Slavery and Servitude in the Colonies

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State the arguments for and against slavery in the American colonies in strictly economic terms. This question, of course, ignores the moral debate over slavery.

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Those for slavery argued that the practice was an important aspect of production. Supporters of slavery stated that the slaves provided the necessary labour that ensured the plantations and production efforts thrived.

The fear that others would take up the practice or sustain it ensured that people remained in support. Thus, slavery was seen as a competitive edge, and all the farmers had no choice but to sustain the practice and get more slaves to stay ahead of their competitors.

Those against slavery argued that the practice provided unsustainable labour that posed the risk of sabotage to both the production process and the produce.

The practice was also accused of slowing down economic growth because slaves were not interested in improving any aspect of the production process or farming techniques.

Alternatives to the practice existed with regards to the provision of labour. Labor sourced from free local labourers was viewed as sustainable, stable, and efficient compared to slavery.

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The economic argument for slavery was that it was necessary and profitable.  It was seen as necessary because it would have been very hard (if not impossible) to get free people to do the work needed for things like raising cotton, particularly early on when there was a lot of free or cheap land where people could have their own farms.  In addition, it was economical because, after all, you didn't have to pay the workers.

The argument against slavery is that it was less efficient than a system of free laborers would have been.  Slaves had no incentive to work hard.  In fact, they would try to work as slowly as possible.  They would also do things like breaking tools as a way to resist their owners.  Free laborers would have worked harder and therefore they would have produced more and plantation owners would have gotten higher profits.

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