The (True) Origin of Wealth

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    Do you see what I mean? In economic jargon, slavery and exploitation were the “primary public good” that created “positive externalities”…for the true humans, for whites, for masters, to enjoy. The slaves and colonial subjects were the ones investing their labour and sweat, their broken bodies and minds, to ultimately create all those grand things the masters took for granted — whether tea and crumpets or debating halls to propound fine theories in.

    I’ve told you a dismal story so far. It goes like this. Economics keeps asking what the origin of wealth is. And curiously, suspiciously, it began asking that question at just the time the societies asking it were getting rich by enslaving much of the world. Call it a psychological defense mechanism, call it a case of protesting too much…call it a case of not being able to see the obvious.

    The rich world didn’t get rich through some kind of noble virtue — it grew wealthy by taking what was the poor world’s. Minerals and oil and dust and trees and gems. But not just that, and not really that. Labour. Lives. Possibilities.

    You see, we will never know — never — how many Einsteins or Edisons or Salks there might have been among all those lives that were shattered and destroyed. Ever. We have no idea of the possibilities that were lost. They are uncountable and infinite. Who can say what that beautiful mind might have discovered — the one picking the tea? Who can say what that person might have created — the one bent over the mine? What about the one serving the tea, and hammering together the shackle for another slave?

    Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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