African History 4: Inherent Problems With Slavery

Slavery just didn't make sense. We're sure you've thought that plenty of times, but the way things ended up it didn't even really make economic sense. Let's take a look at today's video to find out why.

LanguageEnglish Language
World HistoryAfrican History

Transcript

00:20

Well, imagine how much slacking off, lack of motivation, deliberate sabotage employees would get up to if they [Employees working in chains]

00:27

were literally enslaved.

00:30

Let's think about slavery in terms of cash.

00:33

Business owners want lots of people to have lots of cash to spend in your store.

00:38

Lots of consumers equals more opportunity for that cash to go in the store owners pocket.

00:45

That way they can turn around and spend the cash on other stuff.

00:48

Like… that hoverboard they’ve been eying. [Store owner using a hoverboard]

00:51

But slaves are completely removed from the cash economy.

00:54

Because they don’t get paid anything for whatever grueling chores their owners think

00:58

up for them to do.

00:59

So the more slaves a society has, the fewer people there are ready to pump cash into businesses. [Slaves working]

01:05

Fewer consumers, less consumer choice, and less people starting new businesses are all [The economy ship sailing and explodes]

01:10

factors that end up torpedoing the economy.

01:13

It's no coincidence that, at the time of the American Civil War, the North was wealthier

01:18

and more developed than the South.

01:20

Apparently, wearing hoop skirts while slaves who hate you work your fields is not nearly [Woman wearing hoopskirt on a field of slaves]

01:25

as productive as actually doing your own work.

01:28

Who knew?

01:29

Slaves also made their owners a little anxious.

01:32

Every boss knew that their employees were one opportunity away from killing them and [Slave kills owner]

01:36

hitting the road.

01:37

That probably made staff meetings extremely awkward.

01:40

Despite these issues, every complex human society had slavery. [Slaves attempting to free themselves from chains]

01:44

It turns out that slavery was a way for the state to demonstrate and increase its power.

01:49

Slavery was like a violent form of theater.

01:51

Defeated soldiers or criminals were led to kings in chains, allowing everyone to see

01:56

the power of the king and the consequences of defying him. [Slave in chains beside a King]

01:59

Want to appear important?

02:01

Get a slave and exert some power.

02:03

Boom.

02:04

Instant ego boost.

02:06

We can also think of slavery as a punishment and reward system.

02:09

Slavery was used to punish a bunch of stuff, from treason to sexual deviancy to… just

02:14

plain being homeless or in debt. [Homeless man in chains]

02:17

Powerful dudes could also give slaves to supporters as rewards.

02:21

Don’t know what to get that special someone? [Slave appears out of a gift box]

02:25

Why not a slave?

02:26

Slaves given as gifts became personal servants or concubines and were symbols of just how

02:31

important and powerful their masters were.

02:35

Throughout history, many slaves were prisoners of war, but some were also criminals.

02:38

If there weren’t enough criminals around, it wasn’t too hard to drum some up.

02:42

Need some more slaves to reward to your cronies?

02:45

Just declare a small crime as punishable by slavery.

02:48

Like…imagine if jaywalking was suddenly made punishable by enslavement. [Man jaywalks and office appears]

02:52

Pretty soon, we’d all be slaves.

02:54

Or we’d stop jaywalking.

02:56

But…you get the point.

02:57

Also, this technique had the added bonus of concentrating wealth in the hands of the military [Coins falling into a funnel beside a military man]

03:02

elite.

03:03

But relying on slavery was like holding TNT and hoping it doesn't blow off your hand. [Slave holding TNT]

03:08

Most people recognized that slavery, if unchecked, had the potential to cause states to collapse.

03:13

Like a snow fort in the spring.

03:16

You can only concentrate so much wealth in the military elite.

03:20

Or remove so many consumers from the economy. [Hand picks up consumers and throws them away]

03:22

Or endure so many rebellions… before it all gets out of hand.