Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Follow the Money!!

I am continually reminded about how often I am wrong. (I keep hoping this awareness makes me smarter.) Today I am indebted to Sam Smith.
For example, when asked how big a role the private prisons industry played in promoting the war on drugs in the 1980s, I always have said, "None." In all the meetings and hearings on the subject that I participated in, I never heard or met anyone shilling for the private prison industry. My perspective has been shaped by the speeches I heard (or wrote), or the hearings I attended (or set up) that focused on the emotions around drugs -- the fears, the anger at traffickers, etc.

But I rarely went to fundraisers and I never examined campaign finance reports.

Sam Smith, one of my favorite political analysts, who touts himself as "Washington's most unofficial source," posted this on his Progressive Review blog:

Sam Smith - I have long puzzled over the fact that the North got so emotionally involved in the Civil War. I know the argument of loyalty to union and so forth, but the cost was so immense that I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it. Perhaps it's because we now live in such an amoral time that it's hard to relate to so many giving up so much out of conscience.

But this morning searching for something in one of my books, I came across this passage:

"In America, by the time of the Civil War, slaves were the country's most valuable capital asset. In a nation with an annual federal budget of only $50 million, slaves had a market value of $2 billion, or more than twice that of all the country's railroads."

I had never before thought about what a huge financial interest northern businesses and workers had in ending slavery.

So my question for all you historians out there who correct me on other stuff is this: how big a factor was economic self interest in the north's desire to save the union?

How much is economic self-interest driving the war on drugs status quo? More than I have given it credit for.
The antidote? Mobilize others' self interest.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: