(Part 10 of a multi-part series on The Moral Triumph of Western Civilization.)
Until the dawn of capitalism in Christian Europe, all previous (dominant) cultures had “command” economies: Markets and labor are “commanded” or coerced rather than allowed to function freely and voluntarily.
Before the dawn of capitalism, much of ancient wealth took the form of buildings —monuments really— like the pyramids in Egypt, the Parthenon in Greece and others. Although impressive, these structures had no productive value and were built mostly by slave labor.
Similar to people living in command economies, those living under the constant threat of marauders or arbitrary confiscation also live with the perpetual risk that their wealth will be forcibly taken at any time so most of their efforts are focused on just keeping and protecting wealth, not productively investing it for growth.
Command economies never produce much wealth. They ignore the most basic of all economic facts that “all wealth derives from production.”1 (For wealth to be created something must be mined, hunted, fished, grown, made or manufactured.)