Our ancestors didn’t wait long. Slavery started in Virginia in 1619 and was “legal” in all British colonies to provide labor for tobacco, rice, and indigo plantations in the Western Hemisphere. I guess if slavery is legal the property on which slaves work can be called plantations instead of slave labor camps.
I see Andy Peterson, CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, has the same philosophy about businesses as the U.S. Chamber: “We feel it is our right to stand up for their right to pursue commerce so long as the commerce they are engaged in is done legally.”
But there are a number of ‘legal” businesses in history that have turned out to be immoral because of science and dangers to public health.
Tobacco has been used for about 600 years for religious purposes, pleasure, and finally because of its addictive qualities. People have been hacking, spitting, and coughing for centuries, but only in the last 50 years have we admitted that smoking and chewing is very destructive to our bodies.
I smoked for 40 years before I quit — after trying to quit a dozen times. Now we know that smoking has saddled 16 million Americans with diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
It is even a known cause of erectile dysfunction. That might interest some males.
Smoking kills 480,000 Americans each year, 1,300 every day, and steals an average of ten years of life from each one. Over six million residents of earth die each year from smoking.
The tobacco industry spends over $1,000,000 an hour pushing the drug nicotine in colorful packages designed for both adults and children.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that smoking costs the U.S. economy $300 billion a year, and we spend $170 billion a year for medical care for smoking adults.
Each day more than 3,200 youngsters below the age of 18 start smoking.
Is it moral that members of the U.S. Chamber lobby for destructive tobacco companies around the world? Why are they fooling around and supporting cancerous butts while damaging the American economy with hundreds of billions of dollars in productivity costs? This is an advocate for business? No, it’s an advocate for the collection of green lobbying dollars. Instead of practicing crony and disaster capitalism, why doesn’t the Chamber practice moral capitalism?
If the U.S. Chamber wants to serve business interests around the world, why doesn’t it follow the principles laid out by an international network of business leaders called the Caux Round Table? Founded in 1986, it promotes a morally and sustainable way of doing business throughout the world utilizing seven basic principles:
Perhaps the most important principles are listed under how businesses should relate to the communities they are in. The section reads: “As a global corporate citizen, a responsible business contributes to good public policy and to human rights in the communities in which it operates. Business has a responsibility to:
So far, the U.S. Chamber and its local, state, and international affiliates have demonstrated they are clearly on the wrong side of history, on the wrong side of medical science in serving as tobacco lobbyists for death-dealing tobacco companies, and reject the idea that businesses also must concentrate on serving the “common good” of the citizens, communities and countries in which they operate. What’s the difference between ISIS and the Chamber? Fascism and the Chamber? The modern U.S. Chamber has forgotten — or never considered — the seven principles of the Caux Round Table.
The U.S. Chamber brags about promoting free enterprise in today’s world, but neglects to mention that the free enterprise of England and its colonies since the beginning of the 17th Century was based on legal slavery of blacks mainly from Africa. At one time Great Britain had over 46,000 slave owners. Thousands of British families grew rich from slaves and from the sale of slave-produced sugar from the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th Centuries. It is estimated that between the 16th Century and 1807 about 12.5 million Africans were transported as slaves to the Caribbean and America.
Then the United States took over with millions of slaves working tobacco and cotton fields. We need to examine the history of slavery in both countries, and acknowledge that slavery was legal for centuries in both countries.
The Brits passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 and formally freed over 800,000 Africans, although technically anti-slavery laws were also passed almost 30 years earlier.
The pro-slavery lobbyists really went to work to hold off stiffer laws for almost 30 years. Greed overcomes human rights 99% of the time.
Slave records involving 1,631 leather-bound ledgers lay in the British archives for 180 years until the British Broadcasting Corporation decided to do a documentary on the Brit slave trade.
Remember, 46,000 owners of 800,000 slaves. Some very important Brits were heavily invested in the slave trade. The British government decided to compensate owners for the loss of their slaves. It is still called the biggest bailout in British history, even larger than the 2009 recession bank bailout — but of course important people had made fortunes from the once legal slave trade.
Richard Blair, the ancestor of George Orwell, the author of “1984” and “Animal Farm,” made the family fortune off slaves working lands in the Caribbean. Of the many rich owners of property and slaves in the West Indies, John Gladstone, the father of Victorian prime minister William Gladstone, was paid the enormous sum of 106,769 pounds in compensation, or today’s equivalent of about $130 million, because he owned 2,508 slaves working nine plantations for him in the West Indies.
The compensation for slave ownership cost the Brits 40% of their total government expenditures in 1834, paying out a total of about $26 billion in today’s cash. The slave owners got rich and the freed slaves were still required to provide 45 hours of unpaid labor each week for their former masters for four years! No one ever decreed that former slave owners had to be fair and equitable.
This lack of principles carried over to the cotton business in America, where slaves created more millionaires in little Jackson, Mississippi than in the big environs of New York City.
A study called “Measuring Worth” by professors at the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University reveals the enormous economic contributions to our economy made by almost 240 years of legal slavery in the United States.
In 1860 four million black slaves were property of Americans in the South, mainly working labor-intensive tobacco and cotton fields. An ex-slave in the 19th Century described the day — and the night — of the slave: “No day dawns for the slave, nor is it looked for. It is all night—night forever.” Most slaves died seeing only the night of slavery.
By law, the slaves were personal property of their owners. The owner might sell him, dispose of his person, and sell his labor. The slave in America had no constitutional rights, could not testify in court, could not leave the plantation without permission, could be rented out, used as prizes in lotteries or as wagers in card games and horse races, could possess nothing nor acquire anything. If a slave had anything it legally belonged to the master. In the Constitutional Convention of 1787 it was decided that slavery was not a moral issue — but was a matter of “interest only.”
Solomon Northup, the black who lived the true story of “Twelve Years a Slave,” often saw mothers sold away from children and black husbands and wives sold to different owners at slave markets. A mature adult male slave in 1860 capable of working the cotton fields was worth between $1,000 and $2,000. Cotton was King during that period. A slave had to pick 200 pounds of cotton a day to keep from being whipped—and it often took him from dawn to twilight to do it.
The economics of slavery in the U.S. has never been studied before the “Measuring Worth” study. In 1860 the four million slaves were worth an average $800 -- when the average annual income of a white family was about $110. When we put the price of slaves in today’s money, we can see how valuable they were to the owners of the slave labor camps where they worked and died. A good worker-slave in 1860 cost about $130,000 in today’s money, or up to $175,000 in peak times.
A good slave could perform about $82,000 worth of labor in a year in today’s money. The average cost of an adult slave in 1850, $400, often equaled the price of a house. In 1860 the price of slaves nearly doubled to $800, or about $175,000 in economic value today. Some rich owners in the South owned as many as 500 slaves. They would be the equivalent of today’s billionaires in wealth and political power. One economic study indicated that the four million slaves in 1860 would represent $7 trillion in today’s economy. No wonder we had a Civil War over slavery.
The Civil War was over civil rights in the North, but it had to be about money in the South. The wealth of our two most prominent Founding Fathers, who said “all men were created equal” was based on owning more than 100 slaves. Now slavery is illegal and the use of tobacco will soon be. The places a person can smoke are becoming more limited by the hour. The U.S. Chamber and its affiliates are riding a dead Marlboro horse.
As early as 1604 King James I of England described it well: “Smoking is a custom loathsome to the eye, hatefull to the nose, harmful to the braine, daungerous to the lungs, and in the blacks stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.” No doubt he is describing Hell.
To all Chambers: Get on the right side of history — and the right side of business principles. James wasn’t as tough as Ammurath the Fourth of Turkey during that time, who had smokers dragged from their homes and strangled in the street.
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