Howie, I don't dispute the fundamentals of the politics of the time that you've highlighted. My point is, it was Lincoln, the head of our government, who delivered the Emancipation Proclamation.
I've also read speculation that slavery would have ended without government intervention due to declining economic rationale. However, that does not justify the idea that we simply need to wait for the market to right all wrongs, and government is superfluous. Unless, of course, you believe that the unfettered market will ultimately generate the most good for the most people (as opposed to what I believe it does -- which is to maximize total wealth with a tendency to concentrate it in the hands of a relatively few people). Not to say that the market can't be a powerful force -- perhaps the most powerful force -- for generating lots of good for lots of people. But, other forces are necessary to keep the market pointed in the right overall direction, and, to some extent, to undo the concentrating effects. These other forces, of course, include democracy itself and the limits the people (through our government) put on an unfettered market.
Bret's and your challenges to my list of things the government has done for us are fair enough as far as this debate goes. Let me throw out a few more for you to challenge. How about anti-trust laws? How about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? How about the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act?
I don't see the market dealing with these issues well. Ultimately, some form of governmental leadership was necessary. Perhaps Bret's direct referendum approach could have addressed them, but I'll have to see his logic before I'll become a believer.