Stanley Engerman of the University of Rochester talks about slavery throughout world history, the role it played (or didn't play) in the Civil War and the incentives facing slaves and slave owners. This is a wide-ranging, fascinating conversation with the co-author of the classic Time on the Cross (co-authored with Robert Fogel) and the forthcoming Slavery, Emancipation, and Freedom (LSU Press, 2007). Engerman knows as much as anyone alive about the despicable human arrangement called slavery and the vastness and precision of his knowledge is on display in this interview.
Indentured servitude v. slavery. What are the characteristics of slavery throughout history? What are the ways people historically became enslaved?
What rationalizations do people give to live with themselves as slave owners?
How do you give slaves incentives? Xenophon suggested differential payment in better clothing. Was offering freedom an incentive?
Manumission defined. Manumission was part of keeping the slave system going, as opposed to attacks on the system itself, which didn't occur till the late 18th century
Slavery in U.S.; Southern army in Civil War. Slavery outside the U.S. till 1970: Brazil, Cuba, slave trade into North Africa and Iraq. China, Thailand, Korea
Serfdom in England. Landowners' cartel broke down.
Economic effects of slavery. Adam Smith's argument that slavery is inefficient. (Smith considered sadism as an alternative hypothesis, using the phrase "will to domineer".) Smith had never seen a plantation, which may have affected his not addressing the incentive structure in place to reward good work. Cicero.
Differential rewards. Were slaves ever paid cash historically? Smith himself not quite consistent: French v. British systems
Time on the Cross discussed. Was slavery unprofitable v. book's argument that it was profitable. Northerners' lending to Southerners suggests they expected returns. Newsletters on slavery. Lincoln/Douglas debates highlighted that if slaves increased but no more land was permitted to slaveowners, slavery would ultimately fail, but only after a long time.
What was the Civil War fought over? Was it slavery or was it nationalism?
Should the North have compensated the South? Did slaves ever benefit throughout history from such compensation, which till the Civil War had traditionally been paid? Lincoln's awareness of the costs and benefits.
Have the controversies over slavery generally weakened views of property rights? Sports, tenure, Hume, principle-agent problem.
Controversies and objections to Time on the Cross. Nutrition, height. Better data versus more systematic use of data?
Whippings, violence, threats of violence, breeding of slaves.
Post Civil War: What was the impact of deaths on the U.S. economy? Bastiat's illumination of the broken window fallacy: destroying property fallaciously results in economic growth.
A: Merchandise Trade deficits--reflecting that U.S. citizens typically buy more physical goods than they sell--are balanced by Capital Account surpluses--foreigners typically invest even more in the U.S. Floating exchange rates in the U.S. since the 1970s adjust to take care of any imbalances in international currency demands. Jobs adjust in response.