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Freedom, Servitude and Voluntary Contract

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Abstract

We present a framework to revisit and reframe some important debates over the nature of free versus unfree labor and the economic consequences of emancipation. We use a simple general equilibrium model in which labor can be either free or coerced and where land and labor will be exchanged on markets that can be competitive or manipulated or via other non-market collusive arrangements. Tied labor-service contracts and other forms of 'servility' clauses are 'necessary' only as a strategy to help landlords sustain a collusive arrangement to pay workers wages below their marginal product. We discuss two purported paradoxed that have been stressed in the literature: the paradox of immiserizing emancipation (that explains why total output fell in so many post-emancipation societies) and the paradox of bans (that claims that interference with workers freedom to enter into voluntary contracts can only be Pareto-decreasing. We argue that while these paradoxes are generally valid when examined in the context of simpler bilateral contracting situations, they fail to consider important general equilibrium considerations.

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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 408.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:htr:hcecon:408

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  1. Goldin, Claudia, 1988. "Maximum Hours Legislation and Female Employment: A Reassessment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(1), pages 189-205, February.
  2. Kandori, Michihiro, 1992. "Social Norms and Community Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(1), pages 63-80, January.
  3. repec:fth:michin:402 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Eric V. Edmonds & Nina Pavcnik, 2005. "Child Labor in the Global Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 199-220, Winter.
  5. Jonathan Conning & James A. Robinson, 2005. "Property Rights and the Political Organization of Agriculture," Economics Working Paper Archive at Hunter College 405, Hunter College Department of Economics.
  6. Akerlof, George A, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617, November.
  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. Genicot, Garance, 2002. "Bonded labor and serfdom: a paradox of voluntary choice," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 101-127, February.
  9. Braverman, Avishay & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1982. "Sharecropping and the Interlinking of Agrarian Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 695-715, September.
  10. David, Paul A & Temin, Peter, 1979. "Explaining the Relative Efficiency of Slave Agriculture in the Antebellum South: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 213-18, March.
  11. Basu, Kaushik, 1986. "One Kind of Power," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 259-82, July.
  12. Deardorff, Alan V, 2001. "Rich and Poor Countries in Neoclassical Trade and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 277-94, April.
  13. Jonathan Conning, 2004. "The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom and the Roads to Agrarian Capitalism: Domar's Hypothesis Revisited," Economics Working Paper Archive at Hunter College 401, Hunter College Department of Economics.
  14. Stanley Engerman, 2003. "Slavery, Freedom, And Sen," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2-3), pages 185-211.
  15. 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.
  16. Jean-Marie Baland & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Is Child Labor Inefficient?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 663-679, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Bernd Beber & Christopher Blattman, 2010. "The Industrial Organization of Rebellion: The Logic of Forced Labor and Child Soldiering," HiCN Working Papers 72, Households in Conflict Network.

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