"The obscene novelty of the slavers’ banking system was that this
financial value was secured on human bodies. The same practices
continued on the plantations, where the bodies of slaves were used as
collateral on loans allowing the expansion of estates and the
acquisition of yet more productive bodies. The slaves were exploited
twice: their freedom and labour stolen from them, their captured
“economic value” leveraged by cutting edge financial instruments.
The Liverpool merchants also pioneered the use of insurance as a means
of guaranteeing the financial value of the their commodities. The
slavers had long recognised that the only way to survive the occasional
total losses that expeditions incurred was to gather together in
syndicates and share the risk.
So when the captain of the Zong realised he was unlikely to land his
cargo of sickening and malnourished slaves, he ordered 133 souls to be
thrown overboard. The perverse legal logic was that if part of the cargo
had to be jettisoned to save the ship, it would be covered by the insurance.
These bodies-as-financial-commodities had only speculative value.
Insurance made it real and bankable. This was true in 18th century
Liverpool and it remains so in 21st century Wall Street."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics