A capitalist benefactor of the American abolitionist movement used his business to wage war against slavery. He ended up revolutionizing the American financial industry in the process.
Nothing in Rothbard’s later view manages to cast doubt on his earlier view and White’s thesis, much less refute them.
Should we study and learn from the past? Of course we should. Should we yearn for the past, seek to return there, and perhaps undo the progress of the last several centuries? Of course we shouldn’t.
There is a great moral gravity to discussions of slavery. Academics owe the public an honest, accurate, and scientific assessment of slavery’s history, including its economic dimensions. Unfortunately, a key statistic being used in the reparations debate fails that test.
Financial markets, including markets for complex instruments that may just look like speculative casino bets, allow important real transactions to occur. And in a brilliantly decentralized way, they bring into harmony people whose information, values, goals, and risk aversion differ.
Diocletian may have greatly strengthened the Roman state, but that extra strength appears not to have dented poverty, inflation, or civil war. Today the instinct to increase state power to achieve desired outcomes is thriving on both sides of the aisle.