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Slavery in America Was Resurrected in 1913
Paul Craig Roberts

Just as Jews claim exclusivity as holocaust victims of WW II despite that more Germans died and many times more Russians died and it was a holocaust experience for a number of ethnicities, black Americans claim to be the only victims of slavery despite the historical fact that all races have been enslaved usually by their own kind.  Black slavery, for example originated in slave wars between African tribes.

For 40 years, perhaps longer, I have emphasized that in every country with an income tax, everyone who earns is enslaved. In America slavery was officially institutionalized with the income tax in 1913.  People do not comprehend that they are slaves, because they think of slavery as being tied to a location, but in previous times of slavery everyone was tied to location, free men as well as slaves.  Travel was slow and difficult. There were no cars or airplanes.

The historical definition of slavery is unrelated to limits on movement.  The definition of a slave is a person who does not own his own labor.  When a person is captured, enslaved, and sold, the purchaser is purchasing the slave’s labor.  Not all of the slave’s labor, of course, as part of the slave’s labor went for his own maintenance.  The slave’s labor over and above what was needed for his maintenance accrued to the slave’s owner and constituted the tax on the slave’s labor.  

“Free labor” as defined by Karl Marx was labor freed from feudal obligations by the Enclosures.  Prior to the Enclosures which created a labor market and the rise of commodity labor necessary for capitalism, the majority of populations were serfs tied to the land.  The serfs had use rights in the land, and the lords had use rights in the serfs’ labor.  The tax rate on the serf’s labor could not rise above 30% because technology and thereby labor productivity were low, and serfs could not reproduce if more than 30% of their labor was appropriated.

Today the marginal income tax rate combined with Social Security and Medicare tax on single persons earning between $44,726 and $95,375 is 37.3%.  Prior to the Reagan marginal tax rate reductions, the highest tax rate on earned income was 50% and on investment income, called unearned income, was 70%. 

The brutal fact is that in “free America” today, the bulk of the population owns less of their labor than did Medieval serfs, and higher earners until Reagan owned less of their labor than 19th century slaves on Southern plantations.

One might think that my analysis would appeal to libertarians and conservatives, but I have never heard a word from either camp.  One would think my analysis would especially appeal to black studies programs and to black activists as it shows that slavery is not a thing of the past but continues today.  

But not a word. Perhaps people, even scholars, are so caught up in fictions and staying in line with official narratives and political correctness that they can no longer think.  Or perhaps it is too dangerous to think as a consequence can be to find oneself outside the borders of approved narratives and subject to disciplinary action.

In America the less you earn the less enslaved you are.  But no earners escape.  Even an unmarried person who earns taxable income between, $0 and $11,000 annually has to turn over 10% to the US Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service.



Hon. Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. A former editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal and columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service, he is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles and a columnist for Investor's Business Daily. In 1992 he received the Warren Brookes Award for Excellence in Journalism. In 1993 the Forbes Media Guide ranked him as one of the top seven journalists.

He was Distinguished Fellow at the Cato Institute from 1993 to 1996. From 1982 through 1993, he held the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During 1981-82 he served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy. President Reagan and Treasury Secretary Regan credited him with a major role in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, and he was awarded the Treasury Department's Meritorious Service Award for "his outstanding contributions to the formulation of United States economic policy." From 1975 to 1978, Dr. Roberts served on the congressional staff where he drafted the Kemp-Roth bill and played a leading role in developing bipartisan support for a supply-side economic policy.

In 1987 the French government recognized him as "the artisan of a renewal in economic science and policy after half a century of state interventionism" and inducted him into the Legion of Honor.

Dr. Roberts' latest books are The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with IPE Fellow Lawrence Stratton, and published by Prima Publishing in May 2000, and Chile: Two Visions - The Allende-Pinochet Era, co-authored with IPE Fellow Karen Araujo, and published in Spanish by Universidad Nacional Andres Bello in Santiago, Chile, in November 2000. The Capitalist Revolution in Latin America, co-authored with IPE Fellow Karen LaFollette Araujo, was published by Oxford University Press in 1997. A Spanish language edition was published by Oxford in 1999. The New Colorline: How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, was published by Regnery in 1995. A paperback edition was published in 1997. Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, co-authored with Karen LaFollette, was published by the Cato Institute in 1990. Harvard University Press published his book, The Supply-Side Revolution, in 1984. Widely reviewed and favorably received, the book was praised by Forbes as "a timely masterpiece that will have real impact on economic thinking in the years ahead." Dr. Roberts is the author of Alienation and the Soviet Economy, published in 1971 and republished in 1990. He is the author of Marx's Theory of Exchange, Alienation and Crisis, published in 1973 and republished in 1983. A Spanish language edition was published in 1974.

Dr. Roberts has held numerous academic appointments. He has contributed chapters to numerous books and has published many articles in journals of scholarship, including the Journal of Political Economy, Oxford Economic Papers, Journal of Law and Economics, Studies in Banking and Finance, Journal of Monetary Economics, Public Finance Quarterly, Public Choice, Classica et Mediaevalia, Ethics, Slavic Review, Soviet Studies, Rivista de Political Economica, and Zeitschrift fur Wirtschafspolitik. He has entries in the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Economics and the New Palgrave Dictionary of Money and Finance. He has contributed to Commentary, The Public Interest, The National Interest, Harper's, the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Fortune, London Times, The Financial Times, TLS, The Spectator, Il Sole 24 Ore, Le Figaro, Liberation, and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. He has testified before committees of Congress on 30 occasions.

Dr. Roberts was educated at the Georgia Institute of Technology (B.S.), the University of Virginia (Ph.D.), the University of California at Berkeley and Oxford University where he was a member of Merton College.

He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, The Dictionary of International Biography, Outstanding People of the Twentieth Century, and 1000 Leaders of World Influence. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: [email protected]


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