Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is Trade What Makes Us Human?

It's conventional to argue that human intelligence, or tool using, or language, or cooperative spirit are what make us so uniquely successful as a species (depending on one's definition of success). But all of these supposed forms of uniqueness tend to be a little iffy - any number of animals also fit these descriptions, even, to some extent, possessing language. So here's a new, different claim, in line with our economistic times. Matt Ridley's "The Rational Optimist" argues that trade has provided the deepest foundation for what we have collectively accomplished.  It's a compelling claim, though I'm pretty sure it's well established that monkeys have forms of trade, so it may soon end up in the scrap pile, too.

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