Did I read that correctly?
March 10, 2011 9:11 PM   Subscribe

Cost Of A Slave At Historic Low Price - 90 Dollars SLYT. I don't know what to say.
posted by hal_c_on (64 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The price is this.
Did you think different?
posted by Mblue at 9:20 PM on March 10, 2011


My wife, who was watching over my shoulder, said to me: This is real? This isn't like, the Onion is it?
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 9:22 PM on March 10, 2011


Interestingly, the cost of a wage slave in the US is ~$60/day for an employer.

It's a continuing expense, but you don't have to pay for their room and board and health care out of your own pocket, and you'll get a good 8 hours of labor out of them per day for minimum wage.

Slavery -- it's not just about owning a person's body. Sometimes it's about owning a person's possibilities while making them think you're doing them a favor.
posted by hippybear at 9:29 PM on March 10, 2011 [77 favorites]


...particularly in the developing world.

Well, no shit. If this ass had done any research instead of parroting wire reports, he'd know that first-world slaves are WAY out of reach to the average person. My dream of owning a Canadian has been effectively over for several years now. Maybe if I'd asked my parents for a loan in fucking 1997 I might have one, but my economic realities and those of the western slave market have diverged rather than closed like I thought they would. You can call it poor planning on my part, but a generation ago this was something that all Americans aspired to and it wasn't unrealistic. There is absolutely no hope left in this economy.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:31 PM on March 10, 2011 [31 favorites]


Amanda, Lucy, hi. I'm glad the agency was able to send you over today. We need to shoot a series of stock photos of girls exchanging money, so here are a couple of bills. Just hand them off to each other. Yeah, that's great. Oh, don't worry about hair, we'll crop out everything but your hands. What's that? Oh, you know, just a few shots so that articles and news pieces will have something to show when they write a story about retail spending or something. The photo is well-lit and clearly indoors, so you don't need to worry about anyone using it to illustrate something shady like dealing drugs. Just a few more frames and--well, that about wraps it up. Thanks for coming in!
posted by phunniemee at 9:32 PM on March 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I know you're trying to be funny Mayor Curley, and you usually are, but. No.

The exhange rate in '97 was around 0.72. In '02 it was 0.63. Could've gotten a much better deal 9 years ago; you would've gotten gotten soaked if you bought 14 year ago - that not mentioning that your prospective slave would be 5 years older.

The question we must ask ourselveses, as a nation is, is are hoes earning?
posted by porpoise at 9:42 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


My dream of owning a Canadian has been effectively over for several years now.


Have you considered leasing?
posted by thivaia at 9:45 PM on March 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Have you considered leasing?

Indentured servitude?
posted by phunniemee at 9:46 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is anybody else bothered by the complete nonchalance with which that newscaster delivered his report?
posted by schmod at 9:49 PM on March 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Bothered, yes. Surprised, no. CNN has a rule prohibiting its on-air staff from expressing outrage over anything genuinely bad.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:53 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not bothered by what tone he says it in if hes covering the story in some way.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:54 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mayor Curley: My dream of owning a Canadian has been effectively over for several years now.

Cheer up, old chap. I hear that umber shirted Walker fellow in Wisconistan is doing simply marvelous fab innovative things to tackle the sticky wicket of owning a human person.

Granted they're not Canadian, (but we can't have everything now can we?). Of course not.

I picked up a rather smart fit ex-kindergarten teacher to be my personal masseuse and she's working out swimmingly.

Inquire from the man himself: WalkerSlaves@FitzWalkerstan.com

He's a bit thick and smells like baloney, but don't let that put you off. Now go...quickly quickly. They're selling like hotcakes!!
posted by Skygazer at 9:55 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm no more bothered by his nonchalance than I am with the giggly charm Rachel Maddow employs when informing us of the incremental demise of the Grand Experiment.
posted by perspicio at 9:55 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


It could be that there just isn't te kind of demand for slaves anymore. I mean other than as an income stream when Christian missionaries visit your village who is buying slaves anymore. Do you really want some unrelated person in attached to your household all the time with needs for food, medical care, clothing and other expenses. Ignoring sexual slavery, the buyer is getting a low productivity, extremely low skilled and probably illiterate servant who requires a high degree of supervision. What value are they adding to your household or business? Tasks you assign them to would be limited to light housework (laundry, cleaning, etc), yardwork, and similar activities. Getting them to work on your factory floor on the assembly line might work, but it is likely that their low productivity and lack of incentives based on income would leave you without much value add.
posted by humanfont at 9:55 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


But maybe there's a positive side to this. A household slave could pocket his/her master's discarded change and accumulate enough in less than a year to buy themselves.

walks off singing "I'll Buy Myself" to the tune of that Eric Carmen song...
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:58 PM on March 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Canadians. Pshaw. Americans are getting cheaper every day. But don't be in a hurry. I hear tell the Chinese are going to be packaging them up and selling by the dozen. w00t!
posted by Goofyy at 9:58 PM on March 10, 2011


My dream of owning a Canadian has been effectively over for several years now.


Have you considered starting a publishing house or design firm and hiring an intern?
posted by The Whelk at 10:01 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


a bunch of people including myself don't seem to realize that slavery is terrible

Butler: Sir, the Canadian slaves are revolting.
Lord Whipplesnuff: ...In bed!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:01 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the price of $40,000 (in today's dollars) for a slave 200 years ago that CNN stated only accounts for slavery in the US at the time.

Because I have a hunch that the price of a slave globally has always been fairly low. With slavery in the US, the slaves had to be of a particular race from a far off part of the world and were in short supply, which must have driven up the price. But in other parts of the world, owning a slave meant getting a hold of someone from some poor area of your country, which were never in short supply. That couldn't have been the equivalent of $40,000, could it?
posted by riruro at 10:03 PM on March 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


the giggly charm Rachel Maddow employs when informing us of the incremental demise of the Grand Experiment.

I've struggled to articulate what bothers me about her. Thank you.
posted by brundlefly at 10:04 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


$90?!

The folks at my internship only bought me lunch once...
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:11 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


CitrusFreak12: "The folks at my internship only bought me lunch once.."

1) Take a rock
2) Crush their skulls
posted by boo_radley at 10:13 PM on March 10, 2011 [17 favorites]


Yeah I'm guessing there are a lot of price differences in different markets.
posted by delmoi at 10:17 PM on March 10, 2011


More context on modern day slavery from CNN's Freedom Project.
posted by Noon Under the Trees at 10:21 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


All jokiness aside, this is sad as fuck.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:28 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm a little disturbed by the joking in this thread. I don't know what I expected from it, because it's pretty much just a straight "People are jackasses" fpp, but jeeze. It's just really not funny.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:30 PM on March 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yeah, one of the broader moral failures of the United States is to fight for strong labor standards abroad.

Union leaders still get routinely killed in Central America. Putting pressure on governments to solve (and prevent) these crimes will help ensure fair labor practices in developing nations, which, incidentally, helps decrease their relative labor cost advantage, both legal and illegal.

It's also a failure of American unions to realize the ultimate necessity of globalization doesn't just apply to capital, and a failure of the American public to realize that the international aspect of socialism is necessary (but, frankly, on that last one, we just fucked up all over).
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 PM on March 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


This is real? This isn't like, the Onion is it?

Eerily close to what the Yes Men did a few years ago.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:37 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, I really thought that was a parody.
posted by saul wright at 10:37 PM on March 10, 2011


"It's just really not funny."

Really? The business-lite framing of that news report didn't get you to roll your eyes even once? The glib earnestness didn't make you smirk? The feeling that the newscaster was professionally appalled but not going to do anything about it didn't make you laugh at the shitty system we live in? The realization that CNN is making enough profits from the advertising bracketing the news report to buy a whole village full of slaves, but that they're not going to spend a dime for justice didn't make you chuckle ruefully?

Don't tell me what's funny.
posted by klangklangston at 10:38 PM on March 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yeah, one of the broader moral failures of the United States is to fight for strong labor standards abroad.

Abroad?
posted by The Hamms Bear at 10:50 PM on March 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


The line is difficult to draw sometimes...

As my uncle Noam likes to mention, US slave owners had a good argument in the 19th century that northern capitalists could never quite answer: "We take care of our workers because we own them. You just rent yours, and when one breaks you can replace it with another for minimal cost."

Also worth mentioning that wage labor was abhorrent to people when it first came about. In fact, opposition to wage labor was a plank of Abraham Lincoln's Republican Party.

The Wikipedia article on wage slavery is surprisingly good at the moment.

I guess it's kind of like how colonialism morphed into neocolonialism.

I'll do a FPP on Slavery By Another Name and associated issues if someone else doesn't get around to it first.
posted by anarch at 11:02 PM on March 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


You're right, it's hilarious. Let's go find some child prostitutes in India or Pakistan and tell them how funny it is.
posted by daisystomper at 11:07 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shit. I just started investing in slaves too.
posted by joelf at 12:14 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cheer up, old chap. I hear that umber shirted Walker fellow in Wisconistan is doing simply marvelous fab innovative things to tackle the sticky wicket of owning a human person.

Whoa, there. Those people work for the state. People owned by the state aren't called slaves -- they're called soldiers, and their lives are much cheaper.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:01 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The number of people in slavery is upsetting. However the big hook for the report is the cost, but I don't think that the particular number matters much at all. I wouldn't really feel any better about the situation if slaves currently cost $9000 per each instead of just $90.
posted by aubilenon at 1:08 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it was interesting that the reporting didn't mention slavery in the U.S or Europe. (Take a look at the graph showing "Profits from trafficked forced labour" in that last link.)

Did you know that Ohio has one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the U.S.?
posted by eviemath at 2:25 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the tone here is a bit disturbing. The tone of the news story was fine; it would become too aggravating to watch if the talking heads were constantly getting hysterical. One Fox News is enough.

This slavery problem isn't going away. I first came across a mention of it doing research on Louis Farrakhan in the early 90s when he was going to the UN to drum up some kind of awareness and action. I mean, I first realized that slavery as we always understood it and not some form of indentured servitude was still around.

And they nailed the worst part of it so tight in broadcast: people are expendable. The prostitute slaves in Europe and Asia die routinely as they drug and beat them to keep them in line. It's ... mind-shattering.

One of my heroes has no name as I can't remember it. He was a rug salesman in Seattle when I first moved to the city.

In the course of discussing the provenance of some Afghani tightweaves we began to discuss our areas of past employment. His had been working for a joint UN/India task force on child enslavement.

He would travel through India, Pakistan and other nearby locations and meet rug producers. Promise them large purchasing environments. Get to know them quite well. All the while portraying himself as some sybaritic business man.

When he got close enough to them he'd want to see the working conditions. The ones relevant to this tale, those indulging in child enslavement, would beat around, but with enough coaxing and palm greasing he's eventually be shown the manufacturing situation.

Some would have no more than a few kids, say a dozen. Some would have far more. His next goal would be to either involve the cops and some other government agents if that would work or to purchase the kids. Either way, they got the kids out and they put some scum in jail.

He told me he'd performed his mission like a zealot for a few years then found himself unable to sleep and prone to violent rages. He'd quit and moved to be with family in the States to calm down and get his head back together. That was a few years before I met him.

When I asked him what he was doing in the future he told me he was finally feeling ready to get back to it and he and his wife were moving to New York to get started again in a few weeks.

I have seldom been so proud shaking the hand of a stranger.
posted by artof.mulata at 2:32 AM on March 11, 2011 [27 favorites]


Slavery is a bad thing. I think we can all get behind that.

However, I object to saying that getting paid for your labour is the same as slavery.

Is a CEO without share options but with a million-dollar salary a slave? No. How about $500,000 a year? No. $250,000 a year? No. $125,000 a year? No. But at some point they become a slave? Is that at $0 a year? Sounds plausible - work for no pay.

But what about someone who volunteers for a soup kitchen or a charity shop? They're getting $0 a year. Are they a slave? No.

It's not the money.

Slavery is not being able to say no to being told to do something. Slavery is not being able to say no to sex. Slavery is a lack of liberty, of choice, even if the choice is "do this or starve".

It's not the same as being paid less than you think you are worth. It's not the same, even, as having to take a terrible, awful job you don't want to take but have no other way to pay the bills. Not that that isn't a bad thing to happen. Fair pay and safety at work and the availability of jobs are all important, challenging issues, but they aren't the same as slavery.

(The Hireling and the Slave by William John Grayson makes the argument that slavery is the same as the wage system - better, even, because the law protects slaves against starvation. Now, just because Southern US slaveowners thought the wage system was the same as slavery doesn't make the idea wrong, but it suggests you're in dubious company.)
posted by alasdair at 2:32 AM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


"We take care of our workers because we own them. You just rent yours, and when one breaks you can replace it with another for minimal cost."

Yes but the male slave owners were helping themselves to their female "workers" in order to create the next generation of slaves. What was that? Capital reinvestment?
posted by fuse theorem at 3:11 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


...the argument that slavery is the same as the wage system - better, even, because the law protects slaves against starvation. Now, just because Southern US slaveowners thought the wage system was the same as slavery doesn't make the idea wrong, but it suggests you're in dubious company.

Marx says some similar stuff in Capital (vol. 1). Not that he's advocating slavery; just making a point that the exploitation of the laborer comes in many forms.

If you want to argue that it's wrong to use the word "slave" for anyone who technically has the freedom to quit their job, that's fine. But we also have to be careful of our uses, in a labor market context, of words like "freedom."

The newscaster's talk of "disposable" slaves vis a vis their low price is, significantly, connected to the difference in real prices of slaves over time. When a slave was considered a serious investment, e.g. in the old American South, the owner had to provide for the slave around the clock, "benefits" if you will. It's not just protecting them against starvation, but also housing them, etc. It's easy to say: that doesn't matter, slavery is bad, employment is good, and so on, but the over-arching exploitative framework is still there in both cases.

This slavery/employment dichotomy comes to a head when we look at some of the outsourcing that American companies like The Gap and Nike are doing in Haiti and other parts of the third world. Many of the "employees" making that stuff are about as close to slaves as you can get while still nominally being "free." But, from Nike's point of view, the work is outsourced, so the problem of benefits and living wages is passed to another company and another country's economy.

Is a CEO without share options but with a million-dollar salary a slave? No. How about $500,000 a year? No. $250,000 a year? No. $125,000 a year? No. But at some point they become a slave? Is that at $0 a year? Sounds plausible - work for no pay.

The crucial question isn't how much money the worker gets; it's whether he is, in practice, allowed to actually keep any of it, or whether he has to (and is expected to, and is persuaded to) cash his check immediately and spend all the money on things he needs to live (or even to live a tolerable enough life that he doesn't want to kill himself). The use of the term "slave labor" in such a situation is not meant to imply that the worker is under a lash; it's meant to imply that both the slave and the wage-earner are captives of the same system of exploitation, and the details of the system are determined more by what pays the best dividends to the owners than by any notion of freedom or justice.
posted by bingo at 3:58 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Slavery is a lack of liberty, of choice, even if the choice is "do this or starve".

Sorry, no. You say slavery is a lack of choice, I say you always have the choice of death. That doesn't make you any less a slave. So then the question becomes semantic:

Do this or die by my lash. = slavery
Do this or starve. = slavery, maybe?
Do this or I won't let you have your insulin. = bad… wait, no, that's OK
Do this or I won't pay you so you can get your insulin = capitalism
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:49 AM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


There is absolutely no hope left in this economy.

I can get you some Mexicans to grow some hope.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:08 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The use of the term "slave labor" in such a situation is not meant to imply that the worker is under a lash

Doesn't 'the lash' or 'the gun' seem kind of relevant here? People who compare working for a paycheck in the US to working as a slave in Sub-Saharan Africa seem to have a tragic lack of perspective. Perhaps it's useful rhetoric when you're agitating for higher wages, but it's a completely inaccurate analogy.

The comment about the the Styrofoam cup in the video: that's slavery. Labor that's not just grueling and poorly paid, but cheaper than cheap, expendable: workers who are not simply exploited in the technical sense that they are separated from the full value of their labor by the commodity fetish, but used until they are used up.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:06 AM on March 11, 2011


This is kind of a stupid report. The value of a dollar in Sub-Saharan Africa is a lot higher than the value of a dollar in the US when slavery was legal. You'd have to make the local price comparison to make this meaningful.

Otherwise: Eritean rice sold locally at $1 a kilo. Last week it was $5 a kilo in Walmart. CALL TEH CNN AND DEMAND STORY ON RICE PRICE CRASH.
posted by jaduncan at 6:14 AM on March 11, 2011


bingo: If you want to argue that it's wrong to use the word "slave" for anyone who technically has the freedom to quit their job, that's fine. But we also have to be careful of our uses, in a labor market context, of words like "freedom."

OK, I can get behind that. Your freedom to quit your job is limited if you have dependants, little welfare provision, and limited alternative job opportunities. It's not the same as slavery, but it happens, and it's bad.

Civil_Disobedience: You say slavery is a lack of choice, I say you always have the choice of death. That doesn't make you any less a slave.

Erm, yes, it does. Death frees you, but you are still a slave. Dead people can't be slaves, or free. People in prison have a lack of choice, but can usually kill themselves. They're still in prison. Or would you argue that "being in prison" and "not being in prison" are the same? No.

Slavery is a particular human state that we can all, I think, agree is Bad. Slavery exists in every culture throughout history. "Wage Slavery" is a political posture to make an argument about economic policy and how we structure society. I think it is wrong to conflate these different things.
posted by alasdair at 6:42 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Everything is funny. Just not to you.
posted by umberto at 7:00 AM on March 11, 2011


and Baptists.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:32 AM on March 11, 2011


"...you use them once, you crumple them up..."
posted by knoyers at 7:48 AM on March 11, 2011


You say slavery is a lack of choice, I say you always have the choice of death. That doesn't make you any less a slave.

Erm, yes, it does.


Then by your logic nobody is ever a slave, except maybe quadriplegics. Interesting. Do you have a newsletter I can subscribe to?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:53 AM on March 11, 2011


Perhaps I will save this to show to the maid (in the event that she asks for a raise.)
posted by knoyers at 7:58 AM on March 11, 2011


I find it sad that a slave now costs less than a barrel of oil.
posted by ymgve at 8:05 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find it sad that a slave now costs less than a barrel of oil.

In other news: rickshaw manufacturers report record profits.
posted by acb at 8:24 AM on March 11, 2011


Do we really have to trivialize the plight of actual slaves by throwing in "wage slavery", something that applies to just about everybody?
posted by 2N2222 at 8:26 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm sorry, Civil_Disobedient, I inferred that you meant "having the choice to die means you are not a slave" - but on re-reading your comments closely I realise I don't understand what you mean at all.
posted by alasdair at 9:12 AM on March 11, 2011


"throwing in "wage slavery", something that applies to just about everybody?"

No it doesn't. If your working conditions were unsafe, you could quit and find another job. If you're writing from a Western country I'm quite sure that your odds of actual starvation are nil.

I need to work at some kind of job ~= I need to work at this job no matter how inhumanely they treat me.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:20 AM on March 11, 2011


Where is the $40,000 number coming from? Anyone know of the source for that statistic?
posted by scunning at 9:50 AM on March 11, 2011


[please go to metatalk if you want to complain about MetaFilter, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:56 AM on March 11, 2011


The touch screen that anchor was using is just the stupidest thing. Somebody get him a button.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 10:03 AM on March 11, 2011


eviemath: "Did you know that Ohio has one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the U.S."

From the linked article: But why Ohio, whose largest city, Columbus, is dwarfed by neighboring Chicago?

Well, except for 100 miles of Ohio and the entire state of Indiana.


I have a little bit of a hard time taking an article seriously when basic facts are ludicrously wrong.
posted by pjern at 1:31 PM on March 11, 2011


I find it sad that a slave now costs less than a barrel of oil.

The barrel of oil is worth about eight years of slave labor, energy-wise, so the fact that the slave is cheaper is not totally surprising. I mean, sure while you and I value people for more than just the work they can do, does a slave owner?
posted by fings at 3:10 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where is the $40,000 number coming from? Anyone know of the source for that statistic?

Just googling I found that the average price of a "prime fieldhand" slave in 1860 was $1800.

Using an inflation calculator, I see that $1800 in 1860 is about $42,500.

I don't really trust these numbers...and its up for debate...but I guess that was MORE than good enough for CNN.

I think I have to go take a silkwood now for even quantifying human beings like that. yuck.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:49 PM on March 11, 2011


So, isn't the solution to the real problem going to involve addressing the reasons that bring parents to give up their own offspring to slavery? It's so easy to condemn slave owners, but that's not where slaves come from.
posted by Goofyy at 10:47 PM on March 12, 2011


Just thinking about the relative price of a slave:

If it was $40k in 1860 for a good one, most of the Confederate forces would have been too poor to own one. But contemporary letters are pretty clear that fighting for slavery was a significant motivator.

Just struck by the similarity between that and fighting against unions and for tax cuts for the rich, etc., the general quasi-libertarian Tea Party platform, essentially fighting for someone else's economic interests again.
posted by klangklangston at 1:34 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


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