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Working Hard and Smart: Economics and the Electorate

Maurice HenryI started an interesting book by Edward D. Baptist titled, “The Half Has Never Been Told- Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism”. The author makes some very interesting points, but a couple points really caught my attention.

In the early 1780’s to the early 1860’s the South went from a series of worn down plantations barely producing cotton to producing almost 2 billion pounds. In the Republic of Texas slaves increased from 4,000 to 27,000 in nine years.  The South became a subcontinental empire and the commodity of cotton was responsible for over 50% of our country’s exports. The foundation of the cotton explosion was predicated by the major U.S. acquisitions of cotton land from the Native Americans from 1814 to 1840.

Cotton production and the economics of slavery prior to this period were small and profitability was in the decline until the invention of the cotton gin, ironically by a black man. The leaders of cotton suppliers were able to get more daily productivity from slave labor than comparable free labor in other industries. The thirst to reap the incredible financial benefits of the slave industry enabled 5% of all U.S. lending to go through Isaac Franklin’s slave trading firm. British and American financial institutions made funds available to keep the profits coming in. The slave bonanza also created a financial commoditized slave trade, which enabled ordinary investors to purchase bonds that represented a slice of income of thousands of slaves. 

Very similar to the purchase of a piece of todays bundled mortgages. Investors from all over the country and Britain could reap a return on their investment without actually owning slaves from products on the British and American financial markets.  Profits from these investments help fuel capital investment in textile industries in the North.  Insurance companies’ profited and financial institutions provided additional lending for economic expansion in the Midwest, Southwest and Western United States.  The Slave industry created national and international wealth, by understanding how to exploit slave labor by increasing daily output and efficiency for maximum profits.  

Some would argue that the Slave industry was the catalyst to shape American capitalism and enable the United States to ascend to a world power. Our labor shaped this country.  As horrible as this period was, there are valuable lessons that can be learned. There are 45 million Black people with $1.4 trillion in economic power. Are we working smart economically today? 

We have to continue to ask ourselves are we working hard and not working smart in championing our causes.  We have been outraged by the visible police cases that have covered our national media. We have seen an unprecedented rise in social activism as a result of national awareness.  We have been incredibly responsive in protesting and picketing events that have a profound impact on our lives. However, we have to ask ourselves some fundamental questions in our understanding of the electorate and our consistent response.  The response starts with the awareness of the process of either the elected or appointed top law enforcement manager. The appointed law enforcement officers are appointed by either the Mayor or City Manager. Elected law enforcement officers are usually the county Sheriff. 

We have the ability to hold the Mayor and City Managers accountable for their selection to lead their respective law enforcement efforts. We also have a direct impact on the selection of the elected Sheriffs. Protesting brings awareness, but pulling the lever in the ballot box directly determines how law enforcement will perform in our respective areas. Considering the Black vote was under represented in both the 2006 and 2010 midterms, the 2014 midterms were marginally better. What are we doing to better understand the mindset of law enforcement? They are not going away and will remain part of our lives. 

Most people aren’t aware that most cities offer a Citizen’s Academy program that actually exposes you to your state laws and how officers think and react in situations. I went through the Broward Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Academy in Florida for 13 weeks, because I was so bothered by the Trayvon Martin verdict. I really needed to understand how Florida law enforcement was trained and I decided that I would not have the constant paranoia for local police officers. These programs provide us the tools to navigate through the uncertainty of the interpretation of our state laws.

It is time that we work smarter but continue to work hard to understand the influences of economics, legislation and the electorate at all levels. 

Maurice Henry is a seasoned professional in the High Technology industry and International Business. He has a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Rutgers University and a MBA from Southern New Hampshire University in International Business. He publishes a Blog on

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