October 15, 2011
YES, SLAVERY IS 'EFFICIENT' FOR SLAVEHOLDERS WHEN THE HARMS TO SLAVES ARE EXTERNALIZED
Jenny Bourne Wahl, The Bondsman's Burden: An Economic Analysis of the Common Law of Southern Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1998) ("In what follows, I first discuss how courts assigned liability and damages in conflicts between slaveowners and others. I then turn to disputes in which slaveowners were accused of treating their own slaves too harshly--or too indulgently. I conclude that slave law tended to be efficient . . . " Id. at 2. "Let me stress again that the concept of 'efficiency' used in this book excludes the effects of legal rules on those with no legal standing--namely, slaves. . . . By omitting costs to slaves from consideration, one can comprehend why slavery endured: It profited those whom it served. In the same fashion, one can understand why the common law helped perpetuate slavery: It efficiently accommodated the needs of a slave-holding society. Profitability and efficiency mean nothing good in this context. Even in these days of moral relativism, few would argue that slavery and the structures that supported it were anything but evil. To call slave law efficient is to condemn it. Had judges been less adept at tailoring the common law to protect this peculiar property, in fact, slaves would have been less valuable and slavery less profitable." Id. at 176.) .