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The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom and the Roads to Agrarian Capitalism: Domar's Hypothesis Revisited

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Abstract

I propose a simple general equilibrium formalization of Domar's famous hypothesis on the causes of slavery or serfdom that emphasizes the interactions between factor endowments, the nature of the production technologies, and the initial distribution of property rights over land. The model provides a framework within which to understand the choice between slavery, serfdom, and free labor and tenancy equilibria with or without bonded labor-service obligations. The model also sheds light on the `Agrarian Question' regarding why some otherwise similar regions transitioned to free-labor agrarian capitalism via an `American road' dominated by independent family farms while others followed a `Junker road' with production dominated by large estates surrounded by small semi-proletarianized peasant households. The model is built around an otherwise canonical general equilibrium trade model adapted to allow for the endogenous emergence of land oligopoly and labor oligopsony power distortions that shape the pattern of agrarian production organization.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Hunter College Department of Economics in its series Economics Working Paper Archive at Hunter College with number 401.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:htr:hcecon:401

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Keywords: Monoposony; agrarian organization; inequality; tenancy; slavery; serfdom.;

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  1. Sadoulet, Elisabeth, 1992. "Labor-Service Tenancy Contracts in a Latin American Context," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 1031-42, September.
  2. Binswanger, Hans P. & Deininger, Klaus & Feder, Gershon, 1995. "Power, distortions, revolt and reform in agricultural land relations," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 42, pages 2659-2772 Elsevier.
  3. Deininger, Klaus & Binswanger, Hans P, 1995. "Rent Seeking and the Development of Large-Scale Agriculture in Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(3), pages 493-522, April.
  4. Findlay, Ronald, 1975. "Slavery, Incentives, and Manumission: A Theoretical Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(5), pages 923-33, October.
  5. Feenstra, Robert C., 1980. "Monopsony distortions in an open economy: A theoretical analysis," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 213-235, May.
  6. Domar, Evsey D., 1970. "The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(01), pages 18-32, March.
  7. Kenneth L. Sokoloff & Stanley L. Engerman, 2000. "Institutions, Factor Endowments, and Paths of Development in the New World," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 217-232, Summer.
  8. Chwe, Michael Suk-Young, 1990. "Why Were Workers Whipped? Pain in a Principal-Agent Model," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(403), pages 1109-21, December.
  9. Robert J. Thornton, 2004. "Retrospectives: How Joan Robinson and B. L. Hallward Named Monopsony," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(2), pages 257-261, Spring.
  10. Bulow, Jeremy I & Geanakoplos, John D & Klemperer, Paul D, 1985. "Multimarket Oligopoly: Strategic Substitutes and Complements," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(3), pages 488-511, June.
  11. Roemer, John E, 1982. "Origins of Exploitation and Class: Value Theory of Pre-Capitalist Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 163-92, January.
  12. James R. Markusen & Arthur J. Robson, 1980. "Simple General Equilibrium and Trade with a Monopsonized Sector," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 13(4), pages 668-82, November.
  13. Bergstrom, T, 1971. "On the Existence and Optimality of Competitive Equilibrium for a Slave Economy," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(113), pages 23-36, January.
  14. Fenoaltea, Stefano, 1975. "Authority, Efficiency, and Agricultural Organization in Medieval England and Beyond: A Hypothesis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 35(04), pages 693-718, December.
  15. Eswaran, Mukesh & Kotwal, Ashok, 1986. "Access to Capital and Agrarian Production Organisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 96(382), pages 482-98, June.
  16. Genicot, Garance, 2002. "Bonded labor and serfdom: a paradox of voluntary choice," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 101-127, February.
  17. Pastore, Mario Hector, 1990. "La hipotesis de Domar sobre las causas de la servidumbre o la esclavitud en una colonia hispanoamericana: contraste y reformulacion," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(03), pages 575-589, December.
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  1. A quick, uninformed, probably wrong, and completely unoriginal resolution to the "Brenner Paradox"
    by YouNotSneaky! in YouNotSneaky on 2009-01-31 08:34:00
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Cited by:
  1. Fenske, James, 2010. "Land abundance and economic institutions: Egba land and slavery, 1830-1914," MPRA Paper 22959, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Bobonis, Gustavo J. & Morrow, Peter M., 2014. "Labor coercion and the accumulation of human capital," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 32-53.
  3. Fenske, James, 2010. "Institutions in African history and development: A review essay," MPRA Paper 23120, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. James A. Robinson & Ragnar Torvik, 2011. "Institutional Comparative Statics," NBER Working Papers 17106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jonathan Conning & Michael Kevane, 2005. "Freedom, Servitude and Voluntary Contract," Hunter College Department of Economics Working Papers 408, Hunter College: Department of Economics.

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