May 10, 2003

The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis

Paul Krugman's post, Serfs Up!, reminds me of one of my major sins this spring (for which I must atone): my cutting Evsey Domar (1970), "The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis," Economic History Review 30:1 (March), pp. 18-32, from my spring 2003 Economics 210a reading list.

As Krugman summarizes Domar's main point:

Domar was motivated by his knowledge of Russian history. Serfdom in Russia, he knew, wasn't an institution that dated back to the Dark Ages. Instead, it was mainly a 16th-century creation, contemporaneous with the beginning of the great Russian expansion into the steppes. Why? He came up with a simple yet powerful insight: there's no point in enslaving or enserfing a man unless the wage you would have to pay him if he was free is substantially above the cost of feeding, housing, and clothing him.

Imagine a pre-industrial society where population is pressing on limited land supplies, and the marginal product of labor - and hence the real wage rate under competitive conditions - is barely at subsistence. In that case, why bother establishing property rights in human beings? It costs no more to hire a free worker than to feed an indentured laborer. Indeed, by 1300 - with Europe very much a Malthusian society - serfdom had withered away from lack of interest. But now suppose that for some reason land becomes abundant, and labor scarce. Then competition among landowners will tend to push up wages of free workers, and the ruling class will try, if it can, to pin peasants down and prevent them from bargaining for a higher standard of living. In Russia, it was all about gunpowder: suddenly steppe nomads were no longer so formidable, and the rich lands of the Ukraine were open for settlement. Serfdom was an effort to keep peasants from taking advantage of this situation. (And if I've got it right, those who were venturesome enough to run away and set up outside the system became Cossacks.)

Meanwhile, the New World opened in the west. Sure enough, the colonizing powers tried various forms of indentured servitude - making serfs of the Indians in Spanish territories, bringing over indentured servants in Virginia. But eventually they hit on a better solution, from their point of view: importing slaves from Africa...

Domar's contribution is truly one of the most effective and powerful pieces of synthetic social science I have ever read. It isn't perfect. He has more predecessors than he realizes (Marx, for example, especially Marx's observations on the Swan River Colony in Australia, and the whole section on primitive accumulation and the creation of agrarian capitalism in Britain). And Domar misses one big cause of serfdom and slavery. During the formation of the Roman Empire, in Poland at the end of the Middle Ages, and in the Caribbean islands during the early modern period, slavery and serfdom did not emerge because a high land-labor ratio meant that the ruling elite could not afford to bid for labor in a free labor market. Slavery and serfdom emerged, instead, because high demand for staple products (grain, sugar, tobacco...) greatly lowered the gap between the productivity of free and the productivity of bound workers. Staple production is easier for gang-bosses to monitor than more diversified farming. Staple production also has lower skill requirements for workers. When demand for staple products is very high--to feed the proletariat of imperial Rome, to feed the growing cities of late-Medieval Flanders, or to supply the cheap luxuries demanded by early modern England--slavery or serfdom can emerge even without an extraordinarily high land/labor ratio.

But Krugman is right in ending his piece by asking two big questions: First, why didn't the Western European nobility re-enserf the peasantry after the Black Death and the resulting big rise in the land/labor ratio? Domar wrestles with this question unsuccessfully in his paper. And I have to say that it is still largely a mystery.

Second, why hasn't bound labor reemerged in the modern world? Elites in developing countries can no longer be confident in their ability to earn hefty incomes by employing workers and paying them much less than their average product: an elite monopoly of land ownership is no longer worth much. So why haven't they responded to the potential erosion of their collective economic edge by turning to politics and force to bind workers. One answer is that, to some extent, they have: Consider that modern states are surprisingly effective as tax-collection machines, and in large chunks of the world the elite's power and (relative) prosperity is rooted in its "new class" control over the flow of resources from the state. Consider, also, the Communist Party of Vietnam--what is it but a gang labor boss for unfree labor deployed to produce shoes for Nike?

Very good questions, a very good paper, and I cannot feel but that my 210a class would have gone better this year had I kept Domar on the reading list, canned the "labor scarcity and interchangeable parts" part of the course, and spent not half a class on American slavery but a whole class on Unfree Labor in Historical Perspective.

So how can I atone? Well, Paul Krugman was disappointed to find that there was no copy of Domar out there on the publicly-available internet...

Evsey Domar (1970), "The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis," Economic History Review 30:1 (March), pp. 18-32.

PART I:

The purpose of this paper is to present, or more correctly, to revive, a hypothesis regarding the causes of agricultural serfdom or slavery (here used interchangeably). The hypothesis was suggested by Kliuchevsky's description of the Russian experience in the sixteenth and severnteenth centuries, but it aims at wider applicability.(1)

According to Kliuchevsky, from about the second half of the fifteenth century Russia was engaged in long hard wars against her western and southern neighbors. The wars required large forces that the state found impossible to support from tax revenue alone. Hence the government began to assign lands (pomest'ia) to the servitors, who were expected to use peasant labor (directly and/or via payments in kind and/or money) for their maintenance and weapons. In exchange, the servitor gave the peasants a loan and permitted them, free men as yet, to work all or part of his land on their own. The system worked rather badly, however, because of the shortage of labor. Severe competition among landowners developed, the servitors being bested by lay and clerical magnates. Things became particularly difficult for th eservitors after the middle of the sixteenth century when the central areas of the state became depopulated because of peasant migration into the newly conquered areas in the east and southest. Under the pressure of the serving class and for certain other reasons, the government gradually restricted the freedom of peasants, already hopelessly in debt to their landlords, to move. They became enserfed by the middle of the seventeenth century, though the process itself continued for many decades to come.

This is a very rough summary of Kliuchevsky's story which hardly does him justice but which will serve my purposes until Part II. Like many a historian, he assembled and described the relevant facts (and in beautiful Russian at that) and stopped just short of an analytical explanation.

The economist would recast Kliuchevsky's account as follows. The servitors tried to live off rents (in one form or another) to be collected from their estates. But the estates could not yield a significant amount of rent for the simple reason that land in Russia was not sufficiently scarce relative to labor, and ironically, was made even less scarce by Russian conquests. The scarce factor of production was not land but labor. Hence it was the ownership of peasants and not of land that could yield an income to the servitors or to any non-working landowning class.

A simple economic model may sharpen the argument (if sharpening is needed) and help to develop it further. Assume that land and labor are the only factors of production (no capital or management) and that land of uniform quality and location is ubiquitous. No diminishing returns in the application of labor to land appear; both the average and the marginal productivities of labor are constant and equal, and if competition among employers raises wages to that level (as would be expected), no rent from land can arise, as Ricardo demonstrated some time past. In the absence of specific governmental action to the contrary (see below), the country will consist of family-size farms becuase hired labor, in any form, will be either unavailable or unprofitable: the wage of a hired man or the income of a tenant will have to be at least equal to what he can make on his own farm; if he receives that much, no surplus (rent) will be left for his employer. A non-working class of servitors or others could be supported by the government out of taxes levied (directly or indirectly) on the peasants, but it coul dnot support itself from land rents.

As a step toward reality, let us relax the assumption of the ubiquity of uniform land, and let capital (clearing costs, food, seeds, livestock, structures, and implements) and management be included among the factors of production. Owners of capital, of superior skill, and of better-than-average land will now be able to pay a hired man his due (or to use a tenant) and still obtain a surplus. But so long as agricultural skills can be easily acquired, the amount of capital for starting a farm is small, and the per capita income is relatively small (because of the ample supply of land), a good worker should be able to save or borrow and start on his own in time. Most of the farms will still be more or less family-size, with an estate using hired labor (or tenants) here and there in areas of unusually good (in fertility and/or in location) land, or specializing in activities requiring higher than average capital intensity, or skillful management. But until land becomes rather scarce, and/or the amount of capital required to start a farm relatively large, it is unlikely that a large class of landowners, such as required by the Muscovite government, could be supported by economic forces alone. The American North in the Colonial period and in the nineteenth century would be a good example of an agricultural structure of this type.

So far the institutional structure has been shaped by economic forces alone wihtout direct interference by the government.(2) Suppose now tha tht egovernment decides to create, or at least to facilitate the creation of, a non-working class of agricultural owners. As a first step, it gives the members of this class the sole right of ownership of land. The peasants will now have to work for the landowners, but as long as the workers are free to move, competition among the employers will drive the wage up to the marginal product of labor, and since the latter is still fairly close to the value of the average product (because of the abundance of land) little surplus will remain. The Russian situation prior to the peasants' enserfment corresponds to this case.

The next and final step to be taken by the government still pursuing its objective is the abolition of the peasants' right to move. With labor tied to land or to the owner, competiton among employers ceases. Now the employer can derive a rent, not from his land, but from his peasants by appropriating all or most of their income above some subsistence level.(3) The Russian serfs could stay alive, and even multiply, while working for themselves half-time and less suggests that the productivity of their labor (with poor technique, little capital, but abundant land) must have been quite high.

To recapitulate, the strong version of this hypothesis (without capital, management, etc.) asserts that of the three elements of an agricultural structure relevant here--free land, free peasants, an dnon-working landowners--any two elements but never all three can exist simultaneously. The combination to be found in reality will depend on the behavior of political factors--governmental measures--treated here as an exogenous variable.

The presence of this exogenous political variable seriously weakns the effectiveness of my model: it makes the presence of free land by itself neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for the existence of serfdom. It is not a necessary conditon because so long as marginal productivity of labor is high, serfdom may continue to exist even if free land is no longer present; it may even be imposed at this stage, as it was in the Russian Ukraine in the eighteenth century. Free land is not a sufficient condition because, as I stated above, without proper governmental action free land will give rise to free farmers rather than to serfs.

For the same reason the model cannot predict hte net effect of a change in the land/labor ratio on the position of the peasants. Suppose that with constant land, technology, and per capita stock of capital, population increases. The economic position of the peasants will worsen (even serfs can be exploited more), but the landowners will be less inclined to interfere with the peasants' freedom. Let population decline instead. The peasants will be better off provided they do not become less free. Thus a change in the land/labor ratio can set in motion political and economic forces acting in different directions.

The strength and usefulness of the model could be increased by making the political variable endogenous. But this I cannot do without help from historians and political scientists.

These difficulties notwithstanding, I would still expet to find a positive statistical correlation between free land and serfdom (or slavery). Such a correlation was indeed found by H.J. Nieboer or whom you'll hear more in Part III.

What about the end of serfdom (or slavery)? Traditionally, it was assumed that it would or did disappear because of the inherent superiority of free labor. This superiority, arising from the higher motivation of the free man, was supposed to increase with greater use of capital and with technological progress. Let us disregard the possibly greater reliability of the slave and the longer hours he may be forced ot work (particularly in traditional societies where leisure is highly valued), and let us assume that the economy has reached the positon where the net average productivity of the free worker (Pf) is considerably larger than that of the slave (Ps). The abolition of slavery is clearly in the national interest (unless the immediate military considerations, such as of hte Muscovite government, overwhelm the economic ones), but not necessarily in the interest of an individual slave owner motivated by his profit and not by patriotic sentiment. He will calculate the difference between the wage of a free worker (Wf) and the cost of subsistence of a slave (Ws) and will refuse ot free his slaves unless Pf - Ps > Wf - Ws, all this on the assumption that either kind of labor can be used on a given field.(4)

As the economy continues to develop, the difference Pf - Ps can be expected to widen. Unfortunately, the same forces--technological progress and capital accumulation--responsibel for this effect are apt to increase Wf as well, while Ws need not change. We cannot tell aon a priori grounds whether Pf - Ps will increase more or less than Wf - Ws. Therefore we cannot be sure that technologivcal progress and greater use of capital necessarily reduce the profitability of slave as compared with free labor. Much will depend on the nature of technological progress. Thus Eli Whitney's gin greatly increased the profitability of slavery, while a transition from raising crops to breeding sheep in medieval England might have acted in the opposite direction by creating a surplus of workers (see Part II). American planters must have used better agricultural techniques and more capital than their Latin American and particularly Russian colleagues, but the Americans defended slavery with much greater zeal.

In a traditional society without technological progress and capital accumulation, the end of slavery is, paradoxically, more certain. As population continues to increase and the society eventually becomes Malthusian, the marginal product of labor descends to the subsistence level. Now the free man costs little m ore to employ than the slave while, hopefully, being less bothersome and more productive. The ownership of human beings becomes pointless because of the great multiplication of slaves, and they become free provided they stay poor.(5) It is land that becomes valuable,a nd rents collecte from estates worked by free laborers without any non-economic compulsion are sufficient to support an army of servitors or idlers. If the Muscovite government could have only waited a few hundred years!

PART II:

Where I come from, an economic model without empirical testing is equated with a detective story without an end. My attempts to test the present model, however, merely taught me that the job is not for the amateur. I shall report to you th eresults of my skin deep investigation in the hope that my mistakes will stimulate the specialists. I concentrate on the Russian case, with short excursions into the histories of Poland-Lithuania, Western Europe, and the United States.

1. Russia. The phenomenon to be explained here is not only the development of serfdom but its peculiar timijng: before 1550 Russian peasants were free men; a hundred years later they were serfs. The relevant variables are: (1) the number of servitors required by the military needs of the Moscow state, and (2) the population density.

According to Kliuchevsky, prior to the middle of the fifteenth century, Moscow, still a Tatar vassal surrounded by other Russian lands, fought very few wars; its population became dense because Moscow was the safest spot in the area with few outlets for emigration.(6) We may conclude that there was no need as yet for a large class of servitors, and that the landowners could derive rents from their estates (patrimonies, to be exact) without enserfing the peasants. It is true that Russia, from the Kievan times onward, always had a substantial number of slaves. At the time, these were mostly households servants and retainers rather than peasants.(7)

From the middle of the fifteenth century the situation changes drastically. Having become independent from the Tatars (officially in 1480, actually earlier), and having gathered a number of Russian lands, Moscow was confronted with powerful enemies: with Poland-Lithuania and Sweden in the west and northwest, and with the Crimean Tatars in the south. The struggle with the latter went on continuously, while 50 out of the 103 years from 1492 to 1959 were spent in wars against Poland-Lithuania and Sweden, as were the following 30 out of 70 years from 1613 to 1682, not to mention the Time of Troubles, 1598-1613, filled with both civl and foreign wars.(8)

The military proficiency of the Muscovite armies being poor, refuge was sought in large numbers. More than 300,000 men were reported to have been under arms during Ivan and Terrible's Livonian War. There must have been a great increase in the number of servitors. With trade and industry making no significant progress, the government had to assign land to them. This process began on a large scale in the second half of the fifteenth century and was accelerated throughout the sixteenth century.(9)

In the meantime, the central areas of the country became depopulated. The conquest of the whole expanse of the Volga river (begun in 1552) opened up large areas of better soil and attracted large masses of peasants fleeing from high taxes, Ivan the Terrible's oppression (the famous oprichnina) and Crimean invastions. And then came the Time of Troubles which devastated the country once more. Already in the sixteenth century there was fierce competiton for peasant hands among the landowners. It must have intensified after 1613.(10)

Thus both ingredients for the development of serfdom--a high land/labor ratio and the government's determination to create a large class of servitors--were present. In addition, there were several other forces working in the same direction. The first was the decline in the power of the great magnates, both at the hands of Ivan the Terrible and during the Time of Troubles. By offering the peassants privileges and protection, these magnates had been quite successful in bidding the peasants away from the servitors; for this reason the magnates favored the free movement of peasants, while the servitors, quite naturally, opposed it. Now the peasants lost the support of their "friends".(11) The second reason lay in the fiscal interest of the state: peasant migrations, particularly from the center to the periphery of the state, disorganized tax collections.(12) And finally, the peasant communities objected to the emigration of their members because the community carried a collective responsibility for the tax liabilities of its members (until in later years this responsibility was taken over by the masters); the departure of several members would leave the rest overburdened until the next census.(13)

Space does not allow me to give additional details of the process which gradually enserfed the peasants, or to discuss the disagreement between Kliuchevsky, who emphasized the hopeless indebtedness of the peasants to their landlords as the main obstacle to their movement, and Grekov and Blum who put greater stress on legislative enactments (particularly on the so-called "Forbidden Years," zapovednye gody).(14) Let me mention instead two further reflections of the scarcity of labor in Russia: the first mnifested itself in the replacement of the basic land tax by a household tax in the seventeenth century, and by a poll tax under Peter the Great.(15) The second is an interesting cultural trait which remained long after its cause had probably disappeared: as late as the first half of the nineteenth century, the social position of a Russian landowner, as described in contemporary literature, depended less on the size of his land holdings (which are seldom mentioned) than on the number of souls (registered male peasants) that he owned.(16)

2. Poland-Lithuania. On the theory that the length of a report should be proportional to the intensity of research done, this section will be very short. The relevant facts are as follows: (1) In the fourteenth century vast open and very sparsely populated territories in the Ukraine were conquered by the Lithuanians.(17) (2) In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Ukraine was repopulated by immigrants from the more central areas of the state. The migration depopulated the central areas to such an extent as to constitute, according to Grekov, a threat to the Polish state.(18) (3) By the end of the sixteenth century, the peasants were enserfed.(19)

What is not clear to me is the time sequence of events (2) and (3). In Vol. III (p. 110), Kliuchevsky dates the repopulation of the Ukraine in the sixteenth century; in Vol. I (p. 293), in the fifteenth century. But in both places he attributes the migration of peasants to the intensification of serfdom in Poland-Lithuania. Polish serfdom, according ot him, had been established already in the fourteenth century, and Lithuanian, in the fifteenth century.(20) On the other hand, Grekov asserts that according to the Polish constitution of 1493, each peasant could still leave the land, having settled accounts with his landlord. But he also reports that in 1444 the Galician gentry demanded that the government prevent other landlords from interfering with the peasant movements.(21) Evidently, such interference was taking place even then.

In Poland-Lithuania great gaps between legal enactments and the actual state of affairs were quite possible. There were probably considerable regional variations, both in law and in practice as well. I would be happier if it could be established that migration to the Ukraine preceded the development of serfdom, but I am certainly not in a position to settle the matter. It is quite possible that migration and serfdom were reinforcing each other.

Since I have not studied the development of serfdom in other East European countries, I can make only two brief comments on Blum's well-known and very interesting article on "The Rise of Serfdom in Eastern Europe." His stress on the increasing power of the nobility and on the general depopulation of the area "from the Elbe all the way to the Volga..." is heartily welcome.(22) But his use of alternating periods of prosperity and depression as important consequences of the rise and decline of serfdom cannot be evaluated until he presents an analytical explanation of the causation involved.

3. Western Europe. We shall deal here very briefly with four events: (1) The emergence of serfdom in the late Roman Empire. (2) The decline in serfdom by 1300. (3) Its non-recurrence after the Black Death. (4) The relationship between sheep breeding and serfdom.

The depopulation of the late Roman Empire is, of course, well known. Referring to Byzantium, Georg Ostrogorsky states: "And so ever-increasing masses of the rural population were tried to the soil. This is a particular instance of the widespread compulsory fastening of the population to their occupation which scarcity of labour forced the later Roman Empire to pursue systematically."(23)

This is the clearest statement on the relation between scarcity of labor and the development of serfdom that I have come across in my reading of European economic history.

Similarly, the great increase in population in Western Europe by the end of the thirteenth century when serfdom was declining is also well known. Thus Ganshof and Verhulst talk about "... a considerable and growing reserve of surplus labor..." in France, and Postan discusses signs of overpopulation in England: a growing number of wholly landless men, sub-holdings of many tenants, shortage of pasture, etc."(4) The same information for Western Europe in general is supplied by Smith, who adds that: "The problem therefore for western landowners, at any rate before the demographic collapse of the mid-fourteenth century, was not to keep tenants, but how to get the most out of them.(25) Since these facts fit my hypothesis so nicely, let me stop here while I am still winning.

But when we come to the depopulation caused by the Black Death after 1348 (though, according to Postan, English population stopped growing even earlier),(26) my hypothesis is of little value in explaining the subsequent course of events (see Part I). Why did serfdom fail to come back after such a sharp increase in the land/labor ratio?

I address myself only to England. Except for one rather queer economic explanation to be discussed presently, I have none to offer and have to fall back on political factors. Serfdom could not be restored unless the landowners were reasonably united in their pressure on the government, and unless the latter were willing and able to do their bidding. But it is most unlikely that every estate lost the same fraction of its peasants. Hence those landowners who had suffered most would welcome the freedom of peasant movement, at least for a while, whil ethose who had suffered least would oppose it. If so, the landowners could not be united. Postan also suggests the probability that the main pressure behind Richard II's legislation came not from feudal landowners, but from smaller men;(27) English magnates, like their Russian colleages (see above), could evidently take care of their own interests. Though I cannot judge the "spirit" of medieval legislation, it seems to me that the measures undertaken by Richard's government were somewhat halfhearted.(28) In any case, they were ineffective. So economic forces could reassert themselves and help the peasants.

The queer economic explanation which I have just mentioned would delight an economist if only it squared with the facts. It is the expansion of sheep breeding, an activity which is land-using and labor-saving.(29) Unfortunately, such data as I could find do not support the contention that there was an expansion of sheep breeding in the hundred years following the Black Death. The legal exports of English wool, in raw and cloth, fell from 12 million pounds in 1350 to 8.7 million in 1400--a drop of 27 percent. Another fall of 12 percent (of the 8.7 million) took place by 1450.(30) My authorities do not state the proportions of wool consumed at home and smuggled out of the country.(31) Perhaps these were affected by the Hundred Years' War. But as things stand, I certainly cannot claim that an expansion of English sheep breeding took place after 1350 and that it helped to save the peasants from the return of serfdom.(32)

Judging by Thomas More's famous passage about sheep devouring men, by Bishop Latimer's "Sermon of the Plough" (1549), and by other more direct evidence, there must have been considerable expansion of sheep breeding at the expense of crops and of people in the sixteenth century,(33) By that time, however, English peasants hardly needed the help from the sheep in staying free.

But is it possible that the early expansion of sheep breeding which must have taken place prior to 1350 had helped the English serfs to gain their original freedom after all?

4. The United States. The American South fits my hypothesis with such embarrassing simplicity as to question the need for it. The presence of vast expanses of empty fertile land in a warm climate, land capable to producing valuable products if only labor could be found seems to me quite sufficient to explain the importation of slaves. What is not clear to me is the failure of the North to use them in large numbers. Besides social and political objections, there must have been economic reasons why Negro slaves had a comparative advantage in the South as contrasted with the North. Perhaps it had something to do with the superior adaptability of the Negro to a hot climate, and/or with his usefulness in the South almost throughout the year rather than for the few months in the North.(34) I have a hard time believing that slaves could not be used in the mixed farming of the North; much food was produced on southern farms as well, most of the slave owners had very few slaves, and many slaves were skilled in crafts.(35) A study of the possible profitability of slavery in the North, along Conrad and Meyer's lines, which could show whether the North could have afforded paying the market price for slaves, would be most welcome.

I have not come across any good evidence that slavery was dying out in the United States on the eve of the Civil War, and I side here with Conrad in Meyer, though, in truth, I am not sure that such a thorough investigation was required to prove the profitability of slavery in the South.(36)

PART III

In conclusion, let me say a few words about the origin of my hypothesis and about its place in economic history. Although I had discussed it in my classes for a good dozen years, I did not write it up until 1966 because I had been told on good authority that the idea was old and well kinown. My source was indeed correct because a brief search in the library revealed quite a few predecessors. The most important of them was the Dutch scholar Herman J. Nieboer whose magnum opus of 465 pages under the title of Slavery as an Industrial System: Ethnological Researches was published in 1900.(37) The hypothesis which I have immodestly called "mine" was stated by him time and again, and tested against a mass of anthropological and historical data. As you might expected, he was satisfied with his results.

But the hypothesis was not really original wiht Nieboer. He in turn referred to A. Loria's Les Bases Economiques de la Constitution Sociale of 1893, and to E.G. Wakefield's A View of the Art of Colonization published in 1834. Some glimpses can even be found in Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations.(38)

I have two disagreements with Nieboer. First, his definition of free land has too much legal and not enough economic content to my taste, though he seems to have been unclear rather than wrong. Second, he exaggerated the importance of the hypothesis by claiming, though not in so many words, that free land or other free resources are both necessary and sufficient for the existence of slavery or serfdom: "... Only among people with open resources can slavery and serfdom exist, whereas free labourers dependent on wages are only found among people with close resources."(39) He protected himself with a note on the same page by excluding simple societies of hunters, fishers, and hunting agriculturalists, hardly a fit company for the farmers of the American North. He disregarded the possibility tha tserfdom, once established, could exist for a long time after its initial cause--free land--had disappeared, or that serfdom may be even introduced in the absence of free land. He ignored the role of government. These, however, are minor defects in an important major contribution.

On the other hand, my source may have been a bit wrong. If historians have always known about the relation between the land/labor ratio and serfdom (or slavery), they must have tried hard not to scatter too many good, clear statements inplaces where I could find them, though the students of the American South have been much kinder to me than others.(40) Nieboer could also lodge some complaints. His name can be found neither in the bibliography nor in the index of the 1966 edition of the first volume of the Cambridge Economic History of Europe. And it is absent from Blum's classic study of Russian serfdom. I did find Nieboer's name in Genovese's The Political Economy of Slavery in connection with some insignificant point, but with a further notation that "Philliops read and referred to this book." Phillips had read it, and confirmed that "hired labor was not to be found as long as land was free."(41)

Perhaps in history this hypothesis occupies a place similar to that enjoyed by economic growth in economic theory not long ago. That place was once described as "always seen around but seldom invited in." If so, why not invite it in? After all, the land/labor ratio is readily quantifiable.

EVSEY D. DOMAR, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


For many helpful comments on an earlier draft, I am grateful to the following persons: Abraham Becker, Oleg Hoeffding, Clayton La Force, Edward Mitchell, William Parker, George Rosen, Matthew Edel, Peter Temin, Helen Turin, and Charles Wolf, Jr. Alexander Gerschenkron's earlier suggestions were also very helpful. Thanks are also due Ann Peet for her excellent research assistance.

I am also grateful to the RAND Corporation for its support of an earlier version of this study (20 October 1966), and to the National Science Foundation for its assistance (Grant No. NSF-GS-2627) in revising and extending the first draft. Neither these two organizations, nor the persons listed above, are responsible for the views expressed here.

1. V. Kliuchevsky, Kurs russkoi istorii (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe sotsail'no-ekonomicheskoe izdatel'stvo, 1937). The original work was published in 1906. All my references apply to the 1937 edition. An English translation by C.J. Hogarth, A History of Russia, was published in New York by Russell and Russell in 1960. For specific references, see Part II.

2. I mean by the "government" any organization capable of maintaining some measure of law and order and particularly of using non-economic compulsion. It can be a king, an assembly of landowners, a magnate, etc.

3. He may be restrained by custom and by the fear that this serfs can run away--a common occurence in Russia.

4. Actually, it is not eay to compare the relative profitability of free and slave labor. Since the free worker is paid more or less concurrently with his work, while a slave must be either reared or purchased, and may have children, etc., the streams of receipts and expenditures from the two kinds of labor must be properly discounted. It is assumed in the text that all indirect costs of using slaves, such as medical expense, extra supervision, etc., are included in Ws.

In a well-organized slave market, the price of a slave will approximate the present value of his discounted net lifetime marginal product. A buyer who pays this price will discover that he will not earn much more than the going rate of interest; he will complain about the high cost of salves and express doubt regarding the profitability of slavery in general, because at the margin he will be fairly indifferent between employing free or slave labor. But so long as the supply of food and of similar items for the maintenance of slaves is elastic (which it is likely to be), the slave-breeder should do very well. he benefits from the chronic perpetual disequilibrium in the slave market created by the abundance of land and by the limited humna capacity to procreate (assuming no importation of slaves). But if the slave-breeder computes his rate of return on the current value of his slaves and land, he may not record much more than the market rate of interest either. In other words, the market mechanism transforms the profit from slvaes into capital gains.

On this see Lewis Cecil Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860, published in 1933 and reproduced in part in Harold D. Woodman, Slavery and the Southern Economy: Sources and Readings (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., 1966), pp. 106-9, and Alfred H. Conrad and John R. Meyer, The Economics of Slavery and Other Studies in Econometric History (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1964), pp. 43-92.

5. It is possible that even in a Malthusian society slavery (or serfdom) may linger on. Slaves may be kept for reasons of social prestige (a relic from the times when slavery was profitable), or simply because a slave is more reliable than a hired man. On the other hand, the use of a tenant (with a limited lease) or of a hired man allows the landowner to choose the best among several applicants with much greater ease than among slaves or serfs protected by custom.

6. Kliuchevsky, Vol. I, p. 379; Vol. III, pp. 9-10, 121. Blum, however, taliks about depopulation already in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. See Jerome Blum, Lord and Peasant in Russia from the Ninth to the Ninteteenth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), pp. 60-61. It is possible tha tKliuchevsky describes the relative position of Moscow among other Russian lands, while Blum refers to the whole country.

7. Kliuchevsky, Vol. I, p. 282-3; Vol. II, pp. 182-3.

8. Ibid., Vol II, pp. 121, 125, 221-22; Vol. III, p. 135.

9. Ibid., Vol II, pp. 221, 229-42, 248; Vol. III, pp. 63-64, 230-31, 257, 283. Blum, pp. 93, 157.

10. Kliuchevsky, Vol. II, pp. 254-57, 339-44; Vol III, pp. 182, 244. Blum, pp. 147, 152-4, 157, 160, 252. B.C. Grekov, Krest'iane na Rusi s drevnelshikh vremen do XVII veka (Moscow-Leningrad: Izdatel'stvo Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1946), pp. 794-96, 849.

11. Kliuchevsky, Vol. II, pp. 259, 307. Blum, pp. 253-4. Grekov, pp. 870-71, 903, 909. Grekov Glavnelshie etapy v istorii krepostnogo prava v Rossii (Moscow-Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoe sotsail'no-ekonomicheskoe izdatel'stvo, 1940), p. 46.

It is interesting to note that when the leaders of the gentry militia were negotiating a treaty with the Polish king Sigismund regarding the accession of his son to the Moscow throne in 1610 and in 1611, they demanded the inclusion of a provision forbidding the movement of peasants. Kliuchevsky, Vol. II, p. 349.

12. Kliuchevsky, Vol. III, p. 188.

13. Ibid., Vol II, pp. 317-8, 336-7, 340. Blum, pp. 96, 234.

14. Kliuchevsky, Vol. II, pp. 321-3, 331-50; Vol. III, pp. 181-8. Blum, pp. 254-5. Grekov, Krest'iane, pp. 826, 850. Grekov, Glavnelshie, pp. 64-5. If the peasants' debts tied them to their lords as strongly and as hopelessly as Kliuchevsky asserts, it is puzzling that the government had first to limit and then to forbid their movement by law.

15. Kliuchevsky, Vol. III, pp. 243-6; Vol. IV, pp. 142-8. Grekov, Glavnelshie, pp. 71-2.

16. Here are a few examples, in Pushkin's Dubrovsky, the old Dubrovsky is identified as the owner of seventy souls, and Prince Vereisky, of three thousand; in The Captain's Daughter, the commandant's wife is impressed by Grinev's father's ownership of three hundred souls; in Gogol's The Dead Souls, Pliushkin owns more than a thousand souls; in Goncharov's Oblomov, the principal hero owns three hundred and fifty; in his A Common Story, a certain Anton Ivanich has twelve, mortgaged over and over again...

17. Kliuchevsky, Vol. I, p. 293.

18. Ibid., Vol. I, pp. 293-4. Grekov, Krest'iane, p. 387.

19. Jerome Blum, "The Rise of Serfdom in Eastern Europe," American Historical Review 62 (1957), pp. 807-36. See particularly pp. 821-2.

20. Kliuchevsky, Vol. III, pp. 101-2.

21. Grekov, Krest'iane, pp. 381-3. There seems to be considerable disagreement among the authorities he cites. He mentions a number of legislative enactments passed at the end of the fifteenth century and in 1510, 1519, 1520, 1532 limiting the freedom of peasants to move (p. 387).

22. Blum, "The Rise of Serfdom," p. 819.

23. Georg Ostrogorsky, "Agrarian Conditions in the Byzantine Empire in the Middle Ages," The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, 2e (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), I, 206. See also pages 11, 27-8, 33, 66, and 257 of the same volume. Also, W.R. Brownlow, Lectures on Slavery and Serfdom in Europe (London and New York: Burns and Oates, Ltd., 1892), pp. 49-50.

24. Francois Louis Ganshof and Adriaan Verhulst, "Medieval Agrarian Society in Its Prime: France, The Low Countries, and Western Europe," Cambridge Economic History, I, 294; M.M. Postan in his essay on "England," same volume, pp. 552-56, 563-4, 624; Blum, "The Rise of Serfdom," pp. 810-11.

25. R.E.F. Smith, The Enserfment of the Russian Peasantry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 4.

26. Postan, essay on "England," Cambridge Economic History, I, 566-70.

27. Ibid., p. 609.

28. Brownlow, Lectures on Slavery, pp. 157-83. Smith, Enserfment, pp. 4-5.

29. The idea that sheep-breeding may have had something to do with serfdom was suggested by Nieboer in his book (pp. 371-5) discussed in Part III.

30. K.G. Ponting, The Wool Trade Past and Present (Manchester and London: Columbine Press, 1961), p. 30. The figures are based on a chart facing p. xviii of Medieval Merchant Ventures by E. Carus Wilson.

31. According to Postan, p. 568, domestic consumption of cloth is not known. Peter J. Bowden arbitrarily assumed it to be 50 percent. See his The Wool Trade in Tudor and Stuart England (London: Macmillan &. Co., Ltd., 1962), p. 37.

32. Data on the size of the sheep population, or more correctly on increments in it, would not be sufficient for our problem. We woul dhave ot know how many crop-raising peasants were replaced, say, by 1000 extra sheep.

33. See E. Lipson, The History of the Woollen and Worsted Industries (London: Frank Cass and Co., Ltd., 1965), p. 19; E. Nasse, On the Agricultural Community of the Middle Ages, and Inclosures of the Sixteenth Century in England (London: Macmillan &. Co., 1871), pp. 77-8; Brownlow, Lectures on Slavery, p. 184; Bowden, Wool Trade, p. xvi.

34. Woodman, Slavery and the Southern Economy, p. 7.

35. Conrad and Meyer, Economics and Slavery, p. 80; James Benson Sellers, Slavery in Alabama (University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1950), pp. 71, 120, 162-3; Rosser Howard Taylor, Slaveholding in North Carolina: An Economic View (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1926), p. 72; Harrison Anthony Trexler, Slavery in Missouri (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1914), pp. 13, 19; Woodman, Slavery and the Southern Economy, pp. 14-15.

36. As the authors practically admit on p. 78. On the profitability debate see Stanley Engerman, "The Effects of Slavery Upon the Southern Economy: A Review of the Recent Debate," Explorations in Entrepreneurial History, Second Series, IV (1967), pp. 71-97.

37. It was published in the Hague by Martinus Nijhoff. A republication is scheduled in 1970 by Burt Franklin, Publisher, New York.

38. Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (London: Canaan's edition, 1922).

39. Nieboer, Slavery as an Industrial System, pp. 312, 389.

40. A clear statement by Ostrogorsky was quoted in Part II. For the American view, see Woodman's collection.

41. Eugene D. Genovese, The Political Economy of Slavery (New York: Vintage Books, 1967), p. 84. Ulrich B. Phillips, "The Economic Cost of Slaveholding in the Cotton Belt," Political Science Quarterly, XX (June 1905), partially reproduced in Woodman, Slavery and the Southern Economy, p. 36.

Posted by DeLong at May 10, 2003 10:08 PM | TrackBack

Comments

The guy to read on this is probably Witold Kula, and the people who came after him.

I'll briefly summarise his "second serfdom" argument as I understand it - think of this as the cartoon version *grin*.

Assume we are Polish landlords in the middle ages. Because Poland is pretty flat, and generally good cavalry country, us and the lads can probably stomp any peasant rebellion that comes along, so we could extort a whole lot of grain out of the peasants with some success.

But there is no point, as we can eat the first ton, feed the second ton to the horses, turn the third and fourth tons into vodka ... and then there is nothing we can do with any more of the stuff. So we dont bother to oppress too hard.

So there are a bunch of reasonably prosperous peasants out there, with market towns and everything.

Now, once the Dutch finance capitalists got rolling, they offered to buy all the grain we could get to Danzig for cash (and they lent us a bunch of money, that we could repay later at easy terms).

So now it is worth oppressing the peasantry, organising them into collective farms (sorry, noble estates) and basically maximising the amount of grain we can get out of them, because we now have something we can do with the grain.

It's all bad for the peasantry, but that isnt the point, is it ... btw, this is the dark side of the globalisation of the early modern economy (the bright side of the same picture is that it became more possible for Italian labourers to buy imported grain during Italy's regular famines).

Ian Whitchurch

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 11, 2003 03:24 AM

Actually, go look at this web page as well

http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/munro5/SERFDOM2.htm

Brad, it's probably worth talking to John Munro about this.

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 11, 2003 03:29 AM

I've mentioned earlier that Brad's obsession with Nike's Vietnamese factories is based on factual misunderstanding. These factories don't use unfree labour and they aren't run by the Communist party. It's probably libellous against Nike to suggest that they do. Vietnam is a pretty good example of a successful Communist state, particularly since the limited marketisation of the economy under the "doi moi" programme, and since the successful policy of coffee-growing. I'd also note that they've been pretty successful in getting rid of the heroin trade and in controlling the spread of SARS. Although it's by no means a democracy, there's a lot to be said in favour of the Vietnamese government and it doesn't deserve slurs like this.

Posted by: dsquared on May 11, 2003 03:45 AM

I think the usually excellent dsquared misses the point about the Vietnamese CP. They don't run the Nike factories, obviously. Nike and their local contractors do.

What the CP run is the country. This means they suppress trade unions, govern the schools, police the streets, and do whatever else is necessary to get the Nike factories to run on time.

I don't see any slander here. That's just the way you run an efficient police state.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on May 11, 2003 05:39 AM

Knowing nothing about the matter:
DL-J, is there a difference between Vietnam and Indonesia here? For that matter, is there a difference between Vietnam and any other country? What you've described is the core functions of government, plus suppressing unions, which is done to various extents in lots of places.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on May 11, 2003 08:00 AM

A couple more random shots:
I recall an article in the New Yorker (couldn't find it on the web) concerning Florida orange pickers who were held in slavery-like conditions; threatened with death if they ran away, and kept in permanent debt. While looking for that, I ran across this NYTimes editorial (Sept. 9, 2000), saying that the biggest problem is South Asians in debt bondage--seemingly agricultural families. Don't know how this fits with the research under discussion.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on May 11, 2003 08:06 AM

As has come up a couple of times here, for slavery or serfdom there has to be a strong military superiority on the part of the slaveholders/master. Peoples like the Swiss or Cossacks that escaped serfdom were usually militarily pretty fearsome. My guess is that the free peasantry, wherever you find it, usually has a military capacity (e.g. the English yeoman, but also the Byzantine peasantry). Feudalism in W. Europe apparently was dominant only in most of Germany, France, and England. At its foundations Europe was ruled by dozens of warlords and robber barons, who protected and exploited their own people but plundered everyone else's. As the situation normalized the surviving worlords maintained their military protection function.

I've read stories about parents in Thailand selling their daughters to factories. It might not be slavery per se but seemingly some sort of indentured unfree status.

Posted by: zizka on May 11, 2003 09:47 AM

zizka--
The sale of Thai daughters is indeed one of the examples the NY Times cites. URL:
http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/09/opinion/09SAT2.html?ex=1052798400&en=d832b0eceb2cddf8&ei=5070
(I'd forgotten how to post links under the new regime.)

If David is right, BTW, that's great for my ideological side: I'd love to be able to say that free trade unions are the only thing standing between a well-run state and slavery.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on May 11, 2003 10:05 AM

"Vietnam is a pretty good example of a successful Communist state, particularly since the limited marketisation of the economy under the 'doi moi' programme, and since the successful policy of coffee-growing."

Agreed. Vietnam appears to be gaining reliability and speed in economic growth, and fostering growth that is inclusive. The economy is holding its own against competition in China.

The decisive way in which the SARS infection was isolated and eliminated should be an important public health lesson.

Posted by: anne on May 11, 2003 10:47 AM

Pardon--that editorial cites selling Thai girls into prostitution, not to factories.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on May 11, 2003 10:53 AM

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/07/international/asia/07VIET.html

Halt of SARS in Vietnam Could Hold Lessons for Other Nations
By SETH MYDANS

HANOI, Vietnam — Doctors and nurses clustered around the bed of Nguyen Thi Men when she emerged in mid-March from a nine-day coma, urging her to stay alive.

"Breathe, breathe," they said. "Keep trying. Your husband and your children are waiting for you."

She heard them and she tried, although she felt as if she were drowning, she said in an interview this weekend at her home.

"I saw a lot of doctors looking at me and it really raised my spirits," she said. "So many people looking after me. I was very touched."

What she did not yet know was that they had gathered to view a miracle. She was the only survivor from among the six most critically ill patients infected when SARS broke out in the Hanoi French Hospital more than two months ago.

Her survival became a hopeful symbol for Vietnam, which on April 28 was declared by the World Health Organization to be the first nation to contain and eliminate the disease. Vietnam earned that distinction by going 20 straight days without a new case after recording 63 infections, including the six critical cases. Five people had died....

"It was the speed, the leadership, the transparency, the flexibility, the intensity with which they educated people what to do.... It all sounds a lot easier than it is."

Posted by: anne on May 11, 2003 11:07 AM

There are significant labor abuses in China. Do such abuses cancel the rapid general development that is taking place? I find this a difficult question to answer. India is a "democracy," but there is needless extreme hunger in the midst of development and substantial food surpluses.

Posted by: lise on May 11, 2003 11:26 AM

I heard Bill Gates discuss southern Africa's health problems with Bill Moyers. Gates suggested the problems of South Africa and other countries represent significant weakness in capitalism. I would add weakness in democracy in the case of South Africa, for instance. Why has the South African government, which is democratic and humane in new heritage, not made a far far better effort at stemming the HIV/AIDS spread and treating the sufferers?

What is the nature of an idealistic democratic-capitalist state that is fostering economic development and an approach to equity but not more actively working on AIDS?

Posted by: anne on May 11, 2003 12:01 PM

"there's no point in enslaving or enserfing a man unless the wage you would have to pay him if he was free is substantially above the cost of feeding, housing, and clothing him."

I can see the appeal of that bold hypothesis in the context. It could also account for policies of the Czars of Imperial Russia and, later, the Bolsheviks to populate Siberia through sentences to exile and the gulags and direction of labour. With adaptation it could explain motivation for the Statute of Labourers of 1351 in England, in the reign of Edward III, which was an attempt to put wage rates back to customary levels prevailing before the ravages of the Black Death plague of 1348-50 had reduced the population by a third and possibly more.

Unfortunately, the hypothesis is also simplistic for it offers no illumination of the erosion of the feudal system of land tenure in England begun prior to the Black Death nor of associated changes in the pace of enclosures of land in common use. I cannot claim familiarity with the relating histiography but by chance came upon this:
http://www.socsci.mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/bradley/Enclosure.pdf by an academic at Vassar College, originally published in 1918.

What strikes me about it above all is the astonishingly modern approach of testing hypotheses against the available evidence. One main claim is that serfs were leaving the land prior to the Black Death because of poverty and despite offers of landlords to reduce rents or diminish the feudal dues of serfs exacted in exchange for the tenancy of land to cultivate, as per the standard feudal model. The erosion of serfdom appears as the outcome of an interplay between many factors, including population pressures upon land, living standards achievable through cultivation, declining trends in land fertility pending land improvements and innovation in farming methods, enclosures and the prices of wheat and wool.

I am also hesitant about how the hypothesis fits with Habakkuk: British and American Technology in the Nineteenth Century (1962), in which the scarcity of labour available to manufacturing industry in 19th century America is seen as a principal driver of technical innovation. Somewhere, I came across that at the begining of the 19th century America was importing agricutural machinery and exporting it by the end of the century. The comparative advantages of the American economy had switched. We can doubtless all think of convincing explanations of why slavery was not adopted in manufacturing even though it was almost certainly true that the wage rates necessary to attract workers into manufacturing employment exceeded the costs of feeding, housing and clothing employees. At the very least the hypothesis needs extension on how it was feasible to enforce slavery or serfdom and at what enforcement costs.

Posted by: Bob Briant on May 11, 2003 12:20 PM

"We can doubtless all think of convincing explanations of why slavery was not adopted in manufacturing even though it was almost certainly true that the wage rates necessary to attract workers into manufacturing employment exceeded the costs of feeding, housing and clothing employees."

Consider the conditions in many manufacturing and mining settings in England and America, and the fierce resistance to unions. Dickens describes conditions for English labor as akin to serfdom, while a history of company towns in America reminds me of serfdom. Did Andrew Carnegie, for instance, have "serfs?" Henry Ford?

Posted by: jd on May 11, 2003 02:33 PM

I consider "debt slavery" the 21st century U.S. version of pre-industrial European serfdom. Add in the fact that it's easier and less expensive to pay for medical care through an employer-sponsored insurance plan than with insurance bought by a self-employed individual, and that it's nearly impossible for most working individuals to pay the cost of any medical treatment beyond reduction of a compound fracture with cash they have in hand, and you have a situation where employment is mandatory for all but the most extreme risk-takers.

Now let's take a typical mortgaged-to-the-hilt American head-of-family worker's job away. The debt doesn't disappear. He or she (or in the case of too many families, she AND he) must scramble to find work, any work, at any rate of pay, without delay. New laws now being pushed hard by the "financial services industry" are making bankruptcy a less viable option; the debt assumed while a worker is earning $80,000 per year will so persist forever, even if he or she is forced to take a job that pays $25,000 per year and is unlikely to allow the worker to earn more than $30,000 per year even after many years of service -- in an economy where the idea of "many years of service" with one employer is becoming an unobtainable goal for most of us.

When you can't afford to quit your job because of your debts and/or potential medical expenses, you are little better off (in the long run) than a serf bound to the land.

Don't worry. Serfdom is making a comeback. But it is taking new forms and has new names to describe it, assuming we want to admit that it exists.

Posted by: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller on May 11, 2003 02:37 PM

Thanks Anne -

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/10/international/africa/10FPRO.html

In Grip of AIDS, South African Cries for Equity
By GINGER THOMPSON

MUIZENBERG, South Africa -- It's not unusual to sense urgency in a dying man. For Abdurrazack Achmat, every emotion — rage, fear, pride — feels magnified by a factor of five million.

That is the estimated number of people in South Africa infected with the virus that causes AIDS, one of the largest H.I.V.-positive populations in the world. But although they are mighty in number, Mr. Achmat said, these masses have been rendered "nameless and faceless" by a government that perpetuates confusion about the origins and magnitude of their disease, while refusing to follow the example of other African countries and make life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs publicly available as treatment.

With a death toll of at least 600 people a day, the struggle by AIDS patients' for recognition and public medical care is widely held to be as pivotal to the future of this new democracy as the fight against apartheid was under the white-minority government that fell out of power nearly a decade ago....


Posted by: lise on May 11, 2003 03:21 PM

Lise

Is the price of development in South Africa somehow thought to be turning from the epidemic? Could it be so?

Anne

Posted by: anne on May 11, 2003 03:36 PM

Amazing Amazing Amazing

In Grip of AIDS, South African Cries for Equity
By GINGER THOMPSON - NYTimes

To these millions, Abdurrazack Achmat, 41, known as Zackie, is their Nelson Mandela. Like this country's revered freedom fighter, Mr. Achmat has made clear that he is willing to die for his cause. Even though he can afford the drugs, known as ARV's, Mr. Achmat vowed five years ago not to take the medicines until the government made them available to everyone infected with H.I.V. ...

Posted by: anne on May 11, 2003 03:43 PM

Anne

Thanks so much.
Thinking.

lise

Posted by: lise on May 11, 2003 04:01 PM

"Vietnam is a pretty good example of a successful Communist state" - i would say any nation where you are jailed for critisizing the government cannot be successful.

"is there a difference between Vietnam and any other country?" matt is not being very creative. Political freedom and influence.

"The decisive way in which the SARS infection"
Do the trains run on time as well?

"Florida orange pickers who were held in slavery-like conditions" the differance b/w this example and the whole serf/indentured servitute discussion is that it represents an exception rather than the rule.

"I consider "debt slavery" the 21st century U.S. version of pre-industrial European serfdom."
"the debt assumed while a worker is earning $80,000 per year..." If you make 80k a year the assumption of debt is purely by choice. If you don't want to become a modern serf, pay off your credit card and don't get the plasma TV. I would like to see some universal health care of course...

Posted by: markmeyer on May 11, 2003 05:22 PM

"Dickens describes conditions for English labor as akin to serfdom, while a history of company towns in America reminds me of serfdom. Did Andrew Carnegie, for instance, have "serfs?" Henry Ford?"

I doubt that anyone is disputing that conditions of both factory working in 19th century Britain and urban living were grim by comparisons with the present. The starkest reminder I've come across is that mortality rates were higher in urban areas than in rural areas, the reverse of the situation in world3 countries at present.

If the 19th century started out with a notion that laissez-faire economic policy was the way to go - save for the combination acts to prevent monopolisation in markets for products or labour - that gradually yielded to recognition of the need for the factory acts to regulate working conditions and legislation to create local government empowered to provide work houses and urban infrastructure, and to legitimise trade unions. The slave trade was abolished in 1807 and the institution of slavery in 1833. Whatever else, the Victorians were always setting up commissions and inquiries to investigate issues of social concern. Industrialisation was a new experience. If Adam Smith had sanctified the market system as the route to prosperity in 1776, no one for sure knew how that was going to work out as industrialisation progressed.

Most studies I've come across report that wages in Britain were higher than in most of Europe and the evidence is that real living standards did improve over the course of the century. The population trebled through natural growth, largely because of falling mortality rates. Average life expectancy at birth increased from 40 years or less at the beginning of the century to about 50 years at the end.

In this context, what seems to me the most interesting aspect of Henry Ford's business, especially given his opposition to trade unions, was his decision in 1914 to double the hourly pay rate from c. $2.50 to $5 an hour of assembly line workers, resulting in a reduction in operating costs.

Posted by: Bob Briant on May 11, 2003 05:33 PM

"First, why didn't the Western European nobility re-enserf the peasantry after the Black Death and the resulting big rise in the land/labor ratio? Domar wrestles with this question unsuccessfully in his paper. And I have to say that it is still largely a mystery."

"Mystery" is maybe an unfortunate choice of word. It will never really be resolved of course, but there's plenty of theories, you make it sound like no one has come up with any answers.

By the way: They did re-enserf them, you know. To some extent, in some places, but ultimately they failed.

Posted by: David Weman (Europundit) on May 11, 2003 06:06 PM

Serf's Up must be the most staggeringly atrocious pun I have ever seen, and it's not because of any lack of competition.

Posted by: David Weman (Europundit) on May 11, 2003 06:14 PM

Check out "Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy" which covers the way that slavery does exist today. Interestingly, one of the points is that not only are the costs of keeping a slave significantly lower than the costs of paying a free worker, but the costs of acquiring and disposing of slaves is lower, relatively speaking, than it was during US slavery's era. So people are not only owned, but bought cheaply and then disposed of easily. Enough to keep you up at night, really.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0520224639/qid=1052707243/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/102-6898559-2880920?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

Posted by: verbal on May 11, 2003 07:45 PM

Asian sweatshops are not slave labor or serf labor or unfree labor. In fact, at least two NY Times op-ed columnists are on record as being rather sympathetic towards them:

Kristof, "Two Cheers for Sweatshops"
http://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/home/20000924mag-sweatshops.html

Krugman, "In Praise of Cheap Labor"
http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/smokey.html

Now if one wants to say that the Communists in Viet Nam, China and elsewhere in Asia so drastically retarded economic development for the masses under their rule (as related in the very fine "Slouching Towards Utopia") that sweatshops today present an attractive road to economic betterment for many in that part of the world, even in our early 21st Century, that's another story.

But regarding the Communists, we might also remember that they had their own overtly institutionalized slave labor relationships (see "Gulag" and related entries) to go with larger-scale forced, non-market, non-free labor institutions. So the question as to why the "powers that be" in developed 20th Century economies didn't use force to appropriate the product of labor is in part answered -- in a lot of cases involving a great many people, they did.

Posted by: Jim Glass on May 11, 2003 08:10 PM

Jim Glass's post could be read as saying that it is specifically Communists who have retarded development so much that, for many people, working in a sweatshop is the best option. But sweatshops are not unique to Communist countries. If they're an attractive option for many Indonesians or Thais, can we conclude that these decidedly non-Communist governments have retarded their own countries' development to a similar extent?

Mr. Glass, if I am misreading your post, I apologize for the misunderstanding.

Posted by: karl on May 11, 2003 09:29 PM

Hmph... a possible idea on why slavery isn't more widespread in the U.S. and other fairly high-wage countries.

Basically, the effect of slavery is to create a ceiling on the price of labor. This results in a labor shortage. It has the effect of helping out current employers, but making things more difficult for potential employers, since they cannot simply buy labor on the open market when it's bound to existing producers.

So what? Well, in modern economies, production and ownership are rather abstracted from each other, in most cases. Members of the ruling elite usually own shares from thousands of companies. Slavery, however, would lock labor in the hands of existing companies. While slavery would probably increase the overall profits of corporate America as a whole, since... well... the reduction in labor's share has to go somewhere, it would block the "exchange" of labor between companies through market forces. So what? Because technical substitution would become much more difficult with the locking of labor in the hands of a "incumbent" companies, growth would be slowed, and so would growth in corporate profits. Since members of the elite own shares of many companies, and can change which companies they own shares of freely, their interest is in high corporate profits overall as much as high profits in the particular companies they own.

In short, slavery would increase capital's share of income, but reduce income growth overall, and perhaps our elite decided that the tradeoff wasn't worth it, since 1) productivity growth, including productivity growth that results from factor substitution, is much faster than that of previous slave-owners, and because 2) our feudal lords each own 0.01% of all 10,000 of the "fiefs" in the country, rather than each one owning 100% of one fief as in a feudal society.

There are a few holes in this idea, because ownership is not as dispersed as it needs to be for it to work at explaining why we don't have pervasive slavery, but it is a start.

Well... somebody else do better!

Posted by: Julian Elson on May 11, 2003 10:25 PM

Jim: The main way in which the Communist party of Vietnam retarded that country's economic development was to destroy its most profitable export industry; the sale of heroin to the USA.

Posted by: dsquared on May 11, 2003 11:08 PM

Mr Briant, Ford raised wages to $5.00 per DAY in 1914, not per hour. And they remained at that level for many years thereafter, until Ford was unionized in the 1930's.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan on May 12, 2003 04:54 AM

Brad,

*Publicly* available Internet includes those of us long out of campus.

Can you throw Domar's paper at a site that does not include Jstor - such as www.j-bradford-delong.net?

Posted by: Suresh Krishnamoorthy on May 12, 2003 05:23 AM

ooops.... got it.

My hand is now in Coventry for clicking on the wrong link.

Posted by: Suresh Krishnamoorthy on May 12, 2003 05:27 AM

"they suppress trade unions, govern the schools, police the streets, and do whatever else is necessary to get the Nike factories to run on time."

You make it sound kinda like, say, North Carolina . . .

Posted by: rea on May 12, 2003 06:15 AM

I read the thread, and then went back to reread Moses Finlay. Different forms of unfreedom have different causes. In particular, chattel slavery (which is qualitatively different from serfdom: the serf's labour is compelled; the slave's person is compelled) arises from the introduction of commodity production for a market. Chattel slavery is superior to serfdom in this setting, because it gives the owner greater flexibility in responding to the market: marginal land may be put into cultivation by buying more slaves; marginal land may be taken out of cultivation and the excess slaves then sold off. The serfs you have, on the other hand, are the serfs you have. You don't get any more, except by natural increase, which is unlikely to coincide with market incentives to increase cultivation.

So in classical times, Greek and Roman commodity agriculture for the urban market was slave based. When, in the Americas, the opportunity arose for commodity agriculture for the European market (tobacco, rice and a fortiori cotton and sugar), chattel slavery was happily introduced.

The slave is suddenly enslaved. One day he's a free man in his own community, the next he is captured and transported to another community where he is sold. Finlay insists that the slave is always deracinated. Reduction of a free peasantry to serfdom, on the other hand, is a slow multi-generational process which takes place in situ and which requires, at least to some extent, the consent of those being reduced.

By the late republic, large scale Roman agriculture was slave based. But in late antiquity, the workforce for large scale Roman agriculture is the colonate, essentially serfs. The classical word for slave is _servus_; by late antiquity, and thus in Romance languages, _servus_ and its derivatives means serf; a new word has come in for slave (derived from Slav). How did this transformation come about?

Agriculture retreats from commodity production. Rich men move back to their estates, retreat from the money economy. Chattel slavery's flexibility is no longer valued. Free men become oppressed, not just by their landlords, but by the empire. Landlords become their protection from the Imperial tax-collector (which is what the _patrocinium_ was, in effect). And with each concession to their protector, in return for protection, the once free peasants lose a little more freedom.

That's why serfdom wasn't successfully reintroduced following the Black Death. It takes time and patience and the labourers cooperation. None of which were available in the 14th Century.

So now, back to Ian Whitchurch's "cartoon version" of Kula.

The question becomes: Why second serfdom? Why not chattel slavery? The opportunity is offered to start commodity production for a world market, through Danzig. Startup costs can be financed. In the Americas, at more or less the same time, people who could come up with the startup costs bought slaves. In Eastern Europe, they undertook the much harder, slower process of enserfing their existing peasants. Why? and what was in it for the peasants?

Posted by: jam on May 12, 2003 06:32 AM

What would a Paul Krugman piece be without a gratuitous slander:

" but if it was profitable to have indentured servants in the modern world, I'm sure that Richard Scaife's think tanks would have no trouble finding justifications, and assorted Christian groups would explain why it's God's will."

And, of course, as historically accurate as his claim that no one before GW Bush wore military garb while president. He must have been disappointed that he couldn't have worked Bush into this article somehow.

Now for the facts, slavery was eradicated mainly thanks to the moral arguments of Christians like William Wilberforce, and the military might of the British empire. Even today it's the Christians trying to eradicate the few pockets of slavery that exist in Africa.

Finally, I don't know about grain and sugar, but tobacco really isn't suitable to slave labor, as it requires thinking workers. Unlike cotton, which was the real crop that profitted slave holders.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on May 12, 2003 07:06 AM

markmeyer--
I meant a relevant economic difference, and I was referring to David Lloyd-Jones's list of of what the Vietnamese Communist Party does:
"suppress trade unions, govern the schools, police the streets, and do whatever else is necessary to get the Nike factories to run on time."
(Also, I believe that the life of those who protest oil companies in Indonesia is not pleasant.)

I'm just trying to ask about the economic models here. Certainly not trying to set up any moral equivalencies. (The line about unions and slavery was a joke, like rea's remark about North Carolina.)

Economically, I'm not sure it's relevant that the Florida orange pickers are the exception rather than the rule. As I understand the argument: If free labor was more efficient than bound labor, there wouldn't be any point in any slavery. But the economic preconditions for slavery aren't sufficient--there's what Domar calls the "exogenous variable" of political conditions, in this case the Thirteenth (I think) Amendment. So if there is scattered slavery, that may show that the economic preconditions are strong enough to overcome the legal disincentives.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on May 12, 2003 07:13 AM

" Jim: The main way in which the Communist party of Vietnam retarded that country's economic development was to destroy its most profitable export industry; the sale of heroin to the USA."

Well, I dunno. Looking at the data our host posts in the chart at the beginning of Chapter V of _Slouching_, at http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/TCEH/Slouch_divergence5.html , could lead one to believe the Communists did rather more than that to retard economic development.

"... The fact that a large part of the globe fell under Communist rule in the twentieth century is the first major factor making for enormous disparities in the world's distribution of economic wealth across nations. Moreover, figuring out how to move from a stagnant, ex-Communist economy to a dynamic, growing one is proving very difficult ..."

Unless you are saying that the Vietnamese Communists were uniquely economically beneficient and pro-growth among all Communist governments, which doesn't seem supported by the data available there (or elsewhere).

Posted by: Jim Glass on May 12, 2003 10:29 AM

Patrick Sullivan, Krugman said "assorted Christian groups would explain why it's God's will." That doesn't contradict the fact that there are also Christian groups trying to eradicate slavery in Africa today. Krugman's statement was that there exist groups of Christians that would explain why it's God's will, and yours was that there exist groups of Christians that are opposed to slavery where it still exists. There's no contradiction there, because neither of these statements is about all Christian groups.

Posted by: Julian Elson on May 12, 2003 10:41 AM

"slavery was eradicated mainly thanks to the moral arguments of Christians like William Wilberforce, and the military might of the British empire."

Exactly! This, of course, accounts for the successful British miltary intervention on the side of the North in the US Civil War, and explains why devout Christians like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson abandoned their states of birth to fight in Abraham Lincoln's army of abolitionists . . .

Posted by: rea on May 12, 2003 10:52 AM

Which is to say: Christians were on both sides of the issue back in the day, since Patrick is right about the importance of Christian abolitionists.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on May 12, 2003 11:39 AM

"Patrick is right about the importance of Christian abolitionists"

While many of the influential abolitionists were Christians, the principle ideological defenders of slavery were also believing Christians . . . a point which was made by Krugman and for some reason rejected by Patrick.

Posted by: rea on May 12, 2003 12:08 PM

By the way, my previous idea on why slavery isn't more widespread now in high-wage countries is really stupid, because it also predicts that there would be no very effective special-interest policies that reduce the profits of most corporations and increase the profits of a few, like steel tariffs.

Though you probably already picked up its stupidity :^).

Posted by: Julian Elson on May 12, 2003 09:13 PM

On Julian Elson: I read this magnificent book of David Landes "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations". If I understood him well, his main point on this issue would be: innovation and progress in the end are based on workers using their heads. Of course there are many examples (like fordism) in the western world of not-free labor iin this sense, but in the end some freedom for the workers, possibilities of taking economic initiatives even when you don't belong to the elite and that kind of stuff are crucial for sustained economic growth (and profits).
(Being a former left-wing socialist I am surprised by the status of Marx in this "very American" discussions; I never was a Marxist but I'm pleased to see that a normal reference to his work is possible)

Posted by: FransGroenendijk on May 13, 2003 04:58 AM

Jim: Actually, I might be tempted to make a case for the Vietnamese as the best Actually Existing Communist regime. One obviously can't conduct a controlled experiment, but their development indicators compare favourably to Cambodia and Laos, and to Latin America. I don't accept Brad's mapping of Vietnam onto the Phillipines as valid either; what the Phillipines "escaped" was a massive bloody great war of foreign aggression plus the use of (gasp!) chemical weapons on their agriculture.

Also worth noting that the draft of "Slouching" on the website is far enough out of date that it states that Cuba doesn't have better medical care for the poor than Mexico, and the latest WOrld Bank factsheet has $420 for Vietnamese GDP/cap and $1050 for the Philippines -- a gap of 0.6 rather than the 0.8 Brad is looking at.

I'd also note that your post above seems to imply that sweatshops in SE Asia are only found to be a development route in ex-Communist states, which can't be true, so I wonder what you actually meant.

Posted by: dsquared on May 13, 2003 07:41 AM

Defending slavery as natural is hardly the exclusive province of Christians, so why didn't Krugman pick on democrats since they can trace their position back to Aristotle (predating Christianity)? Or to Muslims, since Mohammed himself owned slaves, and slavery was legal in the Islamic world in the twentieth century?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on May 13, 2003 10:22 AM

Well... Krugman never IMPLIED that defending slavery was the exclusive province of Christians. He merely said that if slavery were very profitable, we would see Scaife's think tanks and "assorted" Christian groups trying to justify it. Islam is not the main religion of the United States. Perhaps there *would* be Islamic groups that said slavery was fine and dandy in the U.S., alongside Scaife's think tanks and various (though by no means all) Christian groups, but the Christian groups defending slavery would almost certainly be more influential. There are about... six million Muslims in the U.S., and about 200 million Christians, so even if only 10% of Christian associations supported slavery, and 100% of Muslims did, the Christians supporting slavery would outnumber the Muslims supporting slavery three to one. As for Aristotalian philosophy, do you really think that that would be a major force in the political debates over slavery if it were common today? Christianity, Islam, and Scaife's think tanks are plausible defenders of slavery, but I find it difficult to believe the latter-day apostles of Aristotle would be a major force in political debates.

Posted by: Julian Elson on May 13, 2003 11:21 AM

"Now for the facts, slavery was eradicated mainly thanks to the moral arguments of Christians like William Wilberforce, and the military might of the British empire."

For the facts, slavery in the U.S. was eradicated mainly thanks to a bloody 5 year civil war that killed over 600,000, injured over 1,100,000, and left the South devestated. Moral arguments also played a role.

Posted by: nameless on May 13, 2003 12:07 PM

"For the facts, slavery in the U.S. ..."

The whole point is, the US experience was relatively minor in the scheme of things. Compare and contrast the number of slaves freed or never made within the British Empire, or in places like Brazil that were influenced by international pressure that went back to Wilberforce.

That post was just too US-centric.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 13, 2003 04:41 PM

1834 - British Empire had 780,000 slaves

1865 - Confederacy had over 3 million slaves

Posted by: nameless on May 13, 2003 08:59 PM

Correction:

1865- Confederacy had nearly 4 million slaves

http://www.eh.net/encyclopedia/wahl.slavery.us.php

Posted by: nameless on May 13, 2003 09:05 PM

So what about those slave counts? It's not making the right comparisons. For one thing, it's not showing people who had been kept out of slavery.

The true comparison is at the same 1833 date, PLUS allowing for French, Dutch, Danish (yes, Danish) and Brazilian slave ownership, OR comparing 1865 US slave holdings with British and other NON-slave holdings (I suppose you could do an estimate using indentured labourers and convict labourers - and remember, that's in far more than just the Caribbean area). As at 1833, US holdings were smaller too. As at the 1880s when Brazil completed emancipation, there were a LOT of freed slaves there.

Like I said, US centric. The way to go isn't to count how many were freed but how many were free.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 13, 2003 09:31 PM

"The United States became the leading user of slave labor in the New World, not because it participated heavily in the slave trade, but because of the unusually high rate of natural increase. By 1825 there were about 1,750,000 slaves in the southern United States. This represented 36 percent of all slaves in the New World in that year. Despite its peripheral role in the Atlantic slave trade, the size of its slave population and success of its plantation system during the three decades preceding the Civil War made the South the greatest center of slavery in the new world and the bulwark of resistance to its abolition."

http://www.mariner.org/captivepassage/arrival/arr004.html

Posted by: nameless on May 13, 2003 09:38 PM

Your point was that "the US experience was relatively minor in the scheme of things." I think the facts show otherwise.

The U.S. experience also shows that: (1) an overwhelmingly Christian "nation" - the Confederacy - fiercely resisted the abolition of slavery, sacrificing a whole generation of sons for the cause of slavery; and (2) Great Britain, rather than joining the side of the Union, actually lent aid and comfort to the slave-holding Christian Confederacy. These facts call into question the story of abolition that Patrick Sullivan wishes to tell.

Posted by: nameless on May 13, 2003 09:46 PM

'Your point was that "the US experience was relatively minor in the scheme of things." I think the facts show otherwise.'

Bluntly, NO - unless you are tracing all the way forward to the effect on the world today through the fact of the USA's position in the world today. The USA simply wasn't a major power until the late 19th century, though it was the only significant slave owning power a generation before. And most slaves or potential slaves just weren't within the US area.

The crucial fact I wanted to draw attention to was, the violent ending of slavery with a moral divide over which side to take was NOT the usual pattern. Only the USA had a civil war.

To put the numbers in perspective, look at the demographics of people with sub-Saharan African ancestry outside Africa today; add those who weren't taken by Arabs as a result of British efforts (they stayed in Africa); add the coolie-descended populations of the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and Fiji - even Hawaii, given its independence during the relevant period. Add the French in New Caledonia, and Australians, if of convict descent. The US "African-American" group just isn't the majority (mainly due to the Brazilian group, I grant).

What counts is NOT the numbers of slaves. It's the numbers who WOULD have been slaves, if not for the emancipation policies. That's why you have to count in the indentured labour force that displaced them, and so on. In Mauritius these vastly outnumber the descendants of freed slaves. It's like "displaced water" in buoyancy - there needn't be that much water in the tub in the first place.

As for "Great Britain, rather than joining the side of the Union, actually lent aid and comfort to the slave-holding Christian Confederacy" - that's not so. There were demonstrations among mill workers against helping the south. NO aid and comfort was granted, except by mistake in ways that later tribunals awarded compensation for.

Unless you're claiming like the modern US that not joining the official good guys is hostile...

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 13, 2003 10:58 PM

(1) For British support for the Confederacy, see:

"Almost as soon as the new Confederate government was formed, it realized that it couldn’t arm her troops on their own, they would have to import the arms they needed from Europe. Quickly dispatching purchasing agents to Great Britain, the government committed a strategic mistake by using up its available cash to make purchases. When the gold ran out, the Confederacy was forced to issue un-secured bonds which eventually ruined her finances abroad. Until then, however, the South went on a spending spree by outfitting her fledgling navy. Over 400 steamers and 800 sailing ships were sold by Britain to the Confederacy by the war’s end. To maintain Britain’s neutrality, the Confederate government had to conceal it’s ownership of the vessels, conceal the ship's destination when they sailed, and could not ship war material while in British waters (war material was shipped separately to the Bahamas and other Caribbean ports by British merchants and transferred onto the Southern ships). Many of the famous Confederate raiders; Alabama, Florida, Shenandoah, etc. were built in this fashion. Though the Confederate navy was never able to seriously challenge the US Navy, they were able to decimate the US merchant fleet to such an extent that the insurance rates on US merchant ships became prohibitively expensive, forcing many US registered vessels to be sold or transferred to foreign flags. It took decades for the US merchant fleet to recover.

Of course, buying arms and ammunition was one thing, getting them past the Union blockade was another. Fortunately for the South, blockade running became big business. Companies were formed in Britain for the express purpose of transporting goods bought in England to Southern ports. One company called “The Anglo-Confederate Trading Company” sold shares to investors and built technologically advanced steel-hulled side wheelers which were then hired by the Confederate government to transport munitions from the Bahamas to Wilmington, North Carolina. These contracts were so profitable that one round trip would pay the cost of the ship and the salary of the crew! Although the Anglo-Confederate only had 9 ships, it successfully completed 49 out of 58 trips and eventually repaid it’s investors 2,500% of their original investment.

As the Confederacy ran out of hard currency, she began selling cotton to Britain in order to continue buying war supplies. Approximately 1,350,000 bales were sold to England in exchange for around 600,000 items of war material valued at over $200,000,000. Chronically short of money, working for a government officially unrecognized by Britain and faced with an elaborate, well funded United States espionage system working to prevent them, it’s a small miracle that the Southern agents, including Capt. James D. Bulloch, chief of the Confederate naval activity in England, managed to accomplish as much as they did. Historian Richard Lester says: “Without these essential imports, the Civil War could have ended possibly in eighteen months.”

http://www.unknowncivilwar.com/article1014.htm

"Much of the supplies came from England, a country whose official neutrality masked a widespread sympathy for the South. Working hand-in-hand with Confederate agents, manufacturers and contractors in Liverpool and elsewhere provided vast amounts of military goods which were transported on British ships to ports in Bermuda and Nassau. There, the goods were exchanged for the Southern cotton that was desperately needed to sustain the English milling industry. Profit and patriotism came together to form one of the largest foreign supply operations in history. Despite the blockade and a government whose finances were in disarray, by the end of the war the South obtained some $200 million worth of foreign arms and equipment."

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/bookSearch/isbnInquiry.asp?sourceid=00011038556088025012&ISBN=1572490047&bfdate=05-14-2003+14:06:34

(2)As for the rest of your points, the U.S. experience was not minor. It was a major event in the history of abolition. Although I agree that bloody civil war was not typically the way nations ended slavery, it doesn't mean that one can ignore the U.S. Civil War when discussing the abolition of slavery.

By 1860, despite Great Britain's abolition of slavery and efforts to eradicate the Atlantic slave trade, the number of slaves in the Western hemisphere was actually increasing, largely because of entrenched slavery in the American South. The American South had more slaves than any other nation, that population was growing rapidly, and the South was seeking to spread slavery as the U.S. expanded westward and southward.

By 1860, there were 4 million slaves in the American South. By comparison, the British empire had only an estimated 780,000 slaves when it abolished slavery in 1834. In 1864, Brazil had a slave population of roughly 1.7 million, a number that would decline to roughly 750,000 by the time slavery was abolished in 1888.

"[B]y 1860, approximately twothirds of all New World slaves lived in the American South."

"The largest difference between slavery in the South and in Latin America was demographic. The slave population in Brazil and the West Indies had a lower proportion of female slaves, a much lower birth rate, and a higher proportion of recent arrivals from Africa. In striking contrast, southern slaves had an equal sex ratio, a high birthrate, and a predominantly Americanborn population."

http://www.hfac.uh.edu/gl/sl20.htm

These demographic differences mean that the U.S. slave population (which was increasing rapidly by 1860) would have increased more rapidly than slave populations in other areas of the Western Hemisphere. This also means that more "potential slaves" were probably emancipated as a result of the U.S. Civil War than as a result of abolition everywhere else combined.

I fail to see how one can ignore the U.S. Civil War on the topic of abolition. The American South was "the greatest center of slavery in the new world and the bulwark of resistance to its abolition." Its defeat was an extraordinary event. The U.S. experience was a crucial chapter in the abolition of slavery.

Posted by: nameless on May 14, 2003 11:30 AM

On the demographic differences that made the slave population increase rapidly in the American South compared to elsewhere, see:

"This shift from African to African American was closely related to a third distinctive characteristic of American slavery that was in many ways the most important of all: in contrast to most other slaves in the New World, those in the United States experienced what demographers refer to as "natural population growth." Elsewhere, in regions as diverse as Brazil, Jamaica, Saint-Domingue, and Cuba, slave mortality rates exceeded birth rates, and growth of the slave population depended on the importation of new slaves from Africa; as soon as that importation ended, the slave population began to decline. At first, deaths among slaves also exceeded births in the American colonies, but in the 18th century those colonies experienced a demographic transition as birth rates rose, mortality rates fell, and the slave population became self-reproducing. This transition, which occurred earlier in the upper than in the lower South, meant that even after the outlawing of slave imports in 1808, the number of slaves would continue to grow rapidly; during the next half century the slave population of the United States more than tripled, from about 1.2 million to almost 4 million in 1860. The natural growth of the slave population shaped a distinctive slavery in the American South and hastened the transition among slaves from African to African American."

http://www.africanaonline.com/slavery_colonial_era.htm

Posted by: nameless on May 14, 2003 11:38 AM

nameless is missing the point. The abolitionist movement in the U.S. was also driven by Christian values, and thus is even more reason to note Krugman's hypocrital and bigoted remarks. Why single out for opprobrium the one group most reponsible for slavery's demise? The anthem of the abolitionist movement was The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Some lyrics are:

-------------------------
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He has loosed the fateful lightening of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
[snip]

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
--------------------------------

"let us die to make men free" in Krugmanese becomes "slavery is God's will"!

Further, if nameless would read his own material he would realize that the British GOVERNMENT did not officially support the Confederacy. I.e. there is a difference between British citizens doing business with Southern businessmen, and government to government agreements.

What is indisputable is that slavery was a worldwide phenomenom, and that Great Britain was the major force for its eradication. Not only within the British Empire, but in the Islamic world (where the caliphs, viziers, and emirs even had slave armies), in South America, and in Africa (and this started well before the American Civil War).

British warships sailed into harbors all over the world and forcibly closed slave markets. One of the reasons for Britain colonizing Africa was to end the slavery on that continent (and to be fair, the French and Germans also colonized for that reason).

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on May 14, 2003 03:42 PM

Thank you, Mr. Sullivan. Oh, and Nameless also misses the fact of arms sales to the north, which would put "support for the south" in proportion - there was no support for either side, within the limits of implementing human even handedess.

It's all about revealing the context here, so you plain CAN'T claim that the USA would have ended up with even more slaves than anyone else, not when there are more blacks in Brazil today than in the USA today (and immaterial emigration).

To say that is to put things in perspective, not to deny the significance of the fact that there was an abolition in the USA. As abolitions went, that was probably the worst botched and really not that big. But you have to leave in "as abolitions went" for that to make sense.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 14, 2003 04:19 PM

"nameless is missing the point."

I haven't missed the point. Krugman's remarks were not hypocritical and bigoted - they are probably true. Just as there were Christians defending slavery in the name of Christianity during the 19th Century, there would be probably be Christians groups defending slavery today if it still existed in the U.S. I don't doubt for a second that Bob Jones style Christians would defend slavery if they could be slave owners. The fact that other Christians denounce slavery in the name of Christianity does nothing to contradict Krugmans point.

I don't dispute that Great Britain played a major role in eradicating slavery. (Incidentally, bribery was also a very strong powerful tool in ending slavery. See http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slave_trade ).

However, Great Britain's attitude toward the U.S. Civil War was not consistent with its previous abolitionist position. GB recognized both sides as belligerents, seriously angering the U.S.; GB did little to stop the arming of the Confederacy by its merchants; and GB advocated a cease fire and was prepared to recognize the Confederacy when hostilities ceased.

As the evidence I provide above shows, the U.S. Civil War was responsible for emancipating largest number of slaves (2/3 of all slaves in the Western Hemisphere were in the American South by 1860) as well as the largest number of potential slaves (the slave population was increasingly dramatically in the U.S. while declining everywhere else). It is undisputable that the U.S. Civil War was a crucial event (if not the single most important event) in the abolition of slavery. It cannot be ignored in any accurate account of the history of emancipation.

Posted by: nameless on May 14, 2003 04:28 PM

More context: Brazil had freeing in the womb to cause most of the decline in slavery by the time of its formal end in the 1880s. Again, you shouldn't count the slaves but the blacks. Blacks WERE still spreading there even from the 1830s, very fast, only not 100% as slaves (and slave working conditions were often worse). If you count slaves you bias in favour of counting those abolitions that were botched.

Malthusian limits had indeed cut in in most of the West Indies by the 1830s (it's touched on in the introduction to Nassau Senior's "Wages"). Only, it hadn't yet in British Guiana and to a lesser extent Trinidad and Tobago. You get an insight into that by tracking the settlements and spread of escaped slaves ("maroons" or "bush niggers" - sorry if the technical usage causes offence) and of the spread of indentured (Indian) labourers, now shown in todays' demographics - dominant in Guyana, insignificant in Jamaica.

So nameless just wasn't looking at the right statistics.

Oh, escaped slaves and non-slaves - whether maroons or cossacks - played a role in fencing in those who hadn't yet escaped, both by crowding out places/niches of escape and by co-operating in catching them.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 14, 2003 04:33 PM

"It is undisputable that the U.S. Civil War was a crucial event..."

Perhaps this is an argument over the meaning of words? To me "crucial" is nonsense - abolition would have been done right in due course - but "significant" would be correct, since it made a lot of difference to a lot of people.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 14, 2003 04:37 PM

"abolition would have been done right in due course"

Based on what evidence? The American South was not like the other slaveholding nations - it was not dependendant on the slave trade. GB was reluctant to apply any pressure because it was so dependent on cotton. Would the Southern slaveholders have voluntarily emancipated their slaves? When? Depends on what you mean by "due course."

Posted by: nameless on May 14, 2003 06:50 PM

"Again, you shouldn't count the slaves but the blacks."

Free:
USA: 11% of African Americans (1860)
Brazil: 73.7% of Afro-Brazilians (1872)

http://www.ucalgary.ca/~spangler/207freeblack.html


Slave Free Total
Brazil (1872, 1000s)
White 0 3,787 3,787
Afro-Brazilian 1,511 4,244 5,755
Indian 0 387 387
Total 1,511 8,420 9,930

USA (1860, 1000s)
White 0 26,690 26,690
Black 3,950 500 4,450
Indian 0 30 30
Total 3,950 27,220 31,170

http://www.ucalgary.ca/~spangler/207demography.html

Posted by: nameless on May 14, 2003 07:00 PM

NO, do NOT use the proportion of blacks who were free.

Use the NUMBER of blacks, all up, in a context of those filling that economic niche (so indentured coolies don't count in Brazil).

The first lot of figures just there were irrelevant. The second lot matter, but don't show well (at least on my browser). As I pointed out, they show more blacks in Brazil than in the USA - and once you add in all the non-Brazilian groups, you see that US slavery was a much smaller part of the economic niche than raw slave numbers suggested.

I suspect that any remaining disagreement is mere cross-purposes and different use of words.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 14, 2003 08:15 PM

Sorry, I missed "Based on what evidence? The American South was not like the other slaveholding nations - it was not dependendant [sic] on the slave trade. GB was reluctant to apply any pressure because it was so dependent on cotton. Would the Southern slaveholders have voluntarily emancipated their slaves? When?"

Based on the Brazilian and other analogues, and the availability of apparently "voluntary" systems like freeing in the womb (which Brazilian slave owners had imposed on them - it was only a free choice of the country). Britain was NOT dependent on the cotton states - only a certain portion of the British economy needed cotton, and those needs were readily second sourced to India and Egypt (though some feared they would not be).

I expect the USA would have wound back slavery with some tax based dodge, say a slave poll tax with the proceeds going to local poor relief (and so allowing slaves to be freed paternalistically without pain). There would have been "voluntary" freeing with that. That's partly based on knowing how the USA has used tax measures as loopholes before.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 14, 2003 10:24 PM

" Just as there were Christians defending slavery in the name of Christianity during the 19th Century...."

I'm unfamiliar with such groups. Could nameless provide me with the names of the leading clergy of these groups? Perhaps supply me with some of the lyrics to their pro-slavery anthems?

Also, nameless continues to ignore the slavery in the Islamic world and elsewhere, such as India, that exceeded all the slaves in the western countries combined, that Great Britain helped eliminate. Bernard Lewis relates this anecdote in "Race and Slavery in the Middle East":

" In 1842 the British Consul General in Morocco, as part of his government's worldwide endeavor to bring about the abolition of slavery or at least the curtailment of the slave trade, made representations to the sultan of that country asking him what measures, if any, he had taken to accomplish this desirable objective. The sultan replied, in a letter expressing evident astonishment, that 'the traffic in slaves is a matter on which all sects and nations have agreed from the time of the sons of Adam . . . up to this day.' The sultan continued that he was 'not aware of its being prohibited by the laws of any sect, and no one need ask this question, the same being manifest to both high and low and requires no more demonstration than the light of day.'

" The sultan was only slightly out of date concerning the enactment of laws to abolish or limit the slave trade, and he was sadly right in his general historic perspective."


Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on May 15, 2003 09:53 AM

"I'm unfamiliar with such groups."

If you are unaware that Christians in the South defended slavery in the name of Christianity, then you are truly ignorant. See:

"[S]ome of the more inventive clerics sought legitimacy for slavery by appealing to biblical authority, arguing that Abraham and other key figures in the Old Testament had owned slaves without drawing down God's wrath."

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0820320463/qid=1053019510/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/102-8927080-2951344?v=glance&s=books

"Many Christians in the southern states saw abolition as a massive threat to their culture and economy. They did not view slavery as a sin; their leaders were able to quote many Biblical passages in support of slavery."

"1851: J.F. Brennan published "Bible defense of slavery." He claimed that Cain's parents were Eve and the serpent."

"1866: The Holy Office of the Vatican issued a statement in support of slavery."

"A return to slavery is still advocated in North America by some Reconstructionist Christians and a few racist fringe groups within the Christian Identity movement."

http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_slav2.htm

"Perhaps supply me with some of the lyrics to their pro-slavery anthems?"

I don't need to provide song lyrics to show that Southern Christians defended slavery in the name of Christianity. That is just silly.

"Also, nameless continues to ignore the slavery in the Islamic world and elsewhere..."

I'm not ignoring it. It is irrelevant to the discussion we were having, which concerned: (1) the significance of the American Civil War in the history of abolition, and (2) whether Krugman was correct to say that Christian groups would defend slavery today. Please tell me how slavery elsewhere is relevant to those points.

In any case, Krugman was right. There still are Christian groups advocating slavery. See:

http://216.239.39.104/search?q=cache:o1cUKUnZPIgC:www.geocities.com/Athens/Atrium/1344/sla.htm+%22slavery+and+christianity%22&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

http://www.religioustolerance.org/reconstr.htm

http://www.religioustolerance.org/cr_ident.htm


Posted by: nameless on May 15, 2003 10:52 AM

nameless is bidding for the title, Most Disingenuous Commenter on Semi-Daily Journal. His evidence for: "There still are Christian groups advocating slavery", is from an anti-Reconstructionist (itself a miniscule group) website that claims:

"...it would be logical to assume that the institution of slavery would be reintroduced, and regulated according to Biblical laws."

So apparently, there is nothing from the Reconstructionists themselves, just a strawman created by their opponents.

Similarly, the other urls merely produce claims that this or that Christian group believed slavery to be tolerable. Which is a very different thing. In fact, his sources often talk of Southern Christians in "tension" with one another about how strongly slavery should be denounced.

The reviews at Amazon of Genovese's book say things like:

" Quoting from letters written by front-line [Confederate] soldiers, he shows that many of them in fact believed that their people had become corrupt thanks to slavery, and that the war itself was ``entirely at variance with the commands given for our guidance.'"

And:

" What Genovese shows here is that their experience in the Civil War led many southerners to decide that God was punishing them for not reforming their slave system. Genovese's subjects remained convinced that slavery was an institution that had been ordained by God; however, they decided that their prohibitions on slave marriage (which forced slaves to reproduce illicitly) and slave literacy (which kept slaves from becoming proper Protestants) were offensive to God, and many of them insisted on changes to remove these objections. By the war's end, many concluded God had chastised them for their sins."

And:

" Genovese says that many slave holders were torn between politics and Christianity by saying, 'The efforts to recognize slave marriage, to keep slave families intact, and to repeal the literacy laws confronted slave holders with an uncomfortable choice between their religion and their political and socioeconomic interests' "

Which puts an entirely different face on this.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on May 16, 2003 08:25 AM

"there's no point in enslaving or enserfing a man unless the wage you would have to pay him if he was free is substantially above the cost of feeding, housing, and clothing him."

There are two alternative reasons for enserfing Russians on the steppe. One was to endebt a serf's new master to the Russian throne (a continual problem for monarchs everywhere). Another is to act as a spur to further encroachment on Tartar lands by Cossacks (runaway serfs) living on those lands. If you enserf Cossacks living on the borders, you force any wishing to remain free to expand into neighboring lands. It is a political twofer for the Russian throne. You get a larger territory and more political support.

Posted by: Stan on May 16, 2003 12:22 PM

nameless, are you unaware that Christians were also leading the abolition movement?

Posted by: Stan on May 16, 2003 12:31 PM

nameless, you don't seem to be aware that Christians led the abolition movement?

Posted by: Stan on May 16, 2003 12:43 PM

Sorry Patrick, you have already won the title of Most Disingenuous Commenter. You repeatedly criticize people for "ignoring" subjects that are plainly irrelevant to the discussion. That is disingenuous. By contrast, you haven't identified one thing I have said that is disingenuous.

On the Christian Reconstructionists, you are wrong. If you read further on the website I linked to, you would have found this:

"The reinstitution of slavery appears to be a hot button item among Reconstructionists. We have received a few negative E-mails which complained that the movement does not recommend slavery. But we have received many more Emails from Reconstructionists claiming that legalizing slavery would be good for North America."

I also linked directly to website defending slavery on Christian grounds.

Sorry, I know you hate to admit it, but Krugman was right and you are wrong.

Regarding Genovese, the quotes don't contradict my point in the least. That some (or even many) Southern Christians condemned slavery does not alter that fact that many Southern Christians defended slavery on Christian grounds. That was the point, which you keep ignoring. Talk about disingenuous!

Posted by: nameless on May 19, 2003 09:42 AM

Sorry Patrick, you have already won the title of Most Disingenuous Commenter. You repeatedly criticize people for "ignoring" subjects that are plainly irrelevant to the discussion. That is disingenuous. By contrast, you haven't identified one thing I have said that is disingenuous.

On the Christian Reconstructionists, you are wrong. If you read further on the website I linked to, you would have found this:

"The reinstitution of slavery appears to be a hot button item among Reconstructionists. We have received a few negative E-mails which complained that the movement does not recommend slavery. But we have received many more Emails from Reconstructionists claiming that legalizing slavery would be good for North America."

I also linked directly to website defending slavery on Christian grounds.

Sorry, I know you hate to admit it, but Krugman was right and you are wrong.

Regarding Genovese, the quotes don't contradict my point in the least. That some (or even many) Southern Christians condemned slavery does not alter that fact that many Southern Christians defended slavery on Christian grounds. That was the point, which you keep ignoring. Talk about disingenuous!

Posted by: nameless on May 19, 2003 09:44 AM

Sorry Patrick, you have already won the title of Most Disingenuous Commenter. You repeatedly criticize people for "ignoring" subjects that are plainly irrelevant to the discussion. That is disingenuous. By contrast, you haven't identified one thing I have said that is disingenuous.

On the Christian Reconstructionists, you are wrong. If you read further on the website I linked to, you would have found this:

"The reinstitution of slavery appears to be a hot button item among Reconstructionists. We have received a few negative E-mails which complained that the movement does not recommend slavery. But we have received many more Emails from Reconstructionists claiming that legalizing slavery would be good for North America."

I also linked directly to website defending slavery on Christian grounds.

Sorry, I know you hate to admit it, but Krugman was right and you are wrong.

Regarding Genovese, the quotes don't contradict my point in the least. That some (or even many) Southern Christians condemned slavery does not alter that fact that many Southern Christians defended slavery on Christian grounds. That was the point, which you keep ignoring. Talk about disingenuous!

Posted by: nameless on May 19, 2003 09:46 AM

Sorry Patrick, you have already won the title of Most Disingenuous Commenter. You repeatedly criticize people for "ignoring" subjects that are plainly irrelevant to the discussion. That is disingenuous. By contrast, you haven't identified one thing I have said that is disingenuous.

On the Christian Reconstructionists, you are wrong. If you read further on the website I linked to, you would have found this:

"The reinstitution of slavery appears to be a hot button item among Reconstructionists. We have received a few negative E-mails which complained that the movement does not recommend slavery. But we have received many more Emails from Reconstructionists claiming that legalizing slavery would be good for North America."

I also linked directly to website defending slavery on Christian grounds.

Sorry, I know you hate to admit it, but Krugman was right and you are wrong.

Regarding Genovese, the quotes don't contradict my point in the least. That some (or even many) Southern Christians condemned slavery does not alter that fact that many Southern Christians defended slavery on Christian grounds. That was the point, which you keep ignoring. Talk about disingenuous!

Posted by: nameless on May 19, 2003 09:50 AM

Sorry Patrick, you have already won the title of Most Disingenuous Commenter. You repeatedly criticize people for "ignoring" subjects that are plainly irrelevant to the discussion. That is disingenuous. By contrast, you haven't identified one thing I have said that is disingenuous.

On the Christian Reconstructionists, you are wrong. If you read further on the website I linked to, you would have found this:

"The reinstitution of slavery appears to be a hot button item among Reconstructionists. We have received a few negative E-mails which complained that the movement does not recommend slavery. But we have received many more Emails from Reconstructionists claiming that legalizing slavery would be good for North America."

I also linked directly to website defending slavery on Christian grounds.

Sorry, I know you hate to admit it, but Krugman was right and you are wrong.

Regarding Genovese, the quotes don't contradict my point in the least. That some (or even many) Southern Christians condemned slavery does not alter that fact that many Southern Christians defended slavery on Christian grounds. That was the point, which you keep ignoring. Talk about disingenuous!

Posted by: nameless on May 19, 2003 09:51 AM

Sorry Patrick, you have already won the title of Most Disingenuous Commenter. You repeatedly criticize people for "ignoring" subjects that are plainly irrelevant to the discussion. That is disingenuous. By contrast, you haven't identified one thing I have said that is disingenuous.

On the Christian Reconstructionists, you are wrong. If you read further on the website I linked to, you would have found this:

"The reinstitution of slavery appears to be a hot button item among Reconstructionists. We have received a few negative E-mails which complained that the movement does not recommend slavery. But we have received many more Emails from Reconstructionists claiming that legalizing slavery would be good for North America."

I also linked directly to website defending slavery on Christian grounds.

Sorry, I know you hate to admit it, but Krugman was right and you are wrong.

Regarding Genovese, the quotes don't contradict my point in the least. That some (or even many) Southern Christians condemned slavery does not alter that fact that many Southern Christians defended slavery on Christian grounds. That was the point, which you keep ignoring. Talk about disingenuous!

Posted by: nameless on May 19, 2003 09:54 AM

Sorry Patrick, you have already won the title of Most Disingenuous Commenter. You repeatedly criticize people for "ignoring" subjects that are plainly irrelevant to the discussion. That is disingenuous. By contrast, you haven't identified one thing I have said that is disingenuous.

On the Christian Reconstructionists, you are wrong. If you read further on the website I linked to, you would have found this:

"The reinstitution of slavery appears to be a hot button item among Reconstructionists. We have received a few negative E-mails which complained that the movement does not recommend slavery. But we have received many more Emails from Reconstructionists claiming that legalizing slavery would be good for North America."

I also linked directly to website defending slavery on Christian grounds.

Sorry, I know you hate to admit it, but Krugman was right and you are wrong.

Regarding Genovese, the quotes don't contradict my point in the least. That some (or even many) Southern Christians condemned slavery does not alter that fact that many Southern Christians defended slavery on Christian grounds. That was the point, which you keep ignoring. Talk about disingenuous!

Posted by: nameless on May 19, 2003 09:58 AM

"nameless, you don't seem to be aware that Christians led the abolition movement?"

Of course I recognize this fact! That is not the issue. There were Christians on both sides of the debate (how could there not be - the U.S. was almost exclusively Christian at the time) and even today, as PK suggests, there probably would be some Christian groups defending slavery.

I don't see how the Christian abolition movement contradicts these points.


Posted by: nameless on May 19, 2003 10:03 AM

Did you even read the previous comments:

Patrick Sullivan, Krugman said "assorted Christian groups would explain why it's God's will." That doesn't contradict the fact that there are also Christian groups trying to eradicate slavery in Africa today. Krugman's statement was that there exist groups of Christians that would explain why it's God's will, and yours was that there exist groups of Christians that are opposed to slavery where it still exists. There's no contradiction there, because neither of these statements is about all Christian groups.

Posted by: Julian Elson on May 12, 2003 10:41 AM

"slavery was eradicated mainly thanks to the moral arguments of Christians like William Wilberforce, and the military might of the British empire."

Exactly! This, of course, accounts for the successful British miltary intervention on the side of the North in the US Civil War, and explains why devout Christians like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson abandoned their states of birth to fight in Abraham Lincoln's army of abolitionists . . .

Posted by: rea on May 12, 2003 10:52 AM

Which is to say: Christians were on both sides of the issue back in the day, since Patrick is right about the importance of Christian abolitionists.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on May 12, 2003 11:39 AM

"Patrick is right about the importance of Christian abolitionists"

While many of the influential abolitionists were Christians, the principle ideological defenders of slavery were also believing Christians . . . a point which was made by Krugman and for some reason rejected by Patrick.

Posted by: rea on May 12, 2003 12:08 PM

Sheesh!

Posted by: nameless on May 19, 2003 10:10 AM

What most people miss in discussions about the economics of slavery is that slaves and serfs aren't merely substitute labor - they are a store of value. As such the slaves and serfs do not need to be cheaper than laborers, for the same reason that buying a house does not have to be cheaper then renting one: the buyer of a slave builds up equity. Slaves produce other slaves, and thus increase in value at a rate roughly proportional to the increase in total domestic product - where as laborers are a pure cost.

This can be seen in US history by Jefferson trying to use his slaves as working capital to get himself out of debt, and by the continuation of slavery even when there was a labor surplus. For example, slaves did not unload cotton from barges in New Orleans - it was too dangerous to risk their total value. Instead, Irish immigrants were hired: "Why risk a slave with the value of five thousand dollars, when an Irishman can be bought for pennies a day?"

This dual function can be seen in numerous places - for example the use of slaves in triangular trade, the use of slaves to back colonial ventures - John Locke invested in one such venture. But above all, in the drive to expand slavery - because it is only by putting new lands into slave cultivation that slavery could continue to be used as an inflation proof, and deflation proof, store of value. This is why the South did not object to ending the slave trade - it, in fact, protected the value of existing slave assets.

The other factor missing is that there are other costs than monetary cost of labor. Consider that serfs, by being coupled to land, meant that the land always had sufficient productive capital to be worked - and since people starve when the production capacity goes down, and put marginal lands into production when it goes up - it assures that the human capital on the land will always be roughly equal to the amount needed for full marginal utilization.

Finally, there are other aspects to pay other than money. One is full citizenship. A slave is not free to leave to seek better citizenship arrangements. Thus the cost savings of a slave has to take into account the savings to the owner class of not having to give out citizenship. Again, in the US, this relationship - of slaves being captive political power is constitutionally enshrined in the 3/5ths rule - counting them for representation in congress, and hence, also presidential electors.

This idea is part of the central thesis of my chapter on the Federalist period of the United States in my work The Fourth Republic

Posted by: Stirling Newberry on May 24, 2003 06:21 PM

nameless, touche! My comment was out of place.

Posted by: Stan on May 28, 2003 08:21 AM
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