Economic Numbers Behind Slavery

While I’ve been working on a paper on wage slavery for a Journal out of McGill University (more on that in a minute), there’s a great paper about the economic numbers behind slavery in 2011 dollars.

Essentially, in 1859, in 2011 dollars, it cost a slave owner $750 to purchase a slave. It cost a slave owner on average $22,000 to feed and house a single slave (in deplorable conditions). Here’s the kicker…

The slave owner was able to extract $138,000 worth of labor from the slave, while raising their own Socioeconomic Status by over $250,000.

It adds credence to my post on the current economics of southern states. 

Henry George, a Political Economist in 1879 wrote about the difference between slavery, and wage slavery as this: slavery is where someone owned you. Wage slavery is where you’re renting yourself out. Noam Chomsky in 2002 defined wage slavery as “the lack of a person’s ability toward self-managemnet, and the absence of choice to engage in leisure”. Philosopher Michael Sandel defined it as “The unequal bargaining power between labor and capital”.

Sandel’s definition especially resonates when Union membership only makes up 6% of the private sector workforce. All definitions are accurate. In essence, wage slavery is where a person’s livelihood is totally and immediately dependent upon wages. It’s where we sit today.

I’m working not just on an economic model for wage slavery (which I had a EUREKA moment in creating, thanks to Dr. Paul Krugman at Princeton), but a sociological model as well. The thing about wage slavery is that (contrary to Marx’s view) people are no longer just selling their labor for a wage, they are selling their labor for hours at low wages, in an economy where we no longer produce much (a.k.a. service based economy). And with the BLS showing an incredible spike of temp employment (graph below), it seems as though, we are indeed renting ourselves out to owners.

The greatest difference though, is that you no longer have to be African American to rent yourself out to slavery.


This entry was posted in Economics, Slavery, Sociology, Wages. Bookmark the permalink.

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