The migration of Caucasians from Europe to what is now North America is the natural place to start a history of the American economy. When the Europeans arrived on this continent, they found several things. They found a large, thriving composite culture - albeit fundamentally different from the ones they'd seen before. They also found a new climate and new agricultural challenges. The indigenous populations were skilled farmers and hunters, warriors, community-builders with established hierarchies, musicians, artists and highly spiritual. Indeed, the agricultural and hunting skills the indigenous peoples had acquired were absolutely critical to the survival of the Europeans, particularly in the bleak New England winter. So why did the Europeans find it so easy to label these people barbaric, and why did they find it so easy to justify wholesale deportation, theft of land, and war crimes that would make a modern tribunal shudder?
The only really fundamental difference between the civilization here and those other great and renowned cultures from the world's history seems to be a lack of large-scale building. But this is clearly not derived from anything inherent in the makeup of the populace here. Anyone doubting this can look further south, where Mayans and Incas built dazzling civilizations by European standards. The lack of large structures so appealing to Europeans was an indication only of a spiritual, cultural bias that made it somewhat disrespectful to the Earth which sustained the people to construct such large, permanent buildings on it. To do so smacks of ownership of the land beneath the structure, which was antithetical to the belief systems of many of the region's people. Furthermore, to the Europeans, the spirituality and art on this continent was categorically different from what they could understand. The communities struck them more as primitive tribes than as civil structures. The warring seemed to them to resemble barbarism. But still, we know that the indigenous peoples were critical to the survival of the early settlers.
It seems that the answer lies in economics. The economics were simple: there were established systems on this continent that were quite incompatible with the accumulation of capital. For example, the infamous trade of the island of Manhattan for a few beads was never a trade in the modern sense. It was more like a right to use grant in exchange for some consideration than a grant and deed transfer. The land was never perceived as something that could be bought and sold as such. But, whenever a system of hoarding clashes with a system of communal good and non-accumulation, the hoarders tend to win. But the question is, does this history show a desire to have unregulated market activity? Quite to the contrary. The burgeoning state and federal governments of the United States were forceful in their legislation and decisions against the indigenous people. Indeed the government operated on a claim of "Divine Mandate" to the land from coast to coast. This justification was broadcast to the world, together with a wholly self-serving and inaccurate portrayal of the native populations. It is clear that America was founded on blood and propaganda. But not free markets. Indeed, these beginnings foreshadowed everything to come: selective regulation that works in favor of hoarding and accumulating, and then in favor of maintaining. For it was the hoarders that were writing the rulebooks, and amending them when the time came to defend overthrown property.
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