What are the energy exchanges participated in by a single hunter-gather
(no family, no companions)? This simple scenario assumes that the
sustaining natural resource for an individual making it on his/her own
consists of an abundant supply of large nuts (weighing approximately
one ounce each). The individual can also harvest occasionally available
fruit, wild salad greens, wood for building and for cooking fires, the
occasional pretty pebble or semi-precious gem stone, The individual's
main activity (gray box) is the daily search for food, water, and other
fundamental resources. To protect against bad periods, this person
saves nuts and smokes or dries other edible substances for storage.
These items will not stay good indefinitely, so items may be traded for
items not available locally, e.g., fish hooks, arrow heads, terracotta
pots, etc. Hostile interactions with other humans may also occur since
this individual may have his cache of food and other items taken from
him or he, or the individual may commit predation against other humans.
It may be worth pointing out that the individual under discussion here
may put the products of trade and predation into his cache, and also
that he may lose some or all of these items, and even lose his or her
life to predation by other creatures, including other humans. The more
this individual is able to accumulate, the more need there is for
vigilance against predation and for security improvements to housing.
Note well the outcomes that will have great importance for economic
institutions of a less primitive form, surpluses devoted to (1) gifts,
(2) religious institutions, (3) trade, and (4) savings. These outcomes
continue to be important in economic systems of all sizes.
We will next consider any differences that may become involved when
this human forms a partnership with another human or with another
animal such as a dog, cheetah, etc.Perhaps factors other than division
of labor will come into play.
[Back to the article on Economy] [To the next essay.]
Last revised 9 January 2016