Lucro do trabalho escravo na América

Lucro do trabalho escravo na América

Em suas memórias sobre sua vida pessoal como escravo e a escravidão em geral, Moses Grandy na página 65 afirma que:

Os proprietários, embora vivam no luxo, geralmente morrem com dívidas: seus negros são tão mal tratados que nenhum lucro é obtido com seu trabalho. Muitos deles são grandes jogadores. Com a morte de um proprietário, é comum que seus negros sejam vendidos para pagar suas dívidas.

Sua afirmação de que o tratamento horrível dispensado aos escravos fez com que eles não fossem lucrativos está correta?


Uma das grandes coisas sobre a economia é que, de certa forma, ela é autorregulada. Se a escravidão não fosse lucrativa, os proprietários das plantações sairiam do negócio e parariam de investir capital em bens de capital improdutivos (escravos). Por favor, leve em consideração a fonte deste comentário, um ex-escravo e ativista antiescravista. O que é mais provável? Um comentarista tendencioso estava tentando depreciar uma indústria para fins políticos ou que havia insanidade em massa onde os homens de negócios alocavam capital de tal maneira que muitas vezes morriam de dívidas e ano após ano não obtinham lucro.


A escravidão era bastante lucrativa, de acordo com a Metade nunca foi contada. Isso rendeu a muitos proprietários de escravos sulistas um dinheiro significativo nas décadas anteriores à guerra civil do século 19, especialmente quando cultivavam algodão em grandes plantações. Baptist traça um quadro forte de violência cada vez mais deliberada contra trabalhadores escravos para fazê-los trabalhar mais e mais rápido, aumentando a produtividade.

O potencial da escravidão de plantation para lucro cada vez maior em maior escala exigia investimento crescente e especulação crescente em terras, compra de mais escravos dos estados escravistas do norte para venda em Nova Orleans e no oeste, usando assim muito capital do norte enquanto respondia à crescente demanda britânica por algodão. Isso representava um risco cada vez maior de fracasso financeiro, especialmente grave quando os preços do algodão caíam. Alguns proprietários de escravos faliram ou fugiram de suas dívidas, mas o dinheiro a ser feito atraiu outros para tomar seu lugar e comprar terras e ativos de escravos dos falidos.


A própria natureza do comércio naqueles dias, ou seja. algodão, açúcar e tabaco são culturas de "matéria-prima" com alto uso intensivo de mão-de-obra, que exigiam muito, após o processamento, os lucros eram em sua maioria feitos por comerciantes e industriais, e não pelos plantadores das matérias-primas. Diz-se que os comerciantes de tabaco de Glasgow (ficaram conhecidos como Tobacco Lords) se especializaram em dar aos proprietários de plantações americanas e das Índias Ocidentais generosas linhas de crédito até que os colocassem em uma armadilha de dívidas para garantir o monopólio de seu suprimento de tabaco / algodão no fundo do poço preços, ou eles ganharam a propriedade das plantações. Glasgow está repleta de grandes edifícios construídos com os lucros desse comércio e, claro, dos lucros dos escravos que trabalhavam nas plantações.

veja anexo para mais informações, particularmente sob o título "Revolução Americana", que esclarece a situação financeira precária dos proprietários de plantações.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobacco_Lords


15 grandes empresas que você nunca soube que lucravam com a escravidão

A escravidão dos povos africanos nas Américas pelas nações e povos da Europa Ocidental criou a máquina econômica que financiou o capitalismo moderno. Portanto, não é nenhuma surpresa que a maioria das grandes corporações que foram fundadas por mercadores da Europa Ocidental e americanos antes de aproximadamente 100 anos atrás, se beneficiaram diretamente da escravidão.

Irmãos Lehman, cujo império empresarial começou no comércio de escravos, admitiu recentemente sua participação no negócio da escravidão.

De acordo com o Sun Times, a agora extinta empresa de serviços financeiros reconheceu que seus sócios fundadores não possuíam um, mas vários escravos africanos durante a era da Guerra Civil e que, & # 8220 com toda a probabilidade, & # 8221 & # 8220 lucrou significativamente & # 8221 da escravidão.

& # 8220Esta é uma parte triste de nossa herança & # 8230Nós & # 8217 nos desculpamos profundamente & # 8230 Foi uma coisa terrível & # 8230 Não & # 8217s ninguém sentado nos Estados Unidos no ano de 2005, espero que algum dia, em um milhão de anos, defenda a prática & # 8221, disse Joe Polizzotto, conselheiro geral do Lehman Brothers.

Aetna, Inc., a maior seguradora de saúde dos Estados Unidos & # 8217, desculpou-se por vender apólices na década de 1850 que reembolsavam os proprietários de escravos por perdas financeiras quando os escravos africanos que eles possuíam morreram.

& # 8220Aetna há muito tempo reconheceu que, por vários anos, logo após sua fundação em 1853, a empresa pode ter segurado a vida de escravos & # 8221 disse o porta-voz da Aetna, Fred Laberge em 2002. & # 8220Nós expressamos nosso profundo pesar por qualquer participação. nesta prática deplorável. & # 8221


Slavery Made America

Cerca de cinco anos atrás, comecei um mergulho profundo na Guerra Civil, a maior parte dela narrada aqui. Esse mergulho culminou em um ensaio em nossa edição comemorativa da Guerra Civil, bem como meu mergulho profundo sobre habitação e política "incolor" culminou em The Case for Reparations. A peça anterior foi construída em direção à última. A Guerra Civil revelou-me o preço e a generosidade da escravidão neste país. As coisas que foco na peça de reparação - habitação e política do século 20 - todas surgem desse período da história americana. Eu não poderia ter entendido a discriminação do século 20 sem entender suas manifestações do século 19. Minha entrada neste período foi idiossincrática e a lista de leitura abaixo reflete isso. Novamente, nada aqui é definitivo. Só posso mostrar o caminho que percorri.

Antes de mergulhar na Guerra Civil, entendi a escravidão como uma catástrofe moral. Também tive uma vaga sensação de que essa escravidão ajudou a pastorear a América. Finalmente eu soube que a Guerra Civil estava de alguma forma relacionada à escravidão. Todas essas três noções finalmente tiveram que ser revisadas. Que a escravidão na América era de alguma forma mais do que um problema moral tornou-se aparente ao ler o avô de todas as histórias da Guerra Civil, James McPherson Grito de batalha da liberdade. Grito de guerra é ostensivamente uma história de The Late Unpleasantness, mas também é uma expressão da centralidade da escravidão na história americana.

As primeiras 200 páginas mostram que a guerra não se tratava apenas da perpetuação da "escravidão africana", mas também de sua expansão. McPherson cita diretamente da boca de separatistas que não têm nenhum problema em definir a escravidão como seu principal casus belli. McPherson mostra o lugar essencial da escravidão na economia do Sul e na América em geral. Assim, a conflagração que se segue não surge do nada. Portanto, quando McPherson começa a detalhar as manobras de flanco e de sincronismo duplo, você tem a sensação de que está fazendo algo mais do que observar as pessoas jogarem um jogo de futebol violento.

Falando conservadoramente, 600.000 soldados perderam suas vidas na Guerra Civil, 2% da população americana na época. Vinte por cento de todos os homens brancos sulistas em idade militar morreram na guerra. Até o Vietnã, mais pessoas morreram na Guerra Civil do que todas as outras guerras americanas juntas. Um interesse que obrigou a tanta morte e sofrimento deve ser algo mais do que uma vaga discordância sobre um "modo de vida".

Enquanto lia McPherson, ouvia as gravações do curso de David Blight em Yale, The Civil War and Reconstruction. A melhor coisa sobre isso é que eu podia ouvir enquanto estava jogando, cozinhando, limpando ou dirigindo. Blight me ajuda a colocar em perspectiva as partes econômicas sobre as quais o trabalho de McPherson fala. Esta frase impressionante, por exemplo, me surpreendeu:

. em 1860, havia mais milionários (todos proprietários de escravos) morando no vale do baixo Mississippi do que em qualquer outro lugar dos Estados Unidos. No mesmo ano, os quase 4 milhões de escravos americanos valiam cerca de US $ 3,5 bilhões, tornando-os o maior ativo financeiro individual em toda a economia dos EUA, valendo mais do que todas as fábricas e ferrovias juntas. Então, é claro, a guerra estava enraizada nessas duas economias em expansão e concorrentes - mas competir pelo quê? O que acabou destruindo a cultura política da América foi a expansão da escravidão para os territórios ocidentais.

Cito muito isso, porque contradiz essa ideia de escravidão como algo acessório à história americana e a estabelece como fundamental. Blight foi extraído do incrível artigo de Roger Ransom, The Economics of the Civil War. Novamente, os números são simplesmente alucinantes - em um estado como a Carolina do Sul, quase 60% das pessoas foram escravizadas. Além dos números, as palestras de Blight trouxeram à vida as palavras das pessoas reais que foram escravizadas. Pegando um grande número de fontes orais, Blight nos convida a não esquecer que havia humanos reais, não figuras abstratas, que estavam sendo escravizadas.

Para compreender a humanidade dos escravizados, não sei se existe livro melhor do que A vida e os tempos de Frederick Douglass. Porque Douglass escreveu três autobiografias, e Vida e tempos é o mais longo, tende a receber pouca atenção. Mas, para o meu dinheiro, é a melhor das três e uma das mais belas autobiografias já escritas por um americano. O retrato da escravidão de Douglass é simplesmente emocionante. Perdoe-me por citar extensamente:

A mesquinhez cerrada que alimentava o pobre escravo com farinha de milho grosseira e carne contaminada, que o vestia com linho turco e apressava-o a trabalhar pelo campo em qualquer tempo, com o vento e a chuva batendo em suas vestes esfarrapadas, e isso quase não deu nem mesmo à jovem escrava tempo para amamentar seu filho na esquina da cerca, completamente desaparecido ao se aproximar do recinto sagrado da própria "Grande Casa". Lá, a frase escriturística descritiva dos ricos encontrou ilustração exata. Os detentos altamente favorecidos desta mansão estavam literalmente vestidos de "púrpura e linho fino, e se saíam suntuosamente todos os dias".

A mesa desta casa gemia sob os luxos comprados com sangue, reunidos com esmero em casa e no exterior. Campos, florestas, rios e mares tornaram-se tributários. A imensa riqueza e seus gastos pródigos encheram a Grande Casa com tudo o que poderia agradar aos olhos ou tentar o paladar. Peixes, carne e aves estavam aqui em profusão. Galinhas de todas as raças, patos de todas as espécies, selvagens e domesticados, os comuns e os enormes moscovitas, perus, gansos e aves com ervilha, todos engordavam e engordavam para o vórtice destinado.

Ai, essa riqueza imensa, esse esplendor dourado, essa profusão de luxo, essa isenção de labuta. esta vida tranquila, este mar de abundância não eram os portões perolados que pareciam ser para um mundo de felicidade e doce contentamento. O pobre escravo, em sua dura prancha de pinho, escassamente coberto com seu cobertor fino, dormia mais profundamente do que o voluptuoso febril que se reclinava em seu travesseiro felpudo. Comida para o indolente é veneno, não sustento. Espreitando sob as iguarias ricas e tentadoras estavam espíritos do mal invisíveis, que enchiam o gormandizador auto-iludido de dores e sofrimentos, paixões incontroláveis, temperamentos violentos, dispepsia, reumatismo, lumbago e gota, e desses os Lloyds participavam plenamente.

Douglass é um narrador magistral, e uma das coisas que ele comunica é que a escravidão não é uma forma higienizada de trabalho forçado, mas antes de tudo, um sistema de violência, um ataque a corpos negros, famílias negras e instituições negras. Tudo isso se perde na conversa sobre economia e roubar o trabalho das pessoas. Esse roubo foi estimulado pela destruição de pessoas. Para mim, nenhum livro captura melhor isso do que Thavolia Glymph's Fora da casa da escravidão. Glymph está especificamente interessado na violência que supostamente moderadas donas de escravos infligiam a seus escravos. Ao focar no que as pessoas pensam de nós como a forma mais branda de escravidão (doméstica), Glymph revela que a escravidão às vezes não é violenta, mas é, por si só, uma forma de violência.

Pegando as leituras de ontem sobre o racismo como uma "coisa feita", como uma escolha, essas leituras me ajudaram a entender por que essa escolha foi feita e como ela era essencial para o projeto americano. E se for esse o caso, se a escravidão era essencial, como poderia seus efeitos terem diminuído em 1860? Douglass diz que "um homem é trabalhado por aquilo em que trabalha". Por 250 anos, os americanos trabalharam na destruição de pessoas para obter lucro. O que descobri, mais adiante, é que a escravidão também funcionou em nós. Você pode ver seu fantasma em toda a política americana, especialmente no domínio da habitação.

1.) 2.) "The Civil War and Reconstruction", série de palestras de David Blight
Blight é um ótimo palestrante e cobre o essencial de ambos os períodos.

3.) "The Economics Of The Civil War", de Roger L. Ransom
Esta é uma leitura muito curta, mas essencial. Talvez mais do que qualquer artigo que li, explique as forças que nos levaram à guerra.

4.) 5.) Fora da casa da escravidão, por Thavolia Glymph
Na verdade, cheguei a isso depois que o artigo sobre reparações estava na fila, mas isso cristaliza algo que Douglass demonstra - a violência horrível que era a escravidão. Você não pode dividir os dois. A fantasia de Cliven Bundy de negros colhendo algodão alegremente e morando em casas de dois pais com comida e abrigo fornecidos é exatamente o oposto do que era a escravidão. Você não pode pilhar um povo sem violência.

Nota do Editor: Esta é a segunda parte de uma série de quatro partes sobre as obras de história que informaram o artigo recente do autor, O Caso de Reparações. A primeira parte, sobre raça e racismo, está disponível aqui.


BIBLIOGRAFIA

Bailey, Guy Natalie Maynor e Patricia Cukor-Avila eds. O surgimento do inglês negro: texto e comentários (Biblioteca da língua crioula, vol. 8). Filadélfia: John Benjamins Publishing, 1991, 29-37.

Nascido na escravidão: Narrativas de escravos do Federal Writers 'Project, 1936–1938. Coleção online das Divisões de Manuscritos e Impressos e Fotografias da Biblioteca do Congresso. Disponível em http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html.

Franklin, John Hope e Alfred A. Moss, Jr. Da escravidão à liberdade: uma história dos afro-americanos. 2 vols. Nova York: Random House, 2004.

Gillmer, Jason A. "Pobres brancos, mestres benevolentes e as ideologias da escravidão: o julgamento local de um escravo acusado de estupro." Revisão da lei da Carolina do Norte 489 (janeiro de 2007): 508-509.

Higginbotham, Jr., A. Leon. Em matéria de cor, raça e processo legal americano: o período colonial. Nova York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Johnson, Walter. Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.


Qual é o "valor" comparável de um escravo nos preços de hoje?

Nenhum desses preços tem muito significado para nós hoje, mas teriam se os reavaliamos em dólares de hoje como a quantia de dinheiro que os proprietários de escravos gastaram 150 anos atrás. 9 As técnicas desenvolvidas em MeasuringWorth criaram dez "medidas" para comparar um valor monetário em um período com outro, conforme explicado no ensaio "Medidas de valor". 10 Desses dez, três são úteis para discutir o valor de um escravo. Eles são: valor do trabalho ou renda, rendimentos relativos e preço real 11 Usando essas medidas, o valor em 2016 de $ 400 em 1850 (o preço médio de um escravo naquele ano) varia de $ 12.500 a $ 205.000.

Trabalho ou valor de renda

Valor da renda do trabalho
de possuir um escravo em preços de 2016

Como discutido acima, o preço de $ 400 em 1850 representa o valor líquido esperado dos futuros serviços de trabalho que um escravo forneceria. Este significado embutido é porque o valor do trabalho ou da renda é a medida correta do valor dos serviços de um escravo nos preços de hoje. Esses $ 400 seriam $ 92.000 nos preços de hoje.

Enquanto alguns escravos eram alugados para fazendas e outros tipos de trabalho, a maioria dos escravos trabalhava nas fazendas e plantações de seus proprietários. Em ambos os casos, o trabalho que realizaram não era especializado, de modo que uma medida comparável do valor desses serviços é reapresentada no salário não qualificado. 12 Em outras palavras, podemos supor que contratar um empregado grátis para fazer o trabalho de um escravo custaria o salário não qualificado daquele dia. Assim, uma medida do valor médio de um escravo seria o valor presente do custo líquido do aluguel sobre a expectativa de vida do escravo médio.

Assim, o valor em dólares de hoje de um escravo durante o período pré-guerra varia de $ 50.000 (em 1809) a $ 150.000 da receita esperada de um escravo menos os custos de manutenção. Se assumirmos, por exemplo, que o escravo médio viverá mais 20 anos, então o preço de hoje para um escravo avaliado em $ 400 em 1850 pode ser interpretado como $ 92.000 em salários mais os 20 anos de alojamento, alimentação e roupas que seriam necessários para contratar um trabalhador não qualificado hoje para realizar os serviços vitalícios esperados de um escravo. 13 Ao contrário dos trabalhadores contratados, os escravos eram responsáveis ​​em grande parte pela produção de seu próprio quarto, comida e roupas. Dado que a semana de trabalho hoje é significativamente mais curta do que em 1850 e que os escravos eram obrigados a trabalhar mais durante o mesmo tempo que os trabalhadores livres, seria necessário mais de um trabalhador contratado hoje para substituir o trabalho fornecido por um escravo de então.

Mesmo com esses preços, alguns escravos, especialmente aqueles com habilidades artesanais, podem acabar ganhando o suficiente para se livrar da escravidão. Não era incomum, especialmente no Velho Sul, que os senhores permitissem que outros contratassem os serviços de seus escravos. Isso era particularmente verdadeiro para escravos que viviam em áreas urbanas, independentemente do senhor. Eles deveriam fazer seus próprios arranjos. "O senhor fixava o salário que o escravo deveria trazer. Acima desse valor o escravo poderia ficar com ele. Os empregadores freqüentemente alugavam o tempo do escravo do proprietário em uma certa quantia e pagavam ao escravo um salário adicional dependente da quantidade de trabalho realizado. " 14

Ganhos Relativos
de possuir um escravo em preços de 2016

O preço médio dos escravos de US $ 400 em 1850 também pode ser considerado um dispositivo de sinalização de status em um período em que a renda per capita anual era de cerca de US $ 110. ganhos relativos podem ser vistos como a capacidade de comprar bens caros. Hoje, as classes média e média alta aspiram a bens e serviços como uma segunda casa, empregados e um carro caro como uma forma de mostrar aos outros que eles "chegaram" - que alcançaram algum status na economia. O preço médio dos escravos em 1850 era quase igual ao preço médio de uma casa, de modo que a compra de até mesmo um escravo teria dado ao comprador algum status. As comparações baseadas em ganhos relativos são medidas pela razão relativa do PIB per capita. Conseqüentemente, $ 400 naquela época correspondem a quase $ 195.000 em ganhos relativos hoje. 15

O preço real de possuir um escravo
em dólares de 2016

Os economistas geralmente usam a medida de preço real quando estão tentando contabilizar o impacto da inflação. O preço real hoje é calculado multiplicando o valor no passado pelo aumento do índice de preços ao consumidor (IPC). O resultado compara esse valor passado a uma proporção do custo de um pacote fixo de bens e serviços que o consumidor médio compra em cada um dos dois anos. Na construção do pacote CPI, é feito um esforço para compensar as mudanças de qualidade no mix do pacote ao longo do tempo. 16 Ainda assim, quanto maior o intervalo de tempo, menos consistente é a comparação. No século 19, não havia pesquisas nacionais para descobrir o que o consumidor médio comprava. O primeiro estudo de orçamento usado por historiadores econômicos foi de 397 famílias de trabalhadores em Massachusetts e foi construído em 1875. Essas famílias gastavam mais da metade de sua renda com comida e alugavam suas casas. 17

o MeasuringWorth A calculadora mostra que o "preço real" de $ 400 em 1850 seria de aproximadamente $ 12.000 em preços de 2016. Todos nós podemos nos identificar com o que aquela quantia de dinheiro compraria hoje, mas dificilmente algo em que gastaríamos $ 12.600 hoje estava disponível há 160 anos. $ 400 em 1860 teriam comprado 4.800 libras de bacon, 3.000 libras de café, 1.600 libras de manteiga ou 1.000 galões de gim. É improvável, entretanto, que esse fosse o orçamento do típico proprietário de escravos. A maior parte da comida seria produzida na plantação e as moradias seriam edifícios construídos pelo proprietário (e seus escravos). O "custo de oportunidade" dos $ 400 para o proprietário de escravos teria sido suprimentos para a plantação, ou talvez luxos e viagens.

Usando o preço real não é o índice correto a ser usado para medir o valor dos serviços de trabalho escravo nos preços de hoje. No entanto, dá uma ideia de quanto custou a compra de um escravo em dólares de 2016. Assim, pouco antes do início da Guerra Civil, o preço real médio de um escravo nos Estados Unidos era de $ 23.000 em dólares correntes. Há ampla evidência de que há vários milhões de pessoas escravizadas hoje, embora a escravidão não seja legal em nenhum lugar do mundo. Existem várias organizações, como Anti-Slavery International isso indicará que em muitos lugares hoje, os escravos vendem por tão pouco quanto (ou até menos de) $ 100!


Os homens que transformaram a escravidão em grandes negócios

O comércio doméstico de escravos não foi um espetáculo à parte em nossa história, e os traficantes de escravos não eram pequenos atores no palco.

Sobre o autor: Joshua Rothman é professor e presidente do departamento de história da University of Alabama. Ele é o autor de The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America.

I saac Franklin passou parte do dia de Natal de 1833 avaliando as operações de sua empresa e fazendo planos para o futuro. Escrevendo de Nova Orleans para um de seus parceiros de negócios na Virgínia, Franklin tirou alguns momentos de suas férias para relatar que havia alugado um novo showroom na cidade a partir do qual logo começaria a fazer vendas, e que as vendas subiam o rio Mississippi na filial da empresa em Natchez, Mississippi, estava indo muito bem.

Franklin tinha acabado de chegar de Natchez e ficou feliz em transmitir a notícia de que tinha visto “preços e lucros de primeira classe”, percebeu quase US $ 100.000 e provavelmente superou todos os seus concorrentes juntos. Ele também estava cobrando dívidas pendentes de clientes aos quais havia concedido crédito e prometeu que logo enviaria algum dinheiro, embora tenha dito ao sócio que deveria considerar a possibilidade de roubar fundos adicionais de suas conexões bancárias, se pudesse. Franklin queria “mais quatrocentos escravos nesta temporada”, e manter a cadeia de suprimentos estável não custava barato.

Franklin e seus parceiros de negócios, John Armfield e Rice Ballard, foram os mais importantes comerciantes de escravos domésticos da história americana. Por meio de sua empresa, comumente conhecida como Franklin e Armfield, eles moveram cerca de 10.000 escravos de Maryland e Virgínia para venda no Mississippi e na Louisiana. Eles transformaram o comércio doméstico de escravos, demonstrando como os homens brancos podiam fazer disso sua profissão, não apenas algo que eles poderiam fazer como um meio temporário de ganhar dinheiro extra. E o fizeram não apenas por meio de violência implacável, mas também tirando o máximo proveito do fato de que os escravos eram considerados trabalhadores e ativos financeiros que podiam ser integrados aos mercados de dinheiro e às redes de crédito do antigo capitalismo americano.

Em 1808, o Congresso proibiu a importação de escravos do exterior, mas um comércio doméstico de escravos floresceu nos Estados Unidos durante os primeiros 60 anos do século XIX. De 1800 a 1860, mais de 1 milhão de escravos foram movidos à força através das fronteiras estaduais, mudando o centro de gravidade da escravidão americana de forma constante para o sul e para o oeste, enquanto os proprietários de escravos buscavam implacavelmente maiores lucros com a produção de algodão e açúcar.

Os comerciantes de escravos tinham a responsabilidade de executar a maior parte dessa migração forçada maciça, fornecendo uma força de trabalho que os tornava indispensáveis ​​para a expansão da escravidão e, portanto, para o desenvolvimento econômico mais amplo do país. Como canais para a financeirização de pessoas escravizadas e seu movimento em todo o país, homens como Franklin, Armfield e Ballard facilitaram a extração sistemática de capital da mão de obra negra e de corpos negros que circulavam pelo país e ao redor do mundo, e que quase se beneficiaram todos, exceto os próprios escravos. O negócio deles, que exploro em meu próximo livro, O livro razão e a cadeia, desmente qualquer noção de que a escravidão estava à margem da sociedade americana.

O comércio doméstico de escravos não foi um espetáculo à parte em nossa história, e os traficantes de escravos não eram pequenos atores no palco. Pelo contrário, o comércio e seus operadores eram generalizados na vida americana antes da Guerra Civil. Eles desempenharam papéis vitais na definição dos contornos demográficos, políticos e econômicos de uma nação em crescimento, e não devemos nos enganar pensando que deixamos esse passado para trás. Na verdade, ainda vivemos no mundo que os lucros de Franklin e Armfield ajudaram a construir e com as desigualdades duradouras que eles e sua indústria consolidaram.

Em 1828, Franklin, natural do Tennessee, e Armfield, natural da Carolina do Norte, assinaram “artigos de co-parceria”, formalizando um acordo comercial para trabalharem juntos como traficantes de pessoas escravizadas. Ambos haviam sido traficantes de escravos por vários anos antes de unirem forças, mas eles tinham em mente um tipo de operação diferente do que qualquer um estava envolvido antes. Investindo o equivalente moderno de cerca de meio milhão de dólares entre eles, eles alugaram uma casa de três andares com um complexo murado anexo em Alexandria, Virgínia, onde Armfield comprou, acumulou e escondeu pessoas escravizadas. De lá, ele os enviou para Nova Orleans, geralmente de navio, descendo a costa do Atlântico, no Golfo do México e subindo a foz do rio Mississippi. Franklin recebeu os carregamentos lá, vendeu alguns dos cativos na cidade e enviou o restante rio acima em um barco a vapor para as instalações de vendas e showroom da empresa em Natchez.

Franklin e Armfield trouxeram Rice Ballard, um nativo da Virgínia, como um terceiro sócio em 1831. A empresa o colocou em Richmond, onde ele trabalhou em uma prisão privada, comprando mais escravos e os enviando rio abaixo para Norfolk, onde foram adicionados aos navios despachados por Armfield enquanto se dirigiam para o sul.

Em apenas alguns anos, Franklin and Armfield era a maior operação doméstica de comércio de escravos dos Estados Unidos e maior do que qualquer operação anterior. A empresa veiculou anúncios diários em vários jornais anunciando que tinha "dinheiro no mercado" e que compraria "qualquer número de NEGROS PROVÁVEIS". Tinha em seu emprego um pequeno exército de agentes de compras e subagentes, que compraram escravos em mais de 20.000 milhas quadradas de Maryland, Virgínia e do Distrito de Columbia. Ele enviava de 1.000 a 1.500 escravos para o sul do país todos os anos, principalmente em um dos três brigues que compunham uma frota privada de propriedade da empresa. Depois de descarregar a carga, esses brigs frequentemente traziam algodão, açúcar e outras mercadorias de volta para entrega aos comerciantes de Nova York à Virgínia, abrindo ainda outra fonte de receita para a empresa. As receitas brutas de Franklin e Armfield chegaram ao equivalente moderno de milhões de dólares anuais, medidos simplesmente pela inflação. Medidos como uma parcela do PIB, chegaram a várias centenas de milhões de dólares.

Franklin e Armfield tiveram sucesso em parte por causa do tempo. Os primeiros cinco ou seis anos da década de 1830 trouxeram o maior boom econômico que os Estados Unidos já viram, e o centro desse boom estava na economia de terras, escravos e algodoeiros do baixo sul. A população branca da região aumentou em quase 1 milhão na década de 1830, incentivada por políticas federais que forçaram as nações indígenas a abandonar as melhores terras de algodão do continente e por bancos que inundaram o sul do sul com crédito fácil e empréstimos baratos. A demanda por escravos disparou em conformidade e, durante a década de 1830, os traficantes de escravos transportaram tantas pessoas escravizadas por meio do comércio interestadual quanto haviam feito nas duas décadas anteriores combinadas. Embora Franklin, Armfield e Ballard pudessem ter se saído bem sempre que abriram negócios juntos, é improvável que eles pudessem ter feito melhor do que iniciar seu empreendimento exatamente quando o fizeram.

A empresa também teve sucesso porque seus operadores esconderam a brutalidade que servia de base para seus negócios com os esforços para construir uma excelente reputação pública. Em sua correspondência, os sócios muitas vezes se referiam a si próprios como “ladrões” e “piratas”, revelando uma espécie de malandragem derivada do envolvimento em uma indústria que todos entendiam ser mais do que suja e não tinha espaço para sentimentalismo. Aos seus olhos, os escravos eram mercadorias, mercadorias comerciáveis, úteis apenas na medida em que podiam ser exploradas com fins lucrativos. Franklin e Armfield rotineiramente separavam famílias escravizadas e eliminavam pessoas escravizadas que haviam morrido de doenças sob o manto da escuridão, para que os clientes em potencial evitassem as compras mantinham chicotes e rifles à mão para controlar aqueles que prendiam e traficavam e sempre ficavam de olho nas jovens escravas que poderia trazer um prêmio no mercado como "fantasias" que os homens brancos podem querer estuprar.

Ao mesmo tempo, porém, Armfield agia como um profissional consumado em seu quartel-general em Alexandria. Ele ofereceu aos clientes e ativistas anti-escravistas um tour e uma bebida quando eles apareceram em seus escritórios e afirmou que sempre se manteve dentro dos limites da lei, tentou expor os criminosos que sequestraram negros livres e os venderam como escravos, e olhou depois do bem-estar das pessoas, ele comprou e vendeu da melhor maneira que pôde. Da mesma forma, quando os proprietários de escravos ficavam insatisfeitos com suas compras, como às vezes acontecia, Franklin geralmente preferia fazer uma troca ou até mesmo fornecer um reembolso, em vez de correr o risco de uma ação judicial. Isso pode ter custado dinheiro a ele no curto prazo, mas Franklin acreditava que ter uma reputação entre os brancos por negociar de maneira direta e confiável redundaria em benefício da empresa.

A verdadeira chave para o sucesso de Franklin e Armfield, na verdade, está na reputação cuidadosamente cultivada, porque trouxe consigo a confiança do mundo dos negócios, especialmente bancos e banqueiros. A maioria dos comerciantes de escravos buscava vendas rápidas em dinheiro, e Franklin ficava perfeitamente feliz que os clientes pagassem pelos escravos com dinheiro. Mas ele também entendeu que uma empresa de comércio de escravos conhecida pela confiabilidade e volume era uma empresa de comércio de escravos capaz de obter acesso a capital emprestado que pagaria mais generosamente com o tempo.

Assim, à medida que a empresa crescia em tamanho e fama, Franklin estabeleceu linhas de crédito com bancos de Nova Orleans a Nova York, o que fornecia a garantia de que, mesmo que surgissem tempos econômicos difíceis, ele sempre poderia, como ele disse, "obter dinheiro quando nenhum outro O comerciante pode obter um dólar. ” Com essa garantia, Franklin poderia vender pessoas escravizadas no Baixo Sul a clientes a crédito, às vezes em troca de papel comercial negociável, e às vezes em troca de hipotecas sobre as próprias pessoas que ele estava vendendo, forçando assim os escravos a fundir o financiamento de seus venda própria. He held on to some of the paper and collected the debts it represented when they came due, and some of it he transmitted back east, where Armfield and Ballard turned it into cash to be pumped back into purchasing markets for more slaves.

The company thus trapped enslaved people in an endless financial loop, as confining in its own way as the ships that transported them and the prisons that caged them. And Franklin, Armfield, Ballard, and the legions of merchants, planters, bankers, and others who acted as their accomplices realized profits at every step.

More than anyone in their industry before them, Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard demonstrated how to become extremely wealthy from the process, and other men were watching. Though the three partners mostly left the slave-trade business in 1836, dozens of large slave-trading companies followed and built upon the model they pioneered, carrying out the trade for another 30 years, until the Civil War finally put an end to slavery and the slave trade alike.

The capital enslaved people had generated, however, would never come back to its producers.


Slavery Did Not Make America Richer

In the past few decades, a new subfield of history has emerged: the history of capitalism. The subfield is widely popular in the media as a result of hugely influential books such as those of Sven Beckert and Edward Baptist. These two particular authors tie the “peculiar institution” of slavery in American history to capitalism. Many media pundits, as witnessed by recent articles in the New York Times and Vox, jumped on the works of these authors to claim that slavery was “the building block of the American economy” and it made America richer.

To make this case, these scholars invoke three facts. First, the southern states enjoyed relatively faster growth than the free northern states. Second, slavery was immensely profitable to slaveholders. Third, the rapid increases in slave productivity – as measured by cotton picked per slave – meant that cotton output exploded. From this, a causal claim is made: slavery made America rich because increasing slave productivity increased profits and fastened economic growth.

With the exception of whether or not the South grew faster than the North, which is debatable to some degree, there is little to dispute on a factual basis. However, it is impossible to infer that America was made richer from these facts. In fact, when interpreted with the light of economic theory, the second and third facts actually suggest that the reverse is true: America was made poorer because of slavery.

Economic growth in the United States pre-1860

One of the most-cited pieces of evidence is that south enjoyed rapid economic growth before emancipation. The logic is that if the south grew faster than the north, slavery – which was so important to the southern economy – must have been a contributing factor. Most of the evidence for this rests on the works of Robert Gallman and Richard Easterlin who constructed income estimates for the period after 1840. In their pioneering work, Time on the Cross, Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman used this data to show that, between 1840 and 1860, the south grew faster than the north: 1.7% per annum versus 1.3%.

However, this is a claim with shaky foundations. First, the benchmark year of 1860 overstates the level of income per capita. The cotton crop that year was higher than normal. The effect from this is mild, but it is enough to shave off a few decimal points to the initial estimates of growth for the southern states. Economic historian Gerald Gunderson also suggested that the census of 1840, which was used to estimate output in that year, was known to be one of the most poorly conducted in census history. This lead, in his opinion, to an inaccurate starting point that also contributes to overstating southern growth between 1840 and 1860.

Secondly, economic historian Jeffrey Hummel identified a series of weak points in the national account estimates of Gallman and Easterlin. These weak points relate to how the South was defined (some slave states were wrongly allocated to the North), how certain new states like Texas had overstated incomes, how the income from service sectors was underestimated in some regions and overestimated in others, the value of subsistence goods given to slaves and the price deflators used to estimate output. Hummel proposed revisions to adjust for some of the problems he exposed. The revisions reduced the gap in growth rates between the region.

Third, taken separately, none of the different regions of the South experienced faster growth than the different regions of the North: the Northeast and North Central enjoyed growth rates of per capita income equal to 1.7% and 1.6% between 1840 and 1860 while the South Atlantic, East South Central and West South Central regions enjoyed growth rates of 1.2%, 1.3% and 1.0% during the same period. This apparent anomaly is explained by internal migration: Southerners moved from where incomes below average to where they were above average. These movements in population, when aggregated for the two while regions, create the impression of fast growth in the South. However, it is worth pointing out that the higher-income states of the South grew more slowly than the higher-income states of the North.

Lastly, if we extend the period considered, the picture that emerges is quite different. Peter Lindert and Jeffrey Williamson reconstructed income statistics between 1675 and 1860 in order the different regions of the United States with Great Britain. They found that, between 1675 and 1774, incomes per capita in the southern states fell by roughly 15% while the middle colonies stagnated and New England enjoyed a mild increase.

Thereafter, the southern economy grew, but at a slower pace than the North: economic growth stood at 1.94% per annum in New England between 1800 and 1860 while it stood at 1.66% and 0.90% in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic states.

Similarly, Robert Margo’s work on wages between 1820 and 1860 showed that wages for common labor in the Northeast increased faster than in the South Atlantic and South-Central regions (although wages in the Midwest did not increase as impressively). Adding to this the wealth estimates of scholars like Alice Hanson Jones, we find that the South actually lost ground relative to the North from the beginning of the colonial era. It did grow, but the Northern states performed better.

The sum of these points suggest that we ought to be careful about making inferences from this “fact.” However, even if that point was a certain one, it would not say much about wellbeing.

Productivity and profitability: do not confuse output with utility

The other two facts – that slavery was immensely profitable and that slave productivity increased – are not debated. Scholars accept them as true. In fact, of all the claims contained in Time on the Cross, these are the two that survived the test of time. However, one cannot infer that slavery made America richer from them. In fact, these two facts point in the opposite direction.

Under slavery, slaves received as “wages” (for lack of a better term) only the subsistence items that their owners allowed them to consume. That is a (poor) form of compensation. As a counterfactual, imagine a world where slaves were free and ask yourself this question: what quantity of labor would have been provided for the utility derived from these subsistence items?

It is hard to arrive at a convincing number. However, it is clear that whatever the quantity of labor provided when induced solely by compensation, it would have been less than the quantity of labor coerced by slaveowners. Consider the flipside of that counterfactual market. If slaveowners had to convince free workers to work for them, they could only have induced them to do so via higher wages. And this is not only a counterfactual that includes quantity of work, it includes also the quality of work. In free situations, workers in unpleasant jobs tend to be offered higher wages to compensate for the inconvenience. This is why backbreaking work, all else being equal, tends to be better remunerated than physically easy work.

As long as there was a difference between the value of what a slave produced and the value of subsistence, there was a transfer from slaves to slaveowners. This is why economic historians like Gavin Wright writes that “slave-based commerce remained central (…) not because slave plantations were superior as a method of organizing production, but because slaves could be put to work on sugar plantations that could not have attracted free labor on economically viable terms”.

However, here comes the rub: this increased physical outputs.

In economics, dollar signs are often used to “mimic” utility. This is because the models that teach students about utility implicitly embed an assumption about personal freedom and agency. If people are free to take prices as they are, the prices can be translated into information about utility in a very straightforward manner. This is why economists frequently emphasize how well statistics about Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which rely on market prices to be calculated, speak to human wellbeing. The quantity produced and measured are reflective of utility. As such, the changes in one will be reflected by changes in the same direction in the other.

In the presence of coercion, this is not necessarily the case. All the statements that economics students are taught remain true. However, it is no longer possible to infer utility as easily from reported prices. If one is coerced into working more than he would have at the compensation offered, he will increase economic output. More labor, more output. However, at that level of compensation, he would have preferred to work less and take more leisure time. This why some economists like Yoram Barzel and Stefano Fenoaltea consider slavery as a tax on leisure rather than a tax on labor. As that person would have derived more utility from leisure than from work at the offered compensation, the coercion changes output in a manner that divorces it from the change in utility (greater output, lower utility).

In such a divorce, the coercion of a greater labor supply creates a deadweight loss. In other words, people would have gained more utility without the coercion. This deadweight loss can be approximated and be given a monetary value that does speak to utility. The amplitude of that loss is the extent to which Americans were made poorer.

This deadweight loss serves to resolve two conundrums. The first is that it explains the institution’s profitability and viability. Slaveowners used the inputs they had as efficiently as possible and extracted important profits. However, this says little about living standards as the level of these profits reflects the extent of the deadweight loss. Thus, the institution may have increased output in ways that made slaveholders rich– as it did – but it made Americans worse off.

The second resolved conundrum relates to the finding of Fogel and Engerman that southern slave farms were more productive than free northern farms and slave productivity increased importantly during the Antebellum period. Fogel and Engerman argued initially in Time on the Cross and later in Without Consent or Contract that this was a result of the economies of scale involved in plantation farming: large plantations were more efficient than small plantations. That finding in their work was hotly debated on methodological grounds.

However, even if one remains agnostic on the methodological choices, that finding is unsurprising. The gang labor system under slavery, which generated the economies of scale described by Fogel and Engerman, was adopted because it could best extract output from coerced workers. It does not deny the existence of a deadweight loss – it confirms it!

That resolution is only reinforced when one stops being agnostic with regards to some of the methodological choices made by Fogel and Engerman. For example, more recent evidence discussed by Jeffrey Hummel suggests that hours worked by slaves were greater (even at the low bound) than by free workers in the North. As Fogel and Engerman had argued “greater intensity of labor per hour, rather than more hours of labor per day” explained the productivity advantage, finding that both intensity and quantity were higher only piles it on.

The Deadweight Loss of Slavery

What was the deadweight loss of slavery? Using data on estimates of earnings of free workers, hire rates for slaves (which are better at approximating the marginal value to slaveowners of an extra slave) and subsistence consumption taken from the core texts on the economics of American slavery, Jeffrey Hummel estimated that deadweight loss. He placed it at between $52 and $190 million in 1860 with the smaller amount representing 5 percent of total oncome in the region. In other words, the loss in utility of forcing slaves to provide more labor than they otherwise would have had a value of between $52 and $190 million.

But that is not the whole sum of deadweight losses. In the southern states, the enforcement of slavery was not fully undertaken by slaveowners. The states mandated slave patrol duty for free whites. This relieved slaveowners of the costs of enforcement (while they kept the rewards from coercion) which were spread over a large population. The mandatory duty was a tax in the form of labor in kind. In some states, there were actually taxes to finance the patrols. Hummel estimated the sum of enforcement costs brought his estimates to between $64 and $210 million. This represents at most a fifth of the southern economy in terms of inefficiency. This remains a conservative estimate as there was also a deadweight loss from forcibly reallocating non-slave labor towards patrolling which is hard to measure.

This addition is useful as it shows that the deadweight loss was not contained to slaves. It extended to poor non-slaveholding whites. Scholars, such as Keri Leigh Merritt in Masterless Men, have begun to highlight how the preservation of slavery necessitated policies that kept non-slaveholding whites poor, landless and illiterate. While slaves bore the brunt of the harm done, it was not contained to them. This explains why Hinton Rowan Helper’s Impending Crisis was so popular (even in the South) even though it was racist and anti-slavery: it catered to another impoverished group.

It is clear that one cannot infer that America was made richer from the often-used facts about growth and slavery. It is even clearer that America was made poorer by slavery. Slavery leaves a nasty legacy. Its preservation required the use of racist ideological constructs to justify it. These constructs persist today and, since Emancipation, meant that incredible violence was directed towards African-Americans. It bred a class of rent-seekers who continued their rent-extraction efforts in the form of segregation laws and public goods funded by all but whose use was restricted to whites. To these items in the shadow of slavery, we must also add a poorer America.


Rattling the Bars

Rattling the Bars, hosted by former Black Panther and political prisoner Marshall “Eddie” Conway, puts the voices of the people most harmed by our system of mass incarceration at the center of our reporting on the fight to end it.

James further believes that in order to restore humanity to prisoners, you have to legitimize political dissent, especially against racial capitalism. “You have to rehumanize the incarcerated, and progressives tend to say focus on their suffering, that’s going to humanize them. I say that is absolutely right, but you also have to focus on their agency. But there is no way to reconstitute the human without legitimizing political dissent,” said James. “There is no way you can reconstruct the criminal… when police and civilians can kill with impunity just as long as the people are seen as disposable.”

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Profit of slave labor in America - History

Historians today say “yes.” But free men and women would have built it better and made it richer.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Basic Books, 2014, 528 pp., $35

Cotton and Race in the Making of America: The Human Costs of Economic Power

Ivan R. Dee, 2011, 432 pp., $18.95

Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery

W.W. Norton & Company, 1994, 544 pp., 18.95 (paperback)

H istorians once thought that slavery had been a source of poverty. Back in the 1950s, when income levels in places like Alabama and Mississippi qualified them as second, if not third, world countries, most academics engaged in the question argued that by tying up large amounts of capital in an inefficient system, slavery had prevented the Southern economy from industrializing. Some, like U.B. Phillips and D.H. Potter, even went so far as to suggest that in 1860 slavery was about to collapse of its own weight, and the Civil War had been an unnecessary bloodbath.

Now the Old South is one of the fastest-growing parts of the country, and the old argument has shifted a full 180 degrees. After the 1989 publication of Robert Fogel’s Without Consent or Contract, historians take for granted slavery’s contribution to the prosperity of the white South and hence, statistically at least, to the country as a whole. They are now prone to ask to what extent the entire United States down to the present day owes its prosperity to 19 th -century slavery. Was slavery some kind of platform upon which the modern American economy was built? That would be the politically correct question to study these days in the academy, especially if the answer can be made to come out “yes.”

Isso não é surpreendente. In the present context, with the United States still struggling to build a multiracial society 150-odd years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the economic history of slavery is obviously a politically freighted issue. But it always has been to one extent or another, and American scholars and intellectuals have never ceased arguing over the question. For every Oscar Handlin who downplayed the evils of slavery, and even argued that slavery caused racism rather than the other way around, there has been a Nate Glazer who has stressed the singular evils of the American form of slavery compared to every other form known to history. Only someone unfamiliar with the literature can be surprised that, even aside from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s call for reparations payments, much of the current crop of books on the topic slides rather quickly from scholarship into advocacy. 1 The three books reviewed here all were written in the main with scholarly intent, but in reading them one soon realizes how far we are from having any interpretation of the strictly economic impact of slavery that could be called settled doctrine.

A t a certain level there is little disagreement over the outline of events that led to the present question. In 1787, when the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, there were about half-a-million slaves in what would soon become the United States. About a third of them were involved in growing rice and indigo, marginal enterprises at best that would soon all but disappear. Another 40 percent produced tobacco, which was a viable export commodity, but as the account books of George Washington testify, by the time the slave-holder paid to support those who worked as well as those who were either too young, too old, or too infirm to work, the cost advantage of slave labor relative to free labor wasn’t that great. It took a particular personality type—and not a very nice one—to get value out of slaves, but Washington wasn’t among them. Slavery had been a source of riches on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean Islands, but almost no part of the United States at the time could grow sugar. The real money awaited the arrival of cotton, which was still unforeseen as of 1787.

That’s right: On the day the United States adopted its Constitution, the country grew no cotton. Twenty years later, after the invention of the cotton gin, it still produced only a modest amount, but Sven Beckert’s “Empire of Cotton” was about to take form. 2 Consumers not just in Britain and the United States but throughout the whole of Europe began replacing wool with cotton garments, and because it was now cheap to do so, they bought more clothing in general. Producers responded, the technology was easily transferable, and the number of mechanized spindles in operation increased almost daily. The limiting factor became raw material, and in the search for a source it soon became clear the American South was what today might be called the Saudi Arabia of raw cotton. The region possessed the perfect temperature and rainfall, and for the next several decades it supplied between 60 and 70 percent of the entire world’s raw cotton. Cotton farming rose in importance until, by 1850, the value of the cotton crop accounted for some 5 percent of the nation’s total, a position comparable to that of the automobile a century later.

The spread of the cotton industry shaped much of the nation’s early history. Once the textile industry got rolling, in England and New England, only a short time passed before the industry needed more raw cotton than the coastal states could provide. Population moved toward new land, into areas that would become Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and ultimately Texas. To make room, Native Americans had to be evicted. The steamboat, test-driven on the Hudson, found its real employment on the Mississippi River. Some 9,500 miles of railway had to be built to transport people and cotton. Once Andrew Jackson killed the Bank of the United States, wildcat banks sprang up to finance the enterprise, and state politicians dreamed up crazy schemes that would saddle them with debt upon which they would eventually default. And above all, there was the unending struggle over the spread of slavery. The South, anxious to fortify itself against the rising swell of abolition, pressed for slavery in every new territory, even those where cotton wouldn’t grow.

As the population moved westward, it dragged 835,000 slaves behind it, most walking at least part of the way. By 1850, more than 3 million slaves worked in the American South, 60 percent of them in the cotton fields and the rest either in other crops or as craftsmen. Of every hour of useful work done in the Southern states, roughly 40 minutes was performed by a slave. Given the obvious importance of slave labor, it may come as something of a surprise to find that, as already noted, the early historians of slavery judged it to have been a burden on the South’s economy rather than its strength. Edward Baptist, in his new and widely successful The Half Has Never Been Told, has not been misled. His reading of events is right up front in his subtitle, “Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.” Early on he asserts, “The idea that the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African Americans is what made America powerful and rich is not an idea people are necessarily happy to hear. Yet it is the truth.”

This is a statement about the national economy by an historian rather than an economist, so one has to struggle a bit to find its precise meaning. It could mean that the incomes of some Americans, probably white, are greater today than they would have been had the slaves been free men and women. Individuals in both the South and the North accumulated fortunes through dealing in the slave economy. Some fraction of that wealth could have survived the Civil War and, thanks to compound interest, could today amount to a tidy sum.

Tracing the origin and forward journey of that wealth could have made an interesting story, but it’s not the story Baptist wants to tell. He’s out for bigger game. His is a societal indictment according to which the entire capitalist development of 19 th -century America was woven around slavery, benefitting the country’s GDP down to this day. Baptist pursues this theme not with an econometric model but with the tools of the historian, which he deploys with great vigor. His book is a prodigious work that stacks up a mountain of documentary evidence. The antebellum South comes alive beneath Baptist’s pen. Mostly it’s a tale of unending physical and mental torment, especially in the western regions, where planters bought slaves on credit and had either to succeed or face bankruptcy. The average plantation with 50 or more slaves was run by just one or two white men. Subduing males slaves wasn’t enough they had to be emasculated, in Baptist’s reading. This is not the South of “Gone With The Wind.” Indeed, it’s not even the South of Eugene Genovese’s classic 1972 book Roll Jordan Roll. Genovese at least saw a little space within which the slave could maneuver and in many cases negotiate some elemental protections from the slave master. There’s little of that in Baptist. His players are one-dimensional characters who have one objective, money, and one means of obtaining it, physical force.

There is also a certain confusion at the heart of Baptist’s argument. He doesn’t want to be bound to economic data, but for an historian is remarkably materialist. Literary flourishes aside, his argument reduces to this: Slave grown cotton yielded vast wealth, and wealth powered the nation’s growth. He’s certainly correct on the first point. The white South, and not a few individual Northerners, became wealthy on the backs of slaves, but if Baptist had taken the time to look, he’d have realized the numbers aren’t large enough to support his claim. Thanks to Fogel, we actually can calculate the amount of extra income enjoyed by Southern whites as a result of owning slaves. In the 1850s, the zenith of the cotton economy, it came to between 1 and 1.5 percent of the nation’s GDP, not a trivial sum. By this period, however, the United States was already the second-largest economy in the world and was investing every year between 13 and 15 percent of GDP in new capital. Even if the entire “slave surplus” were saved (which it wasn’t, because there were mansions to build and ball gowns to buy), it would have made a respectable contribution to growth, but it just wasn’t large enough to be the basis of an empire.

There is also a more troubling point in Baptist’s argument. Individuals clearly benefitted from slavery, but not the nation as a whole. To believe as Baptist does one has to believe the Founders’ decision in Philadelphia to allow slavery was a boon and not a blunder—that they did the economy a favor by keep 10 percent of the resident population in chains. Baptist not only sells short the enslaved men and women, but he contradicts a fair body of research on the history of slave economies. The slave-run gold mines of Peru, Mexico, and the sugar islands also produced impressive fortunes in their day. Their legacy is modern Peru and Haiti. Edmund Phelps, in his recent book, Mass Flourishing argues that long-term growth requires continuous innovation not just the big discoveries, but the steady flow of cost savings and improvements that come from an engaged workforce. Slaves, looking over their shoulder at the overseer’s whip, don’t get many innovative ideas. They were deprived of the benefits of freedom, and so the country lost the fruits of their genius. Jazz music is exactly the type of thing Phelps has in mind. African Americans always had it in their bones as they toiled in the fields, but it took freedom for it to flourish.

G ene Dattel’s Cotton and Race in The Making of America makes an argument similar to The Half Has Never Been Told, but in a less evangelical tone. His enthusiasm for cotton as a source of riches is tempered by the industry’s experience in the 70 years after the Civil War. Fogel would disagree, but the postwar economy of the American South looks a great deal like the economy of every other commodity producer in history once its heyday had passed. The great wealth of the planters upon which Baptist rests his argument was largely wiped out by the stroke of Lincoln’s pen—abolition, as enacted in the United States, represented the greatest outright confiscation of property by a government in modern history. As insensitive as the statement sounds, remember that slavery era legal and that, in some fairly small number of cases, free blacks owned slaves as well.

After a period of groping about, the planters and their former slaves settled into a system of sharecropping that was acceptably efficient at producing cotton, but cotton had already become a bad business. In 1900, the cotton crop was three times the crop of 1860, but its value had fallen from nearly 5 percent of GDP to 1.7 percent. Incomes were spiraling downward to the point that by 1950 Alabama had less than half the per capita income of New York. Former slaves who were now sharecroppers endured great poverty, as did their white neighbors. Cotton still proclaimed itself King, but the king nonetheless held out his hand for a government subsidy.

Cotton and Race in The Making of America is largely a compilation of previously published works, but the particular strength Dattel brings to the story is his feel for cotton farming as a business. Planters knew that collectively they were into a seam of gold, but so long as they acted independently they were at the mercy of market prices. Production rose, land values increased, and slave prices remained elevated so long as the price of raw cotton was over 10 cents per pound. Planters went bankrupt when it sold for much less than 8 cents, as it did for much of the 1840s. The Southern Planters Association sought to form a sort of OPEC of cotton, which would have allowed it to extract more of the monopoly rent. Its efforts foundered, however, because planters were too numerous and too dispersed to permit centralized control over production, and they could never raise enough capital to establish a proper commodity-buying board.

Where Baptist wants Northerners to feel guilty over being prosperous, Dattel wants them to feel guilty over being racist. One of his abiding themes is the conflict that arose within a North that was at once partly abolitionist and very largely racist. Northerners wanted to see blacks free but not in person. This stance, Dattel asserts without a great deal of support, is what kept African Americans trapped in sharecropping for so long after emancipation. Northern industry imported millions of immigrants from Europe but ignored proven workers to the south. His categorical example is New York Senator William Seward, who in an 1848 speech warned of “an irrepressible conflict between opposing forces, and it means the United States will sooner or later become an entirely slave-holding nation or an entirely free-labor nation.” At the same time he could say, “The North has nothing to do with the Negroes. I have no more concern for them than I have for the Hottentots. They are God’s poor—they always have been and always will be.” Seward knew his audience and was a man of his time. His mindset is what freed the Northern conscience to deal with the South and trade in slave-grown cotton.

R obert Fogel’s Without Consent or Contract deserves inclusion here because, 25 years after its publication and three years after Fogel’s death, it remains the best single volume in print on the history of American slavery in all its dimensions—economic, political, and moral. It followed an earlier book, Time On The Cross, which Fogel had written with coauthor Stanley Engerman. This first book, which was similar in method to Without Consent or Contract, was severely criticized when it came out for its detached tone and lack of ostensible outrage over the institution it analyzed. Fogel, in his later book, goes to some length to remedy this deficiency without ever abandoning the high-minded perspective of a man who would soon win the Nobel Prize. Yet he doesn’t pull any punches. Why were slaves so much more productive than free workers? “… the feature that made planters prefer slave labor even when free labor was relatively abundant … is the enormous, almost unconstrained degree of force available to masters….. Centuries of tradition shielded European laborers from the force that was permitted against African and Afro-American slaves.” The heart of slavery was violence.

The degree to which force was applied is almost palpable in Fogel’s calculations of output per hour worked. On small plantations, employing 15 or fewer slaves, there was no difference between slave labor and free. On large plantations, however, those employing 50 or more slaves, the slaves were 39 percent more productive per hour worked. The source of this extra output was the gang system of work that was used on large plantations but not on small ones. The gang system divided cotton cultivation into simple linear tasks each of which was assigned to a group of workers. No group could fulfill its daily quota unless the one ahead of it did so as well. One pushed the other, with the entire operation supervised by a single overseer with a bullwhip.

Free white workers refused to work like this even when offered higher wages. Baptist wants to see the gang system as some kind of capitalist innovation, which in a sense it was. Economists, however, reserve the term innovation for inventions that conserve resources. The gang system didn’t reduce even by one calorie the energy required to cultivate and harvest a cotton crop. It merely allowed slave-owners to beat more work out of their chattel. At some point, even the slave-owners had to realize they were depreciating their own capital, and Fogel does point out that they did a fair amount of experimentation with the length of the work week. It settled in at about 58 hours per week, which meant slaves worked about 400 fewer hours per year than the average yeoman farmer on his own land.

Without Consent or Contract, however, is not all numbers. Some of its more intriguing passages contain Fogel’s speculations on the morality of fighting a Civil War in which 600,000 men lost their lives, one for each six slaves. Fogel sees the war as a historical necessity. Slavery was certainly profitable in cotton cultivation and no less profitable than free labor in manufacturing. In his view, it was not about to disappear of its own weight. Left to itself, the South, while behind the North, would have been among the five largest economies of the world. Its presence, he maintains, would have encouraged European aristocrats and set back liberalizing trends throughout the West. It also would have had a monopoly on a raw material upon which the world was, at least for a time, vitally dependent. The inelasticity of that demand meant that an excise tax on cotton would have yielded a Confederate government enough revenue to pursue an adventurous foreign policy in Latin America, and to finance all kinds of mayhem toward the end of perpetuating slavery.

O ne of the more attractive properties of Fogel’s work is the intellectual modesty with which he pursued his subject. Fogel was well aware that in writing on slavery he was playing with political dynamite, but he steadfastly refused to go beyond his material. The overall impression one takes away from his book is of a composite built up from the accretion of evidence on the subtopics within slavery, each of which is too narrow to carry much political weight. He may well have ended his work with a judgment of what contemporary America owes its dead slaves, but unlike too many other writers in the field, he didn’t start with one.

1 Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” O Atlantico (June 2014).

2 Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Knopf 2014). See also Harold James, “Capitalism Da Capo,” The American Interest (May/June 2015).


Profiting off of Prison Labor

“Factories with Fences” and “American Made” boasts UNICOR. Better known as the Federal Prison Industries program, UNICOR makes nearly half a billion dollars in net sales annually using prison labor, paying inmates between 23¢ to $1.15 per hour. Despite already earning one-sixth of the federal minimum wage, inmates with final obligations must contribute half of their earnings to cover those expenses. UNICOR, in addition to other government-owned corporations and private prisons, makes millions upon millions of dollars using nearly free prison labor.

Forced prison labor in the United States is nothing new, and in fact, it originates with the passing of the 13th Amendment. This amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Hidden within those monumental words is the phrase “except as a punishment for crime.” Why this addition? Considering that free slave labor contributed billions to the antebellum South’s economy, the abolition of slavery soon devastated their way of life. This loophole was exploited immediately, leading to the first prison boom in American history. Now both public and private prisons alike profit off of cheap prison labor.

UNICOR derives the bulk of its sales from selling to other government agencies, with over 50% of its sales coming from the Department of Defense, with other customers including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Treasury, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Though UNICOR is typically restricted to selling to the Federal Government, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012 permitted UNICOR to work with select private companies. Aside from the federal prison industry, state-run prisons generate millions in profits, making prison labor an industry worth over $1 billion.

Federal and state-run facilities aren’t the only competitors in this market. Ever since the federal prison population began booming due to the war on drugs declared by President Nixon and enforced under President Reagan, the Bureau of Prisons began looking for ways to keep up with the demand. Then, the bureau began contracting with private prisons. At its high in 2013, an approximate 220,000 inmates were held in private prisons, the two largest being CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO Group.

Though CoreCivic and GEO Group constitute half of the market share of private prisons, they made a combined revenue of $3.5 billion in 2015. Additionally, both groups have been expanding their business beyond simply owning corrections facilities (which was the rationale behind CoreCivic’s name change). GEO Group acquired BI Incorporated, which creates ankle bracelet monitors, in 2011 and a reentry facility called Alabama Therapeutic Facility in 2017 while CoreCivic acquired half-way houses. These purchases to diversify their offerings came amidst increased scrutiny of mass incarceration.

Because the business model of prison labor requires a constant influx of prisoners, private prisons have included “lockup quotas” into their dealings with federal and state authorities. The premise of the lockup quota is that taxpayers either have to keep these facilities at least 90% capacity or pay for the empty prison beds. For example, in Colorado, private prisons were initially intended to help house overflow inmates. With a crime drop of 33% in 2009, CoreCivic negotiated to include a quota in the 2013 state budget for all of its facilities. Now, instead of using private prisons for overflow purposes, it’s the first priority for placing prisoners. Thus, if prison labor is ever in short supply, then private prisons can turn to lockup quotas to offset lost revenue.

In order to continue bringing in profits, private prisons have found new sources for forced labor. In California, immigrants who were held in detention facilities owned by GEO Group are suing GEO Group for forced labor and wage theft. One of the class-action lawsuits alleges that detainees at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center were paid $1 a day for their labor, two others allege that GEO Group violated federal and California forced labor laws, while the fourth hopes to stop forced labor at 12 of GEO’s immigration facilities. Some immigrants worked for $1 a day while others worked for extra food, and under GEO’s Housing Unit Sanitation Policies, detained immigrants must work or face sanctions like solitary confinement or interference with their immigration cases.

American history is largely intertwined with forced labor, whether it be outside on plantations or inside prison walls. In both the case of public and private prisons, forced labor is used to gain a profit, and the products of that labor can be found in everything from Microsoft computers and Victoria’s Secret lingerie to Boeing airplanes and Idaho potatoes. Ironically, even the US Department of Justice purchases goods made with prison labor. And at the end of the day, after UNICOR, CoreCivic, GEO Group, and others rake in their profits, the prisoners are left to return to their cells with only a few dollars to show for their labor.

Katherine is a sophomore in the Global Management Program and intends to minor in History. Her interests in international business and markets inspired her to join BRB’s economics column to explore more about economics around the world. Beyond international relations, she also enjoys understanding how the political landscape affects markets and is excited to pursue these passions in BRB. As a San Diego native, she loves nice, sunny days and can be caught reading in the park otherwise, you’ll find her binging some movies or shows.


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