What they don’t teach you in Econ 101
History - World Released - Jan 09, 2013
Europe in 1000 A.D. The population is a fraction of what it is today and yet people do not have enough food to feed themselves. Kings are warring constantly, while the clergy--as with the serfs--are merely trying to survive. Europe is poor, ignorant, divided, and easy prey for the next band of barbarians to happen along.
Jump ahead three-hundred years and Europe is the most prosperous place on Earth, with an abundance of food, a wealth of luxuries, universities, soaring cathedrals, incredible art, and no longer prey but a predator looking to colonize distant lands.
What happened? Commerce happened, the rise of trade-- the importing and exporting of goods.
Commerce dramatically increased the production and variety of food, raised the standard of living, fostered “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic,” financed the Renaissance, built the gothic cathedrals, created the first universities, invented eye glasses, eliminated slavery in Europe, created the middle class, created cities, and brought some semblance of peace to the continent.
The merchant class, the men of trade, of money and banking, in going about their business, invented the corporation, created capitalism, fostered a spirit of tolerance and pluralism, ruled democratically, and dramatically raised the standard of living. Kings ruled the checkerboard of kingdoms and, of course, started wars, but inside the cities the merchant class ran the show. If you were a runaway serf, you found refuge--and a better job--in the city. The expression “the air breathes freer in the cities” is from this time.
The ruling class--the kings, the nobility and the clergy--did nothing to bring this about. They never do. If anything, they tried to stop it. The merchants, however, bribed them with gold and jewels, with fine silks, perfumes and spices, with art and fine furnishings--all the things they were importing from the east and their wealth was making possible. Mind you, the castles and churches were cold, stark places until the merchants filled their dreary walls with tapestries and their dreary chambers with art and gold, all to prevent the nobility and clergy from meddling in their affairs. It was a bargain, too.