Front Page Titles (by Subject) (b) trade and the primitive state - The State
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
(b) trade and the primitive state - Franz Oppenheimer, The State 
The State: Its History and Development viewed Sociologically, authorized translation by John M. Gitterman (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
(b) trade and the primitive state
There are two very important reasons why the robber-warrior should not unduly interfere with such markets and fairs as he may find within his conquered domain.
The first, which is extra-economic, is the superstitious fear that the godhead will avenge a breach of the peace. The second, which is economic, and probably is the more important—and I think I am the first to point out this connection—is that the conquerors can not well do without the markets.
The booty of the primitive victors consists of much property which is unavailable for their immediate use and consumption. Since valuable articles at that period exist in but few forms, while these few occur in large quantity, the “marginal utility” of any one kind is held very low. This applies especially to the most important product of the political means, slaves. Let us first take up the case of the herdsman: his need of slaves is limited by the size of his herds; he is very likely to exchange his surplus for other objects of greater value to him: for salt, ornaments, arms, metals, woven materials, utensils, etc. For that reason, the herdsman is not only at all times a robber, always in addition he is a merchant and trader and he protects trade.
He protects trade coming his way in order to exchange his loot against the products of another civilization—from the earliest times, nomads have convoyed the caravans passing through their steppes or deserts in consideration of protection money—but he also protects trade even in places conquered by him in prehistoric times. Quite the same sort of consideration which influenced the herdsmen to change from bear stage to bee-keeper stage, must have influenced them to maintain and protect ancient markets and fairs. One single looting, in this case, would mean killing the hen that lays the golden eggs. It is more profitable to preserve the market and rather to extend the prevailing peace over it, since there is not only the profit to be had from an exchange of foreign wares against loot, but also the protection money, the lords’ toll, to be collected. For that reason princes of feudal states of every stage of development extended over markets, highways and merchants, their especial protection, the “king’s peace,” often indeed reserving to themselves the monopoly of foreign trade. Everywhere we see them busily engaged in calling into being new fairs and cities by the grant of protection and immunity.
This interest in the system of fairs and markets makes it thoroughly credible that tribes of herdsmen respected existing market places in their sphere of influence to such an extent that they suspended the exertion of the political means so completely as not even to exercise “dominion” over them. The story told by Herodotus is inherently probable, though he was astonished that the Argippæans had a sacred market amidst the lawless Scythian herdsmen, and that their unarmed inhabitants were effectively protected through the hallowed peace of their market place. Many similar phenomena make this the more easily believable.
“No one dare harm them, since they are considered holy; and yet they have no arms; but it is they who allay the quarrels of their neighbors, and whoever has escaped to them as a runaway may not be touched by any other man.”76 Similar instances are found frequently: “It is always the same story of the Argippæans, the story of the ‘holy,’ ‘unarmed,’ ‘just,’ bartering, and strife-settling tribelet in the midst of a Bedouin-like, nomadic population.”77 Cære may be taken as an example of a higher type. Strabo says of its inhabitants: “The Greeks thought highly of their bravery and justice, because although powerful in a great degree, they abstained from robbery.” Mommsen, who quotes this passage, adds: “This does not exclude piracy, which was engaged in by the merchants of Cære as well as by all other merchants, but rather that cære was a sort of free harbor for the Phœnicians as for the Greeks.”78
Cære is not like the fair of the Argippæans, a market place in the interior of a district of land nomads, but is in the midst of a domain of sea nomads, a port endowed with its own peace. This is one of those typical formations whose importance, in my estimation, has not been appreciated at its real value. They have, it seems to me, exercised a mighty influence on the genesis of maritime states.
Those reasons by which we saw the land nomads forced to preserve, if not to create, market places, must with even more intensity, have coerced the sea nomads to similar demeanor. For the transportation of loot, especially of herds and of slaves, is difficult and dangerous on the trails across the desert or the steppes: the slow progress invites pursuit. But with war-canoe and “dragon-ship” this transportation is easy and safe. For that reason, the Viking is even much more a trader and merchant than is the herdsman. As is said in Faust, “War, Commerce, and Piracy are inseparable.”
[73.]Lippert, l. c. I, p. 266, et seq.
[74.]Cf. Westermarck, History of Human Marriage.
[75.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 27.