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The Economics of Slavery

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08/06/2014Gordon Tullock

Confining our attention to large scale slavery, we find that it is historically quite a rare phenomenon. There seem to be only two significant examples: the Greek-Roman classical world and the system which grew up on the East Coast of the Americas from Brazil to Virginia. This is in spite of the fact that slavery has been a minor feature in very many places and times. The legal and social institutions for slavery have been quite common historically, but only twice have they been utilized on a major scale for a significant period of time. This sharp limitation on large scare slavery would seem to indicate that there are natural economic forces tending to prevent or eliminate it, and that the two major examples are cases where some special circumstance permitted the development of an institution which under normal conditions would be non-viable. It will be one of the objects of this essay to indicate that this is in fact the case.

Volume 3, Number 2; Spring-Summer 1967


Gordon Tullock

Tullock and his 1962 coauthor, Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan, are widely recognized as cofounders of public choice, a field that systematically applies the rational choice approach of economics to the analysis of political markets. During the past half-century Gordon Tullock has continually advanced the frontiers of political economy, most particularly with respect to the workings of representative democracies and autocracies. His exposure to formal economic training was limited to one course taught by Henry Simons as part of the law curriculum at the University of Chicago. Although Tullock does not hold a degree in economics, he is one of the most respected and widely cited economists of the modern age. His influence on modern political economy is simply immense.

Cite This Article

Tullock, Gordon. "The Economics of Slavery" Left and Right 3, No. 2 (Spring-Summer 1967): 5-16.