Friday, September 17, 2004

Down with Primitivism!

Murray Rothbard has a nice insight here that I wish had occurred to me back when I was taking Social Studies classes in junior high:
it is absolutely illegitimate [to] infer the history of pre-Western civilization from analysis of existing primitive tribes. Let us never forget that the existing primitive tribes are precisely the ones that didn’t progress—that remained in their primitive state. To infer from observing them that this is the way our ancestors behaved is nonsense—and apt to be the reverse of the truth, for our ancestors presumably behaved in ways which quickly advanced them beyond the primitive stage thousands of years ago. To scoff, therefore, at the idea that our ancestors among primitive tribes engaged in barter, then in monetary exchange, etc., on the basis of the magic and games indulged in by present-day primitives, is a blunder of the highest order.

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