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August 29, 2008



point 2 - fab. who could disagree with that. Except to point out how much NICE seems to be hated for being rational...

point 4 - hmmm..not sure top execs are less mobile than company HQ's. they can afford boarding schools, flights, the mistress/wife in multiple jursidictions, the tax dodge possibilities and the finer weather of Monaco. More taxes and they will claim dual residency anyway - even if the HQ is only in Ireland it works out well.
We don't even have to cut taxes, just promise not to raise them any further, which is what the corporates are worried about. The only person who can credibly give this assurance is George Osborne.


1: it's my impression that there weren't actually that many slaves in 18th century England (and none after 1775 - Summerset's Case, you know) - the ones there were would fall into 2 groups: workers in transit through the handling ports of London, Bristol and Liverpool to the colonies; and domestic servants, who were largely children (black pages were a fashionable possession, I learned from the National Gallery at the weekend) and were sold to the plantations when they reached adulthood.
So there isn't really a fair comparison to make. It's not like the US, where there would be house slaves doing the same sort of jobs that free domestic servants would do. Slavery in the context of 18th century England was overwhelmingly a colonial phenomenon, involving abducted Africans and criminals sentenced to indentured servitude.

And a slave in England wouldn't have had the (few) civil rights of an unskilled worker either; he wouldn't have been able to change jobs or move to a new area at will, or to bring someone who had injured him to a criminal court. Summerset couldn't sue his purported owner, he had to get some friendly abolitionists to do it for him. Or (not sure about this) to marry.

2: because it's very, very difficult to quantify that sort of highly diffuse benefit. Not to mention knock-on benefits; what about spending by tourists who come to see the gallery?

5: persuasive evidence would be a long-term average of RoI, compared to other sectors?


I'd consult the people-flux-meter. If slaves in the American or Caribbean colonies tried to run away a lot, I'll take it that slavery was bloody awful compared to the alternatives. The people-flux-meter worked very well in the era, which you may just remember Dillowbert, of the Socialist Economies.


PS: Nice vs Art. Nice one.

And on point 3: the Academy is awash with impostors.


4. How about cutting corporation tax for companies based in Wales?


5. Under Stan O'Neal Merrill's changed their policy to be much more risk taking, so the losses should be assessed over a much shorter period.

Anyone wishing to fully understand what happened could start with the FT and its archive, particularly "Corroded to the core: How a staid Swiss bank let ambitions lead it into folly" by By Chris Hughes, Peter Thal Larsen and Haig Simonian on April 20 2008.


should have been "fully understand what happened in the industry" - not Merrill.

Bob B

Out of general historical interest concerning how slaves in Britain in the 18th century made a transition to domestic service, readers may be interested to know of the documented case of Francis Barber, the man servant of Samuel Johnson, the famed lexicographer who strongly opposed slavery:


Most of these points can't be argued.

Discussing Slavery, Marx, Captialism, or the value of the Duke's art in a museum will just lead to name calling.

But the idea that academics support free speech is simply assumed from little evidence. Academics support freedoms for academics. Their record of tolerance for the activities of others is decidedly mixed.


2. Why is the issue of the Duke of Sutherland's paintings an issue for the British Taxpayer? Surely the issue of Scottish-owned painting curently on loan to a Scottish gallery is an issue for the Scottish Government?

This would be a great opportunity to put Alex Salmond on the spot, but as usual this hopeless government are too busy concocting schemes for council officials to spy on the people to engage in the necessary business of party politics.

Dave Cole

If anyone's interested, I've tried to answer at my place - http://davecole.org/blog/2008/08/30/in-answer-to-chris-dillow/



1. Let's see it that way. In case that the slaves had lived in better conditions than free labour today, would it be an argument for slavery ?

Bob B

On the Middle Passage in the Atlantic crossing of slave trading ships, there's a justly celebrated painting by JMW Turner of The Slave Ship, first shown on public display at the summer exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1840:

The picture relates to a notorious incident in the voyage of the slave trader the Zong in 1781 when 133 sick but living slaves from among the cargo were thrown overboard in order to collect compensation from the underwriters of the voyage rather than risk the ship's owners or crew having to bear the loss should any of the slaves have died on board:

Bob B

A (horrifyingly) better online reproduction of Turner's The Slave Ship can be seen by clicking on the thumbnail picture at this link:

Apart from illustrating Turner's long personal commitment to the abolitionist cause, the painting also shows up Turner's work as an early precursor of a style of painting that came to be called Impressionism by the 1860s.


1. Free labour could run away, if slaves did that they got chased.
2. That one is easy, Government shouldn't be in this business. It is a perfectly good area for private charity. There is an argument it should support innovative art (on a infant industry sort of argument), but history should be left to charitable trusts.
3. Israel/Palestine definitely warps anybody involved in it.
4. See Worthwhile Canadian Initiative
(Stephen Gordon) - he definitely would agree with you.
5. Ha - of course there is a lot we don't know. Nobody has adequately explained why such a large percentage of corporate profits accrue to investment banks. I just think limited liability and high leverage spells look out! I think the expansion of leverage leading to asset price increase is a sophisticated sort of theft. The black swan is periodic de-leveraging. But that is all just a theory.

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