Free market in Europe (1000 BCE)

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jimbob
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Free market in Europe (1000 BCE)

Post by jimbob » Thu Jul 01, 2021 11:09 am

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/06 ... -years-ago

PNAS paper here: https://www.pnas.org/content/118/27/e2105873118
Abstract
Weighing technology was invented around 3000 BCE between Mesopotamia and Egypt and became widely adopted in Western Eurasia within ∼2,000 y. For the first time in history, merchants could rely on an objective frame of reference to quantify economic value. The subsequent emergence of different weight systems goes hand in hand with the formation of a continental market. However, we still do not know how the technological transmission happened and why different weight systems emerged along the way. Here, we show that the diffusion of weighing technology can be explained as the result of merchants’ interaction and the emergence of primary weight systems as the outcome of the random propagation of error constrained by market self-regulation. We found that the statistical errors of early units between Mesopotamia and Europe overlap significantly. Our experiment with replica weights gives error figures that are consistent with the archaeological sample. We used these figures to develop a model simulating the formation of primary weight systems based on the random propagation of error over time from a single original unit. The simulation is consistent with the observed distribution of weight units. We demonstrate that the creation of the earliest weight systems is not consistent with a substantial intervention of political authorities. Our results urge a revaluation of the role of individual commercial initiatives in the formation of the first integrated market in Western Eurasia.
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IvanV
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Re: Free market in Europe (1000 BCE)

Post by IvanV » Thu Jul 01, 2021 12:45 pm

There is a distinction between an integrated market and a free market. It's one thing for trade to take place on a common framework. It's another thing for it to be free of licences, taxes, tributes, and so forth. Protection of economic rights against competition, and collecting tribute as permission to trade, are both early instinct in humanity. When people live close to the edge of subsistence, protecting your mechanism of sustenance against competition is a very powerful instinct. Rulers likewise had a powerful instinct to control the passage of people and goods, to maintain their power and position, from an early time.

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Re: Free market in Europe (1000 BCE)

Post by jimbob » Thu Jul 01, 2021 7:57 pm

IvanV wrote:
Thu Jul 01, 2021 12:45 pm
There is a distinction between an integrated market and a free market. It's one thing for trade to take place on a common framework. It's another thing for it to be free of licences, taxes, tributes, and so forth. Protection of economic rights against competition, and collecting tribute as permission to trade, are both early instinct in humanity. When people live close to the edge of subsistence, protecting your mechanism of sustenance against competition is a very powerful instinct. Rulers likewise had a powerful instinct to control the passage of people and goods, to maintain their power and position, from an early time.
That makes sense. I'm not sure whether it would have been free or whether it would have been integrated. Certainly in much of Europe away from the Mediterranean were the rulers advanced enough for taxes on trade? Or simple tolls?
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Re: Free market in Europe (1000 BCE)

Post by IvanV » Thu Jul 01, 2021 8:36 pm

jimbob wrote:
Thu Jul 01, 2021 7:57 pm
Certainly in much of Europe away from the Mediterranean were the rulers advanced enough for taxes on trade? Or simple tolls?
Taxing trade, in some form, is very old. At the time in question, there were not recognised international currencies, so much international trade would have been essentially barter. Though metal bars and other well-known useful commodities did have some kind of a function of currency from before the time under discussion.

Back in that time, the world was very insecure. The Roman Empire eventually provided an enormous benefit to its residents that you could travel around within it without too much risk of being taken apart by bandits, or the local ruler. The Pax Romana. That is why the Roman Empire became so rich.

But before that, and in rest of the world you basically had to buy goodwill wherever you went. So if you wanted to arrange trade, you were going to have to give some kind of tribute to the rulers in the territories you were trading and/or passing through. They wanted a long term net benefit that was worth more in the long term than the short term benefit of taking you apart, taking your stuff, and killing you. Hence the very early evolution of some form of tax on trade.

Long distance trade routes often functioned as a series of shorter hops - as late as mediaeval times the Silk Road operated like that, until sea routes opened up - as it minimised having to pass through terriories that were foreign to you. And it resulted in items that were cheap in China costing a fortune by the time they got to Europe, as they were taxed at every stop.

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