American Consequences - January 2018


But, again, I’m guessing that paleo-technology baffled many cavemen. Try it yourself: Make a sharp stone knife blade by knocking it against another. Having much luck? Me either. If you and I had been around back then, the things that got hit, stabbed, and poked would have been us. The next important economic transformation was around 12,000 years ago. During the “Neolithic Revolution,” agriculture began to replace hunting and gathering. This would seem to have been a win/win development for everyone – just sit there and watch the corn grow. Wheat, rye, and maize don’t kick or bite or charge you with big horns. They can’t run away. And they don’t try to fool you when you’re gathering them the way delicious- looking deadly nightshade berries do. But, as the prestigious British journal New Scientist says, “Decrease in physical stature and health in transition from hunter- gathering to agriculture is well-documented.” Turns out Neolithic farmers were smaller, weaker, less resistant to disease, and they died a lot more. Besides, where’s the fun in sitting there watching the corn grow? I’m for hunting some deer with my Remington .30-06 semi- auto. We’ll gather a few six-packs on the way home. Slavery also caused an economic transition, and how brilliant it must have seemed. You used to have to work. Now somebody else has to work. And it’s free. Well, almost. You’ve got to provide straw pallets, dole out thin gruel

once a day, and give the slaves an occasional break to drink out of a mud puddle. It was a brilliant innovation – unless you were a slave. And that was fairly likely. Historians estimate that, in the first century BC, between 35% and 40% of the people in Italy were slaves. And free slave labor also didn’t make things easier for the working-class Romans citizens, the plebeians. The Imperial Minimum Wage was, basically, 0. I suppose the plebs could have attempted to undercut that... “I’ll bring my own straw pallet, bowl of thin gruel, and mud puddle.” But... When the Roman Empire fell and the Middle Ages came along, the plebeians were economically transitioned into serfs, villeins, and other forms of peasantry. This at least got them outdoors and into the fresh air, delving and spanning on the large manors of feudal barons. Baronial manors were an efficient economic institution, at least compared to rapine and pillage, the other economic institutions of the era. The Medieval peasants, however, did not seem to have been very grateful for this economic efficiency. There were violent peasant uprisings in AD 841, 928, 1277, 1323, 1343, 1358, 1381, 1382, 1401, 1409, 1437, 1441, 1450, 1453, 1462, 1478, 1485, and 1498. The only economic good news for ordinary people during the Middle Ages was the Black Death. It did have adverse effects, killing between 30% and 60% of Europe’s population in the 1300s. But consider the benefits: Upward pressure on wage rates and

8 January 2018

Made with FlippingBook - professional solution for displaying marketing and sales documents online