Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Conflicting Moral Traditions (4)

Morality and Traditions of the Macro-Cosmos Support Larger Populations

The First Change: Private (or Several) Property Replaces Common Property
Efficient trade depends on individual, or private, property. Long distance trade cannot be conducted by entire communities. People specialized: some traded, some gathered food or made tools, and all were made better off by trading the products of their efforts and talents.

If a troop loads up a trader with local flints to trade with the mountain people for furs they wanted assurances that the trader wouldn’t, at the first sign of a hungry wolf, ditch the flints and hustle back to the troop for communal protection and communal food. Solution: sell the flints to the trader by demanding from him things of value before he left. The flints became the trader’s property, his private property, not goods held in common. On his return with furs, his furs obtained in trade with the mountain people, the trader would trade furs for more flints: his flints, not the troops common flints.

Second Change: Individual Judgment Replaces Communal Judgment
Trade depends on individual judgment and individual knowledge, not the communal wisdom of the troop. To the extent that a trader was on his own (or with a few colleagues) it was up to the trader to decide how many flints to exchange for how many furs and, on the other end, how many furs to exchange for how many flints. The trader had to know where to locate the people with the best furs, how to communicate with them, and how to assure them he was not a threat. And not a cheat: you can’t trade with someone after you’ve cheated him.

Trade depends on the trader working towards his own ends using his own judgment, not towards communal aims based on communal judgment.

Third Change: Exchange for Mutual Benefit Replaces Altruistic Giving
Trade depends on voluntary exchange for mutual benefit, not on the altruistic sharing that cements relationships and sustains a communal group. The trader expects to make a profit on each exchange and learns that this is possible only if those he is exchanging with also make a profit – improve their circumstances.

Fourth Change: Greater Specialization
Trading enables individuals to make, find, or capture something not because the troop (or someone in the troop) needed or wanted it but because it could be traded for something the individual wanted. Trade withing the troop enabled the specialist to eat without hunting or gathering food. Other specialists would gather food, perhaps using tools made by the specialist to increase their productivity. Because not everyone had to spend most of his time looking for food, the society could support more people who could live longer lives.

Now, One Need Not Be "Good" to Provide Benefits for Others

These changes are related to, or encouraged, individualism rather than communalism. Even selfish people contributed to the well being of others as they could gain for themselves only by providing gain for others. The new morality and its supporting traditions enabled the creation of an extended order (extended beyond the local troop or those few troops nearby) of voluntary interaction of people working for the benefit of, and receiving benefits from, those distant and unknown. This extended order operating in the macro-cosmos depended on the evolution of morals and traditions quite different from the instinctive morality that guided the communalism of the micro-cosmos.

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