Since I got the sense that not many of you appreciated the full brilliance of my original post, I have returned to my claim that slavery could not exist in an otherwise free market. An excerpt:
First, let’s switch contexts away from the emotional one of slavery. Instead, think about tools. Suppose in the middle of the night, gnomes sneak into carpenters’ toolboxes across the country, and sneak thousands of handheld electric drills out of their starting places and deposit them into the desks of secretaries. For whatever reason, the next morning the law recognizes the secretaries as the legitimate owners of the electric drills. The secretaries find the tools quite useful as paperweights and doorstops.
Now: In this silly example, does anyone think that it would take a massive war, with hundreds of thousands of deaths, to return the electric drills to use in carpentry? Of course it wouldn’t. Even though the secretaries can use their new property in the office setting, the electric drills are far more productive when in the hands of carpenters (and electricians, handymen, etc.). Even though the secretaries are the legal owners, they wouldn’t retain the drills in their desks, for use as paperweights and doorstops. Instead, they would realize they could sell the drills for their market price, and (if they wanted) use the proceeds to buy “real” paperweights and doorstops for a fraction of the money raised.