Civil War.

history

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If you had been put in charge of the South at the end of the Civil War, what practical policy could

you have implemented that would have enabled faster economic growth in the South before

1900?

In One Kind of Freedom, Ransom and Sutch explain slow economic growth as the product of

flaws in the economic structure adopted by the South after the War. Key flaws they identified

were the replacement of plantations by sharecropping and the replacement of banks in the

financing of agriculture by country stores. You should develop a policy that would have

meaningfully reduced the harmful effects of one or both of these flaws.

Keep the following in mind:

1. Your policy can (but is not required to) redistribute wealth or physical assets. This means

seizing property from some and giving it to others. However, this can only be done

once, at the very end of the war. Once reconstruction ends, this becomes impossible.

2. You cannot expect that the rest of the country would have been willing to spend large

amounts of their tax money on the South. Minor administrative costs could be covered

without problem, but if your plan requires large expenditures, you must find a source for

those expenditures in the South.

3. Your policy may (but is not required to) include new laws prohibiting certain behavior.

Laws have to prohibit specific actions, not motivations, beliefs, or attitudes. A violation

must be objectively verifiable. To be practical, a law must be enforceable. This means

that there must be a reasonable expectation that a violation will be detected and

punished.

4. Your policy may (but is not required to) include features encouraging certain actions

through monetary incentives. This would require an identified source of funding. The

actions must be objectively verifiable, but identification would not be a problem. Those

responsible for rewarded actions can be expected to self-identify.

5. Your policy can (but is not be required to) create new infrastructure. Debt (borrowing)

can be used to finance the infrastructure’s construction, but a source of new revenue will

have be identified to repay the debt over time.

6. Your policy should not require your continued participation.

7. Your policy is likely to have opposition, but you can assume it would not result in armed

insurrection.

Your assignment is to identify and defend a policy whose objective is just faster economic

growth. The policy might have other positive effects, such as correcting injustice, but that is not

part of this assignment. A good paper will explain at least one mechanism by which the flawed

structures inhibited growth and explain how the proposed policy would have altered that

mechanism. Evidence in support of your position may be found in sources other than One Kind

of Freedom.

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