2.b.10 – What role has the trade in cultural development?

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January 28, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti


What role has the trade in cultural development?

The great variety of agricultural products, livestock and crafts led to an exchange of goods within the community and favored it outside the community; the category of full-time traders was then formed.
The trade consists in an exchange of goods, that in its first applications took the form of barter, namely the exchange of goods one wants to give to someone else who wants to buy; goods to be sold were initially plants, animals or craft that exceeded their consumption requirements or in stock and then the first barters were done among producers. The limits of this type of barter are immediately obvious, as circumscribes the possibility of exchange to what was offered by the communities one belonged to or those nearby, but soon the figure of the merchant appeared, i.e. one person who bartered with others goods which he did not personally need, but intended to exchange in more remote communities where these goods, as deficient, assumed greater value. In the barter, the value of the property to be exchanged is considered equivalent by the parties on the basis of quantitative and qualitative considerations on the properties in question; these considerations are of course influenced by the need that someone has of these goods and by the difficulties one encounters in obtaining them.
Even in indirect ways, namely through traders, however, the barter presents some major limitations: the perishable goods such as food must be consumed in short time and then not be the subject of numerous later trades; other goods, such as live cattle, are indivisible and must therefore be shared with amount of other goods higher than what is necessary (forcing the person who gave these goods to further exchanges of what obtained in exchange). The barter can therefore be applied only in simple economies and a restricted basis.
The new economic environment that had formed, which is based on trade, obviously caused some adaptations by man, who made more usable the related opportunities and, in particular, we must remember the invention of the coin, that is an object that at the same time has both the role function of quantification of value and to be a medium of exchange, a medium that could be also accumulated without problems of perishability, space and divisibility.
The development of intense commercial traffic resulting in the advent of currency led to further economic development: every city, to import products typical of another, had to exchange them with their own, making beneficial the increase of production, otherwise useless, and increasing the wealth of communities; this phenomenon also brought to the interdependence of cities, first economically and then politically, encouraging alliances, mergers or invasions.
Through peaceful alliances or violent conquests, starting from 6 thousand years ago, large human communities formed on a large territorial scale, i.e. the great empires of ancient civilizations: the Egyptians, the Sumerians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, Romans and Chinese; all these civilizations are distinguished for their wealth fueled by prosperous trading, to promote which large networks of communications and transport were built: roads, bridges, ships, canals, lighthouses and even postal services. The larger cities such as Rome or Carthage had more than 700 thousand inhabitants and the population growth, combined to the need to distribute a large amount and variety of goods, explains the growth of difficulties in administering these cities.


libro2  BARTER,  COIN

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