[OPE] The fall in slave prices and a possible road to serfdom

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Sun Aug 31 2008 - 08:15:52 EDT


With $50 and a plane ticket to Haiti, one can buy a slave. That is one of the findings of Benjamin Skinner while researching his book, "A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery." As the definition of "slave" is still "a human being forced to work under threat of violence for no pay beyond sustenance", Skinner concluded there are more slaves on the planet today than at any time in human history... Even though slavery is now illegal throughout the world. There is one difference, though: slaves got cheaper. After adjusting for inflation, Skinner found that, "A slave sold in 1850, would now roughly cost $30,000 to $40,000. Today you can go to Haiti and buy a 9-year-old girl as a sex slave for $50. The devaluation of human life is incredibly pronounced." http://theroadtothehorizon.blogspot.com/2008/03/news-there-are-more-slaves-today-than.html

The United Nations reports that human trafficking is now the third largest moneymaker for criminals, after drugs and weapons. No one is sure how many people were enslaved 50 years ago, but the number is thought to have grown rapidly with the population explosion to an estimated 27 million today.  (...) The only thing truly new about slavery today is the dramatic fall in slave prices. Slaves have been expensive, capital purchases for all of recorded history. Over the past 3,500 years the price of slaves has averaged - as supply ebbed and flowed - between 10,000 and 40,000 in today's currency. But since about 1950, a glut of potential slaves has entered the market and the average price for a human life has collapsed to a historic low of less than 100. The supply of possible slaves is especially plentiful among the billion people who live on about a dollar a day, a population concentrated in the developing world. And in countries where high levels of official corruption mean that criminals can act with impunity, slaves are easily harvested.(...) While a large number of goods are tainted by slavery, only a very small proportion of any particular commodity actually has slave input. If American pre-civil war cotton was primarily a slave-made good, the proportion of today's global cotton harvest touched by slaves may be 1 or 2 per cent at most. A recent International Labour Organization estimate put the profits of human trafficking and forced labour in the range of $31.6bn. Sizeable, but only a drop in the global economic ocean. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4b75a5c8-d316-11db-829f-000b5df10621.html?nclick_check=1
TABLE 4-2 Comparative Definitions of Slavery (Kevin Bales 2003)

      Practice/Criteria
     Loss of Free Will
     Appropriation of Labor Power
     Violence or Threat of Violence
     
      "White slavery"
     v
     v
     v
     
      Forced labor
     v
     v
     v
     
      Debt bondage
     v
     v
     v
     
      Child prostitution
     v
     v
     v
     
      Forced prostitution
     v
     v
     v
     
      Sexual slavery
     v
     v
     v
     
      Migrant workers
     v/
     v/
     v/
     
      Prostitution
     v/
     v/
     v/
     
      Forced marriage
     v/
     v/
     v
     
      Apartheid
     v/
     
     v
     
      Incest
     v/
     
     v
     
      Organ harvesting
     v/
     
     v/
     
      Caste
     
     
     v
     
      Prison labor
     
     v/
     v
     
      NOTE: v = Yes,  = No
     


http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10660&page=33#p2000748f9960033001B
"The economy is being set back on the road to debt peonage. The Road to Serfdom is not government sponsorship of economic progress and rising living standards; it's the dismantling of government, the dissolution of regulatory agencies, to create a new feudal-type elite." (Michael Hudson) http://www.counterpunch.org/whitney08292008.html

Of course, in a hypothetical world increasingly based on de facto slavery and semi-slavery, you would need enforcers, not just supervisors. Let's have a look. From wikipedia I can get country data on the total number of military troops http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_total_troops (active, reservists + paramilitary). If you add those up, you get circa 83.6 million military troops existing globally in 2006. Assuming a world population of 6.7 billion in 2006 (following the UN revision), that implies there is now one soldier for every 80 persons on earth, in round figures. Would that be enough for slave regime?  

Assuming one police officer for every 500 people in the world population (a more precise estimate could be made from the World Police Encyclopedia published by Routledge which I do not have handy here), you could add circa 13.4 million police officers, and then you get to about one "enforcer" (military or police) per 70 inhabitants in round figures.  

However, the total number of small arms, ranging from pistols to shoulder-fired rocket launchers, in both civilian and military hands around the world rose to 639 million in 2001, and the USA accounts for 220 to 230 million (a third) of those, according to 2002 research by the Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies, it works out to about one smallarm per ten people as a global average (some 8 million more small arms are produced every year, bringing the current total of smallarms up to circa 695 million; it works out to one smallarm per 9.67 people. For updated information, see the Small Arms Survey 2006 by the Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies). The average global ratio of smallarms to people outside the US works out to circa one smallarm per 16 people. You can see why there is a political concern about gun control, it is a question about the balance of power, not just deaths and injuries. 

In war conditions, more than 7.5 million people were deported from occupied territory to Nazi Germany for forced labour, primarily from Poland and France; a total of circa 12 million people performed forced labour for little or no pay in the Nazi regime. Given a total German population of about 81 million (including about 25 million working-age men) in 1940, circa 18.2 million Germans served in the Wehrmacht. In war conditions, it is therefore possible to put 2/3 or 3/5 of the adult male population into army work.

Jurriaan




_______________________________________________
ope mailing list
ope@lists.csuchico.edu
https://lists.csuchico.edu/mailman/listinfo/ope


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue Sep 02 2008 - 00:00:08 EDT