Saturday, January 5, 2013

hy did farming lead to hierarchical societies dominated by controlling elites?

Why did farming lead to hierarchical societies dominated by controlling elites? The standard answer has been increased production of food led to a surplus above subsistence which allowed a more differentiated society. The problem with this is, why there was any such surplus? Why did not population just increase to consume the surplus? What blocked population increase sufficient to allow the creation of the food surpluses that sustained these elites?

Once there is a surplus then the society can change to a Biv plant like structure, in this case people make more profits by trading with each other rather than Roy predator and prey. Farms become more stable and based on private property. Such a system can be self policing in I, like most forests they don't become Iv-B weed like consuming all their resources and collapsing. instead enough people cooperate to create a stable though often stagnant society as happened in Egypt with the Pharaohs.

Specialization is Iv-B, when the government is strong and neutral this is moderated as is excessive growth. Often V businesses restrict this growth to promote stability and their own profits.

 The taxman could easily appropriate what could easily be identified–that is, food production was highly transparent to the taxing autocrat (both peasant production and the performance of social intermediaries–nobles, tax officials–in managing and taxing that production). That peasants did not own their land, this was subject to assignment by local headmen controlling the local irrigation, which meant little use of debt (since peasants could not borrow against land) and limited use of law (since local headmen could arbitrate disputes and the rest was executive management). 

This is a Y-V based system with the Pharoahs in charge, however it was more moderated because disputes could be arbitrated in an I civil justice system. 

Upper Mesopotamia (later Assyria) came early to farming. Its rain-fed agriculture was both less reliable and less transparent to elites, while raiders were a much greater problem than in Egypt; leading to far more use of peasant land tenure and a waxing and waning of elite control (and population dispersal) due to shifts in relative military efficiency. If farm production is not transparent, the "stick" of dismissal is less effective and the "carrot" of share of the crop more so. If farmers cannot be sacked from the land, it is effectively theirs; they have property rights in land. Rather than working on land allocated to them, they work their own land and pay taxes on it. 

More an Oy-R system of farming, R farmers hid their crops from Oy raiders and also from Y kings. By doing this successfully they became wealthy enough to in effect own their land as B but this was more like controlling it as R by their superior deceptions.

Though, strictly speaking, Domar was analysing how and why people become property (slavery), or are bound to property (serfdom), while our authors' analysis is about whether farmers will have property rights in land or be landless. It is also notable that Robert Fogel's analysis of New World slavery stressed the efficiency of the gang system, which closely monitored production according to careful division and allocation of tasks making it much more efficient than free labour in sugar and generally more efficient in rice and cotton production.

Owning people can mean a Biv society or they might also be controlled in Roy. Serfdom is more like Biv as property rights. Division of labor into roots can make a farm more efficient as each persons specializes in Iv-B. 

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