During the Sudan civil war in 1993, many people were kidnapped and sold into slavery. Humanitarian groups tried to buy many of the slaves out of slavery. Was this good policy? The economic concept of elasticity explains why it likely wasn’t.
The slave redemption programs that operated in Sudan were certainly well intentioned. However, due to the principle of elasticity of supply, those programs may have actually increased slavery. At first the program seemed to work. The price of slaves went up quickly, indicating the supply of slaves was scarce. Over time, the price actually dropped, because more people were kidnapped in response to the higher prices (i.e., the slave supply curve became more elastic). In the end, the humanitarians trying to free slaves actually may have created additional supply.