17 Sep

Panorama – The origin of trading

hans-v-regenauerThe origin of trading.

Have you ever been surprised about the feeling of expressive joy after having made a good deal?

In most books the origin of trading is described as a smart interaction between archaic humans exchanging goods for filling gaps on short supply.

The hunters had game the gatherers had fruit. Since it is good to have both people started to trade to get what they missed.

That exchange of goods assumes strong rational thinking and is broadly accepted as “master-pattern” for the origin of supply for gain.

But why should dealing produce positive feelings? Anthropologists developed a different theory trying to explain better the cause for positive feelings about deal-making.

In the early days Homo sapiens lived in small groups of individuals and had to survive in family structures. Group interaction was in this family structures mainly friendly and stable however the situation turned quickly rather hostile when meeting other humanoid clans. Humanoids are quiet aggressively defending their territory and clan members against any potential danger. Chimpanzees and Homo sapiens differ not much in this basic behaviour. Since Homo sapiens is slightly smarter in group interactions one assumed strategy reducing hostility was to make gifts to potential aggressors.

This behaviour of conscious peace making by presenting gifts was observed nowadays in native societies in Africa, South-America and Polynesia. Observations exhibited a general sophistication of this practice everywhere by offering a gift which was perceived significantly more valuable than what one got back in exchange.

This generosity was practiced to make sure that the recipient was well aware of the incremental value and stayed peaceful in expecting more benefits to come over time. Anthropologists concluded that this strategy (iteratively exchanging goods for peace keeping and ultimately making friends) could have been the true origin of trading amongst human beings. The conscious commercial and profit oriented thinking in trading (Homo economicus) emerged according to this alternative theory much later on.

The archaic practice to make friends has all elements of making a business successful today. Anticipating the needs and desires of somebody you are exposed to and offering an (perceived) added value. The ultimate objective is establishing a robust long-term relationship increasing the probability of survival of the clan.

Next time you feel enjoyment for having made a good deal think about the root cause.

You may be just happy because you feel somebody tries very hard to become your friend.

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