Political economy also involves psychology: the colonial market sweet spot–rice–was a crop colonists never planned to grow (and didn’t know how!); it came to America with enslaved Africans. Its hardy storage fed Europe in harsh winters, its versatility made it a domestic staple, its taste made Carolina Gold a brand.
Its production by the enslaved soon became a tacit partnership; in return for record production and globe leading wealth, the enslaved were left alone: work was done by task (not time), personal gardens were allowed, disappearances (often to see family!) were forgiven and folk specialists sustained community health. Trust was as much a bond as the whip; what appeared obedient hid an independence, above the sufferings inflicted was an unbreakable will.
This curious, cruel economy innovated, but not by force. It shipped clean rice 95% unbroken. But every innovation belonged to the workers. From sowing techniques, to the design of the flood trunks, the winnowing of the grain and its cleaning, not one technique was introduced from Europe by property owners.
The irony of this enlightened practice hidden in slavery was lost as wealth blinded itself and forced profits by power. But the enslaved understood something modern workers miss: collective action. Work together for both self interest and the common interest. Use models.
Fights over taxes and trade agreements will never restore the middle and working classes. They need to innovate and copy models of self-help.
Republican Elite’s Reign of Disdain – The New York Times http://nyti.ms/1XSoWFN