Money And Markets

In Narrow Roads of Gene Land, theoretical biologist William Hamilton wrote, "It seems to me that there are some aspects of innate intelligence that civilization steadily promotes. Mercantile operations, for example, are an inseparable part of Old World civilizations and need complex models in the minds of their operators, just as military ventures do. The main difference is more emphasis on prudence and less on daring. It is probable that civilization has given steady selection for the intelligence needed for this mercantile kind of preparatory modeling."25

Agriculture would have selected for traits that enable people to engage successfully in trade: A farmer able to sell his wheat at a higher price than the other wheat farmers or to make more advantageous trades would have been more successful and better able to support a large family. And so salesmen, businessmen, and financiers were born.

If this theory is correct, we would not expect populations that have never experienced such pressures, or that have only experienced them for limited periods and to a limited degree, to be very successful in such activities today. Groups that became agriculturalists relatively recently, or not at all, are slow to master important new social and technical developments. This is the case for the Amerindians, and it underlies a current wave of discontent with liberal economic policies in South America.

Along the same line, the well-known middleman minorities, such as Armenians, Jews, Lebanese, Parsees, Indians in East Africa, and Chinese in Southeast Asia, are all descended from long-established agricultural populations. Evidently, a long history of getting and spending does not lay waste your power.

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