was the U.S. civil war avoidable?

Lamenting the horrors of the war, [David] Goldfield computes its total monetary cost at around $6.7 billion in 1860s currency, and asserts that if “the government had purchased the freedom of four million slaves and granted a 40-acre farm to each slave family, the total cost would have been $3.1 billion, leaving $3.6 billion for reparations to make up for a century of lost wages. And not a single life would have been lost.” But this computation proceeds from some dubious assumptions.

via NYT Sunday Book Review

Goldfield makes this argument in America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation. While the reviewer disputes some of Goldfield’s conclusions, I can’t help but think how this is applicable to the cost of war today, and how much could be done to change resentments into positive engagement by putting military spending to better use in helping people.

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