Food Surplus

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 17th, 2011

Economics 101

The System of Hunting and Gathering has one Fatal Flaw – it Takes a Lot of Land which Results in War

Economics can be complicated.  Why?  Because it’s not an exact science.  It’s a social science.  That means it is opinion.  And theory.  Things aren’t black and white.  They’re gray.  Because of this it is necessary to know history.  To know what has worked.  And what hasn’t.  So let’s go back to a significant development that kicked off economic activity.  Trade.

When we were hunters and gatherers there wasn’t much economic activity.  And our lives were simpler.  All we did was search for food.  Built tools to help us hunt and gather.  Made our own clothes to help us hunt and gather.  And when we bumped into other hunters and gatherers we fought.  To expand the borders of our hunting and gathering grounds.  Making this time a violent time.  Where the fittest survived.  The strongest civilizations conquered the weaker ones.  Took their food.  Killed them.  And expanded into their territory.  Allowing stronger civilizations to grow.  At the expense of weaker civilizations.

Those most adept at killing others, then, advanced.  Putting civilizations onto a war path.  For survival.  It was inevitable.  For the system of hunting and gathering has one fatal flaw.  It takes a lot of land.  And as a civilization grew so did their hunting and gathering grounds.  Which brought civilizations together.  Into conflict.  As they fought over limited food resources.  To subsist.

The Development of Agriculture Made our Lives Better

Everything they did they did for one reason.  To survive.  There were no luxuries.  No entertainment.  It was a miserable existence simply to survive from day to day.  Life was hard.  And we died young from age.  We were lucky to see 40.  And those who did suffered from rotting teeth, arthritis, broken bones or other maladies.  Things that we manage today.  But not then.  Back then, people could die if they lost their teeth.  Because if they couldn’t chew animal meat or nuts, they didn’t eat animal meat or nuts.  There were no dentists then.  Or dentures.

Or our environment killed us.  Or our enemies.  In the prime of our youth.

What changed this?  What made life better?  The shrinking of hunting and gathering grounds.  Allowing more and more people to live on a smaller area of land.  And one thing made that possible.  The development of agriculture.  Growing food.  With our new farming skills.  And our new animal husbandry skills.  Domesticating and breeding animals.

A Surplus of Food, and the things that this Surplus let us Create, Introduced Economic Activity and Peace

With agriculture came advanced civilizations.  A better life.  And peace.  Because we were able to produce a food surplus.  Which let people do other things.  They didn’t have to hunt and gather for subsistence.  And it’s that surplus of food, and the things that this surplus let us create, that introduced economic activity.  Because we had things we could trade with other people.  Transforming us from warring civilizations of hunters and gatherers.  To peaceful civilizations of traders.  Which gave us the world we know today.

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God Bless the Internal Combustion Engine

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 10th, 2010

Oxen were better than people.  Horses were better than oxen.  Steam engines were better than horses.  And internal combustion engines were better than steam engines.  Better at what you ask?  Making it better.  For people.  And our environment.

When we learned to farm we didn’t have to gather anymore.  When we developed animal husbandry, we didn’t have to hunt anymore.  This led to peace.  Because hunter and gatherers need a lot of land to hunt and gather on.  Often they tried to hunt and gather on the same land others were hunting and gathering on.  And when hunting party met hunting party, they used their weapons on each other.  To protect their food supply.  So they could survive a very harsh existence.

When we took control of our food supply (farming and animal husbandry), societies grew.  Life was still tenuous.  But less so.  The work was hard.  And life was short.  People worked from dawn to dusk.  Everyone.  Men, women and children.  In the fields.  Working along draft animals.  Stepping in their feces.  Battling the flies.  And disease.  Dirty drinking water.  Dysentery.  Famine.  The steam engine changed that.  It greatly increased productivity.  Letting people to do things other than work in the fields.  And there was much more food.  Then the internal combustion engine greatly improved on that productivity.  Increasing farm yields.  Increasing life spans.  They made less pollution than the steam engine.  And drew no flies.

Energy.  Power.  It’s what makes life better.  A single steam engine could replace a team of horses.  And do more with less.  But steam boilers were complicated.  And could be dangerous.  Though better than horses, they needed a lot of fuel and water.  Look at a steam locomotive.  It had to stop along the way to refuel and re-water.  Often.  That’s a lot of infrastructure.  A diesel-electric locomotive doesn’t.  The internal combustion engine can work harder, travel longer and requires less maintenance.  Petroleum contains a lot of energy.  It’s a liquid that can be stored, handled and carried easily.  There’s never been a better fuel.  Small tanks can power engines giving vehicles freedom of mobility, speed and distance.  There would be no such things as emergency medical helicopters, fire engines, ambulances or trucks (to stock our grocery stores) without the internal combustion engine.  You just can’t power these vehicles with battery-electric engines.

Batteries have to charge.  And that takes time.  You just won’t be able to pull into a charge station on the highway for a quick charge.  At best you could change out a battery.  But batteries are expensive.  I guess you could get a core deposit on the discharged battery.  Then again, how would the charging station owner know it can hold a charge?  He or she would be taking a big risk.  Or the next driver to get that battery would.  Provided it was compatible with that driver’s car.  And changing a battery is probably not something a 19 year-old secretary could easily do herself on her way to work.  Could there even be a self-service charging station?  And with the shorter range, God help her if her battery charge runs low late at night (because she turned on her headlights) when there is no mechanic available to change her battery.  If she can make it to a charging station.

The internal combustion engine and petroleum give us a modern, safe and healthy life.  Life has never been better since the internal combustion engine.  And the only way a battery-engine will replace that is if the battery-engine comes with an internal combustion engine backup.  That provides a far, far greater range than the battery-engine.  And can be refueled easily.  Conveniently.  And if that’s the only way a battery-electric car will work, why bother with the battery-electric engine?  I mean, the backup engine could get a whole lot better fuel economy if it didn’t have to carry around that dead weight.

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