A Brief History of Money, Government, Religion, Science, and Why They Evolved
2.1 The Conception of Tools, Money, Agriculture, Government, and Religion
Tens of thousands of years ago before the most powerful institutions that control us developed, human beings were much simpler. Our identities developed in many of the same ways as other mammals like us because we lacked a great deal of self-awareness (as some humans still do). Most of our actions and thoughts were motivated by our innate instinct to survive, and our lives didn’t involve much more than our daily pursuits to stay alive. But eventually as we became more aware of ourselves and our environments, we began to question our relationship with them and see the potential uses for objects and resources we had previously ignored. This was the foundation of technology. We know roughly when this occurred because archaeologists have used carbon dating to determine the age of the tools our ancestors left behind.
Physical tools that make survival easier are not unique to humans. There are many examples of animals that use tools like other primates. Some primates have also been trained to speak sign language and surely the potential for more is there. In fact, most organisms manipulate their environment in order to survive but mostly in ways that are biologically programmed. Human tool use initially was not different, but it evolved radically over time.
The first species of the human genus (Homo) is named habilis or “handy man,” perhaps implying tool use is the defining characteristic of man. The realization that objects can be manipulated to help us with our lives is the foundation of all modern technology. One could say all technology, in fact, became inevitable as soon as we became self-aware and saw the alternate applications of ordinary objects. Humans of the Homo habilis species didn’t use stone tools for defense or hunting. Their primary purpose was scavenging, but their tool use laid the groundwork for much more advanced tools. The oldest discovered stone tools are about 3.3 million years old1 and they predate the evolution of Homo sapiens by millions of years.
The change in perception and experimentation that made our ancestors able to see multiple applications for resources that they would otherwise treat with indifference stimulated substantial brain growth2. It also expanded, if not created, humanity’s conception of ownership and property and was a catalyst for mankind’s domination over the natural world. Before the very first tools were invented, humans did not claim to own much, except for food. But technology gave us far more to claim ownership of and our value systems changed radically over time as a result. The invention of money did the same. Money almost immediately set up a system that maintained power among the already powerful. Most importantly, technology and money profoundly changed what given advantages individuals had to facilitate their survival. People began to feel they had a right to hoard natural resources and this eventually resulted in vast inequalities. Hierarchies developed to defend “possessions”, and weapons technology grew more advanced. The purpose of tool use eventually shifted from aiding survival to dominance.
When money first developed, it did not initially have a profound impact on human identity because trade was not nearly as extensive as it is now and money was used far less often. People did not rely on any one type of currency until modern forms of fiat currency were invented. But the establishment of money also facilitated more middle men between traders, as well as buyers and sellers of labor, resulting in more exploitation and separation between classes, physically and ideologically.
The oldest discovered forms of jewelry are between 100,000 and 135,000 years ago.3 However, it is unclear whether or not they were traded or just used for decoration or to adorn the dead. Either way they did not have fixed value because they were naturally occurring resources like seashells and ochre and they required no manipulation to have value. At this time, anything that was rare, personally significant, or both could be used to trade goods. Supply and demand are usually the chief variables that determine the value of products and services. Gold and silver are very rare, which is what makes them so valuable. Gold and silver, as well as other precious metals and stones are still highly valued, of course, but their value fluctuates greatly due to supply and demand and changes in economies. Precious metals and stones differ from proto-money in that they take a very long time to develop naturally. Diamonds, for example, take 1-3.3 billion years to develop naturally. Proto-money like seashells, however, is created all of the time. If all of the available precious metals and stones were mined at once and they were openly put on the market, their value would greatly decrease.
Money is just another tool like the first stone tools of our early ancestors. But money also made humans more vulnerable. When we value more, we have more to lose, and this predictably causes much conflict. But if we all came to realize that hoarding money and resources (beyond what is needed to survive) is selfish and unnecessary, we would start to value and protect life and ecosystems that have far more inherent value.
Some human-made tools made our ancestors’ lives easier and they allowed weaker humans to survive. They made them see there was more to life than their daily routine, because when tools reached a certain level of complexity, survival wasn’t nearly as much of a struggle. Some humans began to take it for granted and believe they were entitled to more than they had. It also became possible to amass greater “wealth” and people as cultures grew more organized. Greater problems arose when humans began to exploit vast numbers of people, tools, and resources to serve their own interests. The advent of organized religion gave many a way to explain the source of their alleged entitlement. The centralization of control over money, tools, and land also made conflict and war far more common. Eventually, survival the fittest no longer applied to humans and was replaced by a sort of survival of the scummiest.
The Neolithic Revolution occurred when our ancestors began to understand how plants reproduce and to grow them from seed. The hunting and gathering way of life became less common where the Neolithic Revolution spread. This encouraged our ancestors to make shelters and build farms so they could reside in one place permanently or for long periods of time. It made sense for humans to live closer together. Survival was potentially easier in large groups (as long as everyone was able to collaborate and organize fairly). More people came together for common interest, but eventually there was more competition over resources. The concentration of power among privileged individuals eventually resulted in formal hierarchies and governments. Money became more valuable because governments made people rely on it for survival, and conflict over land became more widespread as unclaimed land became sparser. The invention of agriculture shouldn’t be blamed for this as there’s enough land on Earth for everyone to grow their own crops. It just isn’t distributed equitably or equally because of the greed of our rulers, historic and present.
As our ancestors became more organized, large settlements expanded and technology became more complex and intricate. The most powerful people wanted to control land “rights” and property to make sure none of “their land” was stolen. Governments claimed they were “needed” to ensure there was “order and stability.” But early governments failed to uphold order and human dignity. The people in power, for the most part, did not care about the people they governed. They just did not want the land or capital they claimed taken away, and they wanted to hoard more of both.
Rulers claimed they were needed in society because there was more to value and take away, but unspoken and unofficial rules had existed thousands of years before this time without official enforcers of these rules or formal rulers. There were common understandings and principles well before governments, and they were better implemented before centralized powers rose. These powers wanted what people had and their admiration because they felt they deserved it, and many attempted to justify their exploitation and theft by claiming they were “Gods” or at least close to Gods. The leaders of Ancient Egyptian governments, for example, almost all claimed to be connected to God or Gods assuming human-form. Religions acted as a foundation for many governments because religions gave rise to novel types of hierarchies. Because so little was understood at the time, it is understandable why our ancestors did believe some other humans were greater mortal authorities who were connected to these “powers.”
A notable example of fertile land that was a constant source of conflict is the Fertile Crescent, a region in the Middle East shaped like a crescent, which includes the Levant, Ancient Mesopotamia, and Ancient Egypt. Halaf culture developed there in 5500 BC. There was ready access to water and the ground was rich in nutrients. Mesopotamia was conquered by many different cultures throughout its history in large part because of the fertility of the land, and religion played a role in many of these conquests.
The designers of governments created the concept of legal land ownership. But the first governments wanted more than land. They also wanted people. The first governments almost immediately enslaved the populace, including those of many Mesopotamian cultures. The Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest legal texts found in Mesopotamia, tells us slavery was already an established institution at the time of its creation in 1772 BCE. But the use of slavery predates written records, so it is not known for certain when slavery first became common. Under the Code, individuals who harbored runaway slaves could face execution by the state. These laws were allegedly written under the instruction of the Sun God.4 The Code also established “eye for an eye” type of punishments, to which the New Testament refers.
Most large, ancient governments also had extremely cruel and unjust laws in addition to slavery. Ancient Babylonia, (where the Code of Hammurabi was created) in particular, had very Draconian laws. If someone stole an animal in Babylonia and couldn’t pay the fine, (the first laws were, of course, highly classist) he would be killed. This was the eighth law. Execution was a common punishment for most crimes there. In Ancient Egypt, mutilation was much more common. Egypt didn’t imprison or enslave those who were in debt. However, if a man broke a law, usually his whole family was punished. Women were considered legal equals in Egypt in that they could own their own property, file for divorce, or file suit, so it wasn’t as misogynistic as some later societies, but women were not treated as equals in all contexts.5 There was also a mere ten shekel (a small unit of currency) punishment for striking a pregnant woman and causing a stillbirth. If the woman died as well, the man’s daughter was to be killed, according to their law.
The ancient Grecian and Roman empires were also fueled by slavery and extremely controlling and oppressive of common women (possibly more than the Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures were). Women were essentially treated as slaves in Rome and Greece aside from empresses and a scant few others in positions of royalty or nobility. In Ancient Greece common women were forced to cover their features, they were not allowed to have sex before marriage, and they were essentially treated as property of their husbands. According to article VI. 2 of the Code of Law in Rome of the Twelve Tables, “If a man and woman live together continuously for a year, they are considered to be married; the woman legally is treated as the man’s daughter. V. 1 Our ancestors saw fit that females, by reason of levity of disposition, shall remain in guardianship, even when they have attained their majority.”6 These laws said a great deal about how rulers perceived women. They used women for carnal pleasures, (especially those like Roman emperor, Caligula) and many no longer felt the need to receive consent. Rape, coercion, and forced marriages became more common. Relationships likely became undervalued, and immediate pleasures became more important to some than lasting, meaningful, and reciprocal pleasures.
When survival is not difficult because of technology, inheritances, or a reliance on slave labor (or an essentially enslaved working class), relationships and people can seem less important, and the richest often become less motivated to put effort and consideration into their own existence. Money splits people into further, very disparate castes.
Relationships also changed as rape became common. Technology was likely never more important to humans than sex, but when humans began claiming ownership over people, women were the most often valuable and fought over. While rape is often driven by a sick desire to assert power or dominance, rape may have evolved out of strange conventions and expectations of both genders, some of which create desperation, distrust, and skewed perceptions of intimacy. When rape became more common, this resulted in the reduction of loving, meaningful relationships. At this time, some humans no longer killed just to survive (and this includes members of their own species). They killed other animals because they enjoyed the taste of food. They killed people because they wanted the feeling of power that comes with it, their possessions, or both, and they had sex because they enjoyed that too. (However, humans likely started having sex for pleasure long before the invention of hierarchies.) But disrespect for consent and human dignity grew out of inequality, hierarchy, systems of patriarchy, and unreasonable expectations of people.
When living beings are viewed as unimportant, everything left to gain is material, and many are able to justify (at least to themselves) controlling or oppressing more people to get it. Some also truly believe the significance of their rulers is endowed from God. But what they don’t recognize is that their leaders’ inherited advantages do not make them any more important than anyone else, because people have little control over what advantages they are given. But we can choose to reject certain advantages and give them away freely to people in need.
Gradually, the collective influence of governments with centralized power and large organized religions put an end to the autonomy of most places on Earth. In many regions, they also hindered creative thinking and the progress of science, which will be discussed in a later section of this book. When money and tools were first invented they made humans less dependent on good genes and more dependent on the amount of resources, knowledge, and tools they inherited from their families or communities. The most fit humans for survival were just individuals who happened to inherit a great deal, so this set evolution on a very different course. Governments also made collaboration almost completely impossible for anyone living under them. Castes were highly separated to keep the poor in chains.
At the onset of the Neolithic revolution when plant reproduction was first understood, if one was intelligent, survival was possible without being physically fit at all and this initially had a very positive impact on humanity. But once governments began controlling land, individuals could not grow crops anywhere they liked. The concept of legal land ownership immediately established a system made for the poor to stay poor and the rich to stay rich. This kept most people trapped in poverty so the few financial rulers could stay wealthy, and the creation of alternative, cooperative systems became less feasible and intuitive.
2.2 Fiat Currency Today and the Division of Labor
Ever since money embedded itself into human culture, the richest no longer needed to make significant biological adaptations because they could change their environments to better suit their genes and needs. Money and inherited advantages now affect our ability to survive more than adaptations that would further the human race or produce the most humans. This is problematic because it leaves us unprepared to deal with the world outside of the artificial systems humans have created, and these systems leave most neglected, including other species and ecosystems.
Individuals no longer have to rely on their bodies for hunting, gathering, or agriculture if they have money. Money can provide food, water, shelter, health-care, housing, and more. The range of things we can buy has only increased significantly. We do not need to be fit to survive anymore. We don’t even need to be healthy or intelligent. We just need a great deal of money. But this has made our relations zero-sum equations, destroyed the planet, and this focus on wealth isn’t healthy for anyone.
To get a good job and earn money in a legal way, we generally need formal education because this is generally what employers care about most, but without money, matriculation is a difficult process. Education and the knowledge needed to survive have always been treated as luxuries primarily afforded to the rich in capitalist civilizations. Some financially poor regions don’t even have schools or available jobs, and because governments make it very hard to be independent of them, it has become far more difficult for most people to survive. Those who live off the land without government or money have been largely criminalized, pushed out, wiped out, or forced to work for industrial nations and so we have become separated from the natural resources that sustain us. Governments and corporations have privatized natural resources and turned them into commodities. The corporate-state driven division of labor has also alienated workers from what we make and removed us from the big picture so that manufacturers of technology like nuclear weaponry can more easily attempt to justify what they do since individually they “just build one small part.”
The division of labor has also forced us into schools where we spend years studying one incredibly narrow field, ignoring so many other aspects of the world and deadening ourselves to the world outside of ourselves. With our highly specialized education, when there is a surplus of the niche we produce, we’re not trained to survive any other way, meaning we have to continue to produce something that’s not needed for the sake of our own survival, which is insane. Skills that once directly provided sustenance have become professionalized and the knowledge too is privatized, not only limiting access to knowledge but also limiting the scope of people who are allowed to become educators. The government punishes unlicensed practitioners of most trades, making independent work all but impossible where governments claim jurisdiction and have the resources to enforce it. And the taxation of property forces owners to produce something of economic value as opposed to just letting nature takeover. This is the ecocidal and thus suicidal, capitalist drive for constant accumulation in a finite world. The ubiquity of this pressure has forced stewards of the land out of natural spaces and into cities where they are forced to assimilate and give up their culture. Native peoples are the most prominent example. In fact, the US government actually attempted to justify the theft of native lands by claiming that since the natives were not making money from the land, they didn’t own it.
Money is not considered a survival tool by many of the richest individuals. It is just a tool to flaunt and manipulate. Many people don’t mind doing jobs that don’t require great intelligence or thinking because they are easy, but they still live paycheck-to-paycheck, except for heavily unionized workers like longshoremen in the US. Perhaps more importantly, when we use our brains less and less for endeavors not related to work, our brains can become like simple tools used only to compute or repeat tasks, and this impedes our ability to think creatively or critically to recognize and address the wrongs in civilization, as well as to live our lives as fully as possible.
We could use our brains’ higher functions to reduce or eliminate our reliance on corrupt governments and cut-throat capitalist markets. We could use them to apply ourselves and do what makes us happy and motivated, but most people are not able to do either. These institutions want us to focus on shallow, temporary highs because that is how they feed their own desires for the same. If everyone had access to enough that they need to survive, and individual communities functioned through collaboration, mutual respect, and equitable socioeconomic relations, there would be no rational reason to ever steal or harm other innocent people, and formal governments would have a much harder time convincing the public they’re needed.
Governments fail to eliminate or even reduce the will for destructive crime, and they are often the worst perpetrators of these crimes. They also have the power to define crime, so having dark skin or being gay can be made a crime if it serves the interests of those in power. Tyrants were the first leaders of governments, and tyrants (some in disguise as philanthropists) rule most governments today.
Most of the work we get paid for has nothing to do with what we get in return for it. Most of us contribute to our community by doing the things we are best at and receive money in return, which buys us the products and services we could not otherwise ascertain. But we can do this without fiat currency through barter, a resource based economy, cryptocurrency, or through a dynamic social currency. Fiat currency is not necessary to ensure weak, young, elderly or disabled people survive and it never has ensured all survive as long as possible. As mentioned, billions of people die easily preventable deaths due to their financial destitution.
Most people who have jobs with modest wages are self-reliant in a sense because their work provides them with the capital they need to survive. But they still rely on their employers to provide that capital, and governments take advantage of this reliance. They see labor as a commodity and people are bought and sold like commodities. This is unfortunately seen as normal by many. Subsistence via a job in the marketplace also relies on the health of the marketplace. It is dependent on a myriad of international factors, such as which countries are in decline and which are on the rise, exports / imports, tariffs, and so on. The whole system is tenuous to say the least and it relies on the destruction and exploitation of vulnerable people and the Earth.
If we rely on one way to subsist, (especially if it’s a highly specialized skill that requires technology like computer programming) we have no easy way of adapting if there is an abundance of what we’re providing or our jobs are replaced by someone else or computers or there is a crash in the marketplace or rapid inflation. Specializing in one type of work for the rest of our lives makes us reliant on capitalism, which encourages constant economic growth even when there is no need and the ecological and human cost of “growth” far exceeds the economic growth. So it may not matter to you if people don’t need what you provide anymore because that’s how you subsist and perhaps support your family. The reaction to surplus in capitalist societies is not generally “What can I produce now that is needed?” It’s “How can I get people to think they need more of what they already have?”
We live on a planet with finite resources. Resources can be recycled potentially for as long as the planet exists but if we continue to constantly extract resources, waste them, pollute the planet, litter, refrain from recycling, and produce products without any concern for the balance of every living organism’s needs, we will end up with a dead planet. This way of living is limiting, it creates surplus, waste, destruction of natural habitat, and it’s not the way we were meant to live. We were made to subsist by living off the land, growing crops, scavenging, and hunting, and we must return to this way of life and our connection with nature.
Governments have done irreparable harm to us. Of course, we need rules but we don’t need rulers. Everyone needs to be in agreement about the rules that exist in society, (as in direct democracies) however difficult this may be to achieve. This will require communities to become smaller, but closer knit, and be built on a voluntary basis. Seceding from the United States has often been labeled a “fringe, extremist” idea. But just how united are the United States? We don’t agree on much. State laws are all very different, and state governments reflect what their constituents want more than the federal government does because local politicians live right there with us. We are able to make them more accountable. Of course, state governments are still oppressive and having no government at all would be ideal but seceding from the federal government would at least be better than living under them as well, and it would likely make more people realize that governments are the source of many of the ills of human life.
4 Harper, Robert Francis: The American Journal of Theology, Volume 8, No. 3, July 1904 Pg. 601. Journal.
5 Johnson, Janet H: “Women’s Legal Rights in Ancient Egypt” University of Chicago Press. 2002. Print.