You'd think we might be used to recessions by now

New book traces the global economy's origins to 3500 BC

The easiest and most common point of reference for the ongoing recession is the Depression. But there may be an even more appropriate comparison: 1788 B.C. In their new book, The Origins of Globalization, Karl Moore and David Lewis describe what might have been the first-ever credit crunch in the prosperous city-state of Ur. Back then, investors in Ur had flocked to copper and their reaction to its spectacular rise on primitive markets was much the same as ours to the rise in home values: they spent their profits before they’d cashed them in. When the copper bubble burst, lenders retreated and the economy ground to a standstill. The tale is part of Moore’s and Lewis’s documenting of the earliest manifestations of globalization, which they trace back to 3500 BC, a time when religion provided the impetus behind private enterprise. Moore and Lewis find that the similarities behind modern economic tools and those of ancient societies are downright uncanny. “It is remarkable the extent to which ancient economies perfected vast, intricate systems whereby production and distribution activities were located in foreign lands,” the authors say, “replete with multicultural work forces, tariff-reduction zones, inter-regional taxation issues, strategies to avoid currency risk and other phenomena that we consider part of our everyday globalized economy.”

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