Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Ancient Incas and the Collectivist State

Examples of government control over social and economic life are as old as recorded history, and they always have features that are universal in their perverse effects regardless of time or place. One of the most famous of these collectivist episodes was that of the Incas and their empire in South America. The Inca Empire emerged out of a small tribe in the Peruvian mountains in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Theirs was a military theocracy. The Inca kings rationalized their brutal rule on the basis of a myth that the Sun god, Inti, took pity on the people in those mountains and sent them his son and other relatives to teach them how to build homes and how to manufacture rudimentary products of everyday life. The later Inca rulers then claimed that they were the descendants of these divine beings and therefore were ordained to command and control all those who came under their power and authority. The fourteenth and especially the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries saw the expansion of the Incas into a great imperial power with control over a territory that ran along the west coast of South America and included much of present-day Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and parts of Argentina and Colombia. The Incas were brought down in the 1530s by the Spanish conquest under the leadership of Francisco Pizarro. The Inca kings, asserting to be both sons and priests of the Sun god, held mastery of all the people and property in his domains. And like most socialist systems throughout history they combined both privilege and egalitarianism. When the invading Spaniards entered the Inca capital of Cuzco, they were amazed by the grandeur of the palaces, temples, and homes of the Inca elite, as well as the system of aqueducts and paved roads. But having an economy based on slave labor, there had been few incentives or profitable gains from the development of machines and tools to raise the productivity of the work force or reduce the amount of labor needed to perform the tasks of farming and manufacturing. Methods of production were generally primitively labor-intensive. Thus, the Spaniards, in comparison, were far better equipped with more advanced instruments of war to defeat the Incas...more

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