In claims of true free market enterprise with an anarchist type 'government' (meaning none), how would the different forms of slavery be avoided? Granted your neighbor who watches your dog when you go on vacation isn't likely to kidnap your children and sell them, but in a society where money is the ultimate (sole?) decision maker, how do you prevent people (eventually) being enslaved? Russia is still very much under a 'free' market, anything is for sale if you have enough money, (or enough power to just take it).

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    $\begingroup$ A prerequisite of a free market is that rights and contracts have to be enforceable. How does that happen in your hypothetical? The same thing will probably be the answer to your question. $\endgroup$
    – Mike L.
    May 11, 2015 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ There is massive slavery in America and even with a mostly free market economy. It's illegal but it very much exists. You don't need anarchy for slavery to be a problem... $\endgroup$
    – wposeyjr
    May 11, 2015 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ Same way you prevent your neighbour from just shooting you in the head for shits and giggles. If there's nothing stopping him from doing that, there's nothing stopping him from enslaving you either. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    May 11, 2015 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ @bowlturner: Your last comment makes me think this question belongs on politics or economics more than here. If you are looking for real world explanations, ask the experts on these actual systems. :) $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    May 11, 2015 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode seems odd to insist that all questions be assumed valid. Sometimes questions are simply not valid. $\endgroup$
    – DA.
    May 11, 2015 at 21:27

17 Answers 17


In a world completely dominated by free market? Where the only government control is capital control, and only money matters?

It wouldn't be prevented at all.

If we truly take this concept to the extreme, and say that all of society is governed by the free market, with capital being the only means by which one can seek recourse, slavery would be incredibly commonplace. Assuming there are those who would have no moral quandaries with owning a person, people would be bought and sold as property.

The only thing preventing this from happening is other people purchasing themselves at a high enough markup to cause person-ownership to be prohibitively expensive. The only way to enforce that is through sheer capital, and if one has enough money to overpower that capital, without any laws preventing it, they can purchase a person and own them, with only the effort necessary to hold that person in ownership.

Some people may even voluntarily sell themselves as a 'servant' to avoid this fate, exchanging their life of servitude for the protection of not being purchased as a slave. Without any government to prevent ownership of people, this is the only recourse they could seek, and even then, they may be sold off for profit if their owner decides they aren't worth the upkeep.

The short of it is, in a pure free market society without any governing body to regulate it, everything has a price - including people.

  • $\begingroup$ This is my view in general as well. I keep running into people who naively believe that this sort of thing would never happen. So I was looking for ways that it might believably come about. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    May 12, 2015 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner Oligarchy. But that's a separate question you're asking - a good question, but a separate one. $\endgroup$
    – Zibbobz
    May 12, 2015 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ Note that even today slavery still de facto exists (although de jure it might be prohibited). Examples I can think of would be bottom caste workers in Indian brick factories or the foreign construction workers on Dubai sky scrapers. $\endgroup$
    – fgysin
    Jan 19, 2016 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ @fgysin Prison labor is legal slavery as well. $\endgroup$
    – J Doe
    Jul 6, 2017 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ @JDoe True. And in general, nothing about having or not having a free market changes whether or not slavery happens - unless that society is pure free market, with absolutely nothing else interfering with the free exchange of goods and services, including morals. $\endgroup$
    – Zibbobz
    Jul 11, 2017 at 16:04

In short, your premise is wrong: Free Market $\neq$ Anarchy.

One is an economic system, the other is a "form of government". It's like saying "wearing green sweaters causes ducks to be eaten."

Free market

A free market is a market system in which the prices for goods and services are set freely by consent between sellers and consumers, in which the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority.

Most free markets do require policing of some sort or other (either self or government) to ensure people follow through on trades, et al. However, the government doesn't take place in the price of those goods and services.


Anarchy is the condition of a society, entity, group of persons or single person which does not recognize authority.

Presumably including other people's authority to manage themselves and own property. In anarchy you have the situation you describe in which might makes right, people get enslaved, and generally bad stuff happens to good people.

Slavery in the US came about for multiple reasons, one was there was already a slave trade in place bringing slaves to the new world so slaves could be bought "cheaply." The other was both tobacco and cotton (which were the South's "cash crops") were extremely labor intensive.

Some scholars argue that economically speaking, slavery was already declining and likely to end in the US even without the Civil War.

Scholars agree that although individually advantageous to large plantation owners, the system of slavery severely retarded the South's economic and technological development (as exemplified by their lack of manufacturing ability during the war). This "stasis" lead to the American Midwest's development as a manufacturing and agricultural powerhouse and competitor to some of the South's agricultural products.

Putting it another way, the South was slowly becoming uncompetitive with the rest of the world in the production of most goods, including their primary export crops.

Slavery at least in the form practiced in the early US, could not last indefinitely without collapsing.

Your premise that a completely free market economy requires anarchic government is false.

The economic system of a state isn't dependent upon the type of government of that state (e.g. Communist China is playing with a Free Market economic system). Although I agree some economic systems more naturally associate with certain types of government this isn't always the case.

If you are world building, are you looking for the ultimate in free market society or are you looking at what the natural conclusions of a totally anarchic system of government might look like?

  • $\begingroup$ >china is free market. except that the majority of their major corporations are funded and controlled by CCP entities and their banking system is similarly so. Anything that 'the people' create of value is quickly gobbled up for exploitation by the CCP. $\endgroup$ May 11, 2015 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ a)"in which the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government" b)"However, the government doesn't take place in the price of those goods and services." However, the two statements are not compatible. Criminalization of drugs is a classic example. Government does not buy and sell such drugs, but has a major effect on supply and prices. The principle applies across a wide variety of government actions. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2015 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ To add to @WhatRoughBeast, note that sex slavery, although illegal, continues in spite of law enforcement efforts. This shows that (a) slavery does not simply die out and (b) the government has a significant impact on supply. $\endgroup$
    – regdoug
    May 12, 2015 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ Dave, I agree but then so does the US government (meddle in the markets). I think both economies would do better with less intervention - but no one asked me :) $\endgroup$
    – Jim2B
    May 12, 2015 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ Looking at Slavery in the South as a pure economic system leads to odd conclusions because it had a dual purpose as a means of racial social control for the white majority. Thus, it persisted and was virtually reimposed in a new guise by Jim Crow laws after Emancipation. In a anarchist society, too, there's no reason why an individual might not accept the inefficiency for the additional control slavery brings him. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    May 12, 2015 at 23:17

What counts as slavery and how do you define ownership? For a market to exist contracts have to be enforceable.

The way that you appear to have structured things you aren't asking about a 'free market' but about some form of anarchy, which is rather the opposite of a 'free market' in many respects; as contracts are only enforceable as one is able to themselves enforce them. In which case, why would anyone choose to be a slave or allow themselves to be one? There is no mechanism to enforce the ownership, no way to say that the writ of sale is valid or that the ownership means anything; the slave owner has to create his own government that enforces the slavery by himself and enslave people himself, which is not done via free market transactions but via force.

In todays world however, we freely enslave ourselves all the time, and think very little of it. We enter into states of indentured servitude via student loans, car loans, house loans, and possibly even credit card debt and pay day loans (don't do the last two). Our work then becomes not our own but the owner of that debt, we are slaves to them but unlike chattel slaves we entered into it willingly, and get to care for ourselves. It is a much more efficient system than chattel slavery.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd suggest highlighting the question following 'In which case..." sentence by surrounding it with either singe or double asterisks, since that's really the key to the whole answer. It might also be worthwhile to note that for slavery to be practical it's necessary not only to have laws which allow the slave owner to use coercion against the slave, but it's also necessary to have laws allowing slave owners to compel other people who are not slaves to involuntarily assist in the return of their "property". $\endgroup$
    – supercat
    May 11, 2015 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for challenging lazy assumptions of what constitutes slavery and why that's automatically "just bad, mkay". $\endgroup$ May 11, 2015 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ A debt of cash incurs an obligation, but can be distinguished from enslavement or a debt of indefinite service in a couple of ways. Firstly that you get to decide what to do to attempt to acquire the money to pay the debt. Secondly that if you fail to acquire it you're still free to walk away as a bankrupt. When those things aren't possible for the debtor, then international human rights law starts to call it "slavery" regardless of whether or not the law of the place where it's happening actually upholds literally the ownership of another person. $\endgroup$ May 13, 2015 at 21:04

I believe you're referring to anarcho capitalism.

Here's a discussion from reddit on this same subject.

Your question begs the question, how do slaves (or other oppressed people) deal with living under a totalitarian regime that wishes to oppress them?

Getting back to the question itself though, there are two styles of answer.

One answer is that slaves aren't as productive as free people working for a wage. Slaves only work hard enough not to be punished which after many iterations of slaves under-performing would force the slave owner to continually set the bar lower and lower. While slaves don't earn wages, they have to be fed, clothed, and sheltered which all have a cost associated with them. At the end of the day, the productivity to cost ratio is likely to be lower for a slave than a wage earner.

Even assuming away the assumption from the first answer (which could be wrong depending on the industry), is that society at large collectively decides that slavery is inherently bad. The US gov't once allowed slavery until it didn't. Assuming laws don't prevent people from owning slaves there are still avenues for other members of society to stop slavers. People who attempt to own slaves would be blackballed from their industry. While this may seem far fetched under our existing status quo of relying on government to enforce the norms of society, keep in mind that boycotts are still used where laws fail. I google searched successful boycotts and the first one that came up was from 1791 in England when Parliament refused to outlaw slavery, the people decided to boycott sugar producers that exploited slave labor.

I think the extent to which people refuse to "vote with their wallets" in their daily product buying is because of strong governments. We assume that if our products are made unsafely or unethically that some agency will punish them and so we, as consumers, don't both issuing our own punishments.

In addition to people boycotting slavers, there's also evidence in history of people who will actively work to set people free. During US slavery there was the Underground Railroad which set out to set slaves free. Another historical parallel to this would be people in Nazi Germany that hid Jews (like Schindler). Keep in mind that Underground Railroad conductors and those that helped Jews escape did so under threat of law. Under a lawless society, an anonymous slave liberator could free slaves at low cost whereas the slaver would incur significant cost to thwart these efforts.

Another set of rhetorical questions I'd like to ask: If slavery were legal tomorrow, would you own slaves? Do you know anyone who would? How many more people wouldn't want anything to do with slave owners than there are people wanting to own slaves?

  • $\begingroup$ Free Range Eggs are probably a good example to use. In Australia at least you will find both Cage and Free Range eggs on the supermarket shelves. Even though Free Range cost more than twice as much, they are still a viable product because many people (I suspect >50%) refuse to buy Cage eggs. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2015 at 0:39
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I was thinking about submitting a second answer along these lines. People in power have often abused people over whom they hold power. That abuse isn't always slavery but it is often pretty nasty. It's the difference between a state governed by laws vs. a state governed by powerful people. $\endgroup$
    – Jim2B
    May 12, 2015 at 16:02

As others have showed why your premise is wrong (Free Market ≠ Anarchy), I'll focus on mechanisms to prevent slavery in your world.

First, you should ask yourself if "no slavery" in your world really needs to mean "zero slavery", or if something like "sufficiently low slavery" is good enough. And maybe keep in mind that you can put workers in a slave like relationship to their "employer" which is technically not slavery (the workers are not "property").

So, how could you prevent slavery without laws:

  1. Religion: There could be a prevalent religion in your world which might encourage the freedom for people to do any kind of business that makes them prosper (this god loves people who prosper), but forbids ownership of people ("because only this god is above men").

  2. As Dean MacGregor pointed out in his answer, slave labor is not free and probably less productive than free labor because slaves work to avoid punishment. This also means you need more resources to keep your slave business up running.

  3. Slavery might be really, really uncool. So if word gets around that you use slave labor, customers might avoid you (and other businesses too, because these would risk their customers too). Or you don't find others who want to do business with "the loser who needs slave labor". The same would hold at home, too: If you get a slave to do your household, you lose your friends.

  4. Having slaves might be too risky (and thus too expensive). People tried it in the past, there were slave riots, now you pay for work or use machines because it's easier.


The short anwser: Asuming no central authority and completely free market, make it cultural.

The long anwser: Ok, first we have to clarify that anarchy means the lack of "authority", not the lack of order, and that slavery in itself may not be a completely undesirable situation for an individual. In some ancient cultures you could sell yourself into slavery for a few years if you had to, but your master had to take care of your basic needs and didn't had rights over your life and death, you were still a citizen.

A few days ago I read about some people working here in Spain just for food and shelter, so they could stay long enough to earn the right to stay in the country. Their employers were charged with crimes against the rights of workers. Link to the article (in spanish).

It was a good deal (well, good enough) for them, but for anyone who wants to have a decent job it's a catastrophe. Why would I pay you if someone in need may work for almost nothing? That's also why countries with extremely low taxes for business have bad relationships with their neighbours, for example.

So in order to keep a certain level of quality in the general conditions of life, specially in a country with no authority to grant it, society as a whole has to reject both slaves and slavers, and see them as extremely damaging to them personally.

If your society values business above all, this may be easier than you think. Just make it so anyone who dares to play with slavery will be reduced to ostracism. Nobody would buy or sell ANYTHING from this people or anyone who deal with them. If you cannot buy or sell anithing in a society like this, you've "de facto" became an outcast doomed to live like an animal. Also include angry mobs burning something on the face of those poor souls, for good mesure. They'll need to know how to tell from far away who's been naughty.

Let's see who dares to mess with the eight hours of work.


Without a law interfering with markets to prevent it, you probably wouldn't avoid things that we'd consider slavery under the definitions currently used by the UN, national governments, etc.

Carrying off children would be theft and worse, and would be prevented by whatever mechanisms are in place to prevent your "true free market enterprise" from degenerating into "one enormous fisticuffs". Whether you call that mechanism government or find another way to do it, there has to be some means by which property rights are (1) created, (2) adjudicated, (3) enforced, or else you cannot have a free market. A bunch of people robbing each other at gunpoint is not a free market. The same means as prevent theft can prevent kidnap, murder, etc, that are crimes against the body rather than against external property. So that form of slavery is covered to the extent that the free market can effectively be defended from violence. It's the same issue as "how would murder be prevented" -- perhaps not prevented 100%, but it would be opposed, and anyone carried off as a child wouldn't be recognised as the property of their captor or anyone who bought them from their captor.

So there needn't be slaves-by-kidnap, but there very well could be conditions of indentured servitude that fall under current definitions of "different forms of slavery". Why? Because some people have nothing to offer their creditors, or potential creditors in the case of wanting to borrow for medical treatment, education, or other such desirables, except their future productivity. If the creditor doesn't trust your judgement to make yourself sufficiently productive to pay the debt, then you can instead offer indentured service so that they control how productive you'll be. That is, once you've sold a kidney and still need money, you can sell yourself into slavery.

Whatever the means are by which property rights are created, recognised, and enforced, either they permit this kind of contract, "if you pay for my child's education then I will serve you for the rest of my life", or else they don't. Decide for yourself whether it represents a "more free market" to uphold such a contract or to forbid it. It depends which kind of freedom you want people to have, the freedom to walk around or the freedom to make a contract in which you receive value for giving up your freedom to walk around! But if want to explore the darker side of a "truly free market", then it should permit freely-entered contracts as far as possible, even if to our current society the contractual terms appear repugnant.

Some protection against it might be needed, since by this mechanism, a free market system could even collapse. If somebody achieves a near-monopoly on some essential resource, then absent market interference they can leverage that into contracts that purchase most or all of the future economic output of most or all of the people. They win at capitalism, and everyone else doesn't win. That's part of the general issue of whether anarcho-capitalism (or for that matter any form of social organisation) can be stable, and if so under what terms.

Note that in most non-archaic philosophical systems of property, you don't own your children, you just have custody of them. Therefore selling your children into slavery might be legally impossible where selling yourself isn't. As with the case of kidnap, it's the simple rule "nobody starts out owning you except maybe yourself" that prevents slavery by this route.


You've stated that this is a free market society without a government. This means that economic forces are the primary driver in your world. The economics of slavery are simple: A slave is always worth more to herself than she is to other people. For that reason, there's a market incentive to free slaves and subsequently protect them and trade with them because the slave is willing to pay more for their life than someone else is. If the market is a truly free market, there will be no slaves.

That's what pure "market forces" will dictate. Now, is it possible that something other than market forces allows for slavery? Certianly yes, after all that's exactly what governments did in enforcing slavery laws. One could imagine that certain people would pay exorbitant sums for certain types of slaves. However, since it wouldn't be economically viable for the reason already stated, this would presumably be quite rare. If it's a small minority, there may be enough people willing to pay a premium to see it stopped -- or there may not.

A point of clarification: slavery is not the same as indentured servitude. Note the definition of slavery:

The condition in which one person is owned as property by another and is under the owner's control, especially in involuntary servitude.

Indentured servitiude, by contrast to slavery, likely would exist in a free market society because many people would be willing to sell their labor (not themselves!) to another party. That's how some impoverished people were able to gain passage across the Atlantic to the New World. (Some others were sent as a punishment for crimes, which is likely closer to slavery than indentured servitude.)

  • $\begingroup$ Indentured Servitude is more akin to a Long Term contract. Some slavery in Roman times might have been similar - i.e. the Greek tutors who got Roman Citizenship and a nice position for educating a senators son to adulthood. Would not have worked if the expectation of being freed rather than sent to salt mines was not met. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    May 12, 2015 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ The UN says, "Debt bondage can hardly be distinguished from traditional slavery because it prevents the victim from leaving his job or the land he tills until the money is repaid ... The 1926 Convention's definition of slavery was broadened to include the practices and institutions of debt bondage ... adopted at a United Nations conference in Geneva in 1956. The Supplementary Convention has been ratified or acceded to by 106 States". It's possible the dictionary isn't up to date, but anyway I hope the questioner doesn't need answers to rely on one of competing definitions of slavery :-) $\endgroup$ May 13, 2015 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet14en.pdf $\endgroup$ May 13, 2015 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ @SteveJessop, I agree that the question doesn't pertain to competing definitions of slavery. Whether you call it "indentured servitude" or "pterodactyl", clearly owning a right to a certain quantity of someone's labor is not the same as owning the person as one owns a cow. The former is a contract I might voluntarily enter into, the latter is not. $\endgroup$ May 14, 2015 at 4:14
  • $\begingroup$ No, but owning all of someone's labour and using force to defend yourself against the loss of that property interest (e.g. by keeping them physically restrained to prevent escape) is the same as owning the person as one owns a cow, even though the legal mechanism by which it's done is different. There may also be minor differences in terms of whether the indenture is tradable, but in this hypothetical extreme free market one would expect it can be. And I suspect that it's also not a contract you would voluntarily enter into, but even if it was, the UN would still call it a form of slavery. $\endgroup$ May 14, 2015 at 9:24

Does your society have some 'social norms' enforced ?

There are two options how your hypothetical society can function - either there are some social norms that are enforced by someone (possibly everyone), using coercion and violence or threat of it if they're [about to be] broken; or there are no such norms.

If someone enforces them, then the question is reduced to who does that in "an anarchist type government". It could be that the more powerful local mobs enforce some of their morality/ideology/religion/etc, and punish slavers - phyically, economically or by social ostracism. It could be that everyone does that - it's a common social norm, and is aggresively prosecuted by any individual who witnesses that. It could be a separate society or organization that explicitly makes their business to prevent/reduce slavery everywhere.

If noone enforces social norms, then the obvious result is that slavery is not prevented; people or groups who are strong enough will protect themselves from being enslaved, and weaker groups will become enslaved to the extent that it is useful/beneficial/desired by the stronger groups. Same logic applies for robbery, rape, murder, theft, commercial fraud, etc.

There can (and should be expected) significant differences between theory and practice. As historical experience shows, in places where you don't have any formal law enforcement and government, very quickly informal/unwritten laws get assumed and enforced, and some de-facto government system emerges. Sure, it will initially be very decentralized and unstable, with every local place possibly having different norms, but every society will come to some approach of conflict resolution that will over time become a habit, tradition and eventually law. Even if that law is limited to something like a consensus of 'Around here, if someone keeps slaves, rapes kids or steals horses, then people tend to spontaneously gather in mobs and beat them to a bloody pulp.'


Social pressure and culture. Humans listen to culture even when they ignore laws and stuff, widespread beliefs are stronger than any law. If that aberration for slavery was cultural as culture doesn't goes away with gov there would be no demand and therefore no market, of course there would be exceptions as in the real world, but not generalized slavery.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this take on the question. Welcome to the site @zardilior $\endgroup$
    – James
    May 12, 2015 at 17:38

You've touched on the difference between "free market" and "anarchy".

If people cannot trust contracts between themselves and others, then they simply won't trade: it would make no sense to do so. But without trade, there can be no kind of market system, free or otherwise, and so even if there is no government per se, a truly free-market system must have some sort of mechanism to enforce contracts. The implementation of such a mechanism is left as an exercise for the reader: governments usually fill this role in the real world, but I cannot rule out the possibility that a different mechanism might be devised. For lack of a better term, I will call this mechanism a "contract authority".

As a matter of logistics, a contract authority must have some ability to decide what constitutes a valid contract. This ability, however, carries considerable power. Among other things, a contract authority could prevent slavery by refusing to enforce contracts which treat people as property, or induce other people to do so. This leaves slaveowners no recourse to recapture fleeing or kidnapped slaves, and without that recourse, slavery makes a lot less sense: some people will likely try in the beginning, but the hassles involved will prove to be more trouble than they are worth.


There is a great lecture by learned liberty discussing the free market and the family as well as slavery. Retrospective studies helped to reveal the root cause of defeating slavery was the market. It is an inefficient system of production: forced laborers have no incentive to produce maximally, therefore lower production results (when slaves had their own land to subsist on they produced several fold more); slave masters incur a greater cost to survey, house, feed, train, and force the slaves to work; it depresses wages for non-slaves who then fight to end slavery/boycott products/etc.

Lastly, ignore those who claim to be anarchists. Anarchy means no rulers (no one can use force to make you act), they conflate it with lack of hierarchy (no person is above another in status, skill, etc.). It stems from a false equivalency. You can have peaceful mutually voluntary transactions on a mass scale (the free market) and lack of government. The Mises Institute produces a plethora of lectures and data on the subject of a free market anarchy.


I agree with most of what I read here.

Even though, I think that if you still wanna keep your world somehow Anarchic there's kind of an option. The richest and most powerful could create and pay for a private police that enforces some rights they think must be guaranteed are protected. Or maybe, rather than doing so for their good will, it's some kind of contract between the most powerful, in order to ensure they will never be slaved.

  • $\begingroup$ I find it hard to consider that an anarchy - it's more of a plutocratic government. $\endgroup$
    – Brilliand
    May 12, 2015 at 21:48

Free market is a fantasy resulting from the desire of the burgeoise class to justify their ruling. Free market showed itself impossible time to time. When a crisis leads the government intervention (with the usual use of public money to save this or other company) you see that the market cannot regulate itself. This is true at various levels, even when not under crisis, capitalism needs the anti-trust organizations to prevent the forming of monopolies, wich are the usual consequence of a free market economy without any government intervention.

The mechanism of monopoly formation is very well understood by marxists. When a company becomes big enough it holds a power over the market that allows it to dump its price in order to destroy the incumbent companies and allow them to be sold at much smaller prices than under normal circuntances. The existence of anti-trust laws is a clear cut surrender to the inevitable fact that the market cannot regulate itself.

Besides that point, market autoregulation is usually thought to be based on supply and demand. There is a high demand for weapons, so the market produce those, even if this is not the best rational choice for a society to invest its productive forces. When the market "self-regulates" it does so in "numerical" terms, not on a rational choice of allocation of resources from the point of view of society itself.

Besides that point, its a clear confusion about the roles of politics and economy. Politics come from polis, the greek city state and its affairs. We assume that politics means power and all that is related to power. Well, economy IS POWER. If you have more money than someone else, you have more power than someone else, period. This money will, and usually do, convert itself into political power. What the anarco-capitalist thinkers forget is that power is inherent to humans. Even if the power that you hold over other people is informal, not the result of a reconizable formal political entity, it is still power. If you remove the democratic formal entities that usually hold power, all you are going to do is to free the power of the larger economical groups to enforce their will, becase to have power is to be able to force someone else to do what it might not want to do. So, if the state apparattus is not present to present a large company to impose its will, balancing it, this large company will impose its will at large unharmed.

If a president is limited by the power of a constitution and a democratic election process, a large company is usually a ditactorship where the ownership of it allows the owners to do as they suit. They usually cannot do as they want all the time, simply because the state exists to prevent this. A company owner is not elected to be a company owner, it does this by the socially accepted concept of ownership and private property. This is diametrically oposed to the concept of democracy. But, in the absence of a state to prevent this, you will see company owners do whatever they want.

Ownership is the capacity to do what you want with what you have and exclude others from doing the same with what you have. In other words, its a ditactorship over what is owned. This is usually limited by state laws. The public comes to say "hey, your ownership is limited by this law, and this one too" etc.

If there is no more state, no laws, you get a plain simple ditactorship steeming from the ownership of the means of production, plainly and simply. Worse, the market cannot trully regulate itself. It is bound to become a big monopoly hindering inovation.

How the dumping strategy works ?

1 - Two or three companies stabilish themselves in a market.
2 - The competition between them drives the prices low.
3 - In order to prevent the further fall of prices they setup a cartel.
4 - A forth company decides to enter the market. The cartel sets the price below the cost of production, rendering the forth (incumbent company) unable to compete.
5 - The forth company (incumbent) goes out of cash and goes bankrupt. Its bought out by the cartel.
6 - The cartel now sets back the price very high and recoup their loses due to the dumping.
7 - If another company enters the market they repeat the process, indefinitely.

The key to this strategy is that smaller capitals cannot enter the market once the top players are stabilished. You might say that someone who amassed more capital could enter the market, but this only means that the bigger hoard of gold will capture the market in the dumping game. If you watch carefully you will detect that smaller capitals cannot endure the dumping period against bigger capitals, rendering competition impossible. Theres no "Free market" solution to this. This clearly shows that the concept of "free market" is a bogus, ideological concept used to justify laws and moves that forster the big capital at the expense of other parts of society.


Free Market capitalism has no internal mechanism to prevent monopolies, lacking laws, all sorts of strategies can be devised, by those rich enough, to prevent competition. Its by no luck that we have anti-trust and anti-dumping laws.


People seem to forget that anarchy doesn't necessarily mean no government for a free market society. As I pointed out before, some anarchists like anarcho-syndicalist Noam Chomsky support a night-watchman state: a state that does not have a monopoly on violence and meets the minimum requirement set by John Locke in his book Two Treatises of Government to be considered a government. In a traditional federal state, some people with elevated legal status and power enforce the state through a monopoly on violence and a vertical hierarchy (pyramid-like top-down power structure) that separates them from the average person. In anarchism, there is little to no monopoly on violence and, if there is any hierarchy at all, a general horizontal hierarchy (an organizational structure with few or no levels of middle management between the average person and those in charge) where no one has any legal power that doesn't belong to other citizens in general. This type of government has been used in real-life anarchist societies without a monopoly on violence like FEJUVE or The Federation of Neighborhood Councils-El Alto which practices a form of market anarchism called mutualism and Freetown Christiania that practices a form of market anarchism called agorism. Both of these places have general free markets and prevent slavery with a volunteerism form of law enforcement where said volunteers get training to prevent people from being murdered or turned into slaves, but the enforcers are treaded more like citizens in uniform than people that are the sole protectors and enforcers of the state. Considering these societies have been able to function and be autonomous for decades, I say this system works pretty well.

Basically, having a nightwatchman state and volunteer law enforcement allows for a free market without slavery because a free market (and even certain forms of anarchism) does not necessarily equal complete lawlessness and anyone can do whatever they want.


I know this is an old question, but I feel like the most obvious answer is missing.

How to avoid (or minimize) slavery in the this world? give them modern technology.

It's not just the goverment, or even our culture, preventing slavery in fist world countries. Even if you somehow changed the rules and made everyone okay culturally with slavery in the US you would see very little slavery (well, probably sexual slavery, but that's a whole different issue...).

The reason why is because it's not economical.

Once upon a time it made sense to have slaves because you needed someone to an your physically difficult menial labor. Now of days we don't really have that much menial labor, not compared to the old days. We have machines to lift and move heavy things, we have automated factories building our resources and cars moving items from A to B. It no longer makes sense to have a person doing much of this work because they do it so much worse then technology.

However, a slave still requires you feed, cloath, and house them, which is expensive. Minimum wage arguably isn't enough for someone to live on their own, so there is a standard for what it costs just to keep someone alive to be your slave. Now sure your not going to spend as much on housing as even a minimum wage worker does, you can save some money there. However, you also need to pay to restrain and gaurd them; and slaves generally work far less efficently then non-slaves (less motivation obviously) so your getting less work out of them. You can afford to pay someone well..not minimum wage, but not all that far off from it for the expense of having them as a slave.

So, for a slave to be worthwhile at minimum they must be performing work that is notiable worth more then minimum wage.

Lets look at modern jobs. All the high paying ones require education, you don't want to throughly educate slaves because it gives them too much power, and because without motivation to work hard for you it's unlikely your get as much value out of them then you would paying an already educated person.

There are some hard working physical labor jobs where slaves are still useful, but not that many. In addition most of them are the sort of thing where no one person benefits from a slave. Sure having someone to weed my yard is great and I may want my slave to do that, he has earned his room and board for the day. But tomorrow my yard is weeded...and I still have a slave. I don't have enough personal tasks I need done. I may be able to sell my slave out to others to have him weed their yard, taking the profit. However, the profit isn't that high and in addition to the effort of figuring out where to send him to I need to figure out how to make sure he doesn't escape, it's too logistically expensive for a job that doesn't pay that much higher then what it costs to keep him unless I do it in large numbers to benefit from economy of scales; and there just aren't that many large number of jobs out there that need physical labor.

Service industry is the biggest place for people without college or even high school degrees to work, but slaves aren't as well suited for this. Part of the service industries existance is because people feel better talking to people then machines, we only want service from humans if it makes us feel better. Seeing a beaten and abused slave who obviously hates where they are at isn't going to make us feel as good. lowering the value of a human representative at all.

So there would be some physical jobs and some service jobs where slaves would be useful, but not that many and for limited profit. However, for slaves to work a goverment needs to support the system, it needs to put money into catching escape slaves for instance. This is not a trival amount of money, as all your slaves are going to want to run away. The goverment thus will want to tax anyone with slaves to help pay for the "slave catching services", that tax can be enough to remove any profit the slaves have. And, as already mentioned, there is an issue of economy of scales, unless you have allot of jobs that slaves are good at it doesn't become worth setting up the logistical effort for getting slaves where they need to be and making sure they don't escape.

The net result of all this is that slaves really aren't worth the expense in a first world country. Finally, people naturally are opposed to slavery in general, so if slaves made only minor profit someone who would have been tempted to go along with slavery if it was a strong profit may find the tiny benefit isn't worth violating their instinctual (yes instinctual, there are evolutionarily engraded instincts at work here) ethics against slavery. Even if someone is a sociopath and has no moral qualms others will, and they may lose business to those who take offense. Without a strong financial benefit, enough to tempt those with questionable morals and encourage the fully immoral to put expense into indoctrinating others into accepting slavery, it's just not worth trying to get people to accept the moral violations.

So in short, with modern technology slavery just isn't worth having, at least in any quantity. Some individuals may keep slaves, but that slave is best kept secret so they don't have to worry about how others react to it. This will be the exception though, I don't see regular slaves being any more common then they are in today America (because yes, slaves do exist today, not legally but there are always some who require it).

That is with the exception of sexual slavery, which I could see being more common in such a situation. Look to the other answers to address that. The big point was simply that it's not that hard to do away with slavery because there isn't that much of a motivation for it anyways today.

*all these arguments assumes world that has modern technology. That means third world countries, where human knowledge exists but the same access to machines is not as available, would still benefit from slaves more.


It is not possible to prevent slavery when economics is based exclusively in a secular (human) society. Respect for life and liberty is not a natural result of an evolutionary model. The implications of the evolution model is dog eat dog, survival of the fittest. In such a model there is nothing morally wrong with slavery.

When moral principles are derived from a non-secular, no-evolutionary model (aka creationism) there exists a supernatural moral authority under which slavery is considered evil.

In short, the only way to prevent slavery is for society to adopt a higher moral standard than that which derives from a purely secular model of existence.

  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure that I agree with your assertion. In a strictly economic sense a person could look at slavery as economically detrimental to the whole (though not certain enriched individuals). People with a stake in the best outcome, meaning they benefit from better performance will be more productive. Allowing all people to be as productive as possible is good for the whole and that does not require a non-secular perspective. $\endgroup$
    – James
    May 12, 2015 at 17:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "there exists a supernatural moral authority under which slavery is considered evil" -- well, there exists an authority under which slavery might be considered evil. Or then again the religion might endorse slavery. Both have been seen historically, and indeed both views have been seen within an ostensibly single religion in different times or places. $\endgroup$ May 13, 2015 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ James, why should the individual consider the good of the collective when the only naturally occurring "good" is what seems best for the individual over a short span of life? From a purely natural perspective "good" is only what the individual entity makes of it. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew
    May 15, 2015 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ Steve, never mistake the practice of religion with existence of the divine. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew
    May 15, 2015 at 2:47

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