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Neolithic agricultural revolution and the origins of private property

Neolithic agricultural revolution and the origins of private property

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Humankind first started farming in Mesopotamia about 11,500 years ago. Subsequently, the practices of cultivating crops and raising livestock emerged independently at perhaps a dozen other places around the world, in what archaeologists call the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution. It’s one of the most thoroughly-studied episodes in prehistory — but a new paper in the Journal of Political Economy shows that most explanations for it don’t agree with the evidence, and offers a new interpretation. With farming came a vast expansion of the realm over which private property governed access to valued goods, replacing the forager social norms around sharing food upon acquisition. A common explanation is that farming increased labor productivity, which then encouraged the adoption of private property by providing incentives for the long-term investments required in a farming economy. “But it’s not what the data are telling us”, says Santa Fe Institute economist Samuel Bowles, a co-author of…
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