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Published in: Public Choice 1-2/2023

21-08-2023

Gordon Tullock and the economics of slavery

Authors: Phillip W. Magness, Art Carden, Ilia Murtazashvili

Published in: Public Choice | Issue 1-2/2023

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Abstract

This paper investigates Gordon Tullock’s unpublished manuscripts that proposed a public choice interpretation of American slavery. Drafted in response to Conrad and Meyer’s seminal 1958 article on the economics of slavery, Tullock’s writings influenced the early debate over slavery through his University of Virginia colleague John E. Moes. This paper uses Tullock’s surviving writings to map out his theory of slavery and situate it in the broader economic analysis of the institution and identify the links between the economics of slavery and the public choice research tradition.

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Footnotes
1
The letter is not dated, but it is clearly from 1958.
 
2
Tullock (1967) was written for Murray Rothbard’s libertarian journal Left and Right. It was solicited by its editor who described Tullock as “the greatest expert on the economics of slavery that I know of.” Rothbard’s correspondence further indicated that Tullock “been working on the economics of slavery for some time” but “never before had an opportunity to put [his] conclusions in writing,” suggesting his awareness of the earlier exchanges with Conrad and Meyer (Rothbard 1966, 1967).
 
3
See Engerman (2017), Hilt (2017), Olmstead and Rhode (2018), and Wright (2020, 2022) for evaluations of this literature.
 
4
Carden et al. (2022) explore this in greater detail. See also Magness (2018a, 2018b).
 
5
See Weinstein (2019) for a brief and accessible discussion of Smith’s work on slavery.
 
6
See Goldin (1973) for an early quantitative study of urban slavery.
 
7
Meyer to Tullock, August 20, 1958, pp. 1–2.
 
8
See Levy (2005).
 
9
See Magness (2014) for a further discussion of the economics of colonization.
 
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Metadata
Title
Gordon Tullock and the economics of slavery
Authors
Phillip W. Magness
Art Carden
Ilia Murtazashvili
Publication date
21-08-2023
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Public Choice / Issue 1-2/2023
Print ISSN: 0048-5829
Electronic ISSN: 1573-7101
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-023-01100-w

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