Redistribution is NOT a Four Letter Word


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Redistribution is NOT a Four Letter Word

“The tradition of the classical economists, who attempted to base the law of the market on the alleged propensities of man in the state of nature, was replaced by an abandonment of all interest in the cultures of “uncivilized” man as irrelevant to an understanding of the problems of our age.”

It is my opinion that God created classical economists so that they might create justification for the desires of CA (Corporate America). Needless to say, I have never been taught classical economy in any college and university.

The gap between the propensities of “uncivilized” and civilized sapiens has been vastly exaggerated, in the economic sphere especially, because, I suspect, it serves the purpose of classical economy. If we citizens have faith that our modern society is more natural and God given, we will be less likely to cast a critical eye upon our economic and moral culture. Like the Matador and the bull in the ring, our policy makers seek to attract the eye of the adversary to something other than the cape handler.

“The role played by markets in the internal economy of the various countries, it will appear, was insignificant up to recent times...In its economics, medieval Europe was on the level with ancient Persia, India, or China…Max Weber was the first among modern economic historians to protest against the brushing aside of primitive economics as irrelevant to the question of the motives and mechanisms of civilized society…For one conclusion stands out…it is the changelessness of man as a social being…the survival of human society appear to be immutably the same.”

Anthropological research has discovered that primitive peoples acted first to safeguard their social position; the economic system did not drive social behavior but social interests drove economic considerations. Primitive people valued material goods primarily as a means and not as an end in it self. The maintenance of social ties was number one.

Imagine the terrible consequences heaped upon the social outcast in primitive societies. In such societies obligations are reciprocal because it serves both the social needs and because it best serves the individual’s give-and-take needs best.

Not to allow reason for jealousy was an accepted principle. Human passions were directed principally toward noneconomic ends. “It is on this one negative point that modern ethnographers agree: the absence of the motive of gain: the absence of the principle of laboring for remuneration; the absence of the principle of least effort; and, especially, the absence of any separate and distinct institution based on economic motives.”

The two principles of behavior of primitive societies, not primarily focused on economics, was reciprocity and redistribution.

Reciprocity worked primarily in matters organized around family and kinship. The male who, through slackness, fails to provide for his family suffers in his reputation. The broad “principle of reciprocity helps to safeguard both production and family sustenance”.

The principle of redistribution is likewise effective in matters that involve the common chief. A substantial portion of all wealth is distributed by the chief. This matter of storage and distribution is overwhelmingly important; to existing divisions of labor, in trading with other communities, taxation, and public defense.

Both of these factors “cannot become effective unless existing institutional patterns lend themselves to their application. Reciprocity and distribution are able to ensure the working of an economic system without the help of written records and elaborate administration only because the organization of the societies in question meets the requirements…”

Quotes from “The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time” by Karl Polanyi