Sapiens

sapiens_coverSapiens is a high level summary of human history. It takes a look at not just our species of humans, but also the human species that our ancestors drove into extinction. While this book is not written from an anarcho-capitalist perspective by any stretch of the imagination, it should still be an enjoyable read for most ancaps for two reasons. First, without really intending to, it nicely summarizes the progress humans have made in our never-ending quest for freedom. Second, though the author cannot seem to help occasionally giving undue credit to government, the book conveys enough skepticism towards the state that an ancap can still appreciate the good parts.

From an anarcho-capitalist perspective, Sapiens is a book about capital accumulation, though it does not really  know it. It begins 70,000 years ago when humans were more instinctual. Each generation would use the same tools. Humans would wander, keeping only those things they could carry and only developing new technology on evolutionary timescales. Then something changed in the human genome and one species of humans went through a cognitive revolution.

At that point certain humans were able to acquire new knowledge and ideas. This accumulation of mental capital lead to rapid advances in social and physical capital as well. These new resources allowed them to out compete, or simply destroy, other animals around the world. This included a number of human species, too: Neanderthals, Denisovians, etc.

This superiority led to an increasing population, which in turn necessitated new methods of food production. Agriculture became common about 10,000 years ago. The additional food led not just to an ever-expanding population, but also an ever-expanding array of capital: tools, techniques, and organizations. Governments would occasionally divert these efforts towards nefarious ends but, on average, humanity was able to improve its condition century after century.

To this day, capital accumulation has continued to improve the prospects for the surviving human species. The author gives some well-earned credit to capitalism, and its ability to produce not just enough material goods to sustain the rapid population growth, but at the same time increase the average wealth of each person.  It fortifies the anarcho-capitalist narrative that the natural state of man is poverty, and only through capital accumulation can large, wealthy societies be realized. It takes the reader on a high-speed review of how humans went from being animals to being the technologically empowered people that they are.

For those unfamiliar with Austrian Economics and libertarian ethical theory, it might be harder to read between the lines. However, for anarcho-capitalists the message is loud and clear. Human history is a history of capital accumulation, with each new generation living lives that benefit from the savings and innovation of their ancestors. More importantly, if we want the world to continue to improve, we need to appreciate and imitate the best of those who came before: their hard work, their decisions to save instead of consume, and their investments in technological progress.

A overview of human history that ancaps can both learn from and use to explain their theory. Four Murrays.

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