Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mixed Economy 200,000 BC

The economic systems of our close relatives, the chimpanzees and bonobos involve a very limited type of sharing. Meat is prized but hard to come by, and kills are typically appropriated by the most alpha male present. Typically he will share a portion with a few cronies - probably just enough of them to deter a mass attack by those without.

There is evidence that a quite different system had evolved among humans as early as 200,000 years ago, in which large kills were systematically shared by all members of a band, just as they are by extant and recent hunter gatherer bands.

Christopher Boehm thinks that this socialized distribution of major game, combined with severe punishment of would be bullies who would take more than their share, was the basis of the development of human morality. The sharing, by the way, only applies to big game, with each family on its own with respect to smaller scale gathering hauls.

The sharing pattern is probably necessary for big game hunting to be a major economic strategy, both because it helps even out good and bad hunting days and because whole group cooperation is probably needed to bring down the really large game animals.

Boehm, Christopher (2012-05-01). Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame. Basic Books. Kindle Edition.