Subject: Re: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Ben Tilly" <btilly@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 23:36:32 -0700

 Fri, 12 May 2006 23:36:32 -0700
On 5/12/06, Stephen J. Turnbull <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp> wrote:
> >>>>> "Ben" == Ben Tilly <btilly@gmail.com> writes:
[...]
>     Ben> When you value the opinions of those who might or might not
>     Ben> be free, then freedom clearly is worthwhile.  However it does
>     Ben> not always pay for the person who stands to own someone else.
>
> The reality of the slavery we are discussing is that it was originally
> based on theft, and continued to be sustained by theft for some
> hundred-odd years.  Of course thieves stand to benefit from their
> theft, as do fences and the fences' customers.

Complete agreement.

> However, all of the analyses you discuss assume that the initial
> capital invested was legitimate---that's an important aspect of what I
> mean by the error of static analysis.  To the extent that the theft
> was ongoing, and was going to be abolished, there may have been
> unaccounted costs whose effect on profitability would not be
> recognized for some time to come.

Disagreement here.

The analyses discussed made no claims or assumptions about the
legitimacy of the initial capital invested.  (I rather doubt that the
people who made the analyses think that slavery is good or
worthwhile.)  They merely asked what the consequences were of that
investment.

Obviously they did not include the potential costs of abolition.  Or
the still-debated costs of reparations.

> Note that the "legitimacy" here is pretty ill-defined for the purpose
> of the economic analysis.  Nevertheless, my intuition is that even on
> its own terms a lot of that "slave capital" was not accounted for at
> economically accurate prices.

Rather than ill-defined, I'd say irrelevant to the scope of the analysis.

As for the accuracy of the prices, I'd agree that the market then was
less efficient than today's capital markets, but it would take some
pretty solid evidence to convince me that being a slaveowner was not a
profitable venture.

Cheers,
Ben