Peaks of power

The Holy Land
The Bosphorus
The Persian Gulf


Protestant Reformation in the 1500s
English Civil War in the 1640s
American Revolution in the 1780s
French Revolution in 1790s
Napoleon through the 18teens

Marx is writing in the 1840s

“Really tired of people characterizing criticism as attacks”

Really tired of people characterizing criticism as attacks. It’s not an attack to accurately describe that Musk is exploiting his workers.

Actually, I can think of a good example of an attack if Musk is wondering.

In 1916, workers in Everett, Washington were facing the worst of a serious economic depression. Sick and tired of low wages, terrible working conditions, a lack of work and manager apathy, the workers started to strike. The Industrial Workers of the world (IWW) came to Everett to support the workers in collectively bargaining for better jobs. The workers faced serious attacks in the local press, threats of retribution, threats of violence, and were “smeared” as anarchists and communists by the manager class and pro-business forced.

Upon arriving, IWW organizers were targeted by local pro-business vigilantes who beat them with axe handles in an attempt to drive them out of town.

It was on November the 5th of 1916 that several hundred local IWW members had a march for workers rights that went from downtown Seattle to the docks, singing the now famous labor song “Hold the Fort” in support of solidarity for better wages and working conditions. The pro-business forces in town had arranged for there to be armed good squads on the dock to meet with the labor demonstrators. More than 200 showed up, with the explicit support of the pro-business country sheriff. The goon squad opened fire on the peaceful union demonstrators, only a few of whom were armed for self-defense. By the time the shooting stopped, two of the goons had died (being accidentally shot in the backs by other goons) and the IWW listed 5 dead with 27 wounded. 74 IWW members were arrested and charged with the murder of the 2 goons. Thankfully, all were acquitted and released.

That. That right there is what an attack looks like. An attack comes from those with power against those without power. An attack is about control through fear, intimidation, and violence. Attacks are why those without power are forced to use the only advantage they have, sheer numbers through organization, to try and defend themselves.

Really, I’m very tired of people characterizing criticisms as attacks. We all know what attacks look like, and they usually come from people like Musk with unbelievable wealth and power who are looking to protect said wealth and power.

via this comment

Tally Sticks

“One of the most important forms of currency in England in Henry’s time were notched ‘tally sticks’ used to record debts. Tally sticks were quite explicitly IOUs: both parties to a transaction would take a hazelwood twig, notch it to indicate the amount owed, and then split it in half. The creditor would keep one half, called ‘the stock’ (hence the origin of the term ‘stock holder’) and the debtor kept the other, called ‘the stub’ (hence the origin of the term ‘ticket stub.’) Tax assessors used such twigs to calculate amounts owed by local sherriffs. Often, though, rather than wait for the taxes to come due, Henry’s exchequer would often sell the tallies at a discount, and they would circulate, as tokens of debt owed to the government, to anyone willing to trade for them.”

Pg 48

More real early economics

We’re starting with two imaginary people from an early section. Josh who has shoes but needs potatoes, Henry who has potatoes but needs shoes.
-If they were Iroquois, Henry would tell his wife he needs shoes, his wife would tell the other matrons, and if they approved he’d get some shoes from the community stockpile. To each according to his needs, basically
-If they were in a small, intimate community, Henry would tell Josh his shoes were nice, and Josh would give them to him. The potatoes wouldn’t enter in because both would assume that if Josh ever needed potatoes, Henry would give him some.
–One interesting little aside, particularly nice things thus get passed around a lot, since people compliment them and then are given them. But if you really want to keep something, you say it was a gift.
-Even in a fairly large, impersonal town, Henry’s wife would strategically mention he needs shoes, Josh’s wife would get him to give Henry the shoes, and then Henry owes Josh “one,” which Josh would call in when he needed/wanted something from Henry.

“In any of these scenarios, the problem of ‘double coincidence of wants’ so endlessly invoked in the economics textbooks, simply disappears. Henry might not have something Joshua wants right now. But if the two are neighbors, it’s obviously only a matter of time before he will.

This in turn means that the need to stockpile commonly acceptable items in the way that Smith suggested disappears as well. With it goes the need to develop currency. As with so many actual small communities, everyone simply keeps track of who owes what to whom.”

pg 34-36

Real Bartering

-Barter does exist, just rarely between fellow villagers
-Nambikwara of Brazil: if one band sees the cooking fires of another nearby, they’ll send emissaries to negotiate a trade meeting. If accepted, they hide the women and children and invite the men over to talk. Chiefs give a speech praising the other band and belittling his own, they put aside weapons, sing and dance, then individuals approach each other to trade. They have this really ritualized thing where they argue over if the things they want are any good, agree on a trade, and then with mock-force take the things they’ve agreed to trade. Then they have a big feast.
-So basically for the Nambikwara, “Barter… was carried out between people who might otherwise be enemies and hovered about an inch away from outright warfare– and, if the ethnographer is to be believed– if one side later decided they had been taken advantage of, it could very easily lead to actual wars.”
-Gunwinggu of Western Arnhem Land in Australia: They have a region-wide moiety system (kinship groups where everyone in a group is part of one lineage), so people are basically divided up into teams and can only marry people from other teams. They have a big festival called the dzamalag where after some initial negotiations, strangers come to another group’s main camp. They sing and dance, then do flirty dances, fuck, and give them trade goods. When everyone’s satisfied, the host group gives the visitors their own trade goods in return. Then everyone eats.
-Point is, barter happens during “meetings with strangers who will, likely as not, never meet again, and with whom one certainly will not enter into any ongoing relations. This is why a direct one-on-one exchange is appropriate: each side makes their trade and walks away.” It’s also why there are big rituals involving food and dance and “shared pleasures,” and why they make light of the tension of possible hostility between them through play.

Real History of Not Bartering

-Six Nations of the Iroqouis: main economic institution was longhouses where goods were stockpiled and alloated by women’s councils. Nobody traded arrowheads for slabs of meat.
-“The definitive anthropological work on barter by Caroline Humphrey, of Cambridge, could not be more definitive in its conclusions: ‘No example of a barter economy, pure and simple, has ever been described, let alone the emergence from it of money; all available ethnography suggests that there never has been such a thing.'”

Smith’s Founding Myth of Economics

“What, he begins, is the basis of economic life, properly speaking?”
-“certain propensity in human nature… the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another. Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog.” But humans always swap and compare things. Even logic and conversation are forms of trading, and “humans will always try to seek their own best advantage, to seek the greatest profit they can from the exchange.”
-Drive to exchange creates division of labor and thus civilization
-People naturally specialize into what they’re better at, and then they end up with surpluses. But if the other people in their societies don’t have the right surpluses to trade, everyone’s fucked. “So everyone will inevitably start stockpiling something they figure that everyone else is likely to want.” Which then makes that commodity even more valuable. Yadda yadda yadda, precious metals, yadda yadda yadda, currency.
-This creates the notion of “the economy” as a separate sphere of human life. It’s where trading takes place

pg 25-8

History of Myth of Barter

-Adam Smith used it in 1776 to create discipline of economics as a moral philosophy professor
-Aristotle used it in 330BC, speculating that families must have started by producing everything they needed themselves, then gradually specializing and trading, so money naturally developed to make trade easier
-During age of exploration barter stories disappeared because everyone was discovering old-fashioned tribes and weren’t none of them bartering. “Most sixteenth- and seventeenth- century ravelers in the West Indies or Africa assumed that all societies would necessarily have their own forms of money, since all societies had governments and all governments issued money.”
-Back to Smith: he vigorously objected to idea governments create money. Following in John Locke’s footsteps. Locke thought Govt begins in need to protect private property and operates best when limited to that. Smith added that property, money, and markets were older than political institutions, and were the very foundation of human society. If govts “should play any role in monetary affairs, it should limit itself to guaranteeing the soundness of the currency. It was only by making such an argument that he could insist that economics is itself a field of human inquiry with its own principles and laws– that is, as distinct from, say, ethics or politics.”

pg 24-5

Myth of Barter

“Just about every economics textbook employed today sets out the problem the same way. Historically, they note, we know that there was a time when there was no money. What must it have been like? Well, let us imagine an economy something like today’s, except with no money. That would have been decidedly inconvenient! Surely people must have invented money for the sake of efficiency.

The story of money for economists always begins with a fantasy world of barter. The problem is where to locate this fantasy in time and space”