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Magic is performed through a series of steps. A mage sits in the center of a drawn invocation circle, surrounded by the various ingredients needed to perform the spell. The mage then utters the incantation, which can take anywhere from minutes to hours depending on the spell. Magic is the seat of power in this nation, which sits among the most powerful in the world. Slavery is also legal in this nation, with the lives of slaves being worth less than regular, hard-working and decent citizens. There are spells which require harmless ingredients like eye of newt, and there are spells that require the body parts of recently killed children. Therefore, the children born to slaves are suitable to be used as ingredients for spells when needed.

However, the business model of growing slaves for this purpose is a multi-step process. One must take into consideration the length of time it takes for a child to be born, and then raising it to a certain age where it can be killed and harvested. Room and board must be considered, as it must be fed and housed to keep it healthy and alive. Naturally, the parents of said slave won't understand that they are subhuman and undeserving of rights, and may seek to intervene or rebel against their child being sacrificed for a greater cause. All of this can make the process prohibitively expensive, and may push owners to cut costs by simply buying slaves from an established market. It is simpler, easier, and cheaper to have a ready to order slave than invest in this long term process fraught with many perils.

I need to prevent these markets from developing as a competing business model for slave owners. This involves making the process of growing and raising slaves as cost-efficient as possible. What can I do to make harvesting one's own slaves a better option than buying them?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you dare suggest that the Great Invisible Hand is somehow not the most efficient way to do anything and everything? The capitalist inquisition will hear of this, mark my words. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Nov 14 '19 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity - why don't you want a slave market? Or rather, why is it important to the story or world that there isn't one? $\endgroup$ – Cadence Nov 14 '19 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ Or, indeed, a direct market for people/bodies/parts specifically for spells, separate from any labor slaves you might want long-term? $\endgroup$ – Cadence Nov 14 '19 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ Markets only work if you have a continuous source of new slaves,maintaining the military to make that possible tends to be very expensive. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 14 '19 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence it adds to the grimdarkiness. $\endgroup$ – Incognito Nov 14 '19 at 17:00
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This isn't really hard (though it does require you to think like what I am really hoping are the villains of your story). All you have to do is stop thinking of your slaves as oppressed humans and remind yourself they are livestock.

And when I use that word, a few animals come to mind, the first of which are cows, which when you think about it, are livestock that serve both of these roles very well. Cattle are raised by farmers for two general reasons: to slaughter (for meat and leather) and for milk. Cattle are always sold live on commodities exchanges, regardless of intended use and they're are different varieties of cows that are raised for different reasons. One would not buy Holstein if you wanted to sell cows to butchers or tanners... because Holstein cattle (the White with Black spot ones) are better milk cattle than Black Angus cattle. Either way, it should be obvious why no one wants to bid on a dead dairy cow, but live Beef Cows sold because some won't be literal cows for the slaughter... but rather will be used to breed the cows for the slaughter. Similarly, Dairy Cows generally produce milk when suckling a calf, so you have to breed them to get your product.

The Market will generally draw a three proffessions: Farmers (Dairy and Beef), Butchers (They will buy cows to kill for meat) Tanners (Who buy cows for hide). Butchers and Hide will usually sell the end results of the line either out of a shop they own or wholesale to markets who reach the consumers. Dairy Farmers will sell the milk wholesale as well and place unwanted dairy cattle on the market (there heard may be healthy, but someone else may need to replace some of their older dairy cattle. Life happens). Beef Farms will typically sell their live cows on the market while their purchases will be for breeding stock. And occasionally, some people will buy cattle from the market for benign purposes (some people have cows for pets... it's a thing). What a buyer does with his cattle once purchased is of no concern to the commodity market... they're just facilitating the meeting of buyers and sellers of cattle (for a commission, of course).

The Slavery in the United States also had different types of slaves (the generally remembered ones were Field Slaves (usually Healthy Adult Males, though not always. So named because they could do the farm's field work, which was more physically demanding labor) and House Slaves (typically Women of any age, as well as more aged men and children. So named because they were generally given more domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning in the Plantation owner's personal home, which was less difficult labor), though it bares repeating that slavery as thought of in the U.S. rather cruel compared to other instances (Roman slavery, for example, a slave typically had a set period of time before he was considered as much a full Roman as his owner, and a slave's children were considered fully Roman on birth to an enslaved person (though Roman law assumes that the male head of a household was the father of every child in the household regardless of who the biological father was. It also permitted father's to kill any child of theirs... so yeah... a slave's child was legally as Roman as the slave's master... but the slave's master could still kill the slave's biological kids just because.).

The one problem here is that many livestock and working animals are bred for specific tasks, where as human slavery typically was sourced from humans captured in war (and bought and paid for from the first captures. There are some cases of slaves shipped to the Americas from Africa who were sold to Europeans by other Africans... typically the victors over the enslaved peoples in a war between their tribes. In the Americas, slaves were also bred (in the U.S., importation of slaves from Africa was banned pretty early on in the nation's history, but selling the children of slaves was still illegal up until full abolition was enacted. That said, unlike animals, there was never any selective breeding programs of slaves and slaves were allowed to select marriage partners. Selective Breeding often occurs over several generations with animals before a new breed has the desired traits, and among most animals, they still are the same species (for example, a Great Dane and a Chihuahua are the same species of animal and there are no genetic limitations to a mated pair producing healthy offspring. Physical limitations are a wholly different matter.).

All of this is not to diminish the very real horrors of human slavery and it's rather disgusting nature. I am very much aware of the barbarity of this line of thinking and the comparison of human beings to livestock (and I'm well aware that describing the "how cows become food" parts are pretty gross to people... And I'm not a vegetarian... I'll eat steak. I don't think about where my steak came from, but hey, growing up my next door neighbors were grazing cattle. I know what's what.). This is merely to provide the OP with a area to consider for the purposes of his fictional story (and I hope he uses this info wisely.).

Alternatively:

If we're going full evil on this, I did note that you were rather mum on both the condition the child had to be in when sacrifice AND the age which where they ceased being a "child". With that in mind, ain't no rule that you can't get rid of sick children for this spell requirement, nor an elderly adult because she may be 70 but she's still someone's child (Okay, I may denounce anyone who thinks a subset of humans are best described in terms similar to livestock, but I still think like a Lawyer. I'm not the most morally reliable person. No one's perfect.).

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Investiture

The simplest way is to make the raised slaves require special conditions like diet or better an investiture of magic to be useful, you can also make the magic just a little variable from person to person. it is easier to maintain the conditions yourself than trust someone else to get it just right for your flavor of magic.

By investiture of magic I mean the the person who will cast the final spell has to put a tiny amount of magic into the child daily for weeks/months/years before the final use to prepare them. Using an small investment of magic means the person who is going to cast the spell has to visit the slave every day, that is a lot easier if they are on your property even if servants or slaves do the the rest of the care.

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The cost in the market is likely higher than the cost of raising them yourself. When you buy from the market, not only do you have to pay the costs of the person who raised them, you also have to pay a percentage profit. That's true of any animal purchase in any market.

Of course if you're buying wild caught then the cost may be a little lower, and the profits for the sellers a little higher.

There are complications in this. Raising your own is time and energy intensive. If you're wealthy and powerful then you'll have people for that. If you're an aspirational middle class mage you'll probably be buying organic direct from the farmer's market in town. If you're a working mage you'll be wanting to get the most secondary value out of your purchase prior to use, so you may buy reasonably young while they're still cheap and raise it yourself on household scraps.

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    $\begingroup$ Of course with wild caught you do have other expenses to consider and they might not be nearly as tractable $\endgroup$ – Garret Gang Nov 14 '19 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ Raising children is a goddamn hassle. People buy meat at a market because they don't want to have to rear, keep, slaughter and butcher livestock themselves. J. Evil Wizard does not want to go into the business of Human Resources, because they have better things to do with their time, like magic. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Nov 14 '19 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime, wealthy powerful wizards would have people for that sort of thing, poor wizards would have to do it themselves to save the money, there's only a certain group of aspiring middle class wizards who would go to the farmer's market. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Nov 14 '19 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix the savings will be insubstantial compared to the operating costs of the farm, and without expertise in farming such a facility may operate at a loss. Again, J-Wiz doesn't want to get into the business of farmer recruitment or farm performance analytics. Furthermore, there's a non-trivial startup time and upfront cost (which may not be easily recoverable) for any livestock operation, so by the time you realise you're a terrible farmer, or a terrible manager, or a terrible judge of farming, you've already wasted vast amounts of time and money. The risk/reward ratio looks bad, here. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Nov 14 '19 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime, you're thinking as an outsider not someone who's grown up in such an environment. Buying a young animal and keeping it on household scraps until it was due for slaughter was normal behaviour for most working class families until relatively recently. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Nov 14 '19 at 15:29
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(This isn't a direct answer, more a deeper investigation of the problems to be overcome.)

If it's cheaper to buy a product than to make/grow it yourself, you're either a) doing something wrong, or b) there is a significant industry behind creating that product. A cop-out would be to structure your world such that there is little to no industry.

Another problem you're going to run into is "intensive farming". Raising slaves is going to be akin to some of the husbandry practices PETA likes to scream about. In particular, you should take a look at puppy mills. The folks that are "farming" slaves to be used as magic components are going to invest in the bare minimum care and conditions required. There will have a significant mortality rate... but they won't care, because, while they may only get a one third yield, it costs them a quarter as much as doing things the "responsible" way. They're slaves; who cares about their living conditions or mortality rate? They're all going to die anyway.

So... if your goal is to avoid this sort of thing and require that slaves are "hand-reared", you pretty much have one option: require that the only way to get a "usable product" is by investing significant time in raising the slaves. Moreover, this probably needs to take the form of something that isn't necessary just for the slave to stay alive and grow up; you need something that slave parents can refuse to do/provide without significant duress, so that it isn't feasible to just capture "wild" slaves or simply take children from slave parents at the right time.

John's answer is a pretty good idea; it not only adds a specific, "hands on" requirement, but one that not just anybody can fulfill. You might also think about adding other, special conditions such as special body composition (think Kobe Beef), can never be exposed to more light than a single candle, etc.

In any case, the short version is that raising a suitable slave needs to be "high maintenance". And even then, you're still going to have some industry. I don't know if there has ever been someone so wealthy as to pay someone else to wipe their bottom, but history shows us that people with enough money will pay other people to do just about anything else for them... including carrying a child to term. If you need to completely avoid this, I don't think you can short of requiring that a sacrificial slave is raised by the mage that's going to "use" the slave.

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I need to prevent these markets from developing as a competing business model for slave owners.

  1. Suggested Option One:

Vested interests & legal monopolies backed by the equivalent of royal charters.

A few wealthy powerful families with some sort of equivalent of copyright on their slaves (& their slaves children) form a (formal or informal) cartel & use their influence & power to insure there are very high import taxes on any new slaves or even that any new slaves are illegal.

Why would they do this? In order to maintain their market share, profits & power.

One easy way to maintain their monopolies is to castrate or spay the ones they sell so they have the only viable breeding stock.

  1. Suggested Option Two:

Or you could simply have all surrounding nations allies with non-aggression treaties (& it's illegal to raid allies for slaves) that have laws were slavery isn't legal, so any slaves captured elsewhere have to pass through them & are likely to be legally seized & freed.

So you can't get new slaves into the country & breeding from extant stock becomes the only option.

A combination of both options might be used of course, the alliances with the surrounding nations might be something the wealthy slave owners encouraged to make new slaves harder to come by & increase the value of their own stock, laws against slavery in those countries may be something they've also supported & encouraged through contacts they have there.

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Currently, markets develop for a few reasons:

  1. Product is dangerous for normal people
  2. Price is not much higher bought than made
  3. Product is impossible to make without specialized skill
  4. etc... etc...

Your goal would be to make it easier, or just as easy to make the product than to buy it, and to lower the danger of it to nominal levels.

For danger, you could say rebellion is a danger, so a good choice would be to include a certain combination of herbs that turns people into mindless servants. This, of course, would add lots of other problems, like the fact that feeding a regular person these herbs might turn anyone into a slave. You could mitigate this by saying something like, "the herbs only work when eaten by themselves and they have to be eaten every morning or else they'll wear off". Make these herbs relatively common and cheap, and you've lowered danger. If you don't want to make slaves into zombies, but still want to lower danger, and your universe has stuff like 'magic', you can include magical means. Have a relatively cheap enchantment on a collar make slaves only able to obey the collar owner. This will preserve the personalities of the slaves, but make then unable to rebel.

For cost, it doesn't actually cost that much to raise a human being. Human beings can survive off of a diet of only potatoes and milk/butter. The big obstacle to a diet like that would be people getting bored just eating potatoes, but these are slaves, you don't care if they get bored or not. Potatoes of course, would become a big cash crop. Currently, corn is the most important crop in the US because of industrial uses and because it's used as feed for livestock. You'll be using potatoes for the latter, and milk can be sourced from pregnant women.

The difficulty of production will be your biggest issue, not because of how hard it is to make a baby. Babies are the easiest things to make in the world. Leave a male and a female alone in a room and you'll have one. Your problem is going to be TIME. Babies take 9 months to be born, each woman can only have one at a time, and from birth until they can do any kind of work, or be slaughtered for parts/food, will probably be 5-6 years. If you just need baby blood or parts, that's easier, but you'll still need to wait 9 months to get them, and most people don't want to wait 9 months until they can do what they need to do. If you need an adult virgin's head, you'll need to wait almost 17/19/22 years, depending on what age you consider 'adult'. In contrast, pigs are only 6 months old when slaughtered for food, and they're born in litters. Even then, not very many people raise their own pigs for food.

You can, of course, circumvent all of these by just saying that slave markets were made illegal, because, magic being the seat of power, slave traders became too politically powerful and tried to overthrow the rulers some time in the past, but that's a bit of a cop out. You'd have to define what a 'trader' is. If you and your friend have slaves, but you need a baby and one of his females just had one, would giving him something for it make him a slave trader?

Either way, markets are a natural economic system. Markets will eventually develop. You wouldn't ask, "how can I touch water barehanded without getting wet?"

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I work in a biology lab, so I think some of the procedures used to maintain human cell lines could be used here.

  • First of all, a lot of different strains of human cell lines exist. The most widespread is HeLa, which is taken from a cervical tumor (I believe), but if you're studying a specific tissue, you'd need cells from that tissue. So there are some blood stem cells, liver cancer, prostate cancer, etc. If there are different "breeds" (r-races?) of slaves to be used for different purposes, it would make sense that you would want to hand pick and breed them over time. This can however be a bit delicate to handle in your story without making things veeeeeeery weird...
  • Second, each step of the maintenance of our cells lines should be recorded - when their growth medium was changed, what medium was used, what antibiotics were used to avoid contaminations, what treatment they were subjected to... These of course are specific to each lab, and often to each person in the lab. So if you want to follow what diet your slave children follow, you'd need to do it yourself in your own residence, and you'd be cautious of buying these from anyone in case they've been cutting costs, and the child might have eaten some -gasp- GLUTEN??

There might be a few specialists who would be able to sell slaves (or maybe "start your own slave breeding program" kits), but they'd be very high end and most people would probably just end up growing their own. Or, something that occurs quite often in bio labs: borrow your friend's cell line if you need it for just a couple of experiments.

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