I went to the Laker game tonight and it was pretty good. I'm not a huge basketball fan, but I follow the Lakers (during playoffs anyway) and it was fun to watch them beat the Timberwolves live. While I was there I had three thoughts.

First, I always forget to leave my knives in the car when I go to sporting events or concerts, but it's always trivially easy to sneak stuff past the guards. They just aren't very motivated. I hope they're enough of a psychological deterrent to minimize the number of other people on the premises with weapons.

Second, exclamation points should not be used in pairs, even on jumbotrons. Exclamation points should be used singly, or -- in exceptional circumstances -- in triples. Two is right out.

Third, one of my friends remarked that he wanted to buy a Laker girl, and it made me wonder how much one would cost if slavery were legal. I'd assume that most humans would be priced similarly to real estate and other income property. Most human slaves would have a price determined by the amount of revenue they could earn for you in a year, multiplied by some market-determined P/E ratio. For example, an engineer who can earn $50,000 a year might be worth $500,000 as a slave. Age and health would be factors as well.

It gets tricky when you consider non-monetary uses for slaves. Slavery is essentially a form of specific performance contract, and except in rare cases courts are very reluctant to enforce specific performance. For instance, if Jane signs a contract with John and agrees to clean his house for a year but then refuses to do so, a judge is unlikely to order Jane to perform the task she agreed to do; instead the judge will simply order Jane to pay monetary damages. With slavery, specific performance would either be enforced by law, or by physical punishment or incarceration meted out by the slave owner. The point is, you could get your slave to do things by force that could not be adequately represented by a monetary payment. For instance, a slave artist could be forced to create a work of art that may have value to one person but none to another.

So how much would it cost to buy a Laker girl? Even though I doubt they earn much money, I expect they'd be rather expensive simply because people with the qualities of Laker girls are rare, and presumably in high demand. My guess is that a pre-prime Laker girl would be worth around $1,000,000 as a slave, but since she would be valued primarily for her physical attributes I expect that value would drop rapidly as she aged. In contrast, an excellent handyman could become more valuable as he aged and gained skill and experience.

The knowledgable Clayton Cramer give some historical information about the price of slaves and indicates that my estimation of value was quite high.

To convert antebellum prices to the current state of affairs, use gold prices then and now as a rough approximation. Gold cost about $16/ounce in 1850, so a prime field hand was about 50 ounces of gold. At today's spot price, that would be about $21,400.

Still, just like the stock market of the early 20th century, I expect P/E ratios were unrealistically low for slaves in the 19th century.



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