The sins of the fathers: Political pathologies of inequality

I posted a while back about my pet theory that the South of the US was a psychotic society, which psychosis was brought about by the politics which arose in a slave society.

Anyway, I just came upon this article which looks interesting, and in the same vein.

Slaves as capital investment in the Dutch Cape Colony, 1652-1795
Johan Fourie (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers149&r=his

The Cape Colony of the eighteenth century was one of the most prosperous regions in the world. This paper shows that Cape farmers prospered, on average, because of the economies of scale and scope achieved through slavery. Slaves allowed farmers to specialise in agricultural products that were in high demand from the passing ships – notably, wheat, wine and meat – and the by-products from these products, such as tallow, skins, soap and candles. In exchange, farmers could import cheap manufactured products from Europe and the East. Secondly, the paper investigates why the relative affluence of the early settlers did not evolve into a high growth trajectory. The use of slaves as a substitute for wage labour or other capital investments allowed farmers to prosper, but it also resulted in severe inequality. It was this high inequality that drove the growth-debilitating institutions posited by Engerman and Sokoloff (2000). The immigration of Europeans was discouraged after 1717, and again during the middle of the century, while education was limited to the wealthy. Factor endowments interacted with institutions to create a highly unequal early South African society, with long-term development consequences.

6 thoughts on “The sins of the fathers: Political pathologies of inequality

  1. Factor endowments interacted with institutions to create a highly unequal early South African society, with long-term development consequences.

    How does that square with Liberia and Ethiopia for that matter, leaving aside the once lauded factor endowments of the Mugabes (Malcolm where are you?)

  2. A bit strained I think. How does your explaination fit with slavery being banned in the Cape colony at the same time as the rest of the British empire?

  3. I know I push this barrow regularly, but an explanation based on technology fits the situation much better. European agricultural technology and manufacturing was far in advance of African technology, so when European settlers started to take control of African land they increased the productivity.

    However, although these colonies were effective at making use of imported techniques, they only minimally advanced the state of the art themselves … thus the growth of that initial productivity boom trailed off. I suspect you would have got a similar result under most political systems (other than the extremely stupid and self-destructive systems such as Mugabe).

  4. Pingback: ANC-regime wants to wipe every presence of Afrikaans from the SA map #2 Not wanted and Responsibility | Marcus' s Space

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.