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The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Inca Empire was the largest South America had ever known. Rich in foodstuffs, textiles, gold, and coca, the Inca were masters of city building but nevertheless had no money. In fact, they had no marketplaces at all.

Centered in Peru, Inca territory stretched across the Andes' mountain tops and down to the shoreline, incorporating lands from today's Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru - all connected by a vast highway system whose complexity rivaled any in the Old World. The Inca Empire may be the only advanced civilization in history to have no class of traders, and no commerce of any kind within its boundaries. How did they do it?
Many aspects of Incan life remain mysterious, in part because our accounts of Incan life come from the Spanish invaders who effectively wiped them out. Famously, the conquistador Francisco Pizzaro led just a few men in an incredible defeat of the Incan army in Peru in 1532. But the real blow came roughly a decade before that, when European invaders unwittingly unleashed a smallpox epidemic that some epidemiologists believe may have killed as many as 90 percent of the Incan people. Our knowledge of these events, and our understanding of Incan culture of that era, come from just a few observers - mostly Spanish missionaries, and one mestizo priest and Inca historian named Blas Valera, who was born in Peru two decades after the fall of the Inca Empire.

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I spent some time in Peru

The architecture that the Incan people were able to create is nothing short of astounding. The indigenous Peruvian's certainly seem to look back on that period as a time of socialist bliss. Exactly what role and form slavery took on, I think will forever remain a mystery. Regardless, a bullet never lies as they say. The construct of Inca society was unfit to survive Spanish contact, and history seems to be suggesting more and more that weren't going to survive their own internal battles anyway. It is too bad the death rate was so high, as it would have been nice to have a clearer picture of a late period empire in the America's. Their survival as a culture may have included a better look back at the Mayas and Waris as well.

It appears that they traded labor for food and fiber (or else)

So that would be a "slave" barter society, Master says, "I'll build your pyramid if you maintain and plant the gardens". Also wasn't it the Incas who did the blood sacrifices? That can be a motivator in a cashless society, if you don't work hard enough, you or your kids get that "glorious" one way trip up the pyramid! Sounds like a totalitarian oligarchy that was managing thousands of slaves, not a socialism.

Mayans

The Aztec and possibly Mayan of Central America/Mexico may be the ones that you are thinking about although the Inca of South America may have practiced human sacrifice also.

ultimate socialist system

Luis Eaudin, "L'Empire socialiste des Inka". Paris 1928

1,000 over-seers for every 11,000 people; your whole life planned out for you; there was no need for medium of exchage or market place because your necessities were rationed to you

Just goes to show, central planning is doomed

The Incans were able to brutally suppress an entire continent with the mystics of muscle and mystics of spirit. But they fell over like the fragile house of cards they were when exposed to even a slightly free economy such as Spain.

Are we to be surprised that they learned the lesson of the soviets, NK, or Cuba?

Sadly there was no Incan Rothbard able to document and predict the fall of the empire as a cautionary tale for later generations.

When your entire society lives by internal intrasocietal predation, by the sword at the neck of every individual, it's probably a mercy to be wiped out by greedy Spaniards.

The Incan empire at the time of contact

was staggering under drought and disease, near collapse as it was.

For decades after defeat they continued their ecomony as they could, fish continued to flow inland and forest goods flowed back. The people tried to sustain their quality of life which was pretty advanced for the time.

To relate this ancient civilization to modern "central planning" is a farce. Just as it would be to call them socialists or collectivists. Retrofitting contemporary notions of a 200 year old nation is ludicrous.

A mercy to be wiped out by greedy Spaniards eh? Submitted to El Requerimiento? Very nice. So here's what you justify:

But if you do not do thus (submit to Spanish law),
or maliciously delay to do it,
I certify to you that with the help of God
I will invade your lands with a powerful force,
and will make war upon you in all parts,
and in every manner in my power,
and will subject you to the yoke
and obedience of the Church and their highnesses;
and I will take your persons,
and those of your wives and children,
and will make them slaves,
and as such will sell them and dispose of them
as their highnesses shall order;
and I will take your property,
and I will do you all possible harm and evil,
as to vassals who do not obey or recognize their lord,
but who resist and oppose him.
And I protest that the deaths and damage
which from such conduct may result will be at your charge
and not at that of their highnesses, nor at mine,
nor at that of the gentlemen who come with me.

Oviedo III:29 quoted in History of Central America, Volume 1 by Hubert Bancroft, p. 398.

There is nothing strange about having a bar of soap in your right pocket, it's just what's happening.

Right their ills had nothing to do with central planning

Except of course that's exactly why their 'economy' was so fragile and why it was vulnerable to toppling by what was a trivial expenditure of resources to the Spaniards.

Also 'Drought' and 'famine' is what you call it when market forces don't make you change your behavior in face of increased costs because you insist on doing the same thing regardless, always at the behest of vested interests and implemented by arms.

The calculation problem doesn't just exist in modern times.

It's a fundamental problem with any system that doesn't utilize the price mechanism.

It's why large corporations need government support to exist. They can't calculate internally. If they use what they think is market prices then there's no reason not to outsource.

It's why centrally planned economies must wipe out free'er states if they can before their weakness is exposed. This trick has never been accomplished in the long run.

Any centrally planned economy must always fail unless once exposed to a more free economy.

Maoists know this.

This is why they understand that in order for socialism to survive capitalism must die.

Awesome. Now explain how apes evolved into men

because the free market apes succeded better than socialistic, maoist, conformist apes. Because it all fits into your western-european intellectual construct.

There is nothing strange about having a bar of soap in your right pocket, it's just what's happening.

Essentially correct.

The collectivism vs individualism debate is older than man, and older than mammals.

All sexual creatures have an evolutionary strategy that is more or less collectivist. Animals evolve at a rate inversely proportional to how collectivist they are. Hives evolve glacially. The reason is more collectivist animals have slow evolutionary cycle rates compared to less.

Humans had a more individualist strategy, essentially mating was not restricted to an alpha or alpha class. Cross pairing increases the rate of evolutionary change. Over time this has a geometric effect.

The collectivist evolutionary strategy is to allow only the strongest to mate. In the short term this is beneficial. In the long term however this must always fail to expanded or free mating. Under the collectivist strategy you have a sharply curtailed opportunity for adaptation and mutation due to a sharply curtailed set of genes that advance. Usually just one set of DNA per social unit. In the extreme case of a a hive we're looking at thousands of individuals to one breeder.

The 'natural' level of collectivism of humans is the family. The bad guys want to enforce, tribalism, nationalism, humanism.. these are not natural to humans. Our natural state is to screw all over the place and all the time. The reason apes didn't evolve as fast is because they have a more evolutionary collectivist evolutionary strategy. Too few people breeding, and those breeding are breeding for intraspecies domination. They are selecting for something that is not secularly beneficial. The ability to become alpha becomes decoupled from extraspecies survivability. Collectivism always becomes intraspecies predation.

very interesting...

but I would still rather be free and take my chances. Those with the power to feed you can take that away!!

'Peace is a powerful message.' Ron Paul