The Poverty of Slavery: How Enslavers Victimize Us All

Posted: 16 Apr 2016

See all articles by Robert E. Wright

Robert E. Wright

American Institute for Economic Research

Date Written: April 14, 2016


The Poverty of Slavery is a policy book rooted in the economic history of global chattel slavery and numerous other forms of unfree labor, including debt peonage, indentured servitude, and convict labor. It shows, using historical and contemporary examples from Africa, America, Asia, and Europe, that enslavers are predominantly interested in profit and that slavery is indeed profitable. At the same time, however, it proves that slavery injures the overall economy because unfree labor creates large negative externalities, or costs imposed on the larger society by enslavers. Like polluters, enslavers are able to shed some of their costs onto the overall economy, weakening it for their own benefit. So enslavers essentially steal from everyone, not just the enslaved. Policymakers, therefore, should expend more resources than they have hitherto to extirpate all forms of unfree labor and activists and reform-minded scholars should pressure them to do so in the name of both justice and economic well-being.

Keywords: slavery, negative externalities, economic growth

JEL Classification: N10, N30, J30, J40

Suggested Citation

Wright, Robert Eric, The Poverty of Slavery: How Enslavers Victimize Us All (April 14, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Robert Eric Wright (Contact Author)

American Institute for Economic Research ( email )

PO Box 1000
Great Barrington, MA 01230
United States
6053709610 (Phone)

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