Scott led to the American Civil War, where 600,000 Americans gave their lives to resolve the issue as to whether America would ever consider people property again. When the war ended, Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery in 1865 and the landmark Fourteenth Amendment that defined American citizenship, including former slaves and free blacks as citizens in 1868.
After the milestone of the civil war, African Americans would then endure another 100 years of deep-rooted bigotry until additional legal and legislative milestones of the 1950’s and 1960s prepared America for forty years of healing leading to the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. America demonstrated through the election of President Obama that over a period of centuries, with the participation of millions of citizens in protests and debates, organized societies and civil disobedience, sit-ins and marches, black churches and underground railroads, publications and uprisings, political activism and yes, civil war, we could affect a positive change from our courts, legislatures, and businesses toward the concept of universal individual freedoms over the rights of individuals and corporations to claim property rights for profiteering.
As the milestones for individual freedoms were accomplished in the 1960s, a paralleling long struggle for national sovereignty began. The eventual need for this movement was set in motion in 1861 by the invention of oil refining which provided the basis for the industrial revolution. Through hydrocarbon driven machinery, EurAmerica replaced the enslavement of mankind with the subjugation of energy. A gallon of gasoline that could do the work of 500 men became the new slave of the industrialized world. Certainly, western countries continued to subjugate millions in emerging countries, first through colonization and then after WWII, when Europe was forced to decolonize, through financial hegemony of IMF and World Bank loans, subjugating emerging countries to low wages and sub-value payments for commodity exports. However, hydrocarbons enslaved much more motive force than human slavery ever could.
It was in this environment, accelerating from 1978 until the world’s Great Recession of 2008, that wealthy individual and American multinational corporations claimed property rights of trillions of dollars of American financial capital and many trillions of dollars more of intellectual capital, that has yet to even be realized, and transferred them across international borders in the pursuit of personal and institutional gain. In the process, millions of American jobs were lost and American industry was gutted. Over 40,000 factories have been transferred to China in the past decade alone.
However, unlike the millions of Americans that organized in so many ways to fight for the abolishment of slavery, during the last thirty years of transferring American property across international borders for personal gain, America has stood by while our national sovereignty has been weakened. For the mere exchange of “glass trinkets”, our multinational corporations have transferred to other nations countless innovations and trade secrets that have in the process given away a decade’s long, perhaps centuries long, stream of jobs and an exponential advancement of innovation to other nations. While the proverbial horses by now have trotted far out into the foreign fields, it is still not too late to close the barn door and to begin rebuilding an American future of protected ingenuity.
The institution of slavery destroyed the lives and individual freedoms of millions of African Americans and its vestiges continue to impact suffering in the African American community. In the three centuries preceding the 1978 Great Gold Rush to China, it also forebode the economic suffering that would eventually harm all of America, affecting the African American community worst.
Slavery shaped America’s concepts of property rights, what is the property of the individual versus what is to be protected by the state. In that struggle, the ideas born by persons employed in corporations became the property of corporations to be transferred freely to other nations, with the exception of ideas that clearly pertained to national security. However, that view of property rights lobbied by America’s businesses, has allowed the historic gutting of America that has collectively created a national security risk now threatening the economic sovereignty if America.
Even as American businesses participated in the simultaneous building of China’s future industrial infrastructure while gutting America’s future, China pursued the development of hegemonic hydrocarbon contracts for her needed growth. She is developing military strength to prepare for harboring of petrol shipping lanes and implementing strategies to wrest control of diminishing oil reserves from western empires. It now appears that Americans may live through violent shifts of world economies as the East gathers control of the West’s petrol-power.
In the last three great wars in which America has participated, the deciding factor was not the size of America’s military at the start of war, but rather the capacity of America’s overwhelming industrial base that quickly transformed to support the endurance of our freshly formed military. The United States now has the greatest military footprint ever assembled but Japan showed the world that our existing strength was vulnerable to first strikes. Our ability to turn our nation’s industrial strength toward military response was our greatest threat to would be rivals. Thirty years and tens of thousands of factory transfers later, our concept of property rights has allowed America’s responsive industrial strength to wither, jeopardizing our entire nation’s freedom.
Through the morass of 300 years of biased property rights legal precedence, America asked our courts and Congress to ensure that the historic temptation of businesses to transfer massive values of property to China and other developing nations would not interfere with the rights of all Americans to the fruits of American ingenuity, innovation and prosperity, paid for with the blood of our forefathers in the wars and struggles for human freedom and universal rights. We came up short.
America has but a limited view of sovereign protections regarding property rights. We are now debating the premise of saving the planet by trading to other nations our rights to consume hydrocarbons through a carbon cap and trade program. Make no mistake, oil is the modern slave of all mankind and will be consumed until it is fully depleted by one country or another without regard for our planet. Cap and trade will allow those who have polluted in the past to claim property rights to future pollution and transfer those property rights to other nations. In so doing, cap and trade will take remaining economic sovereignty away from the people of the United States and give it to a few businesses to trade our ability to enslave remaining decades of hydrocarbons to other nations in exchange for a few more glass trinkets.
As America enters into our coming economic crisis, remember we can strengthen our barn and rebuild. We can protect against further gutting of business through comprehensive property rights reform. We certainly can protect America’s sovereignty by protecting our abilities to responsibly consume hydrocarbons. The struggle against slavery shows that what is entailed in reversing America’s plight is epic. However, our coming economic struggle will be cause for such epic proportions.