On the Renting of Persons

18 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2013

Date Written: October 24, 2013


Liberal thought (in the sense of classical liberalism) is based on the juxtaposition of consent to coercion. Autocracy and slavery were supposedly based on coercion whereas today's political democracy and economic "employment system" are based on consent to voluntary contracts. This paper retrieves an almost forgotten dark side of contractarian thought that based autocracy and slavery on explicit or implicit voluntary contracts. To answer these "best case" arguments for slavery and autocracy, the democratic and antislavery movements forged arguments not simply in favor of consent but arguments that voluntary contracts to legally alienate aspects of personhood were invalid "even with consent" — which made the underlying rights inherently inalienable. Once understood, those arguments have the perhaps "unintended consequence" of ruling out today's self-rental contract, the employer-employee contract.

Keywords: inalienable rights, employment contract, pactum subjectionis, coverture marriage contract

JEL Classification: B52, D23, D63, K11, J54

Suggested Citation

Ellerman, David, On the Renting of Persons (October 24, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2344920 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2344920

David Ellerman (Contact Author)

University of Ljubljana ( email )

School of Social Science
Ljubljana, CA

HOME PAGE: http://www.ellerman.org

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