Monday, 23 June 2008

Beware of Greeks Bearing Financial Instruments

by Charles Pooter


I came across this online comic via lowercase liberty. Here's an extract:

I hadn't heard of Thales or his olive presses until this week and then two references came along one after the other. The second was the above comic strip and the first was in Sean Gabb's long, but fascinating, discussion of ancient markets. Sean quoting Aristotle:

According to the story, he knew by his skill in the stars while it was yet winter that there would be a great harvest of olives in the coming year; so, having a little money, he gave deposits for the use of all the olive-presses in Chios and Miletus, which he hired at a low price because no one bid against him. When the harvest-time came, and many were wanted all at once and of a sudden, he let them out at any rate which he pleased, and made a quantity of money.
As Sean says, Thales did not buy olive presses, he took out options on them. This is one of the references that Sean uses to destroy the patently absurd idea that the ancients did not have any concept of a market economy.

So two lessons: Beware of Greeks bearing financial instruments and don't believe everything you read in comic strips or crypto-Marxist history books!

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