- Slavery and information: a model with applications to ancient Rome
- Number of pages
- Amsterdam: Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics, University of Amsterdam
- Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics working paper
- Volume | Edition (Serie)
- Document type
- Working paper
- Interfacultary Research Institutes
Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
- Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics (ACLE)
Amsterdam Business School Research Institute (ABS-RI)
In ancient Rome, masters often used expensive "carrots" (rewards) instead of "sticks" (physical punishments) in order to induce their slaves to work. Moreover, the magnitude of the rewards varied significantly, ranging from better living conditions to the concession of freedom or the possibility to buy freedom. These patterns are explained by modeling the master-slave relationship as a principal-agent interaction in which the principal (master) receives noisy signals about the agent’s (slave’s) effort. It is shown that carrots are used when the slave’s task is complex (signals are relatively uninformative) and that more complex tasks require larger carrots. This perspective offers insights into three important issues in ancient history: the different treatment of different types of slaves and the reasons behind the concession of freedom, the emergence and decline of classical slavery and its relation to earlier and later forms of exploitation, and, finally, the open character of classical slavery, where slavery and freedom were contiguous statuses (in contrast with other forms of slavery or exploitation based on ethnicity, color or gender). The model presented is not restricted to slavery in ancient Rome, but applies more generally to other forms of exploitation.
- Also: Amsterdam Law School legal studies research paper No. 2011-33. - September 26, 2011.
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