[The legacy of anti-black racism undoubtedly has to contributed to a] divided American labor movement, weakened progressive political alliances, and undermined the provision of public goods.
…A major effect of slavery on US economic development came through its foundational influence on America’s legal and political institutions.
One of the central problems faced by delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 was how to create a common legal and political framework that would unite the slave states of the South with Northern states that were then in the process of abolishing slavery.
…[The Southern voters] were disproportionately represented at the federal level through the three-fifths clause. …The constitution effectively restricted federal taxing and regulatory power to international and interstate commerce.
…This division of federal and state power over slave property is not just manifest in now-dormant articles of the constitution dealing with slavery. It imbues all parts of the constitution and arguably lent to the American state system its distinctive form, which combines strong property protections with weak regulatory and fiscal powers (the introduction of a federal income tax in 1913 required a constitutional amendment).
…[The federal government’s] powers to tax, spend, and interfere with the interests of the wealthy (e.g., through regulating banks or providing debt relief) were explicitly curtailed.
…In principle the states were left to regulate and tax as they liked, but their practical ability to do so was constrained by federally mandated capital mobility. This created a fiscal and regulatory race to the bottom, as the wealthy could force relatively weak state legislatures to compete for their investments — just as city and state governments prostrate themselves before Amazon and Boeing today.
…Einhorn’s point is not that the framers were all proslavery (they were not) nor that they intended to produce a capitalist paradise of unfettered accumulation. Her point is that in making certain concessions to the slave-owners the framers unintentionally generated those conditions. Slave-owners were particularly afraid of allowing democratic control over property because they were literally afraid of their property. They were haunted by the threat of slave insurrections, as well as foreign armies turning their slaves into enemy soldiers through offers of freedom (as the British had recently done). Einhorn concludes that “if property rights have enjoyed unusual sanctity in the United States, it may be because this nation was founded in a political situation in which the owners of one very significant form of property thought their holdings were insecure.”
…[The argument] that slavery was “the nursing mother of the prosperity of the North,” …was an encouragement to secessionists, who imagined that the North would do everything to avoid a war that would cripple the Northern economy by cutting it off from a major source of its wealth.
…It’s true that cotton was among the world’s most widely traded commodities, and that it was America’s principal antebellum export. But it’s also true that exports constituted a small share of American GDP (typically less than 10 percent) and that the total value of cotton was therefore small by comparison with the overall American economy (less than 5 percent, lower than the value of corn).
…The size of the Southern economy as a share of the national economy fell from 1800 to 1860.
…It’s true that slavery made many fortunes, in both cotton and sugar, such that there were more millionaires per capita in the Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the country. But it’s also true that most of that wealth stayed in the South, where it was tied up in land and slaves, such that the net effect on real accumulation was probably negative.
How Slavery Shaped American Capitalism