MemberlistThe Library Index  FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   RegisterRegister   ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 
Paying For Megalithia (British History)
Reply to topic Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8  Next
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

As you may know Hatty and my book on Megalithia has had to be recast. Basically this means dropping all the walks and adding a whole bunch of new theory chapters. We have recently finished one each--me on how the system was paid for and Hatty on Megalithic saints so I shall post up both chapters, a short section each day, on separate threads, for generating any comments that may arise.
------------------------

Chapter Five: Paying For The System

Salt was the mainstay of the Megalithic economy. It was not only the most widely traded good, it was also the chief medium-of-exchange. The centrality of salt to the ancient economy is often given lipservice in orthodox accounts--salary being cognate with salt is the usual example given--but the true nature of salt is rarely explored. It has great resonances with the various stages of human development:
1. Salt is not a necessity to pre-agricultural man. Whatever Man was doing before the coming of agriculture there will be plenty of salt in his diet.
2. It becomes a near-necessity when he switches to a cereal diet because, as animal saltlicks testify, just eating grass may not provide sufficient salt for large mammals.
3. When farming includes animals as well as cereals, salt becomes a commodity because the preserving of meat is best done using salt.
4. When preserved food, whether cereals or meat, forms the main diet salt becomes a much sought after luxury to make such an otherwise bland diet acceptable.
5. When civilisation begins, salt becomes a raw material since a large number of industrial processes require salt.
6. Salt is plentiful in some places (the sea-shore, salt mines) but functionally absent everywhere else.
Send private message
Hatty
Site Admin

In: Berkshire
View user's profile
Reply with quote

It becomes a near-necessity when he switches to a cereal diet

Surely a relatively uncommon diet, which is presumably why vegetarianism became equated with rarefied spirituality?
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Paying For The System (cont)

At all stages of human development therefore salt is certain to be in demand and the transport of salt to be necessary. But here is another oddity about salt: is it a bulk item? When we think of, say, a bar of salt and then contemplate moving it across rough country on the back of a mule (or indeed on the back of a pedlar) it seems to be a bulk item, but on the other hand a mule train carrying the real bulk item, with one mule carrying enough salt to pay tolls along the way, seems an equally practical proposition.

But that is why salt is such a good medium of exchange: its uses are so well graded that the transport infrastructure will always reflect demand at all stages of development and at all places. In one part of the world salt caravans head for the interior and exchange the stuff for gold, but in other areas at the same time shiploads of the stuff are available so it can be used just to speed up the dyeing of cloth or in some other quite mundane industrial process. And ancient transportation methods are such that both situations can be true at the same place. At Carthage for example, perhaps the leading 'Megalithic' centre of its time.
Send private message
Donmillion


In: Acton, Middlesex
View user's profile
Reply with quote

So far, so good, though I'm concerned about the opening statement, "Salt was the mainstay of the Megalithic economy". This is stated as an absolute, a fact; I think a reader is entitled to wonder, "Is this a known fact, or is it a likely supposition based on the logically sensible statements in the numbered list?

Any references for Carthage?
Send private message Send e-mail
Ishmael


In: Toronto
View user's profile
Reply with quote

The cancer spreads.
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

You mistake the genre, Don. There are academic books in which the authors cite one another. In other words they are not permitted to say anything new. There are Applied Epistemological books in which the author cites only himself. In other words he is not allowed to say anything unless it is new.

You request authority for saying that salt was the mainstay of the ancient (trading) economy. My authority is M J Harper. You weren't around at the time but I...we... spent many years establishing this fact (or factette since the actual truth is not knowable). The ordinary reader of course will take my word for it (or not) because this is Chapter Seven of a book in which I have spent six chapters establishing my bona fides (or not).

However, since you have raised the point I can assure you that there are dozens of specialists who would agree with me that salt was the lynchpin (they are mostly salt specialists).

The Carthage mention came about thus. Originally the paragraph ended with the sentence "And ancient transportation methods are such that both situations can be true at the same place." But during the editing process I decided that the reader might be confused with the idea that salt can be both cheap and dear at the same place so I decided to mention Carthage because then the reader would instantly understand that salt itself would be cheap at Carthage but would become very expensive when it was transported inland to be exchanged for gold (at Timbuktu by popular repute). The point being that everybody knows this.

Did it actually happen at Carthage? I have no idea but I would be staggered if it didn't. When I added the Carthage bit it reminded me that Carthage sits next to a great salt lake and that this might even have been the origin of Carthage's prosperity. I was going to expand on the theme but when I googled various combinations I couldn't find the name of the lake (or even whether it was salty) so I just abandoned the idea. As I keep saying, another one will be along in five minutes.

So, if you want to make yourself useful, you can do two things:
1. When you know for a fact that something I have written is wrong then sing out.
2. Whenever you know anything about the subject in hand try to think of helpful nuggets that will improve the book.

You will get no thanks and no citations but you will be given a small plinth in Applied Epistemological heaven. And possibly Ishmael will stop abusing you but don't count on it.
Send private message
Donmillion


In: Acton, Middlesex
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Mick Harper wrote:
You mistake the genre, Don.

Not entirely, Mick (and thanks for your informative response)--my questions only illustrated my need for "context" to understand what's going on, as I wrote to you off-list.

In ... Applied Epistemological books ... the author cites only himself. In other words he is not allowed to say anything unless it is new.

I can see that presenting difficulties if it ever turns out that what is "old" is actually correct!

You request authority for saying that salt was the mainstay of the ancient (trading) economy.

Again, not really--only an indication of whether the idea is founded on substantial evidence, whether it derives as a logical conclusion from certain (listed) premises, or whether it is made up of whole cloth. I guessed at the middle one of those three ... but if the job of a (non-fiction) writer is to inform, particularly with new ideas, the readership shouldn't be left guessing, I think.

The ordinary reader of course will take my word for it (or not) because this is Chapter Seven of a book in which I have spent six chapters establishing my bona fides (or not).

And the missing (?) six chapters are what I was referring to as "context".

However, since you have raised the point I can assure you that there are dozens of specialists who would agree with me that salt was the lynchpin (they are mostly salt specialists).

"Hoist" and "petard" come to mind--if it's not a new idea, are you allowed to present it in an AE book? (Imagine a mischievous smile at this point.)

I decided that the reader might be confused with the idea that salt can be both cheap and dear at the same place so I decided to mention Carthage because then the reader would instantly understand that salt itself would be cheap at Carthage but would become very expensive when it was transported inland to be exchanged for gold (at Timbuktu by popular repute). The point being that everybody knows this.

I must assume that that's because it's in the missing chapters. I didn't. And it appeared to me you must be saying that salt was both scarce and plentiful in Carthage: "both situations can be true at the same place. At Carthage for example!"

It reminded me that Carthage sits next to a great salt lake and that this might even have been the origin of Carthage's prosperity.

Sebkha Ariana: "In antiquity the Sebkha Ariana (salt lake) was still linked with the sea, so that Carthage lay at the end of an easily defensible peninsula linked with the ..." Unfortunately, that quote appears in the Google summary, but not on the site summarised. Most of the refs. are in French, but there's Google translate -- I could research this some more for you, but not quickly: my time's rather limited at the moment.

So, if you want to make yourself useful, you can do two things:
1. When you know for a fact that something I have written is wrong then sing out.
2. Whenever you know anything about the subject in hand try to think of helpful nuggets that will improve the book.

Who could ask for more?

And thanks for recognising that my initial comments were intended to be constructive rather than de-.

You will get no thanks and no citations but you will be given a small plinth in Applied Epistemological heaven. And possibly Ishmael will stop abusing you but don't count on it.

That'd take all the fun out of it.
Send private message Send e-mail
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Sebkha Ariana: "In antiquity the Sebkha Ariana (salt lake) was still linked with the sea, so that Carthage lay at the end of an easily defensible peninsula linked with the ..."

An AE-ist, reading this, would immediately pounce on the phrase "still linked to the sea" because this really isn't possible in nature -- it would just be an arm of the sea. The AE-ist would immediately assume that Sebkha Ariana was a giant saltworks that was linked to the sea by the Carthaginians in order to get the raw material in.

"The easily defensible peninsula" explanation is the usual plausible orthodox tosh.
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

And the missing (?) six chapters are what I was referring to as "context".

If you send me your email address I will send you a sample chapter and an explanation of how to get up to speed.
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Paying For Megalithia (Cont)

Looked at from the consumer's perspective, salt is just as perplexing, price-wise. Take your own case. It is just possible, if you are a strict vegan, that you will actually die if you do not take salt supplementally in some form or other. Presumably you will pay any price to avoid this fate. Though not necessarily the price of giving up veganism since it is a well-known human behavioural practice to prefer death to dishonour. Food taboos are enshrined in all of us to an astonishing degree, given our reputation in the animal kingdom for wisdom.

But staying alive is rarely the issue. A 'normal' person on a normal diet will still pay a high price for salt just for the taste dividend achieved by adding it to food. Of course you live in a society where paying a miniscule percentage of your income provides you with all the salt you will ever need for taste purposes (plus some left over to remove red wine stains from white tablecloths) but even so it's an interesting question as to how much you would pay a door-to-door saltmonger if somehow the Guild of Saltmongers had managed to acquire a monopoly of the stuff. Would it perhaps be something like drug trafficking: 'Give me a couple of grams but make sure it's refined, that last lot was cut with something horrible'? But 'drug-suppliers' is precisely the de facto position of the Megalithics in the interior of countries where it is not feasible to acquire salt directly from coastal producers. They are after all the only people around in the long distance transport business.
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Paying for Megalithia (Cont)

But now we run into a problem constantly faced by the Megalithics, because it is a problem faced by all such 'drug suppliers'. Providing a monopoly service of a highly desired substance makes for extraordinary profits but that invariably invites extraordinary outside competition. There will be no shortage of people willing to break the long-distance monopoly if merely visiting the coast and returning to one's village with a sack of salt on one's back is all it takes to set up in business. The Megalithics had two constant answers to these equally constant threats to their core business:

1. Control the source. In the case of salt, make sure that salt production is in Megalithic hands and then freelancing can be kept to a minimum. In any relatively primitive economy the acquisition of capital is always the stumbling block and of course the Megalithics, as a supranational organisation, are always in a position to deploy more capital than the locals. Saltpans (in colder places) and salt evaporation beds (where it is warmer) are not specially capital intensive but the Megalithics can always build bigger and therefore cheaper than anyone else. This model of building large-scale works to produce goods suitable for long distance trade became a signature activity for the various Megalithic successor-organisations like the Cistercians and the Templars, as we shall see in due course.

2. Control the government. Various governments have noted that salt is a) cheap and b) necessary and have tried to use the manufacture and distribution of salt as a handy method of taxation. It is quite likely that an organisation like the Megalithics, which in any case required at least the tacit support of the temporal authorities, normally operated 'the salt monopoly' much as the gabelle was conducted in pre-Revolutionary France, that is by the Megalithics acting as official tax farmers at all stages of production while the civil authorities took their cut. Our chief 'evidence' for this general hypothesis would be the Druids, who clearly possessed supragovernmental powers of some kind.
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Paying for Megalithia (Cont)

Alas, both methods of doing business are fraught. It is all very well being the 'low-cost producer' but the invariable price you pay is that you will also be the 'low-profit producer'. And that profit is bound to be low when you are operating in a medium (a relatively primitive economy) where there are any number of very poor people prepared to get into the salt business at all levels for minimal wages.

Should you ever try to exploit your economies of scale to start making monopoly profits, you are simply inviting in any and every local power elite to get into such a now-lucrative industry, one which has very low entry costs in terms of making the stuff and distributing it.

The gabelle demonstrates what happens should you try the same tactic with the power of the state behind you. Again the system works well enough if the tax farmers and the state are prepared only to cream off a manageable surplus--rather as a sales tax or VAT gets paid without too much trouble--but whenever more than the cream is taken, and the temptation to do so seems irresistible, then consumer resistance in the form of everything from wholesale smuggling to routine violence towards the tax collectors becomes so endemic that profits are severely dented.

The Megalithics of course are peculiarly sensitive to the goodwill of the local populace among whom, through whom, they must conduct their day-to-day transportation business.
Send private message
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Paying for Megalithia (Cont)

We can see how these problems were solved as soon as history permits us to glimpse the way the salt trade was organised later, using a mix of force and trade. People with no obvious tribal limitation such as 'the Celts' and 'the Saxons', both names etymologically linked to salt, were able to seize control of huge areas and maintain a loose suzerainty sufficient to maintain a (presumably) lucrative monopoly using a model that anticipated the 'trade empires' operated by the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch and the English.

The Celts operated in the west of Europe using the sea salt that the conditions of the French Atlantic coast produce in huge amounts then as now; the Saxons operated the salt mines in Saxony and exported the material up the Elbe (hence Old and New Saxony being at either end of the river) and traded with the whole of northern Europe where it was too cold to evaporate salt from the sea economically. They were especially active around the Baltic, which is so non-saline that even boiling sea-water in salt-pans is impractical.
Send private message
Donmillion


In: Acton, Middlesex
View user's profile
Reply with quote

Mick Harper wrote:
Sebkha Ariana: "In antiquity the Sebkha Ariana (salt lake) was still linked with the sea, so that Carthage lay at the end of an easily defensible peninsula linked with the ..."

An AE-ist, reading this, would immediately pounce on the phrase "still linked to the sea" because this really isn't possible in nature -- it would just be an arm of the sea. The AE-ist would immediately assume that Sebkha Ariana was a giant saltworks that was linked to the sea by the Carthaginians in order to get the raw material in.

Whereas I made the immediate assumption that the term "salt lake" was used proleptically, like talking about the Vikings conquering York. My "immediate" assumption was that:

  • a body of water originally connected to the sea, perhaps in fact a bay, was in process of being enclosed, presumably by sand bars;
  • that this process eventually resulted in a salt lake, completely separate from the sea;
  • but that in "Carthaginian" times, this process was still not yet complete.
And in fact, while my small amount of research hasn't found a history of the sabkha, it has shown that the lake is separated from the Gulf of Tunis by a dune coastline, through which the lake still communicates "intermittently" with the sea "through an opening at Raoued beach" (so it seems not to be "impossible in nature" after all. Quotations from the French Wikip├ędia article).

Looking at the location in Google maps, I can easily understand the "easily defensible peninsula" explanation you decry as "the usual plausible orthodox tosh". I wonder what your objection is?

As things are, I suspect that an AEologist, would act on his "immediate assumption" that the original quote was rubbish by publishing the fact. My reaction, hiowever, is always to research anything I'm doubtful about, especially on the basis of a one-sentence claim unsupported by evidence ...
Send private message Send e-mail
Mick Harper
Site Admin

In: London
View user's profile
Reply with quote

That's why you'll never get anywhere, Don.

through which the lake still communicates "intermittently" with the sea "through an opening at Raoued beach" (so it seems not to be "impossible in nature" after all. Quotations from the French Wikip├ędia article).

What is and is not possible in nature is a constant theme in The Megalithic Empire. Because all landforms have been placed in the Earth Sciences sector of academia, a maximalist position is always adopted, ie everything is natural (and thus part of the Earth Sciences' empire) unless the evidence is overwhelming that it is manmade.

Therefore AE adopts a minimalist position, ie everything is manmade unless the evidence is overwhelming that it is natural. No doubt that means we shall be wrong a lot of the time (just as the geologists are) but at least we will be saying something brand spanking new.

Frankly, a snipperooni in shifting sand that has lasted three thousand years doesn't sound natural to me and remember, Don, not a single Earth Scientist has actually investigated whether it's natural or no.
Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Reply to topic Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8  Next

Jump to:  
Page 1 of 8

MemberlistThe Library Index  FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   RegisterRegister   ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group