Disposable People

Kevin Bales, author of Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, notes that slavery flourishes in times of social and economic upheaval. Anything that pushes large segments of a population into desperate vulnerability–social unrest, abject poverty, global population growth, drought and famine–is also the engine of slavery.

Modern slavery happens when these desperate conditions are joined with the breakdown of the legal structures that allow for the “harvesting” of vulnerable people for slavery. Most people who come into slavery today are enticed simply by the prospect of employment. The fundamental relationship between master and slave is essentially the same today as it has always been: it is based upon violence and physical power. Perhaps the only thing entirely new about modern slavery is the collapse of the price of slaves.

Adjusted for inflation, the average price of a slave through the centuries has been about $40,000. The average price today: $100. The highest price for a slave is roughly $10,000, and in his research Bales encountered an example of debt bondage in India that was as cheap as 62 cents.

Why the price collapse? It is largely due to the sudden increase of the global population. Since World War II, the globe has expanded from 2 billion people to over 7 billion today, which is entirely unprecedented. Unlike ever before, there is an endless supply of labor from large populations of people who are begging for work. The result of this price collapse is the hallmark of modern slavery: disposable people. Rather than purchasing a slave for life, modern slaveholders simply use people as slaves for short periods of time–until they can no longer be exploited–and then they are simply replaced by others.

Read the whole piece at The Final Club.org.

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