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We wouldn’t want to do without economic progress, but not every economic transition is progress. The first major economic transition happened when the economy was still very primitive. Two million years ago, Homo erectus came down from the trees and stood up on two legs. (You can tell how primitive the economy was by the fact that Homo erectus never licensed his name to any of the pharmaceutical companies who advertise to men on Fox News.) Becoming bipedal was a splendid economic advance for our ancestors. It allowed them to walk to places where there were good things to eat and run back with their arms full. Unless they fell over. Which is what happened to the members of Homo erectus who aren’t our ancestors. I’m guessing there was what economists call a “Pareto distribution” – an 80%/20% split – among Homo erectus . ( More on Pareto and his principle on page 10 .) One out of five was walking around looking for good things to eat. Four out of five grunted, “Standing up is too hard.” They sat back down... and were eaten by saber-toothed tigers. At about the same time that we started to stand up, we also started to make stone tools. The “Paleolithic Age” was another major economic transition. Stone axes, stone knives, and stone spearheads allowed us to hit, stab, and poke things.
American Consequences 7
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