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Optimal food allocation in a slave economy


We propose a model of food allocation in an economy in which property rights exist in human beings. We assume that a slave-owner allocates food over the slave's lifetime so as to maximise his own wealth. The slave's productive capacity is determined endogenously by food consumption. Food allotment during childhood and adolescence determines productive capacity over the life course. The slave owner chooses optimal time paths of food allotment in light of the contribution food makes to both the level and growth of physical capacity, as a function of the price of food and of the value of the slave's productivity. Though conceived for an economy in which property rights exist in human beings, the model can be modified so as to apply to resource allocation within a household economy in which parents provide both nourishment and schooling for their children, in order to enhance their current or future productivity.

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Received: 14 April 2000/Accepted: 25 August 2001

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Rees, R., Komlos, J., Long, N. et al. Optimal food allocation in a slave economy. J Popul Econ 16, 21–36 (2003).

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  • JEL classification: 112
  • D10
  • Key words: Food allocation
  • height
  • slaves: productive capacity
  • dynamic optimization