Re: poly: economics of morality

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Wed Feb 18 1998 - 14:34:12 PST

Damien R. Sullivan) wrote:
>>* One thing I'm not sure of is how much economic changes such as the
>>abolition of slavery may be due to economics calling for the changes --
>>"slavery is no longer profitable" -- vs. allowing them -- "it might
>>still be profitable to have some slavery, but we can now afford to not
>>have any of it, and no one wants to risk being one, so we abolish all of

Peter McCluskey responded:
> It's hard to see any indication that 19th century US whites had any
>fears of being enslaved, other than being drafted into the army, and
>they tolerated an increase in that risk to fight slavery.
> I think Jeff Hummel makes a convincing argument in Emancipating Slaves,
>Enslaving Free Men that slavery was unsustainable because of the
>increasing difficulty of recapturing runaway slaves. It sure looks
>like technological changes such as railroads had a significant role
>to play in that.

I haven't read Hummel, but if slavery was just becoming economically
unsustainable, wouldn't the prices of slaves have fallen to zero?
And why would anyone have wanted to fight a war to get rid of slavery?

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614
Received on Wed Feb 18 22:43:25 1998

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