terça-feira, 7 de novembro de 2006

As origens do Capitalismo

e a propósito dos jogos de "Civilization"...

Small States, Global Economy: Is Empire Necessary? : "(...)The legal and commercial revolutions bore their first fruits of liberty and prosperity in the city states of northern Italy during the twelfth century. Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Milan were centers of wealth accumulation not only from trade but also profitable industries in textiles, glassware, iron, and other goods. Crucial to the liberty and prosperity of these cities were the decentralization of power within them and the competing centers of power outside them that could be played against each other. With state confiscation constrained, standards of living steadily improved and populations steadily rose. As the great medievalist Robert Lopez put it, at its peak in the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Italian commercial power, "stretched as far as England, South Russia, the oases of the Sahara Desert, India and China. It was the greatest economic empire that the world had ever known."[19]

Stark summed up the birth of capitalism in these words, "The 'rebirth' of freedom in some parts of Europe was the result of three necessary elements: Christian ideals, small political units, and within them, the appearance of a diversity of well-matched interest groups. There were no societies like these anywhere else in the world."[20]

In contrast, before the institutionalization of Christian ideas and where power was more centralized in the realm of Charlemagne in the ninth century, the state suppressed economic progress with burdensome taxation and, what Rothbard called "his despotic network of regulations."[21] And where a centralized state suppressed the institutionalization of Christian ideas, such as in Russia, liberty and prosperity failed to arise at all.

Capitalism was spread to northern Europe by merchants from the cities of northern Italy. Interested in trading woolen goods of Flanders with southern Europe, Italian merchants fostered the rise of medieval fairs. The great Fairs of Champagne, beginning in the eleventh century, integrated southern and northern European economic activity into an overarching division of labor. These fairs were made possible because the Count of Champagne was independent of the King of France. When this independence was lost in the late thirteenth century under Phillip IV's consolidation, the fairs went into decline from taxation.

Outside Europe, private property was a privilege granted by the state, not a right against it. And this privilege was not extended to the average person since the ruler, unable to imagine economic progress himself, could not conceive of why doing so would be to his benefit.

Italian merchants evaded these depredations by relying on sea routes to the free cities in Flanders.
Established by merchants outside feudal claims and ruled by interest favorable to commerce that found protection from predation of local barons by agreements with distant monarchs, free cities sprang up across northern Europe in the twelfth century
. Bankers from the northern Italian cities established branches in Bruges from which they capitalized woolen production in Flanders.

As a center of trade between English fleece producers and Flanders weavers and Flanders producers of woolens and southern Europe, Bruges became the Venice of the North in prosperity as well as canals in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. War with France to annex Bruges as it had southern Flanders caused merchants seeking freedom to move to Antwerp in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. By the late fifteenth century Antwerp was the richest and most well known city in Europe.

Fed by the burgeoning exchange from the age of exploration, the volume of trade passing through Antwerp far surpassed that of any port in history to that time. However, Charles V's subjugation of southern Netherlands led to Antwerp's decline. Charles V also incorporated Italy into the Spanish realm and state predation, which had been held at bay for half a millennium, was loosed. Venice was the only one of the capitalist cities to avoid this fate. But having lost the balance between eastern and western powers because of the Spanish intrusion, it succumbed to predation by city rulers. Capitalism marched on from Antwerp to Amsterdam as displaced capitalists moved north where capitalism flourished in the late sixteenth and seventeenth century. Eventually, Amsterdam, too, succumbed to Spanish and French intrusions.[22]

By the thirteenth century, capitalism was well underway in England. Christian ideas of equality of natural rights had made further progress in England than elsewhere in Europe, which extended secure private property to a wider circle of persons than on the continent. As a result, English capitalism was not limited to cities. Farmers supplied the fleece for the European woolen markets and entrepreneurs innovated manufacturing processes and power supplies. Water and windmills, mechanical devices, and coal power were common by the thirteenth century. The superiority of coal as a source of power led to innovations in mining and shipping, including wagons drawn by horses on metal rails, a precursor to railroads. And the development of coal power led to the invention of the blast furnace for the working of iron and, eventually, to the steam engine.[23]

Each step forward in the development of capitalism was possible because of a decentralized political system and each step backward was from political centralization."

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