Argument Against Slavery

1431 Words6 Pages
The economic case against slavery

Despite these considerations, it must be noted that economic change was also used as an argument against slave trade. Adam Smith strongly argued against slavery on economic grounds, stating in 1776 that it was less productive than free labour, as slaves ‘who can acquire no property, can have no other interest but to eat as much, and to labour as little as possible’ . According to him, in the context of developing economies, slavery is in general highly inefficient, as the net product under freedom is 12 times larger than under slavery – and he attributes the persistence of slavery, despite its obvious inefficiency, to the fundamental desire of the elites to dominate others, and to the reluctance of slaveholders
…show more content…
This is the view that slavery could only be abolished when the economics of slavery lost out the economics of wage labour in terms of productivity and cost, meaning that the call for abolishing slavery gathered momentum when it was no more opposed by vested interests . For Eric Williams, the slave economies indeed declined in profitability and importance to England after the American Revolution War, and, therefore, abolition of the slave trade and emancipation of the slaves in the British West Indies were driven not by moral considerations but by economic motives within England . However, using available data for the period between 1770 and 1820, Seymour Drescher argues that there was no such decline – instead, this was a period of expansion and prosperity for the West Indian colonies and there is no correlation between either long- or short-term economic trends and the abolition of the slave trade; he claims that economic decline was the consequence and not the cause of abolition . Similarly, David Eltis argues that the ‘natural limits’ of slavery were nowhere in sight at any point in the nineteenth century, many of the supposed stresses observed within slave economies being primarily consequences of slave trade abolition, rather than contradictions between slavery and economic growth
Open Document