Paid Labor vs. Slave Labor

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 15th, 2013

Economics 101

Paid-Laborers are Rented as Needed while Slave-Laborers are Owned even when not Needed

There is a common misconception that slave labor was free labor.  The argument goes that the United States got rich because of all their free slave labor.  They’ll say this despite knowing of the immense suffering of African slaves on the slave ships.  Who came to the New World where slave traders auctioned them off.  This was the slave trade.  The key word in this is ‘trade’.  African slave traders sold them to European slave traders.  Who auctioned them off in New World slave markets.  To feed a labor-hungry market.

People bought and sold slaves.  And anything you buy and sell is not free.  So slave labor wasn’t free.  It was a capital cost.  Let’s explain this by comparing leasing and owning.  Businesses can buy buildings.  Or lease them.  If they buy them they own them.  And are responsible for them.  They add a large asset on their balance sheet that they depreciate.  And add new debt that they must service (making premium and/or interest payments).  They also must pay expenses like taxes, insurance, maintenance, supplies, utilities, etc.  Things owners are responsible for.  When they lease a building, though, they don’t add an asset to depreciate.  And they don’t pay any expenses other than a lease payment.  The owner, the lessor, pays all other expenses.  When you lease you pay only for what you use.  When you buy you pay for what you use now.  And what you will use for years to come.  We can make a similar comparison between paid-labor and slave-labor.

Paid vs Slave Labor 1 of 3

For this exercise let’s take a factory today with 125 employees.  We’ll look at the costs of these laborers as paid-laborers versus slave-laborers.  We assume that the total labor cost for everything but health care/insurance is $65,000 per paid-laborer.  And an annual health care expense of $5,000.  Bringing the total annual labor and health care/insurance costs for 125 paid-laborers to $8,750,000.  For the slave laborers we assume 47 working years (from age 18 to 65).  But we don’t multiple 47 years by $65,000.  Because if we buy this labor there are a lot of other costs that we must pay.  Slave traders understand this and discount this price by 50%.  Or $32,500 annually for 47 years.  Which comes to $1,527,500 per slave-laborer.  Bringing the annual total cost for all 125 slave-laborers to $4,062,500.  And, finally, because they own these laborers they don’t have to offer premium health insurance to attract and keep employees.  So we assume health care/insurance expense is only half of what it is for paid-laborers.

Slave-Labor Overhead included Food, Housing, Clothing and Interest on Debt that Financed Slave-Laborers

If we stop here we can see, though not free, slave-laborers are a bargain compared to paid-laborers.  But if they own these people they have to take care of these people.  They have to provide a place for them to live.  They have to feed them.  Clothe them.  As well as pay interest on the money they borrowed to buy them.  And the building to house them.  For if they are not fed and protected from the elements they may not be able to work.

Paid vs Slave Labor 2 of 3 R1

A slave-owner will try to keep these overhead costs as low as possible.  So they won’t be feeding them steaks.  They will feed them something inexpensive that has a high caloric content.  So a little of it can feed a lot of people.  In our exercise we assumed a $1.25 per meal, three meals daily, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.  For a total of $170,625 annually.  We assumed a $500,000 building to house 125 slave-laborers and their families.  The depreciation expense (over 40 years), taxes, insurance, supplies (soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc.) and utilities come to $24,100 annually.  For clothing we assume a new pair of boots every 5 years.  And 7 inexpensive shirts, pants, tee shirts, underwear and socks each year.  Coming to $10,094 annually.

Then comes one of the largest expense.  The interest on the money borrowed to buy these slave-laborers.  Here we assume they own half of them free and clear.  Leaving $95,468,750 of debt on the book for these slave-laborers.  At a 4.25% annual interest rate the interest expense comes to $4,057,422.  We also assume half of the debt for the housing still on the books.  At a 4.25% annual interest rate the interest expense comes to $10,625.

George Washington was Greatly Bothered by the Contradiction of the Declaration of Independence and American Slavery

These overhead expenses bring the cost of slave-laborers nearly to the cost of paid-laborers.  Almost making it a wash.  With all the other expenses of owning slaves you’d think people would just assume to hire paid-laborers.  Pay them for their workday.  Their health insurance.  And nothing more.  Letting them go home after work to their home.  Where they can take care of their own families.  Provide their own food.  Housing.  And clothing.  Which they pay for out of their paycheck.  Of course, this wasn’t quite possible in the New World.  There weren’t enough Europeans living there to hire.  And the Native Americans in North, Central and South America were more interested in getting rid of these Europeans than working for them.  Which left only African slaves to exploit the natural resources of the New World.  But that slave-labor could grow very costly over time.  Because when you own people you own families.  Including children and elderly adults who can’t work.  By the time of our Founding this was often the case as some slave owners owned generations of slave families.

Paid vs Slave Labor 3 of 3 R1

In our exercise we assume an equal number of men and women working in the factory.  Assumed these men and women married.  And half of these couples had on average 3 young children.  We’ve also assumed the current working generation is a second generation.  So their surviving parents live with them.  We assumed half of all parents are surviving.  These children and the surviving parents cannot work.  But they still must eat.  And require medical attention.  Using the costs for the workers these non-workers add another $845,469 to the annual labor cost.  Brining the cost of the slave-laborers greater than the cost of the paid-laborers.

George Washington was very conscious of history.  Everything he said or did was with an eye to future generations.  And their history books.  One of the things that greatly bothered him was the contradiction of the Declaration of Independence declaring all men equal while the institution of slavery existed.  But to form a new nation they needed the southern states.  And they wouldn’t join without their slaves.  So they tabled the subject for 20 years.  Sure by then that the institution would resolve itself and go away.  Washington believed this because he had many generations of slaves on his plantation.  And desperately wanted to sell them and replace them with paid-laborers.  Because he was feeding so many slaves that they were eating his profits.  But people wanted to buy only those who could work.  Not the children.  Or the elderly.  Unable to break up these families he did what he thought was the honorable thing.  And kept using slaves.  To keep these families together.  Making less money than he could.  Because slave-labor was more costly than paid-labor.  Contrary to the common misconception.

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Trend Analysis—Long-Term Debt-Paying Ability

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 28th, 2013

Economics 101

To Help with the Decision Making Process Small Business Owners look at Past Results and Trends

A small business owner has a lot on his or her mind.  Most of which have something to do with cash.  If they will have enough for their short-term needs.  And their long-term needs.  Because if they don’t there’s a good chance he or she will be a small business owner no more.  So with every decision a small business owner makes he or she asks this question.  What will be the cash-impact of this decision?  Both short-term.  And long-term.

To help with this decision making process small business owners look at past results.  And the trend between accounting periods.  Either quarterly.  Or monthly.  For there is a lot more to a business’ health than net profit.  Or cash in the bank.  You can have neither and still be a healthy business.  And you can have both and be in a lot of danger.  Because these are only parts of the bigger picture.  It’s how they fit together with the other pieces that give small business owners useful information.  So let’s take a look at 4 quarters of fictitious data.  And what the data trends tell us.

Trend Analysis Long-Term Debt

Looking at these numbers you can arrive at different conclusions.  Sales were 1.7 million or higher for all 4 quarters.  That seems good.  But sales fell the last two quarters.  That seems bad.  But it’s hard to get a full grasp of what these numbers can tell us on their own.  But if we look at some ratios we can glean a lot more information.  And can graph these ratios and look at trends.

If the Debt Ratio is less than 1 it means the Business is Insolvent

If you divide current assets (Cash through Inventory) by current liabilities (Accounts Payable through Current Portion of L/T Debt) you get the current ratio.  A liquidity ratio.  Telling a small business owner his or her short-term (in the next 12 months) cash health.  If this ratio is greater than one than you have more current assets than current liabilities.  Meaning you should be able to meet your cash needs in the next 12 months.  Which is good.  If it’s less than 1 it means you may not be able to meet your cash needs in the next 12 months.  Which is bad.  But is there a ‘correct’ number for a small business?  No.  It could vary greatly depending on the nature of your business.  But the trend of the current ratio can provide valuable information.

Trend Analysis Long-Term Debt Current Ratio

This business became more liquid from Q1 to Q2.  Meaning they should have been able to meet their short-term cash needs even easier in Q2 than Q1.  A good thing.  But they became less liquid from Q2 to Q3.  With their current ratio falling below 1.  Meaning they may not have had enough cash to meet their short-term cash needs.  Their short-term cash position improved in Q4.  But it was still below one.  So the current ratio trend for these 4 quarters shows a cause for concern.  Is it a problem?  It depends on the big picture.  So let’s look at more parts that make up the big picture.

Plotted on the same graph is a long-term debt-paying ability ratio.  The debt ratio.  Which we get by dividing Total Assets by Total Liabilities.  If this number is less than 1 it means Total Assets are greater than Total Liabilities.  Which is good.  If it’s greater than 1 it means the business is insolvent.  Which is bad.  As insolvency leads to bankruptcy.  The trend from Q1 to Q2 was good.  Their debt ratio fell.  But it rose between Q2 and Q3.  Rising above 1.  Which is a great cause for concern.  It fell between Q3 and Q4 but it was still below one.  Is this a problem?  It’s starting to look like it is.

There is no such thing as a Sure Thing for a Small Business Owner

Are they going to have trouble servicing their debt?  There are ratios for this, too.  Such as the Times Interest Earned (TIE).  Which shows how many times your recurring earnings can pay your interest costs.  In this example we have normal interest expense such as that paid on the business line of credit.  And the capitalized interest such as the interest portion on a car payment.  We calculate TIE by dividing recurring earnings by total interest expenses.

Trend Analysis Long-Term Debt Times Interest Earned

In Q1 their recurring earnings had no trouble covering their interest expenses.  In Q2 recurring earnings grew as did their ability to pay their interest expenses.  But the trend following Q2 has been downward.  Either indicating a surge in debt.  And interest due on that debt.  Or a fall in recurring earnings.  In this case it was a fall in earnings.  Which plummeted following Q2.  Looking at another ratio we can see the extent of these poor earnings on their long-term debt-paying ability.  If we divide Total Liabilities by Owner’s Equity we get the debt to equity ratio.  If this number is 1 then the business is financed equally by debt and equity.  If it’s less than 1 more equity (typically produced by recurring earnings) than debt financed the business.  Which is preferable as equity financing doesn’t incur any costs or risk.  If it’s greater than 1 it means more debt than equity financed the business.  Which is not as preferable.  Because debt-financing incurs costs.  As in interest expense.  And risk.  The greater the debt the greater the interest.  And the greater risk that they may not be able to repay their debt.  Which could lead to bankruptcy.

Trend Analysis Long-Term Debt Debt to Equity Ratio

This business was highly leveraged in Q1.  With virtually all financing coming from debt.  Probably because the owner drew a lot of money out during some profitable years.  Something banks don’t like seeing.  They like to see the owner sharing the risk with the bank.  If they don’t it can be a problem if the business owner wants to borrow money.  Which this one did in Q3.  Because business was doing so well this owner wanted to expand the business by adding another piece of production equipment.  But being so highly leveraged the owner had to put up a sizeable down-payment to get a loan for this new piece of production equipment.  As can be seen by the $20,000 owner contribution in Q3.  There was also a large decline in Owner’s Equity in Q3.  Indicating a one-time charge or correction.  With the loan the owner increased production.  And was looking forward to making a lot of money.  Which was not to happen.  For the economy fell into recession in Q3.

Sales fell just as they increased production.  Which led to a swelling inventory of unsold goods.  Worse, the recession was hurting everyone.  As can be seen by the growth in accounts receivable.  Because people were paying them slower they were paying their suppliers slower.  As is evident by the growth in their accounts payable.  Then a piece of equipment broke down.  They had no choice but to replace it.  Requiring another equity infusion of $10,000.  While some write-downs of bad debt reduced Owner’s Equity further.  (Or something similar.  With such low recurring profits by the time you add in other one-time and non-recurring costs this can lead to a net loss.  And a decline in Owner’s Equity.)  Despite this $30,000 equity infusion into the business the debt to equity ratio soared between Q3 and Q4.  Showing how poorly recurring operations were able to generate cash after that expansion in Q3.  Which explains their insolvency.  And as leveraged as they are it is very unlikely that they are going to be able to borrow money to help with their pressing cash needs.  Meaning that the decision to expand in Q3 may very well lead to bankruptcy.

This is just an example of the myriad concerns a small business owner has to consider before making a decision.  And a successful small business owner always has to factor in the possibility of a recession.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  Being a small business owner.  For it’s a lot like gambling.  There is just no such thing as a sure thing.

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The Big Economies are Increasing their Debt and Heating up the Competition for Buyers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 7th, 2012

Week in Review

Keynesian economists don’t see a problem for governments to run deficits.  They’ll look at the current bond rates, do some calculations and note that the additional interest expense for the government is negligible in the grand scheme of things.  But interest costs are not the only problem governments will have.  They also have to first find someone to buy their debt (see Biggest Economies Face $7.6 Trillion Bond Tab by Keith Jenkins and Anchalee Worrachate posted 1/3/2012 on Bloomberg).

Governments of the world’s leading economies have more than $7.6 trillion of debt maturing this year, with most facing a rise in borrowing costs.

Led by Japan’s $3 trillion and the U.S.’s $2.8 trillion, the amount coming due for the Group of Seven nations and Brazil, Russia, India and China is up from $7.4 trillion at this time last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg…

Investors may demand higher compensation to lend to countries that struggle to finance increasing debt burdens as the global economy slows, surveys show…

The amount needing to be refinanced rises to more than $8 trillion when interest payments are included. Coming after a year in which Standard & Poor’s cut the U.S.’s rating to AA+ from AAA and put 15 European nations on notice for possible downgrades, the competition to find buyers is heating up.

So even in the Keynesian world there is a limit on deficit financing.  When there is more debt than buyers some debt will go un-purchased.  And to make sure that isn’t your debt you’ll have to entice those few buyers to buy your debt.  By the only way you can.  With higher interest rates.  Which makes your original problem worse.  By increasing your overall debt.

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