The Emergence Of Collectibles & Money In The Paleolithic

Nick Szabo, a famous theorist of money and possible inventor of Bitcoin, returned this year with this post eviscerating the theory that the beads collected by early man were about conveying symbolic information. Instead Szabo argues compellingly that the critical component of the shell-bead technology that was so central to human existence for a hundred thousand years was its unforgeable costliness and thus constrained supply curve. Szabo’s post — and the rest of his work — is highly recommended.

In this far more persuasive picture than Graeber’s, money is arguably the technology that initially set humans apart from other animals and allowed us to scale up our social collaboration and calculation of altruism beyond our shitty memories. As such there is no primitive and fully communist man, distinctly innocent of money, to be returned to, rather humans have always been deeply enmeshed with markets and technology.

See this lengthy review of Graeber’s Debt for more analysis into why his account of the emergence of money is incomplete and problematic.

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Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist