TRADE AND THE ASCENT OF MAN. The farther back in prehistory, the more we have to rely on speculation. One speculation I really like is explained by Matt Ridley in this article in the Wall Street Journal (May 22-23). The argument is an economic argument: the “sudden takeoff of the last 45,000 years” resulted from trade. The theory is that “what determines the inventiveness and rate of cultural change of a population is the amount of interaction between individuals.” The oldest farming settlements are located where trade routes crossed. Ridley argues that in addition to the exchange of ideas with trade, increased specialization permitted by trade encouraged innovation. Being isolated leads to backwardness. One of Ridley’s key sentences is: “Self-sufficiency—subsistence—is poverty.” Ridley contrasts Neanderthals with humans. Neanderthals didn’t innovate because they didn’t engage in trade. The evidence is that Neandrthal tools are found “close to their likely site of origin.”

This entry was posted in Economics, History. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.