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Sep 19, 2008


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As usual, there's a lot of content here.

A small complaint:

"History shows that European culture was late to the seen compared to the ...."

To continue:

"... all developed in China long before Europeans ...", "... the Chinese had ships far in excess of anything the Europeans could muster ..."

I think we have to say that the main reason is the great separation between China and Europe. One reason was simply distance, another, China's withdrawal from the world scene.

Marco Polo (around 1300) brought back a lot of information from China, but as I remember, the Venetians were unimpressed by a "barbaric" (probably meaning "un-Christian") civilization.

I do know that Chinese ships sailed practically the whole world. One reason they stopped is most likely the great tsunami of 1422 [or maybe 1500] that destroyed a large Chinese fleet near New Zealand (search 'mahuika event'). After that, the Emperor said "no more sea exploration".

"Can individuals own land or is land communal property?"

Some people have us look at the early Christians' communism, but the point is, that was voluntary, and the model used today is not (Soviet Russia, China, &c.)

"Do individuals have a right to keep the fruits of their labor and not be imprisoned at the whims of powerful people?"

Is that what they call a "loaded question"?

"... market economies and trade in the modern sense began more than a millennium ago in southern Europe eventually taking root in Northern Italy."

Where would you put the Silk Road on that continuum?

Michael W. Kruse

David Landes writes about the great success China's sailing merchants were having. They were so successful that they were becoming a threat to the Imperial bureaucracy. Around 1477 China's imperial government finally ordered the large "treasure" ships destroyed once they had all returned to China, and an official policy of isolationism was instituted after that.

While I'm sure many monarchs in Europe experienced similar angst with the rise of a merchant class, they could not simply end trade. The neighboring powers would simply expand their trade efforts leaving the isolationist country behind. This competition compelled European powers to make accommodations.

Thus, degree of centralized power over a region led to differing responses to an emerging merchant class.

"Is that what they call a "loaded question"?"

I don't think so at all. The fact that we might think it to be a loaded question actually makes my case. It is taken for granted by most of us today that we have a right to our personal property. That is not how it has been understood throughout much of history.

"Where would you put the Silk Road on that continuum?"

I'm distinguishing between an economy with markets and a market economy. Throughout history there has always been a measure of trade and markets. But the overwhelming majority labor of most of the people was expended growing their own food, making their own clothes, and providing their own shelter.

The Greco-Roman world existed on the patron-client model where specialized work was done on behalf of a patron who then provided for your needs. Feudalism was similar in Europe. Generally only a small wealthy minority of populations engaged in significant trade. This is what I mean by an economy with markets

By market economy, I mean most of the population providing for themselves through the production of goods and services to exchange with others who are doing the same.

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