Crazy, sure. So crazy it just might work.

Abe Lincoln, always with the wild ideas.

Hans Morgenthau observed that a statesman has three tools in international affairs: logic, bribes, and threats. Historically, bribery as an alternative to warfare has a spotty history of success. Even so, we bribed the Russians to leave the Baltics, we’ve been bribing DPRK for some time now, and bribing Egypt and Jordan on Israel’s behalf. Whatever the complications and the moral hazard we’ve created, these have probably been good bargains.

Back when the negative nellies were talking of an only one-trillion dollar war in Iraq, some voices in the wilderness called for offering Saddam a billion dollars and safe haven. As Mark and others pointed out last year, it’s not too late to start bribing our way out of Iraq.

Now it seems that President Lincoln figured all this out some time ago:

In a letter to Illinois Sen. James A. McDougall dated March 14, 1862, Lincoln laid out the estimated cost to the nation’s coffers of his “emancipation with compensation” proposal.

Paying slave-holders $400 for each of the 1,798 slaves in Delaware listed in the 1860 Census, he wrote, would come to $719,200 at a time when the war was soaking up $2 million a day.

Buying the freedom of an estimated 432,622 slaves in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri and Washington, D.C., would cost $173,048,800—nearly equal to the estimated $174 million needed to wage war for 87 days, he added.

Lincoln suggested that each of the states, in return for payment, might set something like a 20-year deadline for abolishing slavery.

The payout “would not be half as onerous as would be an equal sum, raised now, for the indefinite prosecution of the war,” he told McDougall.

And Lincoln didn’t even have an MBA.