The hunter, one is tempted to say, is “uneconomic man”. At least as concerns non subsistence goods, he is the reverse of that standard caricature immortalized in any General Principles of Economics, page one. His wants are scarce and his means (in relation) plentiful. Consequently he is “comparatively free of material pressures”, has “no sense of possession”, shows “an undeveloped sense of property”, is “completely indifferent to any material pressures”, and mani- fests a “lack of interest” in developing his technological equipment. In this relation of hunters to worldly goods there is a neat and impor- tant point. From the internal perspective of the economy, it seems wrong to say that wants are “restricted”, desires “restrained”, or even that the notion of wealth is “limited”. Such phrasings imply in advance an Economic Man and a struggle of the hunter against his own worse nature, which is finally then subdued by a cultural vow of poverty. The words imply the renunciation of an acquisitiveness that in reality was never developed, a suppression of desires that were never broached. Economic Man is a bourgeois construction- as Marcel Mauss said, “not behind us, but before, like the moral man”. It is not that hunters and gatherers have curbed their materialistic “impulses”; they simply never made an institution of them.
An economic policy that only pursues growth will always lead to debt. And debt is a dangerous journey through time, while interest is a sinister weapon. Those who don’t know how to handle it end up in a medieval debtors’ prison, as the Greeks are experiencing today.
In [the] common-sense view, the State and the Market tower above all else as diametrically opposed principles. Historical reality reveals, however, that they were born together and have always been intertwined. The one thing that these misconceptions have in common, we will find, is that they tend to reduce all human relations to exchange, as if our ties to society, even to the cosmos itself, can be imagined in the same terms as a business deal. This leads to another question: If not exchange, then what? In chapter five, I will begin to answer the question by drawing on the fruits of anthropology to describe a view of the moral basis of economic life; then return to the question of the origins of money to demonstrate how the very principle of exchange emerged largely as an effect of violence—that the real origins of money are to be found in crime and recompense, war and slavery, honor, debt, and redemption[…] For a very long time, the intellectual consensus has been that we can no longer ask Great Questions. Increasingly, it’s looking like we have no other choice.
Eternal economic growth is impossible on a finite Earth. And the longer we continue on this path, the more we destroy. What we can say is that a money system that needs a growing mass of money to function, is not suited for a sustainable society.
Africa, in fact, is now one of the world’s fastest-growing economic regions. Between 2000 and 2008, the continent’s collective GDP grew at 4.9 percent per year — twice as fast as in the preceding two decades. By 2008, that put Africa’s economic output at $1.6 trillion, roughly on par with Russia and Brazil. Africa was one of only two regions — Asia being the other — where GDP rose during 2009’s global recession. And revenues from natural resources, the old foundation of Africa’s economy, directly accounted for just 24 percent of growth during the last decade; the rest came from other booming sectors, such as finance, retail, agriculture, and telecommunications. Not every country in Africa is resource rich, yet GDP growth accelerated almost everywhere.
Government reforms, greater political stability, improved macroeconomics, and a healthier business environment are now taking hold in a region long dismissed as hopeless. Inflation fell to an average of 8 percent in the 2000s after a decade during which it hovered at 22 percent. African countries have lowered trade barriers, cut taxes, privatized companies, and liberalized many sectors, including banking. Africa now boasts more than 100 domestic companies with revenue greater than $1 billion. And capital flows to the continent increased from just $15 billion in 2000 to $87 billion in 2007. With good reason: Africa offers the highest rate of return on investment of any region in the world.