The Fruits of Civilization (15) The Founding of Economics

The Founding of Economics

A mind-set of materialism got the economic ball rolling, abetted by surpluses from agriculture. Trade grew in the transition from hamlets to societies which increasingly practiced specialized crafts.

Another consequence of agriculture was being able to support a larger population. Division of labor and food surplus concentrated people so that villages grew into towns when they succeeded in ramping production and trade.

Jericho, the oldest continuously occupied site in the world, was settled by 9000 bce. Within a thousand years, it had a huge stone wall around it: a monumental testament to the materialist mind-set and the concomitant need for defense.

The power of organized labor was quickly appreciated in the ancient world. The city-states of the Sumer civilization in southern Mesopotamia, Egypt, and other empires, all depended upon mobilized masses under someone’s thumb. Slavery was rife in the ancient world, and the population masses otherwise mostly serfs.

All early civilizations were based on social and economic inequality. A defining feature of all early civilizations was the institutionalized appropriation by a small ruling group of most of the wealth produced by the lower classes. ~ Canadian anthropologist Bruce Trigger

Trade was the lubricant which invariably led to concentrations of economic and political power into a small minority of hands. Rulers came to rely up economic growth as a means to maintain and augment their supremacy. When internal limits were hit, expansion created conflicts with neighbors which often led to war and conquest. This trend was ubiquitous.

The economic bases of these ancient empires lay in the booty, tribute, and taxation that the conquerors could wring from the conquered and from peasant taxes. ~ American economic historian Rondo Cameron