Friday, September 30, 2016

The Inca Trail

The “Land of the Four Corners,”

Capitalism is a buying and selling society in which the human ability to work is bought and sold and results in the capitalist firms that employ them appropriating a surplus from their work, a surplus which takes a monetary form and most of which is re-invested as more capital. A society which exploited the producers but where the surplus extracted from them did not take this form would still be an exploitative class society but not capitalism.

it is possible to have a moneyless class society with a state. The Inca Empire is one such example. Yet they were one of the biggest and most powerful military empire in South America. The Incas were master builders and land planners, capable of extremely sophisticated mountain agriculture - and building cities to match. Incan society was so rich that it could afford to have hundreds of people who specialized in planning the agricultural uses of newly-conquered areas. They built terraced farms on the mountainsides whose crops - from potatoes and maize to peanuts and squash - were carefully chosen to thrive in the average temperatures for different altitudes. They also farmed trees to keep the thin topsoil in good condition. Incan architects were equally talented, designing and raising enormous pyramids, irrigating with sophisticated waterworks such as those found at Tipon, and creating enormous temples like Pachacamac along with mountain retreats like Machu Picchu. In terms of square miles, we're probably talking something like 300,000 sq miles (775,000 sq km),” he said, with a population as high as 12 million people. To support this empire, a system of roads stretched for almost 25,000 miles (roughly 40,000 km), about three times the diameter of the Earth. The road and aqueduct systems the Spanish encountered in the Andes were superior to those in Europe. Inca cities were as large as those of Europe, but more orderly and by all accounts much cleaner and more pleasant places in which to live.

And yet, despite all their productivity, the Incas managed without money or marketplaces.

The Inca Empire did trade with outside cultures to a limited extent, but internally they didn't have any trade and no currency at all. With only a few exceptions found in coastal polities incorporated into the empire, there was no trading class in Inca society, and the development of individual wealth acquired through commerce was not possible . . . A few products deemed essential by the Incas could not be produced locally and had to be imported. In these cases several strategies were employed, such as establishing colonies in specific production zones for particular commodities and permitting long-distance trade. People "paid" taxes in labor and got "paid" in return with food, clothing, etc. The caste system was not to be questioned; fact was fact – the Incan, an incarnation of the sun was leader and no one could bat an eye at their air-tight rationale. The nobility were at the top of the social totem pole, marked by constantly-enlarged ear holes filled with gold, jewels,

The production, distribution, and use of commodities were centrally controlled by the Inca government. Each citizen of the empire was issued the necessities of life out of the state storehouses, including food, tools, raw materials, and clothing, and needed to purchase nothing. With no shops or markets, there was no need for a standard currency or money, and there was nowhere to spend money or purchase or trade for necessities.

The Incas had a centrally planned economy, perhaps the most successful ever seen. Its success was in the efficient management of labor and the administration of resources they collected as tribute. Collective labor was the base for economic productivity and for the creation of social wealth in the Inca society. By working together people in the ayllu created such wealth that the Spanish were astonished with what they encountered. Every citizen was required to contribute with his labor and refusal or laziness was punishable with the death penalty. Labor was divided according to region, agriculture would be centralized in the most productive regions, ceramic production, road building, textile and other skills according to ayllus. The government collected all the surplus after local needs were met and distributed it where it was needed. In exchange for their work citizens had free clothing, food, health care and education. The Incas did not use money, in fact they did not need it. Their economy was so efficiently planned that every citizen had their basic needs met

The Inca economy was not based on a money system, and it did not have commerce (the buying and selling of goods, especially on a large scale) or free trade. The government made sure that everyone had enough land or goods to survive, and it managed the exchange of goods between faraway regions. There were no merchants acting on their own behalf. The government promised to take care of the old and the sick, using the large supply of surplus goods produced by mit'a labor. In times of famine, the government storehouses were opened to the public so that no one would starve. Instead of money, the Incas invested mit'a labor: They directed terracing and irrigation projects that enabled peasants to grow more food. Once surplus food was stored away, some of the people were able to quit farming and pursue other activities.

The “most unusual aspect of the Inca economy was the lack of a market system and money,” writes McEwan, with only a few exceptions there were no traders in the Inca Empire. “Each citizen of the empire was issued the necessities of life out of the state storehouses, including food, tools, raw materials, and clothing, and needed to purchase nothing.” There were no shops or markets, McEwan notes and, as such, “there was no need for a standard currency or money, and there was nowhere to spend money or purchase or trade for necessities.”

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