Inequality

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Jennifer
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Re: Inequality

Post by Jennifer » 15 Aug 2018, 13:41

thoreau wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 13:35
If early farmers had it worse than hunter-gatherers then why did they choose to farm? Were they already in large enough groups that a chieftain could force it upon them? Or was it possible that there were real downsides but even bigger upsides?
Basically because we painted ourselves into a corner (it's not as though humanity doesn't have a long, long history of ignoring or not thinking through long-term consequences). From the Harvard blog linked above:
Why did humans keep toiling to serve the wheat god?

For the same reason that people throughout history have miscalculated. People were unable to fathom the full consequences of their decisions. Whenever they decided to do a bit of extra work – say, to hoe the fields instead of scattering seeds on the surface – people thought, ‘Yes, we will have to work harder. But the harvest will be so bountiful! We won’t have to worry any more about lean years. Our children will never go to sleep hungry.’ … The first part of the plan went smoothly. People indeed worked harder. But people did not foresee that the number of children would increase, meaning that the extra wheat would have to be shared between more children. Neither did the early farmers understand that feeding children with more porridge and less breast milk would weaken their immune system, and that permanent settlements would be hotbeds for infectious diseases. They did not foresee that by increasing their dependence on a single source of food, they were actually exposing themselves even more to the depredations of drought. Nor did the farmers foresee that in good years their bulging granaries would tempt thieves and enemies, compelling them to start building walls and doing guard duty.

why didn’t humans abandon farming when the plan backfired? … population growth burned humanity’s boats. If the adoption of ploughing increased a village’s population from a hundred to 110, which ten people would have volunteered to starve so that the others could go back to the good old times? There was no going back. The trap snapped shut.
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thoreau
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Re: Inequality

Post by thoreau » 15 Aug 2018, 13:45

Oh, I can believe that quality of life declined at some point AFTER the adoption of farming, but there must have been an initial improvement or it never would have happened in the first place.
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JD
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Re: Inequality

Post by JD » 15 Aug 2018, 13:50

One theory that has come up is that people began farming in places where there was a reliable resource surrounded by (at least relatively) inhospitable areas - e.g., the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, Indus, and Yellow River valleys. Those encouraged people to remain in place and not go roaming off, but as population pressure increased, farming might have been more practical than continuing to hunt and gather.

As an aside, it's been noted that mobile hunter-gatherer societies don't tend to have coercive political structures, because...well, why would they? If the big man threatens you, you pick up and move away. And it isn't really feasible for the big man to maintain a power structure devoted to keeping you from doing that, because there isn't that much surplus to support an army or police force.
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Jennifer
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Re: Inequality

Post by Jennifer » 15 Aug 2018, 13:53

thoreau wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 13:35
If early farmers had it worse than hunter-gatherers then why did they choose to farm? Were they already in large enough groups that a chieftain could force it upon them? Or was it possible that there were real downsides but even bigger upsides?
How many bad trends in history "seemed like a good idea at the time?"

The upside is, humanity got to invent civilization, and a small potion of those newly civilized humans were the elites who did not have to spend their time growing food, but could instead feed off the surplus of others and spend their time developing the things that make life pretty good today -- writing, art, pottery, and all the things later built on those foundations. But for a lot of individuals in those early societies, life dd indeed get a lot worse.

I remember a theory I first came across while reading one of Carl Sagan's books, but have since seen more times than I can remember: the story of the Garden of Eden might be a mythologized retelling/remembrance of the shift from hunter-gatherer to farm life: first we lived in the garden and got our food from the bounty of nature, then God kicked us out of the garden and [quoth Genesis] "Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground."
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Re: Inequality

Post by JasonL » 15 Aug 2018, 14:01

That story is entirely too pat for me to, well, digest. It reeks of contrarian bias in the face of the general take on food anthropology as I understand it - which is always and forever you are trying to solve for regular supplies of calories and each iteration of food in society would not happen if that were not the net effect because everyone starved all the time and a migration backwards would have been unimaginable for anyone who had 12 dead kids who starved.

I would accept that the lack of diversity of food was a tradeoff for the regular supply of calories in more uniform diets under agricultural societies, and I would accept that that lack of diversity of food may have had nutritional effects that appeared more widely distributed, but it would be a tough sell to suggest that net of calorie availability and lack of starving on any given day the net effect was worse for more people.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Jennifer » 15 Aug 2018, 14:07

JasonL wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 14:01
That story is entirely too pat for me to, well, digest. It reeks of contrarian bias in the face of the general take on food anthropology as I understand it - which is always and forever you are trying to solve for regular supplies of calories and each iteration of food in society would not happen if that were not the net effect because everyone starved all the time and a migration backwards would have been unimaginable for anyone who had 12 dead kids who starved.

I would accept that the lack of diversity of food was a tradeoff for the regular supply of calories in more uniform diets under agricultural societies, and I would accept that that lack of diversity of food may have had nutritional effects that appeared more widely distributed, but it would be a tough sell to suggest that net of calorie availability and lack of starving on any given day the net effect was worse for more people.
Have you any evidence (skeletons, etc.) to support this theory, or is this another one of your hunches? (Again, talking about the earliest days of farming; I doubt anyone at this forum is trying to say that life today is worse than what hunter-gatherers had.)
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Re: Inequality

Post by JasonL » 15 Aug 2018, 14:08

BTW this reminds me of a favorite Econ Talk with Rachel Laudan (a food historian).

http://www.econtalk.org/rachel-laudan-o ... d-cuisine/

Guest: Well, let's go back to the Paleolithic. Human beings, it's pretty clear, were incredible careful and intelligent about inventorying the world's food sources. They knew what was edible and what was not. They experimented and found out what was poisonous and what was not. And the trick was to find something that was nutritious, that was storable, that was transportable. And most foodstuffs just don't live up to this. Most foodstuffs are available only episodically, in the summer, in the harvest season, or, if they are big game, they are only available when you've got a big catch. The really neat thing about grains is that they satisfy all those criteria. They are highly nutritious because they are food [?] plants. They are highly storable because they are hard and dry, and they don't rot and go bad. And they are highly transportable because they have a high food-value to weight ratio. Unlike, say, potatoes, which are very wet and heavy and therefore are hard to store and transport. So you have these little things that are potentially very, very useful year-round human food. The downside of them is that they are absolutely the worst foodstuffs or raw materials in the world to turn into something we can put into our mouths.

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Re: Inequality

Post by JasonL » 15 Aug 2018, 14:12

Jennifer wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 14:07
JasonL wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 14:01
That story is entirely too pat for me to, well, digest. It reeks of contrarian bias in the face of the general take on food anthropology as I understand it - which is always and forever you are trying to solve for regular supplies of calories and each iteration of food in society would not happen if that were not the net effect because everyone starved all the time and a migration backwards would have been unimaginable for anyone who had 12 dead kids who starved.

I would accept that the lack of diversity of food was a tradeoff for the regular supply of calories in more uniform diets under agricultural societies, and I would accept that that lack of diversity of food may have had nutritional effects that appeared more widely distributed, but it would be a tough sell to suggest that net of calorie availability and lack of starving on any given day the net effect was worse for more people.
Have you any evidence (skeletons, etc.) to support this theory, or is this another one of your hunches? (Again, talking about the earliest days of farming; I doubt anyone at this forum is trying to say that life today is worse than what hunter-gatherers had.)
I don't have that kind of evidence. The skeletons as I mentioned could be entirely survivorship biased. Instead of answering "among those who were born which category had a healthier life and lower risk of death" it is answering "among those who survived, was the remaining population healthier in population A or B". I don't think the latter question is what we are going after.

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Re: Inequality

Post by JasonL » 15 Aug 2018, 14:15

It's a bit like asking me if I can prove that people wouldn't choose to starve. I think the burden on the "totally they choose to starve across the entire planet in fact" has to meet a high evidentiary standard.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Jennifer » 15 Aug 2018, 14:17

BTW this reminds me of a favorite Econ Talk with Rachel Laudan (a food historian)....
Yeah, that's pretty much the same argument Jared Diamond made in "Guns, Germs and Steel" to explain why civilization started in some parts of the world but not others -- it had nothing to do with the relative intelligence of the people in various parts of the world, but was entirely based on what wild plants were available: the regions that had cereal grains could grow a surplus and develop civilization, regions without cereals could not.

But the question of "Is grain necessary for Stone Agers to start a civilization" (answer does appear to be "yes") is quite different from "Did ALL members benefit from the earliest civilizations, or did some people actually end up worse off as a result?" The available evidence shows that the actual farmers ended up worse off--though their great-great-great times a thousand descendants are better off thanks to their/our ancestors' developments.
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Re: Inequality

Post by JasonL » 15 Aug 2018, 14:20

Woo if you google this question you get a lot of nonsense noble savage type stuff. Gross.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Jennifer » 15 Aug 2018, 14:22

JasonL wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 14:15
It's a bit like asking me if I can prove that people wouldn't choose to starve. I think the burden on the "totally they choose to starve across the entire planet in fact" has to meet a high evidentiary standard.
As mentioned in the Harvard blog, it was not a conscious "choice", more like "It seemed like a good idea at the time, but by the time people realized the downsides, it was too late."

I suspect in a couple hundred or thousand years there will be similar debates about the mindset of the people who burned fossil fuels in quantities great enough to fuck with the climate: it wasn't "We totally choose to heat up the atmosphere across the entire planet in fact," it was "Hey, we discovered some amazing new energy sources which revolutionized our civilization, and by the time we started to realize there were some serious downsides it was too late for us to reverse course and go back to the lifestyle we had before we started relying on fossil fuels for energy." Although with us, there is at least the chance our technological know-how might somehow fix the problem -- figure out some way to get the same amount of energy [or live the same high-energy lifestyle] without increasing CO2 or methane levels -- but the early farm societies had no such option.
Last edited by Jennifer on 15 Aug 2018, 14:34, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Inequality

Post by nicole » 15 Aug 2018, 14:32

JasonL wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 14:20
Woo if you google this question you get a lot of nonsense noble savage type stuff. Gross.
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Re: Inequality

Post by JasonL » 15 Aug 2018, 15:05

Is that a movement?

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Re: Inequality

Post by nicole » 15 Aug 2018, 15:07

(One of) The crazy troll(s) at H&R used to post walls of text about hunter-gatherers gamboling before farming brought us all under the thumb of the Man.
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Re: Inequality

Post by Jasper » 15 Aug 2018, 16:20

JasonL wrote:
14 Aug 2018, 14:23
It is true that one more tier and I’d be expected to pull more hours. The thing here is 40 hours managed tightly for hourly, then salaried with 40 but considerable flexibility for whole lot of roles, then above that lots more. VP tier is the danger zone - and also where comp structures really shift.
Pretty much the same structure here, and I'm in the similar sweet spot of salaried 40 - 45 hours with barely any oversight.
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Re: Inequality

Post by Painboy » 15 Aug 2018, 16:28

It was my understanding that farming was just a trade off versus hunter gathering. Reliable (relatively) food source and no need to be nomadic but less nutritious. So while they may not have had as good health they had the advantage stability and defense. It's also likely early on that both were happening at the same time. Some stayed back while others went out to hunt for a week or so. Hunting providing other things than just food. With the domestication of herd animals that was likely reduced even more until it was only outliers and the nobility who hunted either for food or sport.

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Re: Inequality

Post by Kolohe » 15 Aug 2018, 17:08

thoreau wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 13:35
If early farmers had it worse than hunter-gatherers then why did they choose to farm? Were they already in large enough groups that a chieftain could force it upon them? Or was it possible that there were real downsides but even bigger upsides?
I think it's the farmers outbred the hunter-gatherers.
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thoreau
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Re: Inequality

Post by thoreau » 15 Aug 2018, 17:28

Kolohe wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 17:08
thoreau wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 13:35
If early farmers had it worse than hunter-gatherers then why did they choose to farm? Were they already in large enough groups that a chieftain could force it upon them? Or was it possible that there were real downsides but even bigger upsides?
I think it's the farmers outbred the hunter-gatherers.
Well, if (for the sake of argument, only for the sake of argument) it was the case that farming was actually a worse life, then the state of affairs several thousands could be summarized as "Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding..."
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Re: Inequality

Post by Kolohe » 15 Aug 2018, 18:18

& they didn't even own a TV.
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Re: Inequality

Post by Eric the .5b » 15 Aug 2018, 19:25

JasonL wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 14:01
That story is entirely too pat for me to, well, digest. It reeks of contrarian bias in the face of the general take on food anthropology as I understand it - which is always and forever you are trying to solve for regular supplies of calories and each iteration of food in society would not happen if that were not the net effect because everyone starved all the time and a migration backwards would have been unimaginable for anyone who had 12 dead kids who starved.
As I mentioned, a large portion of hunter-gatherer societies engaged in some part-time agriculture, clearing set areas and throwing out seeds to check back on later. Rather than people had a dumb idea and thus abandoned their superior lifestyle, even after it turned out to suck, it seems more plausible that during the start of a die-off, when the food supply started to get tight due to insufficient game and foragable foodstuffs for the population, some people doubled down on the agriculture and managed to weather the crisis better. ("Ugh, dealing with these plants is a lot of work. I'd rather hunt deer." "Have you found any deer, lately?" "...Let's deal with the plants.") At that point, it wouldn't take long to have more people in that clan/tribe/etc. farming than could possibly be supported as hunter-gatherers, since they were starting at near the critical point.
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Re: Inequality

Post by lunchstealer » 15 Aug 2018, 19:49

Eric the .5b wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 19:25
JasonL wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 14:01
That story is entirely too pat for me to, well, digest. It reeks of contrarian bias in the face of the general take on food anthropology as I understand it - which is always and forever you are trying to solve for regular supplies of calories and each iteration of food in society would not happen if that were not the net effect because everyone starved all the time and a migration backwards would have been unimaginable for anyone who had 12 dead kids who starved.
As I mentioned, a large portion of hunter-gatherer societies engaged in some part-time agriculture, clearing set areas and throwing out seeds to check back on later. Rather than people had a dumb idea and thus abandoned their superior lifestyle, even after it turned out to suck, it seems more plausible that during the start of a die-off, when the food supply started to get tight due to insufficient game and foragable foodstuffs for the population, some people doubled down on the agriculture and managed to weather the crisis better. ("Ugh, dealing with these plants is a lot of work. I'd rather hunt deer." "Have you found any deer, lately?" "...Let's deal with the plants.") At that point, it wouldn't take long to have more people in that clan/tribe/etc. farming than could possibly be supported as hunter-gatherers, since they were starting at near the critical point.
So what you're saying is climate change is to blame and hunter gatherers needed a carbon cap-and-trade scheme but were too selfish?
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Eric the .5b
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Re: Inequality

Post by Eric the .5b » 15 Aug 2018, 19:59

lunchstealer wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 19:49
Eric the .5b wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 19:25
JasonL wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 14:01
That story is entirely too pat for me to, well, digest. It reeks of contrarian bias in the face of the general take on food anthropology as I understand it - which is always and forever you are trying to solve for regular supplies of calories and each iteration of food in society would not happen if that were not the net effect because everyone starved all the time and a migration backwards would have been unimaginable for anyone who had 12 dead kids who starved.
As I mentioned, a large portion of hunter-gatherer societies engaged in some part-time agriculture, clearing set areas and throwing out seeds to check back on later. Rather than people had a dumb idea and thus abandoned their superior lifestyle, even after it turned out to suck, it seems more plausible that during the start of a die-off, when the food supply started to get tight due to insufficient game and foragable foodstuffs for the population, some people doubled down on the agriculture and managed to weather the crisis better. ("Ugh, dealing with these plants is a lot of work. I'd rather hunt deer." "Have you found any deer, lately?" "...Let's deal with the plants.") At that point, it wouldn't take long to have more people in that clan/tribe/etc. farming than could possibly be supported as hunter-gatherers, since they were starting at near the critical point.
So what you're saying is climate change is to blame and hunter gatherers needed a carbon cap-and-trade scheme but were too selfish?
No.

I'm saying hunter-gatherers were too foolish to invent modern medicine and birth control, so they got stuck having to deal with boom-and-bust cycles. Continuing their foolishness, some of them did not do the proper thing and contentedly starve to death, but they instead explored other options that kept them from having to fight hyenas for the meat on the bodies of their family members.
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JD
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Re: Inequality

Post by JD » 16 Aug 2018, 08:01

Eric the .5b wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 19:59
I'm saying hunter-gatherers were too foolish to invent modern medicine and birth control
Actually the birth control thing might not be totally correct. There is some evidence that h/g peoples had various ways - some conscious and intentional, some not - of controlling their population. Later age of menarche, earlier age of menopause, higher infant mortality, prolonged breastfeeding, sexual taboos, induced abortion, infanticide; all of these can have an impact on the reproductive rate.
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Re: Inequality

Post by Aresen » 16 Aug 2018, 17:15

JD wrote:
16 Aug 2018, 08:01
Eric the .5b wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 19:59
I'm saying hunter-gatherers were too foolish to invent modern medicine and birth control
Actually the birth control thing might not be totally correct. There is some evidence that h/g peoples had various ways - some conscious and intentional, some not - of controlling their population. Later age of menarche, earlier age of menopause, higher infant mortality, prolonged breastfeeding, sexual taboos, induced abortion, infanticide; all of these can have an impact on the reproductive rate.
Infanticide was the commonest form of 'birth control' until the advent of sterile surgery.
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