Ken's Project Blog

October 24, 2010

Of mattress tags and the three-fifths compromise

Filed under: media — Ken @ 4:10 pm

Our friends over at have a story up about an exchange between Keith Olbermann and Rep. Barney Frank, and it triggered the following reaction from me:

Any chance Olbermann is saying that the three-fifths compromise was a bad idea? Does he imagine America would have been a better place if representation in the Congress was skewed to slave holding states? No, of course not. But by invoking this image, he gets to play off the ignorance of many, many Americans who were never taught (or never learned, same difference) why the 3/5th compromise was an important step towards erasing the stain of slavery off our country.

Without the compromise, there either would have been no union OR we would have remained a slave-owning country much longer.

It’s kind of like the old “tag on the mattress” joke – there is a tag on all mattresses that says “do not remove this tag under penalty of law”, and comedians like to mock that tag, but if you ever read the tag you’d see that the tag is not to be removed by anyone except the purchaser, and the point of the tag is to declare the origin of components in the mattress whether new or reused. At one time re-use of mattress frames, springs, padding was fairly common, common enough to have been a problem that the Gov’t felt the need to address anyways. The joke is only funny if you don’t know what the tag says, and Keith Olbermann’s comment is only effective if you ignore the purpose of 3/5th compromise.

As a side note, I understand that Barney Frank has felt the need to donate $200K to his re-election campaign… Feeling a little heat, Mr. Frank? Good.


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