There is a new working paper by Mark
Stelzner and Sven Beckert The
Contribution of Enslaved Workers to Output and Growth in the Antebellum United
States that attempts to estimate the significance of enslaved labor to the American
economy. The essence of the approach is to use slave prices to estimate slave
production. The price of a slave should reflect the value of output that the
enslaved person is expected to produce. They then use estimates of production
in 1839 and 1859 to estimate the contribution to growth.
My initial reaction is that recognition
that cotton was not the only good produced by enslaved people is long overdue, and their
approach generally makes sense, though I need more time to consider the specifics.
And I find the results plausible. That said, their estimate of