SARGE, on 02 March 2012 - 05:01 PM, said:
A bad comparison.
The USSR was government, not private enterprise.
It wasn't cheap to own slaves. The cotton gin, steam-power, etc. were better capital investments.
Actually, it was
cheap to own slaves. That's the entire appeal of slavery, in every slave-holding society in history from Babylon all the way up to modern sweatshops in the "Free Trade Zones" of Manilla. You don't have to pay them. You don't have to clothe them. They grow their own food - though you can take as much of it from them as you want. And they reproduce. Granted, buying a new slave was a pricy investment, but by the time of Secession, it wasn't like there was any upward mobility in the southern states anyway; if you had slaves, you could afford to buy a new one if you wanted, and if you didn't have any slaves, you never were going to. Hell, it's why after the war, slavery persisted as "sharecropping." it was cheaper to have some dude you didn't have to pay to do all the labor, than to buy and maintain mechanical equipment. And the cotton gin actually EXPANDED slavery, point of fact; it's what made cotton so massively profitable, which resulted in more, bigger fields, which of course called for vast amounts of field labor.
Also, it's worth noting that slavery WAS the government. The southern states and their interests dominated the government of the United States. To the point where they could impose their demands to violate the rights of other states (the refusal of New Jersey to violate its own laws to allow South Carolinans to kidnap freedmen from New Jersey was a thorn in the craw of South Carolina, according to their declaration of secession). The whole point of secession was, in fact, mostly a threat at first - "rig the election or we'll ditch." Every article of discussion brought up to prevent secession was centered around enshrining slavery in the constitution, or expanding slavery in the western territories, even conquering the Caribbean and making it "slave territory." Hell, there was even discussion of achieving national solidarity by starting a war with England or France.
And the south, confident that it had everyone else by the balls, refused all these conciliatory offers coming out of congress. They figured they had the manpower to beat the crap out of the north, and impose their own desires on the other states. So they went ahead and seceded; prior to the firing on Sumter, southern politicians and newspapers were already demanding death and destruction to everyone north of the line.
Of course, once the war started, it turns out the south had to keep a lot of guns pointed at their own people - plenty of southern whites had no interest in living under a feudal confederacy, and of course there were all the slaves that needed watching. Plus, it turns out, even though the north was undermanned compared to the south, they were vastly better-armed. Maybe if the plot to capture St. Louis had been successful, history would have been different... But it didn't. Because Germans kicked rebel ass.
At the end of the day, YES, the war was about slavery. Even before secession, our nation was engaged in a war between slavery and freedom; see Kansas in the 1850's, and tell me that wasn't
the first sign of a war between slavery and freedom. When the southern states seceded, they did so with their "right" to own slaves on their lips - again, see the South Carolina Declaration of Secession (other states' declarations are either explicit in their slavery-based reasons for secessions, or expressing solidarity for those states that are so open.) Lincoln did not cite "freeing the slaves" as his reasons for war - because the Congress he was addressing was a staid, conservative organization that regarded "abolition" one of the worst words that could be spoken even in impolite company... but everyone, on both sides of the line, understood that it would be the inevitable result of the war, and it was a rallying cry both for service in the war, and
for resistance to the war (See the New York draft riots)