I am of the view that capitalism was a major driving force behind the elimination of slavery in the United States.
The fact that mechanization reduced by significant amounts the amount of hand labor required in the farming industry is long accepted. The inventions of the reaper and cotton gin reduced the amount of people required to harvest these two important crops. In the North, this resulted in more manpower being available in the cities to work other tasks. Generally, it is accepted that in many cases, these new tasks required more skillful labor. In the South, the slaves that were no longer needed to perform this work were re-allocated to other tasks. The key here is that education and improvement of skill levels of slaves is discouraged. This would only tend to make the slaves more dangerous and more likely to desire to throw off the institution that was binding them. At the same time that capitalism is creating a demand for a more skilled labor force, it is providing the time to develop the view that slavery is an outdated and immoral concept.
I believe that President Obama is of the belief that capitalism was the driving force behind slavery. It is true that capitalism provided the ability to capture and export the slaves from one area of the globe to another. Profit was the motivation for the slave ships existence. Yet after slavery had been eliminated from the United States, capitalism flourished and slavery did not return. Slavery had been around since the dawn of man, and capitalism had only been thought of in the past 100 years. If you look at the world today, the areas of the world that still have slavery are controlled by autocratic governmental systems. The areas that capitalism flourished, slavery had disappeared almost immediately. The constantly expanding need for more advance skills in the labor force would prevent a return to a society that demanded a significant portion of the population remain functionally illiterate. And I will argue that capitalism provided the means to rid our country of this plague in the first place.
One of the major reasons that the U.S. Civil war was won by the North was because so much of the manpower in the South was unavailable to wage the war. At the same time, that same manpower that was unavailable to fill the ranks of the Southern armies was also limited in its ability to produce as much per hour of labor as the capitalist North. It is a well-known fact that the North was much more industrialized than the South. Slavery was a major part of the reason that the South was not as industrialized and capitalism was a major reason as to why the North was. And this is leaving out the human side of the equation.
On a psychological level, it makes sense that those living in the North desired to end the limiting factor in the growth of the country as a whole. As a person has more free time, they have the time to debate morality on a different level. Survival is not as all consuming. As wealth accumulates, people can afford to question the way that the system works and the values that they hold. Bondage of any type would become a target. For example, the right for women to vote became a target beginning in the early to mid-19th century in America. Eventually, this process resulted in the Civil Rights movement beginning in the latter part of the first half of the 20th century. The economic freedom that resulted from the success of capitalism was a major driving force behind these changes.
(This view could also be extended to the Islamic world. ‘Fundamental’ Islamic nationalists hate capitalist societies the most. Islam allows for all sorts of bondage. I am of the view that this is a major contributing reason as to why the Islamic world is so economically underdeveloped and hostile to the rest of the world, particularly the most prosperous parts of the world. The South did begin the war by attacking the North because the North was going to begin to actively prevent the growth of the bondage that the economy and society the South depended upon. The ‘nation of Islam' is constantly attempting to CHANGE the rest of the world. And Islamic nationalists are targeting the ‘West’ most in particular. I believe that much of the reason for this is because that is the most free and prosperous portion of the world. And capitalism is most if not all of the reason for this prosperity)