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Old 10th April 2012, 09:16 PM   #1
Tsukasa Buddha
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Economy of Oppression?

I've heard people claim that slavery is poor economics, and even that it would have died out in the South over time. Is this accurate? Here is a version of the argument I heard:

Quote:
But since slave labor is inherently less efficient than free labor, and since so many resources had to be devoted to enforcing the system — most of which were the result of government interventions such as the Fugitive Slave Act, mandatory slave patrol laws, and laws that prohibited manumission — the system imposed huge burdens ("dead weight loss," in the language of economics) on the rest of society. Free laborers and non-slave owners in the South (at least 80 percent of the adult population) were the primary victims of these government-imposed costs, and would have been a natural political constituency for their eventual abolition. As Hummel concluded, "In real terms, the entire southern economy, including both whites and blacks, was less prosperous" overall because of slavery.
Linky.

I also heard that slavery led to undeveloped human capital and a disincentive to innovate. So would this have any bearing on lighter versions of oppression, like feudalism or strict caste systems?
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Old 10th April 2012, 09:48 PM   #2
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Yeah, why make people slaves when they will work themselves to the bone for minimum wage anyway.
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Old 10th April 2012, 10:00 PM   #3
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Economically speaking, there is probably no need for a formal system of slavery. A combination of low wages and high boarding charges will keep a hapless individual bound as tightly as any ball and chain would.
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Old 11th April 2012, 10:01 AM   #4
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Quote:
A combination of low wages and high boarding charges will keep a hapless individual bound as tightly as any ball and chain would.

Quoted for truth
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Old 12th April 2012, 08:24 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Tsukasa Buddha View Post
I've heard people claim that slavery is poor economics, and even that it would have died out in the South over time. Is this accurate?
I think it may be wishful thinking that slavery is categorically bad economics. Its widespread adoption suggests the reverse. However, it also seems tied to very specific sorts of economies, in particular low skill labor. It does seem ill-suited for industrialized economies, and so any modern economy that uses slavery is almost inevitably going to be crippled in comparison to competitors with a free work force.

But that doesn't mean it would have died out. We see plenty of examples of social institutions which are economically crippling but which persist for cultural reasons. And slavery certainly had become very much part of the cultural identity of the South prior to the civil war. So I don't see any guarantee that it would have died out on its own, though perhaps other events might have precipitated a change even without the civil war. We'll never know, of course.

Quote:
Here is a version of the argument I heard:
The problem is that total efficiency isn't the relevant metric for the slaveholder. If you don't care about how much wealth anyone else ends up with, only how much wealth YOU end up with, then slavery could indeed be advantageous. Provided, of course, that you're competing in an environment where the productivity differential between free labor and slave labor is small enough. Which it seems to have been for pre-industrial agriculture, but doesn't seem to be for modern economies.

Quote:
I also heard that slavery led to undeveloped human capital and a disincentive to innovate. So would this have any bearing on lighter versions of oppression, like feudalism or strict caste systems?
I would say so, yes. Genius is such a rare quality that societies which exclude large fractions from being able to benefit from it will be at massive disadvantage to societies which can exploit it wherever it occurs.
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Old 12th April 2012, 08:27 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
Economically speaking, there is probably no need for a formal system of slavery. A combination of low wages and high boarding charges will keep a hapless individual bound as tightly as any ball and chain would.
Slaves have to be fed, housed, given medical treatment when ill, your basic overhead nightmare.
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Old 12th April 2012, 09:31 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Skepticemea View Post
Slaves have to be fed, housed, given medical treatment when ill, your basic overhead nightmare.
Fed, housed, given medical treatment when ill or replaced frequently. That doesn't help with the overhead.
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Old 12th April 2012, 09:44 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Skepticemea View Post
Slaves have to be fed, housed, given medical treatment when ill, your basic overhead nightmare.
Condoleeza Rice's father refused company-provided medical insurance and bought his own, seeing it as too nearly akin to slave owners caring for their slaves.

Now along comes government, extending an even greater claw of control, to the applause of the modern owned cattle, who want to drag you along into being owned.
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The government should nationalize it! Socialized, single-payer video game development and sales now! More, cheaper, better games, right? Right?

Last edited by Beerina; 12th April 2012 at 09:46 AM.
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Old 12th April 2012, 11:10 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
Condoleeza Rice's father refused company-provided medical insurance and bought his own, seeing it as too nearly akin to slave owners caring for their slaves.

Now along comes government, extending an even greater claw of control, to the applause of the modern owned cattle, who want to drag you along into being owned.
Speaking of things related to cattle (and stench)...this post is a prime example of premium manure...
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Old 12th April 2012, 10:05 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Skepticemea View Post
Slaves have to be fed, housed, given medical treatment when ill, your basic overhead nightmare.
Freemen also have to be fed, housed, given medical treatment when ill, etc.

What did you think was the point of a paycheck?
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Old 13th April 2012, 11:11 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Tsukasa Buddha View Post
[snip]
I also heard that slavery led to undeveloped human capital and a disincentive to innovate. So would this have any bearing on lighter versions of oppression, like feudalism or strict caste systems?

Slaves have no incentive to innovate and potential human intellectual capital is wasted.

In other systems, innovation follows the freedom to maximize individual ambition, achieve financial rewards, and/or allow societal/class mobility and acceptance; less freedom means less success, more regulation means less success, more taxes means less success, more harsh/rigid societal/religious patterns mean less success ...
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Old 16th April 2012, 12:22 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Freemen also have to be fed, housed, given medical treatment when ill, etc.

What did you think was the point of a paycheck?
The point is that freemen can be paid as little as the employee can be pressured into accepting, regardless if it meets his costs of living or not. A freeman costs his employer nothing but a wage, and can be as ill treated as the employer desires to treat him, since there's always another dozen hungry unemployed waiting to take his place for the same money of less.
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Old 16th April 2012, 11:21 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Muldur View Post
The point is that freemen can be paid as little as the employee can be pressured into accepting, regardless if it meets his costs of living or not.
But an employee cannot be pressured into accepting less than his cost of living, not for long at any rate. An employee will cease to live if he cannot afford his cost of living.

Quote:
A freeman costs his employer nothing but a wage, and can be as ill treated as the employer desires to treat him, since there's always another dozen hungry unemployed waiting to take his place for the same money of less.
That's really not true.

Freemen generally cost MORE in wages than slaves cost in terms of housing, clothing, food, etc. The economic advantage of the former over the latter comes from something else. First, freemen are higher skill workers, meaning you could use them for higher productivity labor. This is especially important in industrial and post-industrial societies. And second, security costs associated with slavery were higher. You needed freemen to oversee slaves, keep them in line, prevent them from escaping, catch and return them if they escaped, etc. That overhead, not food and lodging (which must be paid through wages or your freemen will simply die off), is an expense that freemen don't incur.
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Old 18th April 2012, 05:04 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
But an employee cannot be pressured into accepting less than his cost of living, not for long at any rate. An employee will cease to live if he cannot afford his cost of living.
Unless part of the burden for his upkeep can be imposed by the underpaying employer to the state.
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Old 18th April 2012, 06:14 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
Economically speaking, there is probably no need for a formal system of slavery. A combination of low wages and high boarding charges will keep a hapless individual bound as tightly as any ball and chain would.
Though less tightly bound than systems that claim to do away with low wages and high boarding charges.
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"Great innovations should not be forced [by way of] slender majorities." - Thomas Jefferson

The government should nationalize it! Socialized, single-payer video game development and sales now! More, cheaper, better games, right? Right?
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Old 18th April 2012, 06:16 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Muldur View Post
Speaking of things related to cattle (and stench)...this post is a prime example of premium manure...
No, your mother wears army boots! Manure-filled army boots!
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"Great innovations should not be forced [by way of] slender majorities." - Thomas Jefferson

The government should nationalize it! Socialized, single-payer video game development and sales now! More, cheaper, better games, right? Right?
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Old 18th April 2012, 11:44 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Muldur View Post
The point is that freemen can be paid as little as the employee can be pressured into accepting, regardless if it meets his costs of living or not. A freeman costs his employer nothing but a wage, and can be as ill treated as the employer desires to treat him, since there's always another dozen hungry unemployed waiting to take his place for the same money of less.
Wrong. I'm retired now but when I was working my employer had to pay twice my wage to the Belgian state to cover my pension and medical insurance. There were no queues of hungry unemployed waiting to take my job, my trade was a specialized one. You don't appear to know much about this subject.

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Old 18th April 2012, 11:51 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
Condoleeza Rice's father refused company-provided medical insurance and bought his own, seeing it as too nearly akin to slave owners caring for their slaves.

Now along comes government, extending an even greater claw of control, to the applause of the modern owned cattle, who want to drag you along into being owned.
I don't see how a national health service constitutes the government owning people, and your country isn't even that far yet.
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Old 18th April 2012, 09:09 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
Unless part of the burden for his upkeep can be imposed by the underpaying employer to the state.
And where would the government get the money to provide those welfare services? Well, it would have to be taxes, and in this scenario, the employers are the only ones with enough money to get much in taxes from. So whatever the employer is saving in salary will have to be made up in taxes, since free employees cannot work for less than their cost of living.
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