Civil War Choices

Dan McLaughlin at NRO has an excellent article on the Civil War related to comments by Tim Kaine and John Kelly.  We one complaint about it the commentary on compromise and the opportunity for a financial settlement.  A possible way to end slavery would be to set the slaves free by buying the slaves from the slaveholders.  Research has shown that the market in slaves was efficient.

The problem is to consider such a solution you must compare the expected cost of the two alternatives.  So when Dan says this:

Over 600,000 men died in the Civil War, and many more were wounded or crippled. It’s not such a bad thing for a president to be advised by veterans who look at that kind of carnage and linger over whether it was avoidable.

He is making the wrong comparison.  Both sides expected a short war with many fewer deaths.  Using the actual cost of the Civil War to compare to the expected cost of ending slavery overstates the lack of compromise from the South.  The actual opportunity was to free the slaves at birth and death.  That is, current slaves would stay slaves all their lives but their children would be bought out of slavery.

Sidebar: You have to trust us on the data on this.  We wrote this paper in grad school before word processing so there isn’t a record of it.  End Sidebar.

Thus, we are unable to agree with Dan in laying all the failure to compromise at the feet of the South.  We support the John Kelly view.  The available plan would split the abolitionists from the rest of the North because the former group wanted to end slavery now.

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