Effects of Economic Surplus
Michael A. Alaniz
Grand Canyon University: HIS-110
May 20, 2018
Effects of Economic Surplus
This essay is intended to aid in the understanding of how the growth of population centers may ensue due to an economic surplus, in this essay this will be considered by looking at the effects of a long term economic surplus on a society. To aid in this endeavor this essay will examine an ancient river valley civilization with several focuses in mind. First, examining how a surplus is created and sustained for such a long period of time. Next, will be the focus of who controls the surplus. Followed, by who protects this surplus. Afterward, will be the examination of how the those not in control are affected by the surplus created. Lastly, what happens to when this surplus runs out and disappears, as well as who is to blame for it. So, how is a surplus created?
In order to understand the creation of a surplus, the need to understand what surplus is, the thought of surplus is a product that is created or obtained beyond a required amount, which in turn can be used as trade. An example of this is ancient Egypt, when we look at this ancient civilization we see that one of the key reasons why it could grow and survive as long, as it did was due to the Nile River. The ancient Egyptians discovered that this river would flood at the same on schedule every year, and this allowed them to irrigate their fields and crops, this area was called the black land which was very fertile and always produced (Lockard, 2011). The fact that the soil along the river was surrounded by vast area of inhospitable deserts on either side, is what allowed this civilization to sustain itself for so many years as it did (Lockard, 2011).
So, who controls such a surplus? In the time of Egypt, it was understood that the pharaohs ruled over the land and the people. Now, Egypt at that time was made of roughly 40 different provinces, which was led by a governor, who was appointed by the pharaoh. Also, there were chief ministers whose purpose was ensure that taxes were collected, and grain properly stored in government warehouses, as well as making sure government officials got paid. Which leads to our next focus.
In addition to controlling the surplus, the Pharaoh had the head duties of protecting it. The ancient Egyptians used several unique factors to help aid them in protecting their civilization. With new methods of working bronze and new military innovations, which included the use of iron, body armor, and horse drawn chariots, this would strengthen and enable a firm protection of surplus but also give rise to increase trade (Lockard, 2011). Just like today, the Egyptian surplus was guarded and protected by soldiers in support of pharaoh. During the later years of the kingdom, the Egyptian armies grew in strength and began to actively expand their territory. Another factor that came into play, which lead to the Egyptians great success was its natural environmental factors, such as the deserts that surrounded the Nile on both sides making it easy to defend. The Nile itself was also used in a functional way thanks to its slow-moving nature, which provided a great highway that promoted economic stability, political stability, and uniformity (Lockard, 2011). So, how are those not in control of the surplus affected by it?
The overall lives of the Egyptian people were very well off when compared to other ancient civilizations. This can be in part with the fact that all the people of that time regarded the pharaoh a god or a descendent of the sun god Re, who they believed created the earth and all humans (Lockard, 2011). Within this ancient civilization lived a hierarchy and based on one’s profession, their social class was given, for example priests, nobles, and scribes would be considered as upper-class individuals. While the middle-class workers, or peasants, worked the farms or irrigation systems and would tend to the fields. Overall, they lived very descent lives due to the abundant yield. Now the Nile was now for flooding around the same time every year, which allowed for the Egyptians to make a living in villages and market towns that were scattered all long the river. Lastly, at the bottom of social ladder were the prisoners and slaves, who were made up of mostly prisoners of war, a made up about roughly 15 percent of the population in those days (Lockard, 2011). Now, because the Egyptians did not believe in equality, but rather safety and security, which meant they lived hard lives. This also meant that the social class of an individual was more likely to be determined by their parents, meaning the job that their parents owned often would be the same job that they would have. Then what happens when the surplus disappears or destroyed and who do you blame.
Lastly, looking closer at the ancient Egyptians it is the same as it is today, if you are at the top and are in charge, if something goes wrong it is your failure and responsibility. This can be seen with the Egyptians in their term for justice “ma’at” which referred to the way things are supposed to be, also many peasants reasoned that if the power of the ruler lessened, it must mean that the gods were displeased (Lockard, 2011). Also, once a surplus is created it can be very difficult to maintained for an extended amount of time as seen by the Egyptians. During the periods from Old, Middle, and even New kingdoms, each had at one point witnessed disorder or foreign conquest, while being led by various leaders. In the people during the periods between each of the different kingdoms, the people always seemed to be in some kind of turmoil, but by the 1075 the ancient civilizations of Egypt fell victim to the empires of western Asian and of other African people (Lockard, 2011).
In conclusion, the impact that a surplus has on a civilization can be equally positive as it can be negative. Though the creation and sustainment of a surplus can be difficult it has huge impacts on the development and progression of a civilization like that of ancient Egypt. Also, understanding who controls the surplus and how they controlled this vast surplus is key. The importance of protecting and know who is protecting the surplus matters greatly because it is wise to understand who is the one watching over your civilizations profit or export and how. Another, factor that must be considered is how those who are not in control of the surplus are being affected by those who are and the surplus itself. Lastly, looking at ancient civilizations, such as Egypt, help future generations understand and know what to expect if and when a surplus fails or disappears all together, thus give the next generation an idea on what to do and how to overcome these difficulties when they come. Overall, the ancient Egyptians offer the world a great wealth of knowledge on this area.
Lockard, C. A. (2011) Ancient Societies in Africa and the Mediterranean, 5000 – 600 B.C.E. Retrieved from https://lc-ugrad3.gcu.edu/learningPlatform/externalLinks/externalLinks.html?operation=redirectToExternalLink;externalLink=http%3A%2F%2Fgcumedia.com%2Fdigital-resources%2Fcengage%2F2010%2Fworld_ebook_1e.php