Shadowy Monticello

Works by John Lesage


A Country without Memory

List of places visited
List of topics discussed
About the writer
Get the book

Other short works

Maryhill and Celilo
Ewing Young & Champoeg
Ghost Mountain

More photography

Death Valley
The Cascades

2011 John Lesage

        Thomas Carlyle & Adam Smith

Thomas Carlyle described economics as the “dismal science” in his 1849 work Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question. In this treatise, he proposed reintroducing slavery as a means of regulating the labor market in the West Indies. Carlyle contended that the market forces of supply and demand were at least as harsh as slavery. He argued that slavery was in fact morally superior to allowing free reign to the invisible hand of Adam Smith. Dismal science was Carlyle's snark at Smith, who was firmly against slavery.
    Let’s consider Carlyle’s proposal to bring back slavery to the British Empire. On one hand, we can tap into Thoreau’s insight where he speaks of
quiet desperation. Thoreau saw the labor market as a place where the laborer “has no time to be anything but a machine.” On the other hand, I’d like to test Carlyle’s hypothesis of the merits and superior morality of slavery by experimentally enslaving Carlyle. I would eagerly anticipate his report on the results.