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Reply #4: Abe Lincoln: "Labor precedes capital..." [View All]

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rfranklin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-02-11 02:07 PM
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4. Abe Lincoln: "Labor precedes capital..."
Edited on Fri Sep-02-11 02:07 PM by rfranklin
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor. Hence they hold that labor is the superior greatly the superior of capital."

Lincoln was responding to Southern slaveowners who were arguing that capital precedes, and is therefore superior to, labor. (Trickle-down?) Against this, Lincoln advocated Free Labor, a central plank in the antebellum Republican platform. Free Labor was an ambiguous concept, no doubt, being part bourgeois celebration of free contracts, and part lower-r republican celebration of the dignity of the independent producer. Like most nineteenth century economic theories, it was premised on the labor theory of value, what would become the cornerstone of Marxist economics. As David Montgomery has shown, the Republican Party was the party of organized labor for much of the Civil War period and the early part of Reconstruction. Only with the unraveling of Radical Republicanism and the onset of the Gilded Age, did the contradictions of Free Labor become too great and the two divergent strands went their own way.
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