I thought of Fogel and Engerman again when a recent review in the Economist of Edward Bishop's The Half Has Never Been Told complained that a book based on the perspective of slaves could not be objective. (To the Economist's credit, it repudiated the review and apologized for allowing it to be printed, but also kept a link to it so that readers could see how misguided it was). Again, an allegiance to "scientific detachment" led to a bizarre view of an evil institution. A "detached" view of slavery helps legitimize its practice, and thus is not in any way objective.
And so we come to Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. I have some issues with the book, but I love the first third of it. I particularly like his treatment of "human capital:"
There are many reasons to exclude human capital from our definition of capital. The most obvious is that human capital cannot be owned by another person or traded on a market.The language of economics often treats people as commodities: the phrases "representative agent" and "human capital" are examples of this. Sometimes these phrases are useful abstractions, but they also contribute to the sometimes pernicious indifference of mainstream economics to issues of justice. Piketty's take on human capital might make us a little less indifferent.