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5 Cato J. 295 (1985-1986)
Life in the Gulag: A Property Rights Perspective

handle is hein.journals/catoj5 and id is 297 raw text is: LIFE IN THE GULAG: A PROPERTY
RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE
Gary M. Anderson and Robert D. Tollison
No, it isn't done especially to torture people. A sentenced prisoner
is a laboring soldier of socialism, so why should he be tortured?
They need him for construction work.
-Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
Introduction
One of the most interesting applications of modern economic the-
ory has been to the analysis of slavery. This work began in the
pathbreaking article by Conrad and Meyer (1958), and was extended
and revised by Fogel and Engerman (1974). This analysis, including
a growing body of further extensions and critiques, focuses on the
case of slavery in the antebellum South.
In this paper we show that the analysis of slavery based on the
economic theory of property rights can be extended beyond the
antebellum South to a more recent institutional phenomena-the
large-scale use of political prisoners as forced labor in modern social-
ist states. These cases are amenable to a straightforward application
of modern property rights theory, which offers a rational explanation
for key differences between these examples of forced labor and slav-
ery in the antebellum South.
The Plantation
One of the key insights of the modern economic literature on
slavery is the importance of a highly developed, efficient capital
Cato journal, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 1985). Copyright @ Cato Institute. All
rights reserved.
Gary Anderson is a graduate student in economics at the Center for Study of Public
Choice, George Mason University, and Robert Tollison is Professor of Economics and
Director of the Center for Study of Public Choice. The authors are grateful to Lee
Alston and James Dorn for comments on an earlier version of this paper. The usual
caveat applies.

295

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