Paul Craig Roberts: The headline might seem extravagant, but it is true. Readers might not realize its truth, because people tend to associate slavery with confinement, but that is incorrect. The slave was confined to his place of work, because that is where his labor was used and mobility in those times was extremely limited, not because confinement was a feature of slavery.
A slave is a person who does not own his own labor. His labor is owned by another. On 19th century plantations about half of a slave’ output was used to feed, clothe, and house him. In other words, the slave was taxed at 50%. The other half was return on the capital the owner had invested in the slave. According to economic historians, earnings on the investment varied over time but seldom was extravagant. Slavery was brought to the British colonies not because it was profitable, but because there was no other labor force to work the fertile land. Some historians concluded that the return was declining and that slavery was on its way out.