Bitcoin, Soil And High Time Preference


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This article is part of a series of adapted excerpts from “Bitcoin Is Venice” by Allen Farrington and Sacha Meyers, which is available for purchase on Bitcoin Magazine’s store now.

You can find the other articles in the series here.

“The first agricultural communities reached Europe’s doorstep in southern Bulgaria around 5300 BC. At first farmers grew wheat and barley in small fields surrounding a few timber-framed buildings. Agricultural expansion into marginal land lasted about two thousand years before the agricultural potential of the region was fully exploited and persistent cultivation began to exhaust the soil. With no evidence of a climate shift, local populations grew and then declined as agricultural settlement swept through the area. Evidence for extensive late Neolithic soil erosion shows that agriculture spread from small areas of arable soils on the valley bottoms into highly erodible forest soils on steeper slopes. Eventually, the landscape filled in with small communities of several hundred people farming the area within about a mile of their village.

“In these first European communities, population rose slowly before a rapid decline that emptied settlements out for five hundred to a thousand years, until the first traces of Bronze Age cultures then appeared. This pattern suggests a fundamental model of agricultural development in which prosperity increases the capacity of the land to support people, allowing the population to expand to use the available land. Then, having eroded soils from marginal land, the population contracts rapidly before soil rebuilds in a period of low population density.”

–David Montgomery, “Dirt: The Erosion Of Civilizations



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