FRIDAY, JUNE 29: The reaction of Lynne Winfield and Alvin Williams [published in the Bermuda Sun of June 22] to my recent article was welcome as nothing sharpens a writer’s pencil more effectively than critics.

However, I would like to respond to the five major criticisms they made of my column. These were:

• That my facts were so one-sided that it was embarrassing;

• I was projecting a white colonial perspective;

• The citation of the publication Imprimis  published by Hillsdale College in Michigan put me in the same camp as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh;

• I was in denial because I was a supporter of colonialism;

• Slavery was the reason the West became wealthy.

 

Let me deal with each.

Firstly, I relied heavily on an essay ‘Historical Tidbits’ by Walter Williams in his book ‘Liberty versus the Tyranny of Socialism’. Space did not allow me to cite him in my Sun article.

I have met Professor Williams, who is black, several times and I am sure he will be amused by a rich white English lady residing in Bermuda concluding that his views are embarrassing. I will send him an e-mail.

Secondly, both Mr Williams and Mrs Winfield have made the wrong assumption that capitalism supported both colonialism and slavery, and that the two were one and the same thing.  This syllogistic thinking is akin to arguing that “my grandfather had whiskers, all cats have whiskers, therefore my grandfather is a cat”. 

Adam Smith (my hero) was strongly anti colonialist and anti-slavery and wrote extensively on both subjects.

The most eloquent writer on capitalism, Ludwig von Mises, wrote of colonialism: “No chapter of history is steeped further in blood than the history of colonialism.

“All this can in no way be extenuated or justified.  The initiative for the great colonial projects came not from finance and business but from governments.”

Intellects 

I regard Smith and Mises as towering intellects. Indeed the historian Walter Bagehot said of Smith’s wonderful book the Wealth of Nations: “The life of everyone in England — perhaps of everyone — is different and better in consequence of it.”

Thirdly, I regard Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh as ignorant rednecks, their financial knowledge being even less than the current PLP Cabinet. Sorry, they are not my type.

Fourthly, I am neither a supporter nor an opponent of colonialism as the record is too mixed to reach any firm conclusion. However, one should understand if you are in opposition to colonialism, Bermuda would still be an uninhabited island.

Fifthly, the West became wealthy because of the industrial revolution which arose because of huge technological breakthroughs, the channelling of savings into investment by such mechanisms as modern banking and insurance companies, the creation of joint-stock companies, but most of all, freedom for intelligent people to benefit from their hard work. Freedom was the main spark which lit the fuse of economic progress.   

It was also the main reason why slavery ended in the West when it had existed at all times, everywhere — in South and Central America before Columbus, in Hawaii, in China, in Southeast Asia, in the Indian subcontinent, in Africa, in Russia and in parts of Europe.

The word slave is derived from ‘slav’, a white ethnic group in Eastern Europe.

If, as both Mr Williams and Mrs Winfield assert, the wealth of the West was build on huge riches that arose from slavery and colonialism, why is it that countries that were never involved in these matters such as Switzerland, Norway and Japan are wealthy?

And why are former colonies such as Canada, the United States, Australia, and Bermuda among the richest countries in the world? Both ignored this issue. 

I regard both Mr Williams and Mrs Winfield as mistaken in their conclusions. But I am also aware that when myths and facts collide, public opinion usually supports myths.

Perhaps the last word should rest with Frederick Douglass, black America’s most renowned spokesman, who stated during the civil war: “Slavery and free institutions can never live peaceably together.  Liberty must either overthrow slavery, or be itself overthrown by slavery.”  

Fortunately, liberty won and slavery in the West was ended. I might just add that Douglass spoke at Hillsdale College — which is more than can be said for Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.