Chapter 1 of course packet

Chapter 1 of course packet - CHAP. 1] INTRODUCTION TO...

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CHAP. 1] INTRODUCTION TO ECONOMICS 1 Chapter One INTRODUCTORY LECTURE This course has multiple themes as the syllabus indicates. It’s now important to reread the syllabus and give some thought to economics, what it is, how the economy affects our lives, and what we should expect from it. Most of the time we take it for granted, as if capitalism [or what we often call the market economy] has always existed and always will exist. We assume what we should be trying to explain, as Marx once said. This course does not take capitalism for granted and doesn’t assume that it will always exist. I don’t see it as “universal,” nor do I see it as “eternal.” Where did capitalism come from? How long will it last? What might bring about a new economy? Economics studies these kinds of questions. Here’s an example of how we might get some historical perspective on capitalism, humankind, and our earthly habitat. The Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. Capitalism started in the 16th century, about 400 years ago. Humans, of one kind or another, have inhabited the Earth for about 2-3 million years. So just with these simple stats, you can see that we haven’t had much experience with this economy that we call capitalism. In fact, for most of our human history we have been hunters and gatherers, living very sustainably, very simply, and very harmoniously with each other and nature. The Neolithic Revolution, that is, the Agricultural Revolution, changed all of that. People began to settle down and build permanent settlements. This occurred in the Middle East about 10,000 years ago. They became sedentary. They grew their food and herded domesticated animals. This is a key event in human history and one that is the main subject of Daniel Quinn’s books [ Ishmael, The Story of B, My Ishmael ]. Here’s the perspective. If we could collapse the entire history of the Earth into one 16mm film that ran continuously for one exact year [and to do this we would have to run the film at a faster-than-usual speed], humans wouldn’t show up in the film until late afternoon on New Year’s Eve. The film would run for 365 days before humans appeared in it! Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution wouldn’t make their appearance until a few minutes before midnight. Our time on Earth has been very brief; yet in the last few hundred years we have managed to produce so much, alter the Earth’s ecosystems so much, and tear up so much, that we are now jeopardizing the habitability of our biosphere [the Earth’s 50-mile envelope from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the atmosphere] that took almost 5 billion years to evolve! Given this kind of historical perspective, it is hard to believe that capitalism, and our particular culture of insatiability that grounds it, is eternal or universal.
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This note was uploaded on 04/30/2008 for the course NOT 001 taught by Professor Notaprofessor during the Spring '08 term at N. Arizona.

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Chapter 1 of course packet - CHAP. 1] INTRODUCTION TO...

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