By now you may have heard about Ron Paul's statement that the Abraham Lincoln should never have gone to war to free the slaves. He argues that there were other solutions, such as phasing out slavery through government purchase of the freedom of the enslaved individuals. There are so many problems with this point of view it's hard to know where to begin. Let's just assume that the only reason for the civil war was to free the slaves and take it from there.
Capitalism is about free trade and association between free individuals. Obviously, if one party is enslaved, there is no free trade between the two. Slavery is the worst form of thievery. Condoning, legitimizing, compensating individuals for immoral behavior is never a wise thing to do. What Mr. Paul proposed goes even further, since the funds for compensating the slave owners would have come from those who chose not to engage in slave trade. The moral would be compensating the immoral. What kind of precedent would that set?
Suppose you saw a man brutally beating an elderly woman on the street. Would you physically stop him or negotiate what the beater felt was a fair price to stop? Do you think the payoff would result in the beater being more or less likely to engage in reprehensible behavior in the future? If your child got caught shoplifting, would you raise his or her allowance if they promised to stop?
Don't you think many a newly enriched slave owner would immediately look for another distasteful, but not yet illegal activity to engage in? What about the people who chose not be slave owners and were required to pony up compensation for those who were? Doing the right thing because it was the right thing would have been institutionalized as a money losing proposition.
600,000 lives were lost during the Civil War. The loss of even one life is a terrible tragedy for those who knew and loved the individual. These lives were lost because some felt perpetuating the slave trade was worth dying for, while others felt stopping it was equally worth dying for. In regards to the question of whether it is right for one human being to own another one, there can be no comprimise. The two diametrically opposed positions cannot occupy the same place at the same time. If the slavery proponents were set on taking their position to their deaths, so be it. Fortunately, their opponents were just as resolved.
There are those who believe that there exist ideas and ideals that are more valuable than their own life. There are others who believe that continuing to draw breath is all that really matters. The former are in the minority, but the latter are far less consequential.