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C O U R S E 
A Brief History of Humankind
Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The Relationship Between Capitalism, the Slave Trade, and Free Market Forces
Notes taken on March 27, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
a common argument for capitalism is that governments should interfere as little as possible with the workings of the markets
reduce taxation to the minimum so as not to take money out of the market
the logic is that markets know far better than governments where to invest the money
this is called a belief in the free market
but it is extremely rare in history that the market was free of politics and intervention
the reason is that the most important economic resource is trust in the future
markets by themselves offer no protection against fraud, theft and violence
it is the job of the government to ensure an environment of continual trust by by punishing people who violate agreed upon laws
this is why investors are more likely to invest in countries with transparent governments: it's a matter of trust
when governments fail to do this properly, it leads to loss of trust in the market, dwindling credit and economic depression
if markets are not regulated, powerful players will exploit the less powerful
this is why we have laws against monopolies
a common argument is that a factory owner's own greed will compel him to treat his workers well, since they can go elsewhere
this doesn't always work because monopolies can form
workers are then no longer able to protect themselves by changing jobs
at the end of the Middle Ages, slavery was almost unknown in Christian Europe
the Atlantic slave trade began with the early modern age and the onset of colonization
it was not so much tyrannical kings or racial ideologies, but unrestrained market forces which led to the Atlantic slave trade
the Atlantic Slave trade in Africa
from 16th to 19th century, about 10 million African slaves were imported to America
many died in the wars in Africa to counter the slave trade
the slave trade was controlled very little by states or governments
it was mainly economic enterprise which organized and managed the slave trade
privately owned slave trading companies sold shares on the stock exchanges of Europe
people invested money in the slave companies because it provided good returns on their investments
in the 18th century, the profits from investing in slave trade companies was about 6% each year, a very high rate
a completely free market cannot ensure that profits are gained in a fair way
the craving to increase profits has a tendency to blind people of ethical issues
whereas religions such as Christianity and ideologies such as Nazism were used justify horrible treatment of human beings out of ignorance and hatred, capitalism has led to horrible treatment of human beings out of ignorance and indifference
the Atlantic slave trade not only resulted from hatred or racism of Africans, but the fact that many otherwise innocent investors were making 6% annual profits on companies that participated in the slave trade
many of the plantation owners didn't hate Africans per se, and often lived far away from the plantation, what was important for them was how much money they made at the end of the year
this was similar to the Great Bengal famine of 1770
the British East Indian company cared more about their profits than about the famine that caused 10 million people to die
the human species and the economy as a whole may well keep growing but many individuals still live in extremely poor and unfair conditions
arguments for capitalism
1. communism and other economic experiments were so much worse in so many ways than capitalism that nobody has many better ideas to try again anything different than capitalism
there may be many pockets of poverty and unfairness which the global free market capitalistic economy leaves unattended but when we look at history, there are few viable alternatives to capitalism and the fact is that we cannot live without it
2. we just need to be more patient
mistakes have been made in the past, such as the Atlantic slave trade
but as we have seen throughout the centuries, more and more people are receiving a larger and larger percentage of the profits provided by the capitalistic economy
the distribution of the profits will never be equitable, but there will be enough to satisfy a greater percentage of the population than could be realized from any other economic system
positive signs that capitalism is making the world a better place for all people on the planet
increasing life expectancy
decreasing child mortality
increasing calories per person
the mantra of capitalism: "allow the economic pie to keep growing, keep your trust in growth, and everything will be ok"
an important question facing humanity in the 21st and 22nd centuries is: can the global economic continue to grow indefinitely?
one reason this may not be the case is if the earth's raw materials such as oil and coal are depleted